ASCH: Democrats need to get their heads out of the clouds

In order to eventually become a successful governing party, liberals must be pragmatic

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Unfortunately leading progressives, like Bernie Sanders, have decided to double down on unrealistic left wing policies. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Much has been discussed about which Democrats will challenge President Donald Trump and run for president in 2020. So many names have been thrown around that it seems as though the Democrats are poised to have a large primary with several contenders, much like the Republicans had in 2016. Though all the potential candidates have distinctive qualities, many of the front runners seem to be using a similar strategy — pandering to the more progressive wing of the electorate by advocating unpassable and surprisingly partisan policy ideas. Some of these policies include single payer healthcare and free college for all which, as I have mentioned before, are well meaning policies, but are incredibly unlikely to become law and may not work as intended. 

Unfortunately leading progressives have decided to double down on unrealistic left wing policies by proposing legislation to fund a guaranteed employment program. Specifically, two pieces of legislation by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have been unveiled, though they differ in their expansiveness. These proposals are proof that many leading Democrats have decided to show off their progressive credentials to the base at the expense of offering up solutions to this country's problems which are grounded in facts. Analyzing the proposed guaranteed employment program in the context of America’s economy today makes this trend painfully clear. 

The idea behind the guaranteed jobs program is to give a job to anyone who wants one in America in hopes that it will, among other things, help raise wages and decrease inequality. These are noble goals, but a jobs guarantee will not effectively address any problems. One major reason being that the economy is in the midst of a long expansion and experiencing extremely low levels of unemployment, both as a whole and among minority groups, with African-American unemployment reaching record lows last month. In fact, private employers are reporting a shortage of qualified workers which is leaving them unable to fill some job openings and prompting them to raise wages. 

A rational observer would look at this and conclude that there is a role for government in helping to provide workers that these companies need. This could be done by making community colleges tuition free and then allowing them to partner with the private sector. This would allow for educational programs that would help provide the kinds of workers needed in the modern economy. Also, the government should establish a more lax immigration policy to allow foreign workers to come and fill vacancies that won’t be filled by American workers. 

The government can also play a role in addressing widening inequality in this country that is continuing despite our recent economic expansion. To do this, policies need to be implemented in order to ensure those living outside of wealthier, more urban zip codes have a shot at the American dream. A few examples on how this could be done include instituting a free community college program like I mentioned above, expanding the earned income and child tax credits, helping localities build more affordable housing units, closing the many loopholes in the tax code that favor the wealthy and providing a public health care option. None of these ideas are radical and they go a long way in fixing many of our current economic problems. 

Thankfully, several Democrats are offering up proposals to this affect. Announced 2020 candidate John Delaney (D-Md.) is running on this kind of moderation. In Congress, Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) proposed a Medicare X program to provide a public healthcare option for Americans. Former Vice President Joe Biden also proposed free community college and eliminating certain provisions in the tax code that favor the wealthy. These policies are practical and have the ability to unite the entire Democratic party, and even bring some Republicans into the fold.

In order to become a successful party the Democrats must be able to create an agenda that both addresses the serious problems facing this country and is likely to become law. It is essential that public policy not become a series of buzzwords used merely to excite the base. To counter that trend, the next leaders of the Democrats must change course. If they fail to do so, liberals not only jeopardize their chances of winning in critical elections, but make it difficult for themselves to govern in a political system devised to encourage compromise. With many predicting Democratic gains in 2018, liberals have a chance to make a change in this country and address many of its fundamental problems — it would be a shame if they squandered it. 

Jacob Asch is an Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at j.asch@cavalierdaily.com.

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