Dear DNC: Jobs, not entitlements, win votes
The Democratic Party’s leftward shift could damage the party's future
A couple of months ago, I was talking to a friend about the American Health Care Act, Paul Ryan’s egregious Republican health care bill that hadn’t yet passed the House of Representatives.
At one point during our conversation, she said to me something along the lines of, “Healthcare is a right, which means it must be made affordable by the government. That’s why single-payer healthcare is the only option; because it offers healthcare to everyone and is paid for by a progressive tax rate.”
The proposition—but mostly its reasoning—caught me by surprise and I had no real response at the time other than “Shit, that makes sense.” For a moment, I forgot why I was against single-payer healthcare or any program remotely related to universal entitlements in the first place. But then, I remembered the cornerstone of presidential campaign strategies: jobs.
Despite being a registered Democrat, I have always been against overly inflated government involvement in its citizens’ affairs. I’m glad that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security exist because they offer critical resources to those without the ability to pay for a living for themselves. However, single-payer healthcare and other expansions of welfare programs (for example, Medicare for all) and unnecessary tax hikes on America’s withering middle class are the issues about which many Democrats like myself feel skeptical. It's precisely this divide that has split the party between moderate Democrats and more leftist Democrats.
In 2008, Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential election on a platform of strengthening the middle class and restoring the American economy in the midst of a financial crisis,. These goals were detailed in the Democratic Party’s manifesto, which also included pumping billions of dollars into infrastructure, education and especially health care to keep prices affordable during a time when people were losing homes and jobs at an alarming rate. Obama’s ideas embraced economic development and were aimed at driving down unemployment—a liberal venture that ultimately won him the White House. Along with Congress, he made sure that taxpayer dollars went towards rebuilding roads and providing tax cuts to the middle class with the goal of putting Americans back to work. Sure enough, the economy recovered within two years.
Fast forward to the 2016 presidential election, the one we all wish we could erase from memory. Enter Bernie Sanders, an outspoken “Democratic-socialist” whose platform pushed the Democratic voter base to the left on the political spectrum, campaigning on highly divisive issues for which many Americans were definitely, without a doubt, not ready. Believe it or not, most working class Americans are not ready to support single-payer health care. According to a Pew survey conducted in January, only 28 percent of the public supported a government-only health care bill. More people (29 percent) out of those surveyed desired a multi-payer health care plan, which isn’t much different from our current system.
During the 2016 presidential election, the Democratic Party’s conventional dialogue of creating jobs quickly turned to labeling health care a “right” and demanding that government subsidies fund almost every need in a capitalist economy, including food, water, healthcare and a plethora of ethos-filled jibber jabber. With that being said, it is clear that Sanders lost Clinton the election. By sweeping liberal voters further into socialist territory, Clinton’s appeal as a capable and experienced (not to mention moderate) candidate was destroyed. She was forced by her overly liberal base without a day’s economic education to acquiesce to Sanders’s delusional fiscal aspirations, including, but not limited to, his desire to implement single-payer healthcare, his obsession with making public college tuition free and his labeling of a capitalist social structure as the worst case of income inequality in history. Voters were blinded by his desire to invest billions into youth job creation when adult earners, many of whom have families to support, are losing jobs to automation and globalization hand over fist.
Furthermore, this new entitlements-for-everyone attitude embraced by many prominent members of the Democratic Party—many of whom I’m quite fond of, including Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, Chris Murphy and my own congressman, Ro Khanna—has alienated many moderate Democrats who are not ready to support such policies, furthering deepening the chasm within the Party and confirming another 12 years of Republicans.
If progressives want any remote level of support from moderates, liberals or even conservatives who are tired of watching their blundering Republican clowns fail over and over again in a government under their control, a shift back toward moderacy should be in order.
Instead of loudly calling for an expansion of entitlements, implementation of costly single-payer healthcare, or useless housing programs proven to increase segregation, why not sponsor a job creation initiative? Redirect billions of dollars currently funding welfare programs to small businesses across the country so that said local businesses (also another asset to a well-functioning economy) can hire more members of the lower class or the lower middle class. Democrats should be championing worker unions and pumping money into employment programs, not expanding Medicare to all Americans or establishing a single-payer health care system.
People without jobs or homes are not lazy citizens who need entitlements to survive; they want to work, they want to contribute, which means that Democrats must aim to secure jobs for Americans. Robots taking over the job market? Tax the robots. Globalization transferring jobs overseas? Institute tariffs or negotiate better trade deals. Fiscal responsibility, protecting workers and preserving the economy earns votes; entitlement expansions do not. History shows that when the poorest Americans are supporting themselves, the rest of the economy does fairly well—it’s called “bottom-up” economics.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am a Democrat: I believe that big government is necessary because it works well not when it attempts to help people, but rather when it seeks to help the most unfortunate Americans help themselves. FDR did it, Eisenhower did it, LBJ did it, Reagan did it, Clinton did it, Obama did it, and now, seeing as today’s Republican Party is as functional as a 90-year-old’s penis, the Democrats must as well, by moving back to the center.
Mark Lu is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and a staff columnist for The Eagle.