A Better Deal?!

Chuck Schumer - A Better Deal?The Democrats have released a program to make all our lives better called A Better Deal. And there is much in it to like. But I think I can be forgiven for being a tad skeptical about it.

As part of it’s release late last month, Chuck Schumer wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, A Better Deal for American Workers. At the beginning was some language that sounds, well, familiar, “There used to be a basic bargain in this country that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could own a home, afford a car, put your kids through college and take a modest vacation every year while putting enough away for a comfortable retirement.”

That’s taken right from Obama’s 2008 stump speech. And I just wonder: after 8 years of Obama supposedly trying to make that happen, the country choose as it’s president an incompetent bigot? Regardless, we sit here 9 years later still thinking back on that basic bargain. Now there’s a real question as to whether this bargain ever existed. It certainly didn’t for a huge percentage of the population. Just the same, I don’t think there is any reason that we couldn’t make it true today.

Mushy Thinking in A Better Deal

Looking at A Better Deal itself shows that it is a mixed bag. For example, it doesn’t call for a $15 minimum wage. Instead, we get this, “As part of the Better Deal, many Democrats are calling to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and have cosponsored the legislation to make that happen.” I don’t know what that means. It sounds a lot like: as part of Obamacare, many Democrats are calling for a public option. You all know what happened to the public option: it was killed by conservative Democrats — most of whom go voted out anyway.

But what most upset me was the third part of A Better Deal, “Build an economy that gives working Americans the tools to succeed in the 21st Century.” The summary starts:

Americans deserve the chance to get the skills, tools, and knowledge to find a good-paying job or to move up in their career to earn a better living. We will commit to A Better Deal that provides new tax incentives to employers that invest in workforce training and education and make sure the rules of the economy support companies that focus on long-term growth, rather than short-term profits.

Two Problems

Get that?! There are two major problems here. The first is that this is the same old stalling tactic that we’ve been fed for decades. The unstated assumption here is that companies are not hiring because workers don’t have the right skills. Now to start with, the unemployment rate is 4.3 percent right now. The truth is that there is no skills mismatch. American workers are qualified for the jobs that exist. Saying they need “skills” is just a way of doing nothing. And if wages are down, that isn’t because of a lack of skills. How about the Democratic Party standing up for unions?

That all is bad enough. But the idea that workers lack skills and so we should give money to corporations is insulting. Do the Democrats want to see Trump have two terms as president? This is madness!

So to summarize: the Democrats think that Americans need more job training (which they don’t) and they think corporations should be given the money to do this useless job training.

Better Than Nothing

The rest of the proposal looks okay, but it isn’t as clear as it could be. We Democrats seem to be incapable of that. And some things hearken back to Obama, like reducing the price of prescription medication. Yeah, that’s something we were talking about in 2008. It seems like we could have done something about that. It seems like we could have done something about the big drug company giveaway that is Medicare Part D.

But I suppose we should give the Democrats some credit. They seem to be waking up to the need for a turn away from the road that led from Bill Clinton and NAFTA to Barack Obama and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


People bring up a lot of reasons why Hillary Clinton lost the last election. I wonder if having Obama running around pushing the TPP wasn’t also a drag on her campaign. It certainly reinforced the idea that Clinton was against the TPP now but that she would be for it once in office.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

11 thoughts on “A Better Deal?!

  1. President Obama handled the economic crisis wrong. He told the finance industry “I am the only thing standing between you and the American people” when he was not elected to do any such thing. Wall Street got made whole and people lost their homes. And everything flows from that. I don’t have a problem with making the finance industry solvent if that is what will prevent a depression. But they got it for nothing in exchange. And that, along with the second half of that equation is what gets you the 2010 midterms. And from there everything he might have wanted to do grinds to a halt. And can we stop pretending the Republicans will be mollified if we appoint a Strong Republican Daddy like James Comey. They won’t. Ever. And he’s a dick. Of course he wouldn’t have had a chance to do what he did but for another colossal asshole. None other than William Jefferson Clinton. Never saw a President so eager to harm his base and even 20 years later when there is no doubt about what happened refuse to apologize for it. But he never inhaled. What a stupid lie. There was an opportunity to make a statement about the folly of America’s drug laws, which would have been listened to. I made that argument at the time, and I was a Republican then. And we get I never inhaled. What, they were just using your face for an ashtray? Well, we’re in some pretty shit now. Not that it really matters to The rich assholes who run the Democratic party. None of it touches their lives. Unless we have a nuclear war. Haven’t had that to worry about in a while.

    • It’s like every classic deal with the devil story; you get what you want, which corrupts the part of you with a good reason for having wanted what you got.

      The Democrats decided they wouldn’t reclaim power without big donor money. And what did those donors want it return? Only for the Democratic Party to become Republican Lite. No more fighting for better working conditions, since corporate employers don’t like that; instead, offer “training” crumbs. No more fighting for health care, insurance companies don’t like that; instead, make modest reforms most people barely benefit from. No more fighting against those who prey on minorities, since the Wall Street types who made billions targeting minority homeowners don’t like that; instead, say nice things about healing our racial divisions.

      And the devil never just corrupts you by giving you what you want; he also finds a loophole to make what you want end up causing you misery. The Democrats got 16 years in the White House; they lost everything else. The party stands for nothing in the minds of most Americans. They’d rather trust the rich; “at least they know how to get things done.” They’d rather trust racist conspiracy mongers and hate-spewing preachers; at least they sound like they believe what they say.

      There’s hope, though. While deal with the devil stories are ancient in origin, America put a new twist on the genre; Daniel Webster, symbol of the little guy, beats the duplicitous devil. The real Daniel Webster was no friend of workers, the symbolic Webster represented democracy and the rule of law defeating cheaters.

      We’ve always been a people torn between hating the cheaters and feeling as though “if you can’t beat ’em, join them.” And of course you can only beat them with solidarity. People are starting to reconnect, I think. Hundreds of vets joined the water protectors at Standing Rock. Black Lives Matter is getting young people passionate about civil disobedience. Neighborhoods are starting to form political discussion groups.

      Will it be enough? Will it be in time? My crystal ball’s on the fritz. But it is starting to happen. And there’s always hope in that.

      • The thing about racism is that as long as you accept a society with high levels of inequality, there will always be “black” people. So the idea that you can fight racism without fighting economic inequality is nonsense. But that’s been too much of what the Democratic Party became from the mid-1970s up until quite recently. I think things have changed though. Only three or four decades late.

        • What I don’t get about these people who keep fighting the “did Trump win because of Democrats doing nothing for poor people, or did he win because Americans are irredeemable racists” battle is, they’re ignoring the people who didn’t vote. Of course a large majority of those who still support Trump are broken bigots, and let’s leave it to the sociologists to discover why. Most of my coworkers who didn’t vote — which is most of them — don’t see any real difference in their lives no matter who’s in charge. Pre-existing conditions don’t matter worth a shit if you’re getting paid under the table and can’t afford health insurance.

          Consider: the GOP has gone, for decades, about as far to the hideous side of America’s id as it’s possible to go. And still, a huge proportion of voters don’t bother. Democrats could give them a reason to, if Democrats stood for anything. Republicans have gone full fascist, and still the largest voting bloc in America is neither D not R but WTF.

          • I agree that the Democrats have not done as good a job as they could providing people with a reason to vote. But I really blame the mainstream media for not covering issues enough. They cover elections as though it really doesn’t matter. I doubt any of the regulars here are surprised by the way that Trump has governed. But that isn’t how he was covered during the election. The truth is that everyone should vote for Democrats always. Over the last 75 years, the economy has done far better under Democratic control than it has Republican control. And there’s a reason for that. (I’ve written at least a few articles about it. See Why the Economy Does Better Under Democrats.) But you would never know that from the press. And the reason is that printing the truth would be seen as biased, so they don’t report it.

            There is no doubt that if voting were compulsory, Democrats would always win the presidency and would dominate everywhere else. (Well, not really. The Republicans would change. But you understand what I mean: we would have a more liberal country.) But I don’t blame the Democratic Party all that much. As it is, the Democratic platform in 2016 was quite good. But how many news stories talked about it?

            • The media is a real problem. Not covering the Democratic platform, that I can understand — parties generally have all kinds of nice-sounding things in their platforms which aren’t really legislative priorities. However it’s been clear for decades what Republican priorities are, and it’s been clear for decades how effective these policies are at benefitting anyone save the super-rich. Yet “tax cuts spur growth” still is treated as a serious proposal. It’s nuts.

              • I agree with you about platforms. However, I think it was newsworthy that the Democratic platform had taken a big turn toward populist economic policy. And unlike Republicans, a commitment to such policies actually meant what most people would think it meant. As you noted, “It’s been clear for decades what Republican priorities are.” This allows us to read platforms accurately. I’ve written a bit about people complaining when Republicans talk about saving Social Security, “They don’t mean that!” But they do. The thing is, you have to look at what they have said on those occasions where they talk in depth. When Democrats say they are going to save Social Security, they mean something different than when Republicans say it. Democrats mean that they will put more money in it and make it work for more people. When Republicans say that, they mean cutting the program so that it will always be available — and always useless. So you can’t just report on what they say. You have to decode it. I’m proud to be part of a political movement that says what it means in a way that most people would recognize as honest. (We don’t put out legislation like “Clean Skies” for a pollution-increasing law.) The Republicans use language to hide what they mean — because what they mean is unpopular.

                • When did it get so bad? I remember the first campaign I followed as a teenager, Bush v. Dukakis. It seemed very serious to me at that age, all talk about tax policy and welfare and foreign affairs. But perhaps it was enormously shallow and seemed serious because I didn’t understand much of it.

                  Somewhere, a line was crossed between Dukakis’s silly tank appearance and Kerry’s getting flamed by the Swift Boat liars. Where coverage was no longer of the candidates and their likely policies, but instead of “how did this moment play?” No longer do we see post-debate recap outlining positions and proposals; instead, it’s who had the best moment, who was more “presidential”.

                  In another Taibbi I read recently (print edition of “The Progressive”) he mentioned thinking the public was deeply sick of this — sick of being told by talking heads what their perceptions of the candidates will be. Taibbi feared that a candidate who made these shallow journalists The Enemy would attract a strong following. He was right, and unfortunately is what the shallowest candidate of them all who grasped this first.

                  • I don’t know. I worked on that campaign and I was really vested in it. And I remember the coverage of it being incredibly simple-minded. That was, of course, the Willie Horton campaign. And after it came out, the Bush campaign said, “How dare you say this is a racist ad! Willie Horton just happens to be a black man! You liberals see race in everything! You liberals are the real racists!” And the media followed along with it. Because unless someone comes out and says “I hate n…..s!” the media is not willing to say that they are racists. And Republicans have used this fact to their advantage since the late 1960s.

                    But I do think it has gotten worse — just not categorically so. I think a big part of this is cable news and then the internet. Both of these changes allowed people to separate themselves into small groups. When there were only three networks, they all had to go after the majority. And that did mean that the coverage was kind of lily white. But at least it meant that it couldn’t be totally inconsistent with facts.

                    What the Republicans have been doing with tearing down the media is really dangerous, however. A society has to agree on certain fundamentals. The Republicans have completely embraced postmodern thought where there is not truth — just opinion. And this will eventually lead to anarchy. It even affects liberals. I know that it bothers me to see Trump claiming the news lies even while he is saying things that are objectively false. Yet the people listening believe him every bit as much as I believe what I call objective/scientific truth. It makes me despair for the future.

                    • Taibbi called it a three-step game. First Trump (or any other Republican) says/does something obviously racist, playing to the true thugs. Then, later, issues a non-apology apology, playing to the “moderates.” Then, when it’s observed that the “apology” is complete bullshit, scream bloody murder that the media is being biased, playing to everyone who hates any criticism of their side (and that’s the whole gang.)

    • I agree pretty much point by point. As I always say: only Bill Clinton could have ended welfare as we know it. And speaking of mollifying Republicans: that’s another case. I talk to conservatives today who still think that people live on welfare their whole lives. Bill Clinton ended welfare and yet conservatives are still making the exact same arguments they made in the 1970s. It’s outrageous. Also: bigots are still voting as if dark skinned people are taking all their tax dollars to live on welfare.

      As for Obama: he had a chance to do what was not only right but politically popular. But he didn’t. And the reason is because those Wall Street evildoers are his people. He thinks they deserve to be protected when things go wrong and ridiculously enriched when things are going well.

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