To: Chairman Tom Perez, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St. SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
Dear DNC leaders:
You could lose the 2020 presidential election. Guiding your proposed policies by giving in to the progressives’ id rather than the Trump ego will lead you to defeat. Viewing the circus that is our national polity from a Midwestern (and mid-spectrum) perspective, these are four surefire ways to lose in 2020.
Medicare for all. When it is explained to the average voter—the 67 percent who have private insurance—that they would have to give up their private insurance for a government-run program, a majority are opposed. Sen. Sanders said this summer that Medicare for all would cost approximately $30 trillion to $40 trillion over 10 years. Further, the impact of essentially outlawing private insurance and private insurance companies would displace thousands of employees. The Sanders plan implicitly recognizes this by setting aside 1 percent of increased revenue to pay for job relocation.
Telling people how you will keep premium costs down, cover preexisting conditions, reduce pharmaceutical expenses, and increase access to medical care are winning policies. Telling people they will have to give up their current health care, possibly lose their job working for a health insurance company, see taxes go up, and watch the federal debt explode is not a winning policy. Oh right—and the government service will be faster, more efficient, and cheaper, too.
Canceling all student loans. Standing in front of a student audience and promising to cancel all student loans is popular, but an old political ploy. A 1928 Republican flyer first promised “a chicken for every pot.” A plan to forgive all current existing student debt misses that pot in a number of ways.
What of those poor wage slaves, middle-class families, who scrimped and saved and helped their kids get through school with no or minimal debt? One never likes to be made a chump, but certainly no one in the future would be concerned about racking up student debt, because sooner or later, they know that the government would bail them out. Teaching people at a young age that debts won’t have to be repaid and therefore can be incurred with no financial discipline is a bad education.
An analysis by the Urban Institute shows that canceling all outstanding student loans delivers only 14 percent of the benefits to impoverished families. In summary, wiping out all existing $1.5 trillion in student loans would become, in the words of New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, “a giant welfare program for the upper middle class,” meaning a group likely to vote.
Decriminalizing border crossings. Voters hear these proposals and it sounds like an open border, a chaotic stampede of people we may not want in the country. Most Americans, themselves descendants of immigrants, like their neighbors, respect the hard-working ethos demonstrated by most immigrants. Most Americans would, and have in polling, support granting citizenship to “dreamers” and to other immigrants who have worked hard and respected our laws. Decriminalizing immigration controls does none of that. It is bad policy and predictably does not poll well.
Reparations. There have been numerous proposals, including by some on the presidential debate stage, for direct payment from the U.S. government to the descendants of enslaved people. These proposals are opposed by two-thirds of general election voters in numerous polls. They are also bad policy.
How much would reparations cost? One analysis in Harper’s calculated minimum wages on an estimated number of hours of forced labor compounded at 6 percent. In 1993, that came to $97 trillion. Paid to whom? Would payments be made to any African-American, regardless of when their ancestors came to this country (whether enslaved or free?)? Would Barack Obama or LeBron James qualify? What percentage of slave ancestry would qualify for payment?
Who, in addition to the U.S. government (which after all, fought to abolish slavery), should make these payments? Should former Confederate states pay? A number of churches, universities (Georgetown, for example), insurance companies, and banks also facilitated and benefited from slavery. Some of those organizations, such as JPMorgan Chase, have apologized for their involvement in slavery. Should they or their unapologetic peers be required to pay reparations?
The reason the vast majority of Americans reject reparations, besides its impracticality and potentially unfair application, is that, frankly, too much time has passed. Sorting out the discrete harm suffered by some people by the actions of some other people 155 years after the fact is impossible. A good Midwesterner and the last Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Iowa, Sen. Tom Harkin once described social programs as offering a person a ladder, not an escalator. America can be good at offering people ladders and a hand up, and we should be discussing these programs, not reparations.
A change of direction in 2020 is imperative—but not any direction. The above policies and their political authors will lose in 2020. Listen up and come to the Midwest more often.
Vance K. Opperman
A Middle American
Vance K. Opperman
is owner and CEO of MSP
Communications, which publishes
Twin Cities Business.