Sunday, July 18, 2010
Democrats have many good ideas. Republicans have no ideas whatsoever.
This is a partisan post. Which is not to say I'm writing this because I like Democrats better in general. I just like Democrats better right now, because they have ideas to fight our country's problems. Republicans do not.
Note that this was not always the case. In the Reagan era, Republicans had a lot of ideas, and Democrats largely promised more of the same. Voters seemed to realize this when they made their choice. but Republicans dropped the mantle of the "party of ideas" about a decade ago, and show no signs of picking it back up.
What are the main problems facing our country today? Well, there's the ongoing depression. Republicans' best idea has been to cut unemployment benefits, which reduces structural unemployment slightly but raises cyclical unemployment a lot. We are not in a recession because people have suddenly decided that they don't want to work; people are looking for jobs, and simply not finding ones that match their skills.
Then there's that long-term deficit. A simple breakdown shows that most of that deficit comes as a result of the Bush tax cuts; reversing these cuts would help stabilize our public finances (though in the long run, big cuts in Medicare are needed as well). But Republicans absolutely refuse to rescind those unsustainable tax cuts. Instead, if they are in power, they will probably just threaten to shut down the government unless Obama comes up with ideas for big spending cuts; then, if Obama capitulates (and he is kind of a capitulating sort of dude), the GOP will slam him for the very same spending cuts they forced him to make.
And then there's health care. Republicans have essentially no ideas for how to cut healthcare costs, unless they decided to support Medicare cuts, which they are afraid to do. When pressed, Republicans suggest tort reform and "allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines"; the former is a good idea but a drop in the bucket, and the latter is basically a meaningless red herring.
Financial reform? Republicans recognize the moral hazard problem - the idea that implicit government promises of bailouts encourage banks to take crazy risks - but they have no solution to this other than to have the government say, very sternly, "We won't bail you out the next time!" Which is a laugh, because yes you will, and you know it.
And finally, there's energy. Republicans have nothing on this. "Drill here drill now"? Not a solution, since that oil can and will be sold anywhere. What else? Deafening silence.
Compare this to the Democrats.
On the depression: Democrats are split on additional stimulus spending, but they definitely favor rebuilding our infrastructure, which is important in the short-term (because it adds to demand) and the long-term (because it improves our competitiveness). They favor having the Fed do more quantitative easing (printing money and buying stuff), although legislators cannot tell the Fed what to do. These ideas are good, although the other thing I think we need to do - pressure China to immediately revalue its currency - is unlikely to happen.
On the deficit: Democrats favor rescinding the Bush tax cuts. This is the right thing to do, since those tax cuts were unsustainable. In the short and medium terms that will make a huge difference, but in the long term we'll need to contain health care costs and cut health care spending a lot. This, sadly, is something Democrats are not yet talking about much.
On health care, Democrats finally switched us to a universal coverage nation. That was an important first step - it removed the division of the country into health-care "haves" and "have-nots," which should make future cost-cutting measures more politically possible. It implemented various small cost-control measures, any of which could be ramped up hugely in a few years if it is found to work. This is almost certainly the best health care fix that we could expect in the short term; it remains to be seen if the Dems will come through with serious cost-control ideas in the future.
On financial reform, the Democrats have had a bunch of good ideas, many of which - a resolution authority to reduce the moral hazard problem, a consumer protection agency to reduce lending scams, rules on derivative trading to cut unnecessary complexity from the system - are in the process of being put into law, thanks to Dems and no thanks to the GOP. And on energy, Democrats are correctly investing in alternative energy technology.
Now, I am not saying that I agree with all of the Democrats' ideas. A cap-and-trade system, for example, seems pretty pointless to me (especially since U.S. emissions are falling anyway). And on some issues (China trade, health cost control) they need to go much farther. Nor is having a lot of ideas automatically good; Chairman Mao had a whole little red book full of bad ideas.
But the point is that the Democrats' ideas are mostly good ones. They are a clear improvement over the status quo - ballooning deficits, a collapsing health care system, a bloated unproductive financial sector, vulnerability to peak oil. The Republicans offer no such improvement. They have no ideas whatsoever.
For this reason, stumping for the Democrats in the fall elections is not partisan, and it is not ideological. It is simply patriotic. A vote for a Republican is, at this juncture, a vote for sclerosis and decline.