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As Election Day approaches, more Americans are paying attention to the developing Democrat agenda, in hopes that there is a better alternative to Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham and the seemingly unrestrained growth of government witnessed under recent Republican rule. The 109th Congress has overseen the largest expansion in federal spending in years. Democrats are pledging to “do better,” and we want to believe that it could be true. Unfortunately, their vision looks even less satisfying than Republican rule in practice.
Agenda Item #1: Raise Taxes: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats blame President Bush’s 2003 tax cuts for increasing the deficit, calling them the “unraveling of fiscal responsibility.” Their strategy to fix the tax cut “tragedy” is simple: roll-back the cuts “for the wealthiest Americans” and use the surplus revenue to pay off the deficit. Yet they ignore one crucial fact: the 2003 tax cuts are decreasing the deficit. Since the cuts went into effect, GDP growth and federal tax revenues are significantly higher than originally projected, due in part to lower capital gains and dividend tax rates. Increased savings and investment has fueled growth, generating income growth, yielding more tax revenue and a lower deficit. Raising tax rates would stifle this increase in tax receipts. Republicans – some of them – at least are getting it half right. Fiscal responsibility depends on both spending restraint and tax policies that do not punish economic activity.
Agenda Item #2: More Spending: Democratic Leader Pelosi has pledged that a Democrat majority would bring spending restraint back to Washington. There is very little factual evidence that this is true. Since 2001, for instance, Senate Democrats have proposed 70 amendments for additional spending, to the tune of $2.3 trillion. To finance these initiatives without increasing the deficit, the Democrats plan to follow a “fiscally responsible pay-as-you-go” strategy. But Pelosi and others should not fool you—“pay-as-you-go” is the nice way of saying they will increase taxes each time they want to spend.
Agenda Item #3: Prevent Ownership: Another central plank in the Democrats’ platform is stopping any proposal that would allow individual workers to keep, invest and own more of their retirement savings. Their lockstep opposition to Personal Retirement Accounts (PRAs) is based on the belief that ownership would, in the words of Rep. George Miller, “turn Social Security from a guarantee into a gamble.” In reality, the “guarantee” of government-managed retirement security is as empty as the so-called “Social Security Trust Fund.” The government has already spent our retirement funds, leaving nothing but a massive $12 trillion unfunded liability that will require higher taxes or reduced benefits for today’s workers. Instead of more retirement pain, ownership would allow individuals to protect their retirement savings from congressional meddling and mismanagement.
Agenda Item #4: Increasing Unemployment: Led by Ted Kennedy, Democrats are rallying behind the minimum wage and calling for a $2.10 increase, supposedly to help poor families and unskilled workers. Unless you teach at Harvard and/or grew up on an ocean-front compound in Hyanisport, you know how supply and demand works. If you raise the price of something, you sell less of it. Mandated increases in the minimum wage harm the most vulnerable members of the workforce, as employers are forced to replace unskilled entry level jobs with automated processes and fewer, more expensive, skilled workers. The net result: entry level workers can’t get jobs, or develop workforce skills that lead to higher pay. This brand of “compassion” hides the real Democrat agenda: protecting a few union jobs at the expense of working Americans.
Agenda Item #5: Increasing Gas Prices: In an attempt to stop “price gouging at the pump,” Democrats again ignore the laws of supply and demand in claiming they can reduce energy costs (which increases demand) while limiting supply (which increases energy costs). They consistently vote against policies that would increase domestic supply, including drilling in ANWR, allowing off-shore exploration, and reducing barriers to domestic refineries’ capacity to produce more gas. After the House recently approved lifting a 25-year ban on offshore drilling, which would free up 19 billion barrels in reserves, Democrats in the Senate pledged to filibuster the legislation.
It is hard to imagine, but voters could in fact do worse than Republican “leadership,” trading down to tired policies that limit individual opportunity and future economic growth with the failed policies of Big Government. Instead of choosing between bad and worse, voters should step up and demand that both parties rediscover the simple wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Lower taxes, less government and more freedom is a winning agenda, and we should settle for nothing less from every candidate for public office, Republican and Democrat.