Liberals' 50 Years of Dreadful Domestic Policy
By Larry Elder
For the past 50 years, the Democrats -- and many Republicans who should know better -- have been wrong about virtually every major domestic policy issue. Let's review some of them:
The bipartisan extension of the Bush tax cuts represents the latest triumph over the "soak the rich because trickledown doesn't work" leftists.
President Ronald Reagan sharply reduced the top marginal tax rates from 70 percent to 28 percent, doubling the Treasury's tax revenue. President George H.W. Bush raised the income tax rate, as did his successor. But President George W. Bush lowered them to the current 35 percent.
President Barack Obama repeatedly called the current rate unfair, harmful to the country and a reward to those who "didn't need" the cuts and "didn't ask for" them. If true, he and his party ditched their moral obligation to oppose the extension. But they didn't, because none of it is true. Democratic icon John F. Kennedy, who reduced the top marginal rate from more than 90 percent to 70 percent, said, "A rising tide lifts all the boats." He was right -- and most of the Democratic Party knows it.
Welfare for the "underclass."
When President Lyndon Johnson launched his "War on Poverty," the poverty rate was trending down. When he offered money and benefits to unmarried women, the rate started flat-lining. Women married the government, allowing men to abandon their moral and financial responsibilities.
The percentage of children born outside of marriage -- to young, disproportionately uneducated and disproportionately brown and black women -- exploded. In 1996, over the objections of many on the left, welfare was reformed. Time limits were imposed, and women no longer received additional benefits if they had more children. The welfare rolls declined. Ten years later, The New York Times wrote: "When the 1996 law was passed ... liberal advocacy groups ... predicted that it would increase child poverty, hunger and homelessness. The predictions were not fulfilled."
The federal government's increasing involvement with education -- what is properly a state and local function -- has been costly and ineffective at best, and counterproductive at worst. Title I, a program begun 45 years ago to close the performance gap between urban and suburban schools, burns through more than $15 billion a year, and the performance gap has widened. The feds spend $80 billion a year on K-12 education, as if money is the answer. States like Utah and Iowa spend much less money per student compared with districts like those in New York City and Washington, D.C., with much better results.
Where parents have choices -- where the money follows the student rather than the other way around -- the students perform better, with higher parental satisfaction. But the teachers' unions and the Democratic Party continue to resist true competition among public, private and parochial schools.
Violent crime occurs disproportionately in urban areas -- where Democrats in charge impose the most draconian gun control laws.
Over the objection of those who warn of a "return to the Wild West," 34 states passed laws allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. Not one state has repealed its law. Professor John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime," says: "There is a strong negative relationship between the number of law-abiding citizens with permits and the crime rate: As more people obtain permits, there is a greater decline in violent crime rates. For each additional year that a concealed handgun law is in effect, the murder rate declines by 3 percent, rape by 2 percent and robberies by over 2 percent."
Race-based preferences have been a disaster for college admissions. Students admitted with lesser credentials are more likely to drop out. Had their credentials matched their schools, they would have been far more likely to graduate and thus enter the job market at a more productive level.
Preferences in government hiring and contracting have led to widespread, costly and morale-draining "reverse discrimination" lawsuits. Where preferences have been put to the ballot, voters -- even in liberal states like California -- have voted against them.
Minimum wage hikes.
Almost all economists agree that minimum wage laws contribute to unemployment among the low-skilled -- the very group the "compassionate party" claims to care about.
Economist Walter Williams, 74, in his new autobiography, "Up from the Projects," describes the many low-skilled jobs he took as a teenager. "By today's standards," he wrote, "my youthful employment opportunities might be seen as extraordinary. That was not the case in the 1940s and 1950s. In fact, as I've reported in some of my research, teenage unemployment among blacks was slightly lower than among whites, and black teens were more active in the labor force as well. All of my classmates, friends, and acquaintances who wanted to work found jobs of one sort or another."
This ghastly government-directed scheme will inevitably lead to rationing and lower-quality care -- all without "bending the cost curve" down as Obama promised.
Any party can have a bad half-century. Merry Christmas.