Well this blog fought the good fight for President Obama, and the Democrats, because it thought that a Romney and Republican victory would be a catastrophe for America, and the world. And for the record in all the major countries in the world, except Pakistan, the polls tells us they massively preferred Obama too. I don’t know what the chances of the Republicans seriously learning from their defeat are. But being somewhat Taoist, I do always see the possibility that in defeat are the seeds for future victory; but also worryingly for the Democrats, in victory can be the seeds of future defeat. So I thought one of our Top Ten Series on the Top Ten Democratic Party Flaws would be a form of tough love and might check any post election hubris:
- Deficit. I don’t really see the Democratic plan to end the deficit, let alone as Clinton did, in good times run a surplus so we can afford to run a deficit in bad times. While raising the taxes on the rich is a jolly good idea, we still will also have to raise taxes on the middle classes or seriously cut spending with big ticket items like defense cuts, raising retirement age or increasing contributions to Medicare, though finding a way to stop the massive escalation in medical costs is the real solution to the latter.
- Dependency. While I am fully supportive of the social security safety net in a major recession, I don’t see a Democratic plan to address the large areas of the country where it is simply impossible to work in a value add job and earn enough to support a family. You only have to look at the areas of urban deprivation and the meth amphetamine epidemic sweeping rural small town America to know something is fundamentally wrong in a wealthy country for pockets of developing world poverty, infant mortality and squalor, and there is no plan to fix it. What would FDR do?
- Inequality. Inequality continued to rocket in the first Obama term and I see nothing around to address this. At least the Democrats see this as a problem; but where are their tools to fix this, especially the chasm in quality of education given to rich and poor kids respectively. No plan.
- Climate Change. At least the Democrats recognize the reality on this one, but they alternate between saying fixing this won’t require any sacrifice, and having no plan, which I guess means no sacrifice.
- Tribalism. The Democrats have built a successful coalition as they did in the 1930s, this time of women, college graduates, Hispanics, African Americans, secularists and gays. But to avoid this leading to grid lock, they need to find a way to win over at least 5-10% of the opposite tribe as Reagan and Clinton managed as I recall. They should also try to find a way (heaven knows how) to stop whacking the Republican moderates who are the potential bridge builders in Congress…
- Science and Education. We are rapidly becoming scientifically illiterate as a nation and the quality of science and math teaching is way below international averages. This is reflected in the quality of political debate on climate science, evolution and in the lack of support for scientific research essential to our future prosperity and survival. I see no plan from the Democrats to capture the nation’s imagination and really think long and deep in our science funding.
- Security. I don’t see the Democrats understanding the revolution that is sweeping the military around unmanned planes and also figuring out how the US is going to be secure once terrorists figure out how to use cheap UAVs to deliver their attacks.
- China. Sometime around the next election, China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy and I don’t see the Democrats either heading that off or preparing the country psychologically for this.
- Manufacturing. While Democrats understand macro-economics especially counter-cyclical spending far better than the Republicans, they are far less sure in their grasp of micro-economics and of how to create the environment where small and medium sized businesses start, thrive and grow. And this is especially true in manufacturing which is central to our future and needs a major new approach. Not a Stalinist Five Year Plan but a partnership of business, education, and government at all levels to rebuild our manufacturing capability competitively around hi-tech, automated, lean just in time production processes. This is key to creating the 9 million extra jobs currently needed to address the deprivation issue above.
- Medical Costs and Old Age. Every country in the world is facing massive challenges as the population ages. The US has much less problem than China or most of Europe but it still has major problems that threaten the solvency of Medicare and the burden on the productive age groups. The Democrats have no real plan to address this.
I should make it clear that on everyone of these issues, that I think Mitt Romney either had no plan or his plan was largely delusional. But that doesn’t help us. We have moved beyond the stage where we merely had to outrun Mitt Romney to escape the bear. We are now facing the bear on our own. We need good plans and we need some fundamental new creative thinking in these areas, as well as ways to reach out and try to craft bi-partisan strategies with Republican moderates, if there are any left.