Democrats unveiled their new policy platform to much media attention and fanfare, somehow cutting through the noise created by the latest Trump-Russia or health care drama. Still the plan isn’t the transformational roadmap they are trying to brand it by tying it to the New Deal. Quite the opposite, it’s an uninspired plan that could have been found on Obama’s campaign website in 2012 or Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.
It reads more like a state of the union speech from a sitting Democrat than it does a fundamentally new direction. Which is unfortunate because there are genuinely transformative policy ideas out there that would solve some huge problems facing millions of Americans. Policy ideas that are just waiting for someone to help them gain widespread support.
A $15 dollar minimum wage is a good step, but a real better deal would include Medicare-For-All and universal higher education.
Not to nitpick or attack the Democrat’s new agenda from the left just to do it. Their new platform shows a gaping hole in the party. The Democrats still don’t seem to appreciate that Donald Trump isn’t a product of business as usual. The New Deal wasn’t a product of business as usual. The “Better Deal” on the other hand, is basically business as usual served on a different plate. Somehow after everything the last year or so has brought, the Democrats formed a decent name for a transformative policy push, but they didn’t manage to put the meat on the bones. These are not normal times and it is not time for a normal policy agenda and minus the $15 minimum wage, the “Better Deal” is a fairly milquetoast affair.
First comes the “one trillion dollar” infrastructure plan and all the jobs it would create. On it’s surface that number is only half of what the American Society of Civil Engineers recommends over the next 10 years. It’s equal to the Donald Trump proposal, which is generous by Republican standards no doubt, but again is a whole trillion dollars less than a fairly credible estimate recommends we need to modernize our infrastructure. Furthermore as far as jobs is concerned some estimates determine such a spending program could create as many as 10 million new jobs over its 10 year lifespan, but it’s unclear how long those jobs would last, where they would be located, and where the people would work or take those skills once the jobs evaporated.
That’s nice and despite the gaps it would be a step in the right direction, still unemployment is at a relative low and the real problem is wages. While a $15 minimum wage would be an incredibly important step, but it’s not going to clean the grease off the lower rungs on the ladder of opportunity. It also won’t help middle income earners who make enough to live month to month but have almost no capacity to absorb emergency expenses. The largest costs facing families are medical costs and education, to the extent that increased wages help pay for those things that is great, but the rest of the Democrat’s “Better Deal” doesn’t do near enough to deal with those two key issues.
To the extent the Better Deal does deal with those issues it’s pretty standard rhetorical flourishes you could expect from any half hearted left of center politician. For example, the “Better Deal” states it will “lower the crippling cost of prescription drugs and the cost of a college or technical education that leads to a good job.” That’s not a “Better Deal” that’s a stump speech that out of context could very well come from either party. To make it all worse though, there are obvious policies the Democrats could gravitate towards that could get the job done.
It’s strange that the Democrats won’t adopt the clear policy positions that will accomplish the goals their rich rhetoric sets forth. Instead of pushing variations of tried and true talking points the Democrats need to realize those goals aren’t worth having just for the sake of having goals, but they are worth having and trying to accomplish.
A $15 dollar minimum wage, Medicare-For-All, and universal higher education accomplish all of those vague goals the “Better Deal” puts forth. At the very least the “Better Deal” should include a public option and some version of Hillary’s “debt free college compact.” Instead the Democrats rolled out their economic agenda with nothing of the sort, despite there being tw0 clear sets of policy positions they could adopt to solve the very real problems facing Americans in healthcare and education. One more to the left with universal college education and medicare-for-all, another more centrist with debt-free-college and a public option.
Either route is a genuine break from the status quo that could benefit millions of America. Unfortunately neither package is being pushed by either side of the aisle.
This failure to seek policy positions that might solve these fundamental problems in American life is a product of a deeper failure to appreciate some key areas where the Obama administration fell short. Democrats simply can’t admit that the status quo is broken. The Affordable Care Act didn’t go far enough to reduce medical costs. Increasing student aid and streamlining the process didn’t bring down the astronomical price of tuition. Minimum wage still cannot afford millions of Americans a middle class standard of living.
These are very real issues impacting millions of Americans and yet the Democrats don’t offer substantive policy when it’s sitting right in front of their faces. Instead they choose to rely on rhetoric that is as vague as it is cliche.
The Democrats “Better Deal” seeks to be transformative, but it seems despite the minimum wage hike, at best it’ll simply be another moderate step in the right direction. At worst, a half-hearted step that will leave many wondering whether or not the Democratic Party is genuinely concerned with solving these problems. The Democrats need to act with a sense of urgency and they need to push policy positions that are truly transformative.
And if the Democrats can’t even try to do that, then what are they even in Washington DC for?