Our Brave ‘New’ Democrats

by on December 20th, 2006

With the Democrats ascension to power in Congress it might be wise and timely to begin looking at the specifics that are likely to inform their agenda. http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pdupont/?id=110009407, Chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis, begins that process with a glimpse beneath the curtain.

We might start with the caveat that cyclical changes in political power are often bittersweet, and the electorate often doesn’t have a deep understanding of the downstream implications of decisions made in the heat of an election. Indeed, although electoral fatigue over Iraq, a variety of scandals, and profligate spending did little to endear the voters to Republican principles, it is arguable they may not be pleased with the economic implications of the Democrats’ plans for them.

Reading Mr. du Pont’s litany of fiscal sea changes likely to be embraced by the liberals’ pent-up demand, from tax increases to protectionism, one wonders whether or not the average American is truly champing at the bit for our Democratic brethren to take the helm.

However, beyond the obvious panoply of liberal economic policy changes are the values and principles that underwrite them, and it’s worth examining them so people can be clear about what precisely they signed on to.

For most Americans, the historical war that was waged over the impacts of lower versus higher taxes drew to a glorious close which demonstrated that the former creates jobs, increased savings, and more robust productivity. Logic and prudence would lead reasonable people to conclude that from the ashes of that war would rise, Phoenix-like, the kind of economic policies most likely to raise all boats regardless of where they were on the income continuum.

But, as evidence of the powerful half-life of cynical political motivations, many Democrats believe their best chances to acquire and retain power is through the craven mechanism of income redistribution. Egalitarianism, whether in social class or economic well-being, is the very touchstone of modern liberalism and, though it is wholly undeserving as a policy goal, were it not for human nature it might be nominally achievable. But since we humans are nothing if not widely divergent in talent, work ethic, and perseverance, there will always be commensurately wide differences in performance and compensation.

For the fragile, modern day Democratic sensibility, that’s a reality that can’t be countenanced, not because it is counter-intuitive, but because it leaves unharnessed the raw political power inherent in ensuring an entire economic class is beholden to them. Indeed, for many on the left, freedom should be prescriptively defined to excise from the result any chance for failure, primarily because theirs is an emotive political polity that myopically overlooks the crucial lessons we learn when we stumble or fall.

Decent people instinctively believe in the virtue of providing temporary assistance to those who have fallen on hard times. Although human suffering and want is inevitable it’s something we should all be aware of and work to mitigate. However, a deeper understanding of human nature encourages us to see beyond the superficial aspect of those in need and, ideally, should caution us to be restrained in how we fashion programs intended to assist our fellow man.

To wit, pauperizing people by presuming certain of them are less capable of success than others, by presupposing that people on the lower economic rungs are permanently mired there, or by insulting them with race-based preferences, are anachronistic policies that are best left buried in the rubble of history.

One of the prima facie reasons many political analysts cited for the need for a change in Congressional leadership is so they can ‘get something done in Washington.’ Indeed, doing the work of the American people, solving our social and economic problems as well as those in Iraq and elsewhere, were key among reasons picked up by exit polling data.

But what the shift in Congressional power truly heralds is a return to policies that harbor a darker, more latent motivation, and that is to corner the market on political power, even if it means compromising our economic future due to the remarkably depreciated value it places on the average American.

It’s an unambiguously cynical approach to public policy but apparently worth the price for our brave new Democrats.

Philip Mella