Dean Unveils The Democrats’ Six-Point Plan
From the spring meeting of the Democratic National Comittee in New Orleans:
Dean said that Democrats will fight for a six-point plan that includes raising the minimum wage, tax “fairness” for the middle class, “a complete ban on gifts and travel from lobbyists,” the inspection of all cargo coming into U.S. ports, fixing the Medicare drug plan and “transition” in Iraq.
Let’s translate and analyze the list, shall we?
(1) Raising the minimum wage. Want a good plan to raise the minimum wage? Support economic growth and hammer down on illegal immigration. Interfering with the market by imposing a minimum wage from on high does nothing but increase unemployment among those who can least afford to be without work.
(2) Tax ‘fairness’ for the middle class. Hold on to your wallets. Under the guise of ‘fairness’, what Dean is really talking about is tax increases. We can expect the rescission of most, if not all, of Bush’s tax cuts under Democratic leadership because, we will be told, they only benefit the rich unfairly. Forget the fact that large tax hikes will decrease ecomic activity, and, coupled with the minimum wage hike referred to above, result in widespread unemployment – wouldn’t want anyone holding onto productive money, now, would we?
(3) A complete ban on gifts and travel from lobbyists. Sounds like a great idea…why don’t we also, while we’re at it, take away the ability of unions to spend mandatory levees on their membership for politicial causes those members may not support? Then maybe the Democrats will start showing a backbone on issues like school choice.
(4) The inspection of all cargo coming into the United States. So, we’re to increase our inspection rate from 5% to 100%. Sounds expensive. Sounds like another way to cripple economic activity. Sounds like more unemployment and a decisive decrease in trade. Sounds like pandering.
UPDATE 4/23/06 10:32 a.m.: Glenn Greenwald has this to say:
Mark Coffey of Decision 08 says that he is opposed to Howard Dean’s plan to inspect all of the cargo that enters the United States. Why are so many Bush supporters against programs to prevent Al Qaeda from shipping bombs and other dangerous materials into our country? In a Time of War, they want to leave our ports unprotected and help Al Qaeda smuggle bombs — perhaps even dirty bombs — into the U.S. They have a lot to answer for with their actions that impede the War on Terror.
Well, I hope Glenn’s tongue is well in-cheek because them’s fighting words. My reply:
Glenn, I’m not ‘opposed’ to inspecting all cargo. I’m also not opposed to giving every American $10 million in cash every Friday. It’s not realistic – it would take far too much money and time. I’ll put my support for the War on Terror up against anyone’s, save the tooth fairy.
UPDATE 2 4/23/06 10:39 a.m.: AJ points out that the UAE was going to pay for advanced cargo inspection equipment on their own dime in that deal that the Democrats were so quick to oppose for no good reason. I’ll adopt the tone of Glenn Greenwald: why are so many Democrats anxious to avoid a free gift that would keep ‘dirty bombs’ and other al-Qaeda materials out of our ports. Someone has a lot of explaining to do or else I’ll smear them with implications of being traitors…
UPDATE 3 4/23/06 7:02 p.m.: emptywheel at the Next Hurrah has a response that is, well, clueless at a level rarely achieved:
You see, one of the ways our country subsidizes globalization (and therefore the offshoring of American manufacturing jobs) is we do what we can to keep shipping costs low. Someone just dumps those t-shirts or sneakers or auto parts into a container, someone else drops those containers on a ship, they wait a few weeks, and voila, their cheaply produced goods are in Long Beach, all for a remarkably low fee. It’s that remarkably low fee that makes the whole arrangement possible. Because if it cost a lot of money to ship t-shirts from China, then we wouldn’t be buying our t-shirts in China, we’d be buying them in South Carolina. American t-shirt makers would be able to compete, even in spite of the much cheaper wages those Chinese t-shirt workers make.
The policy that says it’s adequate to inspect only 5% of the shipping containers coming into this country is one of the key factors keeping that shipping inexpensive. We know it’s not adequate. People have used shipping containers to smuggle people, nuclear material, and Russian jets. But big business and the right complain that they can’t inspect any more of the containers–if they did, it would be too expensive. (Should I point out the hypocrisy that some of the same people who want to build a fence across the entire border with Mexico refuse to put the equivalent between us and Asia?)
But what they’re really saying when they say that inspecting more of the containers would be too expensive, is that it would raise the cost of shipping. Which would, in turn, make globalized production less competitive. And would, in turn, make it easier for American workers to compete against lower-paid workers on the other side of the world. So when they say inspecting the shipping containers would be too expensive, they’re really saying that it would make it too difficult to offshore American jobs.
Sure, inspecting shipping containers would raise the price of unnecessary plastic items. But it would also give a big boost to American manufacturing.
Which is why I think Dean’s call for 100% inspection is good politics. It’s good politics because it would make us safer from terrorism–as well as a range of other illict smuggling. But it’s also good politics because it’s going to elicit a lot of responses like Coffey’s, making claims that it would be too expensive.
You see, I’d be happy to get into a debate on these terms. The right is basically saying we can’t protect ourselves against terrorism because if we did, we wouldn’t be able to outsource so many jobs. That’s a case I’d like to see them explain to out-of-work laborers in this country.
Really, the lack of economic knowledge that goes into this post is amusing. That’s a great Marxist argument and it would play well in the academy; here in the real world, however, we’re concerned about growing the economy, not shrinking it behind a protectionist wall.
(5) Fixing the Medicare drug plan. Not repealing, you understand, but ‘fixing’. Why fixing? Because the dirty little secret is that Bush’s prescription drug benefit, while prohibitively costly in my view, has become a rare domestic success story for the administration. Enrollment has exceeded expectations, and it appears that politically, it’s here to stay.
(6) “Transition” in Iraq. If you really want transition in Iraq, the Bush administration has been giving it to you. The Iraqi forces increasingly take the fight to the insurgents, and U.S. casualties are way, way down. As Bush often says, as the Iraqis stand up, we’ll stand down. Recent political movement and the long-delayed convening of parliament increase the momentum for positive change. Of course, that’s not what Dean means by ‘transition’; you know and I know that he means withdrawal. Some Americans may be prepared to declare a loss; many won’t be. Dean should be honest about his intentions, though; under the Democratic plan, Iraq is lost for lack of effort.
Quite a plan, then, when you look at it with a discriminating eye; 2006 may yet go the Republican way. For what seems ages now, the kick on the Democrats has been they didn’t have a plan; having seen the plan, their lack of one may have been their greatest advantage…