Commentary

Marvels and Prodigies: The 2016 Democratic National Platform

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Interested in the “Final Draft To Advance Progressive Democratic Values”? Readers fluent in Albanian will recognize some elements plagiarized from the 1984 platform of the Partia e Punës e Shqipërisë.

In an ideal world, all faithful Democrats would study their party’s official platform. In the real world none will be interested enough to slog through the whole fifty-one pages. In an ideal world, Democratic candidates would formulate their campaign strategies in conformity with their party’s platform. In the real world, candidates spend more time attacking the opposing party’s platform than boasting about their own.

Platforms are written by committees made up of advocates, activists, candidates, retired politicians, strategists, idealists, hacks and opportunists. Candidates have some input, but can never control the output. The importance of party platforms lies in what they tell us about the long-term trends in party thinking.

Candidates, their hired hacks, and the party’s rank and rabble will nevertheless unite around 2016’s dominant ‘Progressive Value’, i.e., We Hate Donald Trump. His name appears thirty-one times in the “Final Draft” while “Clinton” doesn’t appear at all. The Republican candidate makes it increasingly easier to attack The Donald. The Democratic candidate makes increasingly harder to defend The Hillary.

Here we see revealed this year’s central Democratic Party strategy: Attack Trump. Attack him again and again. Use him as a club to batter every Republican candidate, all the way down the ticket.

Readers already bored by the subject need to know one essential fact before departing to this column to study more rewarding subjects – ninety-five percent of the planks are concerned with expanding the reach and power of the federal government. The remaining five percent seems to propose some limits. There are no contractions under consideration.

INVESTMENTS

Democrats are no longer the party of “Big Spenders,” they are now the party of “Big Investors.” The word “spend” appears eight times in the platform, always as something private citizens do; never as a thing done by Democratic politicians and liberal administrations.

The words “invest” and “investment” appear 63 times. Most notable among those investments is an “ambitious” plan to “invest” in American infrastructure, updating and expanding our roads, bridges, public transit, airports and passenger and freight rail lines. There are also plans to invest in quality childcare; in supporting the people caring for relatives or those with disabilities; in social services and housing options for all populations experiencing homelessness; in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; in green and resilient infrastructures for protecting communities from the impact of climate change; in 21st century energy and water systems; in modernizing our schools; in expanding high-speed broadband networks; in economic development and job training; in industrial energy efficiency; in science, technology and research; in broadening internet adoption; in economic growth that will lead to millions of good-paying jobs; in culturally-appropriate immigrant integration services; in economic growth across the world; in global health; in improved mass transit, aviation, infrastructure and port security; in public transportation; in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across our urban and suburban areas.

This is an impressive list, but here’s where the Platformers get really excited: “The Democrats are of the mind that human-caused climate change is one of the major problems facing the country/world today….an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time…We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II.” WOWEE!! “major problems…urgent threat…defining challenge of our time…national mobilization…global effort.” Just think how government must grow, of how its powers must grow; of how the entire population can be harnessed!

DEBT AND DEFICIT

The word “deficit” does not appear in the platform. That’s not especially surprising since the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that the 2016 deficit will turn out to be a trifling $590 billion—well below the $1 trillion deficits of recent years. No cause for worry there. No cause even for consideration.

For those concerned about the CBO projection that the federal debt held by the public will reach 141% of the nation’s GDP by 2046, the Democratic platform has these reassuring words: “Democrats understand responsible fiscal stewardship is key to American democracy and to the country’s long-term economic prosperity. We believe that by making those at the top and the largest corporations pay their fair share, we can pay for ambitious progressive investments that create good-paying jobs and offer security to working families without adding to the debt.”

For those resisting reassurance the platform also contains this sentence: “We will also ensure that new spending and tax cuts are offset so that they do not add to the nation’s debt over time.”

Still worried? Can’t think why.

TAXES

The platform promises that the Democrats will “fix the corporate tax code” in order “to reinvest in rebuilding America.” It is not specified that fixing the code means raising corporate taxes, but that looks like a reasonable inference.

The plan is to “repeal the excise tax on high-cost health insurance.” That’s good to hear, but they don’t explain how a Democratic administration will “find revenue to offset it.” Could be anything.

The Democrats plan to guarantee Social Security benefits for generations to come “by asking those at the top to pay more, and will achieve this goal by taxing some of the income of people above $250,000.” “Asking?” I wonder how that will work.

They are going to “close tax loopholes that benefit millionaires and billionaires to make sure that the earned pension benefits of Americans will not be cut.” Good news for pensioners, bad news for millionaires and billionaires—but they deserve it.

There will be no more special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies, but they plan to defend and extend “incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.” (See, tax breaks and subsidies are “incentives” when handed out to abstract, non-corporate entities called “clean energy”).

These parts of the platform seem pretty vague, but it appears that the Democrats are counting on the rich getting steadily richer so the government can tax them for the money needed to reconstruct the American economy.

And that brings us to this odd sentence: “Democrats will continue to support the interest tax exemption on municipal bonds.” The oddity of this sentence lies in the fact that ever since World War I, wealthy people have favored tax-free bonds as the most convenient method of sheltering income from the rapacious Internal Revenue Service.

STRENGTHENING MANAGEMENT OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

The pollsters tell us that huge majorities of Americans have growing doubts about government competence, so we are naturally interested in a section that appears to give attention to competence problems. Yet when we read the section under this heading, it says only this: “Democrats understand responsible fiscal stewardship is key to American democracy and to the country’s long-term economic prosperity. We believe that by making those at the top and the largest corporations pay their fair share, we can pay for ambitious progressive investments that create good-paying jobs and offer security to working families without adding to the debt. This stands in contrast to Donald Trump, whose plans could add more than $30 trillion to the debt and who casually suggests defaulting on America’s debt, ending more than 200 years in which the full faith and credit of the United States has been sacrosanct.”

And how is this going to improve the management of The Veteran’s Administration or anything else? Were their minds wandering?

About John Frary

Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com and can be reached at: jfrary8070@aol.com

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