Over the past eight months, the Democratic Party has floundered and sputtered around while trying to develop an agenda that can convince citizens they are a clear alternative to President Donald Trump. What Democrats have mostly done is unleash volleys of accusations as if this somehow beats back the danger of Trump. But now, Senator Chuck Schumer has announced the Democrats have “A Better Deal” for citizens that they plan to unveil.
In the New York Times, Schumer writes, “Americans are clamoring for bold changes to our politics and our economy. They feel, rightfully, that both systems are rigged against them, and they made that clear in last year’s election. American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people.”
The United States has never worked for everyone. Its government was founded on the slaughter of Native Americans and the enslavement of black people that helped create the sturdy foundation of capitalism, which brought prosperity to white property owners. The country also was not working for everyone before Trump, President Barack Obama, or President George W. Bush.
On top of that, why is the Democratic Party still not ready to unveil this deal? This major political party has had around eight months to come up with some kind of a plan, and all Schumer has to offer is a teaser.
The teaser admits Democrats too often hesitate to take on “misguided policies directly and unflinchingly.” Often, Americans “don’t know” what Democrats stand for.
“Not after today. Democrats will show the country that we’re the party on the side of working people—and that we stand for three simple things,” Schumer declares.
“First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st Century economy.”
What “tools” will make surviving everyday market-fueled oppression easier? Maybe Democrats plan to unveil tutorials that will help workers navigate capitalism, like in video games when one is just learning how to move a character. If only workers knew the game better, more would be able to win.
Actually, what Democrats propose is “giving employers, particularly small businesses, a large tax credit to train workers for unfilled jobs.” Schumer contends this will resonate in “smaller cities and rural areas, which have experienced an exodus of young people who aren’t trained for the jobs in those areas.” That is what the Democrats hope so they can convince some of the rural citizens who voted for Trump to support them instead.
But this is no fresh idea. Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton offered such a proposal in June 2015, when she called for tax credits for businesses for “every apprentice hired as a way to boost employment among young adults.”
President Barack Obama proposed a $3,000 refundable tax credit for companies that added jobs. On March 18, 2010, he signed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act.
As PolitiFact.com describes, it offered businesses savings for retaining workers for at least 52 consecutive weeks. Employers were to receive “a non-refundable tax credit of 6.2 percent of wages paid to the qualified employee over the 52 week period, for a maximum credit of $1,000.” It was a compromise, since it was not refundable, but nonetheless, it was supposed to encourage the employment of workers.
Democrats should not be allowed to sell this as a new bargain for workers when it is what the party has tried to sell to working people before.
The other items that are supposedly part of this “Better Deal” include abstract statements about breaking up “big companies” that hurt consumers and possibly do something to address the failure of antitrust laws. Democrats also plan to address the issue of price gouging when it comes to lifesaving prescription drugs.
However, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders proposed an amendment in January to a budget resolution that would have gone a long way toward controlling the cost of prescription drugs. It would have allowed the importation of drugs from Canada.
The amendment actually garnered twelve Republican votes, but thirteen Democrats voted against the amendment, including Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Senator Chris Coons of Connecticut, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia.
As Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone chronicled:
[On] May 11th, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee met to consider the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017. This little-known piece of legislation would reauthorize the FDA to collect “user fees” from the makers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Although controversial to some who believe these fees make the FDA clients of the industries they’re supposed to regulate – Sanders and Paul voted against it in committee – the overall bill is likely to sail through Congress, and in fact passed in committee, 21-2.
Sanders, along with co-sponsors Elizabeth Warren and Robert Casey, offered an amendment to the user-fee bill that would have allowed for importation of drugs from FDA-approved facilities in Canada. As Casey pointed out in committee, the amendment is laden with protections, requiring patients to have valid Canadian prescriptions, allowing the FDA to shut down bad actors, etc.
Once again, Democratic discipline broke down. The amendment this time was beaten in committee, 13-10. Two Democrats, Patty Murray and Michael Bennet, both of whom accept a lot of pharmaceutical money, voted no.
Why should working people believe the Democrats will perform any different when it comes time to vote on legislation proposed by politicians like Sanders? Are they going to stop taking money from major pharmaceutical companies?
Notably, this teaser from Schumer contains no words about raising the federal minimum wage to $15 or some level that would give Americans a living wage. It does not mention single-payer health care, even as a massive political battle over health care legislation continues in Congress. (Note: Schumer did mention Democrats “proposed” raising the minimum wage to $15 already, but it is difficult to see why that would not be a “better deal” than tax credits for businesses.)
There are no specific nods to a free college tuition plan or taxing Wall Street to pay for initiatives that could make a meaningful difference in the lives of working people.
It is not as if there is not a platform out there that the Democrats could adopt and achieve some level of success electorally. Sanders and several groups affiliated with him have developed an array of platform ideas that combine for an alternative vision to Trump.
Unfortunately, the Democrats are still the political party responsible for the decimation of welfare under the leadership of President Bill Clinton.
Clinton Democrats aligned with business forces in the early 1990s. They stood with conservative Democrats, who broke with labor, civil rights, and other liberal causes. They pushed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). They backed welfare repeal, bills which fueled the rise of mass incarceration, and signed a 1997 budget that slashed millions for social programs like Medicare and Medicaid. They encouraged the deregulation of industry, which greatly boosted Wall Street. Altogether, the Clintons enabled right-wing forces as they decimated the liberal class and expanded unfettered capitalism. (For more, read Lance Selfa’s book, “The Democrats: A Critical History.”)
Schumer and #TheResistance still do not want to completely abandon major parts of the neoliberal agenda they have advanced during the past decades. They didn’t want to when the party establishment refused to unify behind Representative Keith Ellison when he ran for Democratic National Committee chair. They didn’t want to when the party establishment aggressively worked to trash Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
The Democrats cannot and will not promise working people all that much of value so long as they remain wedded to this brand of destructive corporate politics.