A Barely Better Deal Won’t Win Midterm Elections in 2018

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had the New Deal.

Lyndon B. Johnson had the War on Poverty and Great Society.

Bernie Sanders had (has) the Political Revolution.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have A Better Deal — better than the Republicans’ deal, presumably.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Schumer outlined the vision of the Democratic Party’s ‘Better Deal’ in broadstrokes with some policy specifics:

“First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.

“On Monday we are announcing three new policies to advance our goals.

“Right now, there is nothing to stop vulture capitalists from egregiously raising the price of lifesaving drugs without justification. We’re going to fight for rules to stop prescription drug price gouging and demand that drug companies justify price increases to the public. And we’re going to push for empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for older Americans.

“Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care. We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they’re hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition.

“Right now millions of unemployed or underemployed people, particularly those without a college degree, could be brought back into the labor force or retrained to secure full-time, higher-paying work. We propose giving employers, particularly small businesses, a large tax credit to train workers for unfilled jobs. This will have particular resonance in smaller cities and rural areas, which have experienced an exodus of young people who aren’t trained for the jobs in those areas.”

‘Justify drug prices to the public! Negotiate lower prices! Allow regulators to break up monopolies! Tax credits for businesses!’ — This is mostly recycled Clintonism sprinkled with a bit of (completely fake) Bernie anger here and there. No wonder Senator Bernie Sanders — whom Chuck Schumer appointed as the head of the Democratic Party’s outreach efforts after Clinton lost the election — skipped the Better Deal launch event:

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Sanders understandably MIA

What is most shocking about this so-called ‘Better Deal’ is its embrace of Republican Party trickle-down economics in the form of tax breaks for businesses. Tax breaks do not create jobs nor do they train workers. The problems facing the American worker today arise from the changing structure of American capitalism — the post-industrial revolution — not ‘lack of skills’ or ‘lack of training.’ The entire coal industry employs fewer people than Arby’s; are we really to think that job training people is going to change the structural and macroeconomic factors that make Arby’s a larger employer than an entire sector of the old industrial economy?

If Democrats and progressives want to win the 2018 midterm elections, they have to offer something a lot bolder, simpler, and more exciting than a barely better deal. One need not be a fan of a revolutionary socialist Eugene Debs to grasp that the country faces enormous challenges and serious problems that are too big for Clintonian half-way solutions or slightly re-jigged Reaganomics devised by a criminally overpaid consultant class that gets paid regardless of job performance (a perfect example of a rigged economy held in place by a corrupt political system if there ever was one).

This is not an argument for being radical for the sake of being radical — the self-destruction of the single-payer movement in California over a very-radical-but-very-empty bill ought to serve as a warning against being radically stupid and radically wrong.

Rather, this is an argument for being simple, bold, direct, and progressive as Sanders has been for his entire career. Trump, being a simpleton, understands the power of being simple, direct, and bold which is why he endlessly repeated slogans like “America First,” “build the wall,” and “drain the swamp.” Progressives must do the same and the fact that “drain the swamp” was invented by democratic socialists proves that a winning progressive agenda and message cannot be quasi-Republican, half-hearted, and overly complicated.

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