Friday, August 15, 2008

The Newer Deal

Check out this excellent piece in Salon by Michael Lind, it has deep applicability to Canada.

Basically Lind suggests that the Democratic Party went down a rat hole when it federalized social issues and became the party of liberal views on abortion and sexuality and turned right on economic issues. Much as the Liberal Party has in Canada.

Lind suggests that a stronger recipe for success would be almost exactly the opposite.

In fact, the majority of Americans, including many social conservatives, never ceased to support New Deal policies, which from Social Security and Medicare to the G.I. Bill have remained popular with the public throughout the entire Nixon-to-Bush era. Consider the results of a June 17, 2008, Rockefeller Foundation/Time poll. When "favor strongly" and "favor somewhat" are combined, one gets the following percentages for policies favored by overwhelming majorities: increase the minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living (88 percent); increase government spending on things like public-works projects to create jobs (86 percent); put stricter limits on pollution we put into the atmosphere (85 percent); limit rate increases on adjustable rate mortgages (82 percent); provide quality healthcare to all, regardless of ability to pay (81 percent); impose higher tax incentives for alternative energy (81 percent); provide government-funded childcare to all parents so they can work (77 percent); provide more paid maternity/dependent care leave (76 percent); make it less profitable for companies to outsource jobs to foreign countries (76 percent); expand unemployment benefits (76 percent).

Note that almost all of the policy proposals that excite the American public are exactly the sort of old-fashioned, "paleoliberal" spending programs or systems of government regulation that are supposed to be obsolete in this era of privatization, deregulation and free-market globalization, according to neoliberals and libertarians. Bill Clinton to the contrary, the public clearly does not think that "the era of big government is over." Nor does the public show any interest in the laundry lists of teeny-weeny tax credits for this and that that neoliberals love to propose, to appear compassionate without spending real money. The public wants the middle-class welfare state to be rounded out by a few major additions -- chiefly, healthcare and childcare -- and the public also wants the government to grow the economy by investing in public works and favoring companies that locate their production facilities inside the U.S.

There, in a sentence, is a program for a neo-Rooseveltian party that could effect an epochal realignment in American politics.


In Canada of course, along with a pronounced social liberalism at odds with American trends, there is a similar if not more pronounced affection from the majority of Canadians for so called 'big government' policies. Despite years of hectoring from political and media elites pushing a market uber alles meme Canadians stubbornly remain economic as well as social leftists - as BC's market worshipping Liberal government found out to their dismay when they tried to steer public consultations in the direction of gutting public health care.

And yet, election campaign rhetoric aside, we keep electing governments that talk a good populist game and then start catering to big business and attacking the public sector before the ink is dry on promises to do the opposite.

Stephane Dion describes himself in an interview with the Globe and Mail as an 'economic right winger' and nobody thinks to ask the obvious followup question; 'What's left besides economics to be left wing about?'

1 comment:

RightDemocrat said...

Lind is the one of the best political minds that we Democrats have in our corner. Our party leaders would be well advised to adopt Lind's Newer Deal strategy.

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