A high-level meeting of big donors, Democratic party officials, and politicians came up with three major policy initiatives for the party to pursue: free universal healthcare, free college tuition, and reparations to atone for slavery. Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation to remove marijuana from the list of restricted drugs under federal law, a major step towards legalizing marijuana nationwide.
These policy goals are not official planks in the Democratic platform, at least not yet, but they show the direction that many influential party members and the donors who support them want to take. Let’s think about these.
(1) Free universal, single-payer healthcare for all Americans. Conservatives in the U.S. see lots of problems with this, both in principle and in practice. And yet, in countries that have a socialized health care system–the UK, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, etc.–it is very popular, despite the complaints, even among conservatives. Almost no one in the countries that have it is advocating eliminating universal healthcare, any more than American conservatives would dare campaign on eliminating Social Security. The point is, if single-payer healthcare is ever adopted by a Democratic legislature and chief executive, Republicans will likely never be able to get rid of it.
(2) Free college tuition. Again we see how liberal Democrats have lost their former interest in the working class. This program would help middle class college kids. Forget the high-school graduates trying to get accepted not by an Ivy League university but by the local factory. The left’s solution for unemployed young people? Have them go to college! What if they are not interested in pursuing higher education or they lack the aptitude for it? Go to a community college! This does not help the young Americans most at economic risk. But it does serve the special interests of the academic establishment, which has become one of the Democratic party’s major interest groups. Colleges have taken the place of labor unions. Higher education is already highly subsidized by the federal government. But it wants even more and will apparently get it once the Democrats take charge.
(3) Financial reparations to African-Americans for their ancestors’ subjection to slavery. I suspect this will be the least popular of these initiatives with the general public, who will likely consider it unjust that individuals who never owned slaves will have to pay large sums of money to individuals who have never been slaves. And if African-Americans get reparations, what about other victim groups, whose numbers are legion? Native Americans, certainly. Gays? Women? More and more claimants will emerge: the Irish were discriminated against in the 19th century. So were the Chinese. The U.S.A. seized much of its western territory from Mexico, as a result of the Mexican-American War. Should we pay Mexico, or just Mexicans? Or, to rectify the situation, should we just give it all back (including California)? And if we do pay reparations, will that settle the accounts so that the victimized groups can no longer claim victimization?How much money are we talking about? This call for reparations says that black people should be rewarded “back pay” for all of the work their ancestors did under slavery, which would surely be an enormous sum. This call proposes $100 billion, presumably to be distributed equally. If there are 42 million non-Hispanic black people in the U.S., that would come to just $2,380.95 per person. Would that be enough?
(4) Federally-legalized marijuana. If Sen. Schumer’s bill is passed, that would presumably still allow states to outlaw the drug. But possibly a Democratic legislature and chief executive could take the bigger step of legalizing marijuana nationwide. Actually, Sen. Schumer’s bill and possibly a broader legalization could receive bipartisan support, given the number of libertarians in the Republican party. Look for Schumer’s bill to pass with the help of the Freedom caucus.
(5) But how would we pay for all of this? I have seen no proposals for how the government would get the money to pay for all Americans’ health care, give free college to whoever wants it, and pay reparations for slavery. The federal deficit is already enormous. Just as Republicans tend to give as the answer to all problems, “cut taxes,” the Democrats always say, “tax the rich.” But I don’t think we have enough rich people to pay for all of these programs, even if we take all of their money!
Do you think all of this amounts to a winning agenda for the Democratic party in 2020?
Normally, I would think these proposals are too radical for most Americans to take. But it may be that President Trump will make Republicans so unpopular by 2020 that the Democrats will sweep into office at every level, whereupon they can implement whatever agenda they choose. Then again, the Democrats may go too far, over-reaching to the point of helping President Trump get re-elected.
What do you think will happen? Which of these proposals–whatever you think of their merits–has a realistic chance of getting adopted eventually?
Illustration by 3dman_eu via Pixabay, CC0, Creative Commons