Examining the Democratic Platform Part III: “Investing in American Competitiveness” and “Economic Stewardship”

This is continued from Parts I and II of my examination of the Democratic Platform, the latter of which included the part of “Investing in American Competitiveness” that dealt with energy and education.

I told you we’d return to the Democratic platform! And we’re not done with the Republicans either.

“Science, Technology and Innovation”: This section arguably directly leads out of the prior one, and so I could have conceivably included it in Part II, but I had to cut it off at some point. It starts by taking another shot at the Bush Administration, claiming “America has long led the world in innovation. But this Administration’s hostility to science has taken a toll. At a time when technology helps shape our future, we devote a smaller and smaller share of our national resources to research and development.”

“We will make science, technology, engineering, and math education a national priority. We will double federal funding for basic research, invest in a strong and inspirational vision for space exploration, and make the Research and Development Tax Credit permanent.” All sounds good, although it’s arguably throwing money away once again, and what exactly is your “strong and inspirational vision for space exploration”? How about letting it start inspiring us now? Or do you not want the Republicans to steal it?

“We will invest in the next generation of transformative energy technologies and health IT and we will renew the defense R&D system.” Several important modern technologies have come from the military, so this is all good. I especially like the call back to my own personal favorite topic. “Health IT” comes off as especially money-grows-on-trees to me, though. I hope you’re not letting things get too frivolous.

“We will lift the current Administration’s ban on using federal funding for embryonic stem cells–cells that would have otherwise have been discarded and lost forever–for research that could save lives.” Love how you completely ignore the reason Bush and Co. would impose such a ban. Still, I agree with the basic sentiment.

“We will ensure that our patent laws protect legitimate rights while not stifling innovation and creativity. We will end the Bush Administration’s war on science, restore scientific integrity, and return to evidence-based decision-making.” First sentence sounds good while not stipulating which clause is the problem. Second sentence sounds too hyperbolic to have a grounding in reality. The last sentence-paragraph has a call to “treat science and technology as crucial investments” that’s hard to argue with, to tell you the truth.

“Invest in Manufacturing and Our Manufacturing Communities”: Recall from Part I that the Democrats promised to “take immediate steps to stem the loss of manufacturing jobs” as part of their plan to fix the economy. Here they again vow to “invest in American jobs and finally end the tax breaks that ship jobs overseas. We will create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to provide for our next generation of innovators and job creators; we will expand the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships and create new job training programs for clean technologies.” All sounds good, though some of it is empty buzzwords, and it’s arguably more throwing money away.

“We will bring together government, private industry, workers, and academia to turn around the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy and provide assistance to automakers and parts companies to encourage retooling of facilities in this country to produce advanced technology vehicles and their key components.” Again, sounds good, keeping American jobs and greening our cars, but you have to consider some points of basic economics, and the idea that trade leads to better conditions for all. If the world economy is better off having Indians or Koreans filling certain roles, perhaps they should be able to fill those roles so the economy advances as far as it can. If the “tax breaks” mentioned earlier actually streamline the process of shipping jobs overseas, they should be repealed, but that would be insane; if they just put things on an even footing, that’s less objectionable. Although there is a point to be made that it may be better to have Americans do certain jobs, even if they’re worse at doing them compared to other potential jobs, if it prevents suffering in Asian sweatshops.

“We will support efforts like the recently proposed Senate Appropriations measure that gives manufacturers access to low-interest loans to help convert factories to build more fuel-efficient vehicles. And we will invest in a clean energy economy to create up to five million new green-collar jobs.” You’re playing my song again! But not only are you still pushing cars, you’re only making them “more fuel-efficient”, not completely weaning them off oil and onto low-impact biofuels and primarily-plug-in. And where did that five-million number come from, your ass?

Finally, what, 20 pages later?, those “immediate steps to stem the loss of manufacturing jobs”:

Our manufacturing communities need immediate relief. And we will help states and localities whose budgets are strained in times of need. We will modernize and expand Trade Adjustment Assistance. We will help workers build a safety net, with health care, retirement security, and a way to stay out of crippling debt. We will partner with community colleges and other higher education institutions, so that we’re training workers to meet the demands of local industry, including environmentally-friendly technology.

Trade Adjustment Assistance is basically all about making sure workers have a smooth transition to a new job if their old one lays them off and/or ships their job overseas, so it’s of vital importance, as is making sure workers get the training they need from higher education (and another shout-out to me again!). But the safety net – while it is potentially important to back people up in a time of economic crisis (a new Great Depression needs a new New Deal), it needs to make sure it’s not a disincentive to work.

“Creating New Jobs by Rebuilding American Infrastructure”: Will this make me feel better about the Democrats’ commitment to fighting global warming?

A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt called together leaders from business and government to develop a plan for the next century’s infrastructure. It falls to us to do the same. Right now, we are spending less than at any time in recent history and far less than our international competitors on this critical component of our nation’s strength. We will start a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that can leverage private investment in infrastructure improvements, and create nearly two million new good jobs. We will undertake projects that maximize our safety and security and ability to compete, which we will fund as we bring the war in Iraq to a responsible close. We will modernize our power grid, which will help conservation and spur the development and distribution of clean energy. We need a national transportation policy, including high-speed rail and light rail. We can invest in our bridges, roads, and public transportation so that people have choices in how they get to work. We will ensure every American has access to highspeed broadband and we will take on special interests in order to unleash the power of the wireless spectrum.

Well, you did throw in a shout-out to public transportation, but it was part of “bridges, roads, and public transportation”, but you also mentioned that people should “have choices in how they get to work”, which hopefully means a choice that’s not between a Ford or a Dodge, or between the 5 or the 405. Better, you preceded it with a call for “a national transportation policy, including high-speed rail and light rail”. More stuff I like. Infrastructure investment is, indeed, vitally important, yet one of the things I like best here is the “leverag[ing]” of “private investment in infrastructure improvements”, so it’s not all the government throwing money away. You bring up your quest to end the war in Iraq almost in passing, in a seemingly irrelevant topic, as part of a funding plan for infrastructure improvements – which scares me as to what your plan is for funding everything for which you don’t mention a funding source. Modernizing the power grid is even more important than the Dems let on, because some of the cleanest technologies, such as solar power with mirrors, work best in select, centralized locations. The last sentence sounds good and the wireless spectrum is ideally free, so we should be getting as much use out of it as possible. Overall, it’s disappointing that it’s only a paragraph, but it’s a very good paragraph.

“A Connected America”: “In the 21st century, our world is more intertwined than at any time in human history. This new connectedness presents us with untold opportunities for innovation, but also new challenges. We will protect the Internet’s traditional openness and ensure that it remains a dynamic platform for free speech, innovation, and creativity.” Considering some of the concerns people have about special interests trying to corporatize the Internet, this is very good stuff. “We will implement a national broadband strategy (especially in rural areas, and our reservations and territories) that enables every American household, school, library, and hospital to connect to a world-class communications infrastructure. We will rededicate our nation to ensuring that all Americans have access to broadband and the skills to use it effectively.” Aside from a question as to how this is going to be paid for, this continues to be very good. One of the most agreeable parts of the platform I’ve read overall.

It continues: “In an increasingly technology-rich, knowledge-based economy, we understand that connectivity is a key part of the solution to many of our most important challenges: job creation, economic growth, energy, health care, and education.” Not entirely sure how, but okay. “We will establish a Chief Technology Officer for the nation, to ensure we use technology to enhance the functioning, transparency, and expertise of government, including establishing a national interoperable public safety communications network to help first responders at the local, state and national level communicate with one another during a crisis.” The first part of that sentence sounds like typical government unnecessary spending, but the second sentence sounds like it’s of vital national security importance.

“We will toughen penalties, increase enforcement resources, and spur private sector cooperation with law enforcement to identify and prosecute those who exploit the Internet to try to harm children.” Sounds good, relatively cheap, and important. “We will encourage more educational content on the Web and in our media.” How do you know people will find the educational content, or even look for it? And what does “encouragement” mean, anyway? “We will give parents the tools and information they need to manage what their children see on television and the Internet – in ways fully consistent with the First Amendment.” In other words, “don’t worry about us running roughshod over the First Amendment. It’ll all work out, don’t worry.”

“We will strengthen privacy protections in the digital age and will harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy.” Sounds good, but what will this “accountability” consist of, and who will hold the government accountable for this? “We will encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.” Sounds like reasonable goals, but how will you accomplish the first goal? Hopefully not a form of affirmative action. “Diverse viewpoints” sounds like a good thing to have, but what do you mean by “clarify[ing] the public interest obligations”? Enforcing and improving them, or loosening them?

“Support Small Business and Entrepreneurship”: “Encouraging new industry and creating jobs means giving more support to American entrepreneurs. We will exempt all start-up companies from capital gains taxes and provide them a tax credit for health insurance.” Both of these were mentioned already, but this reminds me to look up capital gains taxes and how small businesses would be subject to them. According to Wikipedia, capital gains taxes are assessed on the sale of any asset that’s sold at a profit, so if you bought a plot of land, say for a store, at $100,000, and sold it for $500,000, you’d get taxed on the profit you made on the sale. So it makes some sense to exempt small companies from them, especially under the same logic as exempting poor people from the income tax, but where’s the cut-off?

“We will provide a new tax credit for small businesses that offer quality health insurance to their employees.” Isn’t this a repeat of the end of the previous sentence? Makes some sense, though. “We will help small businesses facing high energy costs.” Perhaps by helping them green, I hope? “We will work to remove bureaucratic barriers for small and start-up businesses–for example, by making the patent process more efficient and reliable.” Hopefully you have a way to make the patent process “efficient and reliable”. But that’s something most people can probably get behind, assuming there’s enough bloat that cutting bureaucracy would have a substantial net positive effect. “We will create a national network of public-private business incubators and technical support.” Sounds good but potentially throwing money away. I’m sounding like a broken record at this point, aren’t I?

“Real Leadership for Rural America”: Begins with a typical shout-out to the agricultural sector, which “we depend on… to produce the food, feed, fiber, and fuel that support our society. Thankfully, American farmers possess an unrivaled capacity to produce an abundance of these high-quality products. In return, we will provide a strong safety net for family farms, a permanent disaster relief program, expansion of agriculture research, and an emphasis on agricultural trade.” Protecting family farms is important to halt the McDonaldization of agriculture, and everything else falls under my constant refrain: sounds good, but where’s the money? (For the rest of this review, I’ll shorten that to SGWTM.)

We will promote economic development in rural and tribal communities by investing in renewable energy, which will transform the rural economy and create millions of new jobs, by upgrading technological and physical infrastructure, by addressing the challenges faced by public schools in rural areas, including forest county schools, supporting higher education opportunities and by attracting quality teachers, doctors and nurses through loan forgiveness programs and other incentive programs.

How’s that for a long sentence? The goal is good and you know I love renewable energy, which hopefully isn’t just weaning ourselves off foreign oil but is also doing as much as we can to combat global warming. Upgrading infrastructure sounds good, as is the bit about improving the schools (though I don’t know how you do that), and all the rest of the education investment, but do you want to attract “quality teachers, doctors and nurses” to poor ghettos or rural areas? Which is the priority? Both sound important, but…

But what’s this? A quote from an Indiana farmer in a sidebar that boasts “We, the American farmer, have the ability, the enthusiasm, the skills, the tools, and the fierce sense of patriotism to win the war on foreign oil and still provide the food and fiber in a safe manner for not only for this country, but for the rest of the world.” Oh god, you really are high on the biofuels hog, aren’t you? This is what you meant by “investing in renewable energy” – not energy for farmers, energy from farmers! You see global warming as an excuse to give pork to the agriculture community!

“Economic Stewardship”: This section begins with a very lengthy introduction when you consider the two paragraphs right before the meat, once again reassuring people they aren’t socialist.

Since the time of our Founders, we have struggled to balance the same forces that confronted Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson–self-interest and community; markets and democracy; the concentration of wealth and power, and the necessity of transparency and opportunity for each and every American. Throughout our history, Americans have pursued their dreams within a free market that has been the engine of America’s progress. It’s a market that has created a prosperity that is the envy of the world, and opportunity for generations of Americans. A market that has provided great rewards to the innovators and risk-takers who have made America a beacon for science, technology, and discovery.

But the American experiment has worked in large part because we have guided the market’s invisible hand with a higher principle. Our free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That is why we have put in place rules of the road to make competition fair, open, and honest. We have done this not to stifle–but rather to advance – prosperity and liberty.

This is a very effective defense of the Democratic approach against the idea of straight-up laissez-faire economics.

In this time of economic transformation and crisis, we must be stewards of this economy more than ever before. We will maintain fiscal responsibility, so that we do not mortgage our children’s future on a mountain of debt. We can do this at the same time that we invest in our future. We will restore fairness and responsibility to our tax code. We will bring balance back to the housing markets, so that people do not have to lose their homes. And we will encourage personal savings, so that our economy remains strong and Americans can live well in their retirements.

After everything you’ve talked about so far, I’m maintaining a healthy amount of skepticism about your pledge to “fiscal responsibility”, and you’re making me think I should be even more concerned about your acting like money grows on trees to this point. Does “restoring fairness and responsibility to our tax code” mean simplifying it, and what exactly are you going for? Never mind, I’m getting ahead of myself and I should look at the specific subsections, although I do like the idea of encouraging personal savings.

“Restoring Fairness to Our Tax Code”: “We must reform our tax code. It’s thousands of pages long, a monstrosity that high-priced lobbyists have rigged with page after page of special interest loopholes and tax shelters. We will shut down the corporate loopholes and tax havens and use the money so that we can provide an immediate middle-class tax cut that will offer relief to workers and their families.” Yes! You are simplifying the tax code AND you believe it will help pay for your social projects! “We’ll eliminate federal income taxes for millions of retirees, because all seniors deserve to live out their lives with dignity and respect.” Good, but again, why not all poor people?

“We will not increase taxes on any family earning under $250,000 and we will offer additional tax cuts for middle class families. For families making more than $250,000, we’ll ask them to give back a portion of the Bush tax cuts to invest in health care and other key priorities.” Well, now we know a significant part of how the Dems intend to pay for their social programs. As of April, only 2% of households were to make $250,000 next year, so this shouldn’t impact most people. Still, it does make the Democrats seem like typical tax-and-spenders. “We will end the penalty within the current Social Security system for public service that exists in several states.” What’s that about? Why would there be a “penalty…for public service”? “We will expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans can do their taxes in less than five minutes.” Once again, simplifying the tax code the right way!

“Housing”: Minorities are especially hard-hit by the housing crisis. “We will ensure that the foreclosure prevention program enacted by Congress is implemented quickly and effectively so that at-risk homeowners can get help and hopefully stay in their homes.” I would hope that can be done in such a way that it doesn’t involve a catastrophic loss of money by the banks. Maybe an extension of payoff terms and lowered minimum payments? “We will work to reform bankruptcy laws to restore balance between lender and homeowner rights.” Sounds, ah, fair, assuming there is such an imbalance. “Because we have an obligation to prevent this crisis from recurring in the future, we will crack down on fraudulent brokers and lenders and invest in financial literacy.” Good thinking, though what exactly is “financial literacy”? It certainly sounds good, no matter what.

“We will pass a Homebuyers Bill of Rights, which will include establishing new lending standards to ensure that loans are affordable and fair, provide adequate remedies to make sure the standards are met, and ensure that homeowners have accurate and complete information about their mortgage options.” A favorite gimmick: the (blank) Bill of Rights. Everything looks good but you and I both know people won’t read that “accurate and complete information”. “We will support affordable rental housing, which is now more critical than ever” – of course. “We will implement the newly created Affordable Housing Trust Fund to ensure that it can start to support the development and preservation of affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods throughout the country, restore cuts to public housing operating subsidies, and fully fund the Community Development Block Grant program.” As part of my research into the role of mass transit I’ve come to get a bit of an appreciation for “mixed-income neighborhoods”, so that’s something I’m encouraged by, but this is sort of eyes-glaze-over stuff, and it’s also subject to SGWTM.

“We will work with local jurisdictions on the problem of vacant and abandoned housing in our communities” – an important problem, and shows an openness to ideas and protection of local authority. “We will work to end housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunity” – sounds good, but does it mean affirmative action? “We will combat homelessness and target homelessness among veterans in particular by expanding proven programs and launching innovative preventive services.” Like much else here, this is something no one can disagree with, very vague on specifics (“expanding proven programs and launching innovative preventive services”?), and it’s very much SGWTM, but it also deflects charges that the Dems aren’t patriots (absurd as that sounds) and shows that they too realize there’s a special obligation out there to care for our veterans.

“Reforming Financial Regulation and Corporate Governance”: “We have failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practices. We have let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales.” Hardly a positive sentiment, but one many can sympathize with. “We do not believe that government should stand in the way of innovation, or turn back the clock to an older era of regulation” – an important sentiment to articulate and a concession to free-market Republicans. “But we do believe that government has a role to play in advancing our common prosperity: by providing stable macroeconomic and financial conditions for sustained growth; by demanding transparency; and by ensuring fair competition in the marketplace.” The last two roles are just common sense, and the first is a good point as well: you want to make sure growth continues apace. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of financial micromanagement like cutting or raising interest rates at the first sign of crisis, however.

“We will reform and modernize our regulatory structures and will work to promote a shift in the cultures of our financial institutions and our regulatory agencies.” Not even a sign as to what a “shift in the cultures” means? Might imply sinister intentions. What needs “reform” and “moderniz[ation]”? “We will ensure shareholders have an advisory vote on executive compensation, in order to spur increased transparency and public debate over pay packages.” Sounds good, but either it won’t have that effect or most people won’t participate or even know they can. “To make our communities stronger and more livable, and to meet the challenges of increasing global competitiveness, America will lead innovation in corporate responsibility to create jobs and leverage our private sector entrepreneurial leadership to help build a better world.” That’s just an empty platitude intended to make people feel good about the Democrats’ plan. The lack of details suggests it means nothing.

“Consumer Protection”: “We will establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights to protect consumers and a Credit Card Rating System to improve disclosure.” What did I just say about (blank) Bills of Rights? This sounds really gimmicky. “Americans need to pay what they owe, but they should pay what’s fair.” Again, meaningless but sounds reasonable. “We’ll reform our bankruptcy laws to give Americans in debt a second chance. If people can demonstrate that they went bankrupt because of medical expenses, they will be able to relieve that debt and get back on their feet.” Again, sounds humane on both counts. “We will ban executive bonuses for bankrupt companies.” Hear hear! If you drove your company into the dumper you shouldn’t be rewarded for it! “We will crack down on predatory lenders and make it easier for low-income families to buy homes.” Sounds decent, but wasn’t it “mak[ing] it easier for low-income families to buy homes” what drove us into this crisis in the first place? “We will require all non-home-based child care facilities to be lead-safe within five years.” But home-based facilities can have all the lead they want! Seriously, this seems to be coming out of left field but it’s fairly common sense. Hardly a deal-breaker though. “We must guarantee that consumer products coming in from other countries are truly safe, and will call on the Federal Trade Commission to ensure vulnerable consumer populations, such as seniors, are addressed.” Sounds important enough to take care of.


The personal saving rate is at its lowest since the Great Depression. Currently, 75 million working Americans—roughly half the workforce—lack employer-based retirement plans. That’s why we will create automatic workplace pensions. People can add to their pension, or can opt out at any time; the savings account will be easily transferred between jobs; and people can control it themselves if they become self-employed. We will ensure savings incentives are fair to all workers by matching half of the initial $1000 of savings for families that need help; and employers will have an easy opportunity to match employee savings. We believe this program will increase the saving participation rate for low- and middle-income workers from its current 15 percent to 80 percent. We support good pensions, and will adopt measures to preserve and protect existing public and private pension plans. We will require that employees who have company pensions receive annual disclosures about their pension fund’s investments. This will put a secure retirement within reach for millions of working families.

Too much information! If someone doesn’t have an “employer-based retirement plan” but has a retirement plan someplace else, someplace that won’t require them to go through a hassle if they change jobs, why lump them in with people that don’t have plans at all? Those “automatic workplace pensions” seem like they could add new layers of bureaucracy and expense. For some reason, something rubs me the wrong way about this sort of thing; maybe it’s a certain distrust of people’s ability to manage their pensions properly. But people love their freedom. Go from 15 percent to 80 percent?!? Actually boosting the savings rate is a good idea from an economic perspective; we’ve been taught to buy stuff to boost the economy, but money put into savings accounts can be reinvested in loans to help companies get off the ground. But this would seem to require a pretty big shift in American culture, and I’m not sure it’s one we’re ready for. Baby steps! The third-from-last sentence is eminently agreeable, and I covered the whole disclosures-for-company-pensions bit earlier. This really all retreads ground already trod in the discussion of retirement in Part II.

“Smart, Strong, and Fair Trade Policies”:

We believe that trade should strengthen the American economy and create more American jobs, while also laying a foundation for democratic, equitable, and sustainable growth around the world. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development, but we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few rather than the many. We must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably.

Well, this all seems to make sense. Trade’s good, but it’s not always good. Judging by some of the stuff I’ve heard recently, although all this seems to be a paean to the free market, “share its benefits more equitably” just might be hinting at socialism.

Trade policy must be an integral part of an overall national economic strategy that delivers on the promise of good jobs at home and shared prosperity abroad. We will enforce trade laws and safeguard our workers, businesses, and farmers from unfair trade practices–including currency manipulation, lax consumer standards, illegal subsidies, and violations of workers’ rights and environmental standards. We must also show leadership at the World Trade Organization to improve transparency and accountability, and to ensure it acts effectively to stop countries from continuing unfair government subsidies to foreign exporters and non-tariff barriers on U.S. exports.

I agree with the laundry list in the second sentence, but what’s the problem with “illegal subsidies”? Same question I have with regards to the GOP’s call for China to end their subsidies. There’s a hint of what both parties mean in the last sentence, where subsidies are “unfair” because they upset the balance of trade. So the subsidies involved aren’t what I would think of from the microeconomics class I’m taking – general subsidies within a market to improve economic advancement – but are subsidies to boost your own industries and keep out other nations’. It’s sort of cheating to get a leg up. Now both sides’ claims are more understandable, but still, I would greatly appreciate any promise to lower any of our own trade-barrier subsidies that may exist. But what are “non-tariff barriers on U.S. exports”, and what makes tariffs okay but other controls on trade aren’t? But at least the Democrats do support trade.

Lengthy paragraph ahead. A familiar refrain for people following the Obama campaign: we need “bargains that are good not just for Wall Street, but also for Main Street. We will negotiate bilateral trade agreements that open markets to U.S. exports and include enforceable international labor and environmental standards; we pledge to enforce those standards consistently and fairly.” So what’s your stance on imports? It would be nice if everyone exported everything, but there needs to be some importers as well, even though that means some jobs aren’t held by Americans.

We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications.

The first and last seem to be fair points. The second is acceptable as long as you’re not pushing for US investors to get greater rights than foreign ones, because that’ll just tick people off. The Republicans would probably say no to any trade agreement that didn’t allow “the privatization of…public services”, and there’s some debate as to which is better, but do you have any complaints about your water, sewer, power, or fire services? “We will stand firm against bilateral agreements that fail to live up to these important benchmarks, and will strive to achieve them in the multilateral framework.” Whatever that means; you’re going to try and bring in third parties to achieve your demands?

We will work with Canada and Mexico to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement so that it works better for all three North American countries. We will work together with other countries to achieve a successful completion of the Doha Round Agreement that would increase U.S. exports, support good jobs in America, protect worker rights and the environment, benefit our businesses and our farms, strengthen the rules-based multilateral system, and advance development of the world’s poorest countries.

Well, it certainly sounds like the Democrats are perfectly for good trade policies. They think NAFTA can be improved so it works better for everyone, whatever that means. Disturbingly vague, that one. The Doha Round is intended to “lower trade barriers” and increase trade, possibly to the benefit of developing nations. The Democrats would support a Doha agreement “that would increase U.S. exports”, keep American jobs, protect workers, protect the environment, help US business and farms, and oh yeah, help developing nations. And “strengthen the rules-based multilateral system”. All the things the Dems want are fairly reasonable from our perspective, but it almost adds up to “we want everything”. This sort of thing is why the Doha Round has stalled. Do you have an idea of how to achieve all those things that would be acceptable to the other parties?

The last paragraph mostly retreads previous promises. Some of the more noteworthy items: “We will end tax breaks for companies that ship American
jobs overseas, and provide incentives for companies that keep and maintain good jobs here in
the United States.” The first part makes sense, but the second part, while likely to be popular, almost amounts to one of those protectionist “subsidies” you earlier said other countries needed to lower. “The United
States should renew its own commitment to respect for workers’ fundamental human rights, and
at the same time strengthen the ILO’s ability to promote workers’ rights abroad through technical assistance and capacity building” – that’s also an important humanitarian consideration.

We’re over 5,000 words yet again and I’m getting tired but let’s go ahead and press on with the disturbingly small last section, “Fiscal Responsibility”, which begins with an admission of a concern you’ve heard me repeat time and time again: “Our agenda is ambitious–particularly in light of the current Administration’s policies that have run up the national debt to over $4 trillion.” Ah, taking another shot at the Bush Administration. The Dems then have the audacity, having granted the above, to say

Just as America cannot afford to continue to run up huge deficits, so too can we not afford to short-change investments. The key is to make the tough choices, in particular enforcing pay-as-you-go budgeting rules. We will honor these rules by our plan to end the Iraq war responsibly, eliminate waste in existing government programs, generate revenue by charging polluters for the greenhouse gases they are releasing, and put an end to the reckless, special interest driven corporate loopholes and tax cuts for the wealthy that have been the centerpiece of the Bush Administration’s economic policy.

Elimination of waste is head-slappingly obvious, as is closing loopholes (something covered earlier), and I’d like to see what ending the war in Iraq “responsibly” means; does it respond to the Republican charge that Democrats would throw away the “victory” they believe is in reach? Something new introduced here that, surprisingly, isn’t brought up earlier in the part in topical discussions: the introduction of a carbon tax for polluters. This would be an effective way of spurring greener development and paying for more proactive anti-global warming action, but I have two concerns: it gives the government an interest in not cutting greenhouse gases, and it could conceivably be applied to private citizens for driving in petroleum-belching cars. And how are you going to enforce it so polluters won’t lowball their emissions and try and get around it?

A repeat of the Democratic tax policy follows; now seniors would only be exempt from paying income tax if they make less than $50,000. “We recognize that Social Security is not in crisis and we should do everything we can to strengthen this vital program, including asking those making over $250,000 to pay a bit more.” Is not in crisis?!? That’s… that’s incredibly odd to bring that up here and especially to then say we need to “do everything we can to strengthen” it. But we really do need to make sure Social Security won’t bankrupt the government as the baby boomers retire, even if that means hiking the retirement age up a little.

The real long-run fiscal challenge is rooted in the rising spending on health care, but we cannot address this in a way that puts our most vulnerable families in jeopardy. Instead, we must strengthen our public programs by bringing down the cost of health care and reducing waste while making strategic investments that emphasize quality, efficiency, and prevention. In the name of our children, we reject the proposals of those who want to continue George Bush’s disastrous economic policies.

And the part ends as it (almost) began: a reiteration of the Democrats’ top priority. You’d almost think they were the Health Care Party.

Remember how Part I, “Renewing the American Dream”, began? It began, way back in Part I of this review, with an all-over-the place overview of the situation. “Families have seen their incomes go down even as they have been working longer hours and as productivity has grown.” So the Democrats needed to do something to boost incomes, or at least stop the sliding, and it’s hard to tell even whether they tried to do that. I might re-read all three parts I’ve written so far. “At the same time, health costs have risen while companies have shed health insurance coverage and pensions.” The Dems are setting out to fix that problem, but it’s an open question whether it’ll succeed, whether it’ll cost too much, or whether it’ll keep private health care alive. “Worse yet, too many Americans have lost confidence in the fundamental American promise that our children will have a better life than we do.” This is a general point, and it’s certainly one the Democrats try to take care of.

“Technology has changed the way we live and the way the world does business. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the advance of capitalism have vanquished old challenges to America’s global leadership, but new challenges have emerged. Today, jobs and industries can move to any country with an Internet connection and willing workers.” And I’m not sure the Democrats are doing enough to stop it. It’s nice that you’re going to stop jobs going overseas, but how about allowing America to compete in the global marketplace? Outside of agricultural, military, and service jobs (the latter two of which pretty much need to be in the country they’re serving), I’m hard-pressed to think of a single field where America isn’t under siege from foreign workers somehow. Even in the innovative field of technology, many of our top professionals are coming in from India. In that vein, perhaps some of the most important things in the platform so far are the relatively unheralded ones: bolstering TTA, creating green-collar jobs, and investing in infrastructure. This is another reason I’m such a strong proponent of mass transportation: it can be hard to grasp just how much traffic can choke a city’s economy, especially as it relates to the rest of the world.

Stay tuned, because my next post will finally involve crossover of topic between the platforms! The Review might be due for a significant change of format, some of which has already been hinted at… we’re about halfway through but we might be set for more than three more parts.

Leave a Comment