As Hillary Clinton, continues the book tour for her latest memoir, “What Happened”, Democrats are on a manic and self indulgent quest to explain their recent losses but all of their explanations are centered on the personal failings of Hillary Clinton. While Clinton, may have made errors, I believe that the party should look beyond Hillary for explanations of its demise. The classic trope against Democrats is that they are socialists, hellbent on enabling the lazy with the promise of free stuff. It is this reputation of the Democrats as soviet Santa’s that has damaged their appeal. Democrats strangely play into this idea by using language like “free healthcare” or “free college” which from a policy standpoint is legislative gibberish. Democrats have fallen into the trap of framing their own issues with the verbiage of the right wing in opposition to them. Using the term free in reference to any Democratic policy is dishonest when it is done by Republicans but it is incomprehensibly foolish when Democrats borrow the terms.
Using the term free sounds impractical and unbelievable. It smacks of a profligate and unsustainable form of pandering that is doomed to failure. It is also not representative of the true nuance that makes democratic policies effective and workable. Democrats don’t want to give anyone Free Stuff. Democrats have simply recognized that most Americans spend nearly one-third of their income on taxes. Democrats believe that if Americans are going to pay such a large portion of their individual income to the government, they should actually get something for their money. The Republicans offer a competing philosophy which holds that Americans should only expect a strong national defense from their government. Democrats should expose this notion as a fools bargain. One third of your individual income is outrageously excessive to simply maintain an army that we hope we never use. The GOP’s tendency to deride those who demand quality services from the government they finance is an exposed Achilles heel. It turns the concept of government itself into a political Ponzi-scheme. Its a fraudulent philosophy that demands that citizens pay membership fees to our literal country club without expecting any benefits. Democrats, on the other-hand believe that America is like Costco and taxpayers are simply paying a membership fee that gives them access to services purchased in bulk. For close to a third of your income, you should expect a strong national defense, 21st century infrastructure like hyper-loops and nationwide internet, roads and bridges for self driving cars, smaller-high quality schools with well paid teachers and healthcare. Democrats simply believe that Americans pay so much in taxes that their children should not need to go into massive debt to attend public universities. None of this is free and no one, including Democrats should use language suggesting that it should be free. Democrats must stop falling into the trap of affirming these notions.
Democrats should also combat the notion that they support big government handouts to those in our society that are allergic to hard work. This is a characterization of social safety nets from Republicans who often feel entitled to public aide in their own hour of need but bristle at the obligation to help others in the same fashion. However, this mischaracterization is enabled by a Democratic party that fails to explain why social safety nets are a justifiable service of the government. Democrats believe in social safety nets because Americans pay their taxes, in good times and in bad times. The government should likewise support it’s citizens when they fall on hard-times. If a family suffers from a downturn in the economy, their children should not stop receiving meals at schools. Over an individual’s lifetime, he or she will pay into the community’s coffers, often for services they will never use. For instance, Bostonians will pay taxes that will benefit Houstonians in the aftermath of a disaster. The meager welfare we offer, is a return on taxes paid over a life-time if an individual finds themselves in need. It is not simply a handout. Social Security is likewise a savings of personal wages. And after a life-time of paying the taxes that fought our wars, financed our infrastructure, and paid for public schools, American youth can and should provide the elderly with healthcare. The Democratic Party is not offering anything for free. Democrats simply believe that you should actually get something out of the taxes you pay. The alternative Republican philosophy, that citizens should not ask anything of their government, makes the American Taxpayer a sucker.
At a rally last night in Iowa, Donald Trump made headlines by declaring that he would not want poor people serving in his cabinet. “I love all people. Rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?” Trump declared. Trump boasted that he appointed Gary Cohen, a former Goldman Sachs President, as an economic adviser. Trump has drawn criticism for assembling a cabinet that consists of multiple billionaires and wealthy donors that seem to lack expertise in their assigned areas. The Cohen remarks are notable because Trump and his supporters once attacked Ted Cruz for his ties to Goldman Sachs. During their contentious primary, Trump attacked Cruz, saying “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over him [Ted Cruz]. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.” The barrage of Goldman Sachs attacks from Trump led to the heckling of Cruz by Trump supporters. We have posted one of the incidents during which Cruz was harassed about his wife’s ties to Goldman Sachs.
Some people never seem to learn from their mistakes. Unfortunately for our country, Vice President Mike Pence appears to be one of those stubborn personalities. On Thursday, Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote that cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides health services to women which range from HIV screenings to counseling for family planning. But this isn’t the first time Mike Pence has cut Planned Parenthood’s funding and you would have thought Mr. Pence learned his lesson from his last bite at Eden’s apple. As the Governor of Indiana, Pence similarly shuttered the doors on Planned Parenthood clinics throughout his state and the result was a massive HIV outbreak. Scott County is one of the poorest counties in Indiana. Health studies ranked Scott County as the most unhealthy county out of all 92 counties in the state. Prior to Pence’s pursuit of the deceptively appealing goal of gutting Planned Parenthood funding, there was only one HIV testing center in the entire county. When Pence shuttered the facility, there wouldn’t be any testing available in the county for another two years. The result was an explosion of 20 new HIV cases per week in a community with a population of less than 20,000 people. A mushroom cloud of HIV infections swept across one of Indiana’s poorest communities and was directly linked to Pence’s decision to place the long sought after goal of attacking a political enemy, above common sense and intelligent health policy.
The obsession with cutting Planned Parenthood’s funding finds its justification for eliminating the group’s vital services, in the war against abortion services offered by Planned Parenthood. The saddest of ironies in this cautionary tale is that the Planned Parenthood clinic in Scott County didn’t provide abortion services. As the Vice-President and the GOP prepare to cut even more funding for drug treatment programs, they risk turning the entire country into Scott County. Some people never learn from their mistakes.
President Donald J. Trump’s first budget slashes funding to programs like Meals on Wheels and After School Programs that feed children in America’s public schools. After acknowledging that these programs are designed to feed kids that “can’t get a meal at home”, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney claimed that “there is no demonstrable evidence” programs that feed children “help kids do better in school”. Mick Mulvaney and his budget live in contradiction with the real world.
The finest example of increasing productivity by providing healthy lunches can be found in Silicon Valley where technology hubs have become famous for their comfortable cafeterias filled with delectable dishes like Ceviche, Quinoa Salads, Gourmet Pizzas, Espresso Bars (w/ Energy Drinks) and even Deserts. The costly extravagances reflect the well-established, and quantitatively verifiable link between feeding workers and increasing their productivity. The World Health Organization’s studies have proven a 20% increase in brain power and productivity as a result of a healthy lunch. Entrepreneur Magazine sighted a study showing a 150% return on productivity for companies that invested in providing high quality lunches. Harvard Business Review, a school which ironically counts Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as an alumni, published that “food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance, which is why a poor decision at lunch can derail an entire afternoon. Just about everything we eat is converted by our body into glucose, which provides the energy our brains need to stay alert. When we’re running low on glucose, we have a tough time staying focused and our attention drifts. This explains why it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach”. It seems reasonable to conclude that although these studies were conducted on adults, they apply to children who obviously don’t have a greater capacity to contend with hunger than their parents. Until now, no one has ever been craven enough to deny children food so that we can measure the decline in their performance. If feeding workers in Silicon Valley, where workers make substantial salaries makes sense, then feeding children who have no control over their economic situations is even more reasonable.
The budget put forth by President Trump and Director Mulvaney is cruel and short sighted. It induces a decline in performance and courts the academic failure of our children which creates ripples in the pool of workers from which our businesses draw.