A Tale of Three Flaws: The Democratic Party and Its Vision for America

Tobias Michaels

Tobias Michaels

Introduction

At the time of this article, the United States of America is approximately 17 months away from the 2012 Presidential election. The last three years of President Barack Obama’s term has been instructive for workers. His election as president was greeted with fanfare, much like that of a prince being crowned king and taking his seat on the throne after being handed a sword to wield in the name of progressive change for the improvement of living conditions for the majority of Americans.

Three years later, Obama is openly campaigning to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. There has not been a major policy issue from health care to the economic stimulus in which he and his party have not compromised to the detriment of workers. That sword of progressive change is viewed today as a waiter handing a rich man a breath mint after a particularly appetizing meal. The majority of workers who voted for Obama, listen to his latest “Grand Bargain” with a shocked sadness that leaves them feeling broken and dispirited.

Could workers have seen this coming? Through a basic examination of the Democratic Party Platform, we will see clearly the manipulative power of the corporations and the rich.

Taxes

The tax code in the U.S is completely broken and flawed. There is no greater dividing line between the rich and the worker than this issue. At the end of 1945, the top 1 percent of the “greatest generation” paid 91 percent tax rate. Today, it is at 36 percent which doesn’t count the obscenely low percentage on capital gains which is only at 20 percent.

But what is the Democratic Party’s view on taxes? Cutting through the bad poetry that makes up the party platform, you get to the following points:

1. The Democrats are ardent defenders of the so-called “Free Market.”

2. They were for raising taxes on income earners who earned more than $250,000 a year.

3. They wanted to “simplify the tax code.”

4. They believe that the free market is what made American the standard bearer of wealth to the envy of the rest of the world.

Most of these points are not foreign to the Republicans or the Tea Party nuts. By defending the free market, the Democrats are offering no critical analysis of the system. They are reassuring the rich and powerful that they are on the same team philosophically. In points three and four, these could have been stolen from any moderate Republican discussion.

The only item of separation is raising taxes on the rich. This, however, was and is highly negotiable. This is a bargaining chip to be traded away, for instance for the extension of unemployment benefits. After all, the Democratic Party has to have something, no matter how minute, that separates them from Republicans.

Job creation

In order to understand the Democratic Party policy on jobs, I advise the reader to watch the first Austin Powers movie. In that movie, Dr. Evil, awoken from 30 years of hibernation, has the entire world at his feet in fear of a mass nuclear attack. To his audience, he demanded one million dollars. The world leaders laugh and mock him during this scene for asking such an insanely low amount. This neatly sums up how workers should view the Democratic Party platform on job creation. It amounts to nothing of substance.

1. A 50 billion dollar jumpstart.

2. Infrastructure investment in jobs, roads, bridges, etc.

3. Enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act.

The first item was enacted as part of the stimulus. This was too little, and too late.

The Democrats were never committed to real job creation. Obama’s jobs policy left it to private corporations to be the sole creator of new jobs and unemployment still is over 9 percent today, and climbing. Moreover, the Democrats are certainly not committed to strengthening organized labor at the expense of their corporate backers. After 3 years of contortions, even the most politically blind can see that now. This is a woefully inadequate platform.  

Immigration

When one looks at the 2008 Democratic Party platform years from now, they will be stunned. The language found in this platform is openly racist and abusive to undocumented workers in America.

1. Workers entering the country under this broken immigration system “disrespect the rule of law.”

2. People living in the shadows must come out and “get right with the law.”

3. Undocumented workers should pay a fine and “learn English.”

How one can look at this immigration policy and still vote Democrat requires an amazing amount of suspending disbelief and downright stupidity. This platform preys upon the white worker attempting to convince them that job loss and areas of work cut off to them because of undocumented workers being hired for far less in pay and benefits than other working people get in this country.

This is vile language meant to inspire more hatred and does nothing to address the real problem. This is what Obama’s policy has brought to the debate.

Do you want the Republicans in?

There is a cry that will be raised by Democrats reading this. “Well, this is bad but do you want the Republicans in?” This is the genius of the two-party system; no matter how bad the overall health of the system is, it can always be worse. If progressive voters sit out next year, they will get Republicans who will inflict as much of the above policy as possible. So, too, will the Democrats make sure that corporate America’s agenda, specifically the agenda of the banks and hedge fund managers, will be implemented. But they will perform this feat with a Judas kiss on the cheek of the worker.

Conclusion

The process by which the Democratic Party developed its platform is depicted as entirely democratic. Meetings were held throughout the country to develop this platform.

The platform is a vital snapshot of what many progressive workers were concerned about in August of 2008. The worker who has seen one legislative failure after another views these meetings as a chance to dream of better times ahead. The party, in turn, views this as a chance to manipulate. The dreams of the worker are perverted to suit the dreams of the banks, Wal-Mart and big business in general.

In conclusion, the Democratic Party of 2012 will be more of the same, a rotisserie service of platitudes and dreams for the left and a security service to the banks and hedge fund managers on the right. But beneath their feet, there is a rising tide of anger and distrust against the Democrats being completely dominated by the large corporations. The worker is not stupid and will only be talked down to and lied to for only so long before the anger explodes.

Against this backdrop of betrayal and double dealing, only a tightly disciplined campaign that unites organized labor and is based on the issues that affect the majority of workers, like jobs, defending Social Security and Medicare, etc. This can open the possibility of a real fightback for a fair economy. This vision stands in sharp contrast to the vision of electing “better Democrats” where we pretend to “hold their feet to the fire” in the world of 2012 elections. It will be found out by all that such a thing is totally illusory.

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Tobias Michael is a unionist, an anti-war activist, and writer for Workers Action. He may be reached at Tobias.Michaels@workerscompass.org