The Left is bubbling with ideas. They’re just the wrong ones.

February 23, 2019

The Left is bubbling with ideas. They’re just the wrong ones.

By Dr. Fareed Zakaria

Image result for fareed zakaria

IT is refreshing to see the Democratic Party bubbling with new ideas. But this new thinking seems starkly different from the party’s reform efforts of the past three decades. The wonky proposals of the Clinton-Obama era were pragmatic and incremental, and they mixed market incentives with government action. Today, we have big, stirring ideas — and that could be the problem.

In their zeal to match the sweeping rhetoric of right-wing populism, Democrats are spinning out dramatic proposals in which facts are sometimes misrepresented, the numbers occasionally don’t add up, and emotional appeal tends to trump actual policy analysis.

Image result for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was confronted recently by Anderson Cooper on CBS’s “60 Minutes” about an egregious misstatement concerning Pentagon spending, she responded, “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”

Perhaps this casual attitude toward facts explains the way that she and many others on the left have misrepresented the deal that New York offered Amazon to bring a new headquarters there. She claimed New York was going to give away $3 billion to Amazon that could have been used to pay for schoolteachers and subways. But as Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) explained, “This was a deal that was going to bring $27 billion in revenue to the state and city for things like public education, mass transit, affordable housing. And that $3 billion that [Amazon would receive in] incentives was only after we were getting the jobs and getting the revenue.” Moreover, $2.5 billion of those incentives were not specially crafted for Amazon, but rather were preexisting tax credits that it would have qualified for. In return, Amazon would have directly created at least 25,000 high-quality jobs, upgraded infrastructure in Long Island City and offered new educational opportunities. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Post.)

The merits of any such incentive programs can be debated but the idea that, if New York unilaterally disarms, other cities and states will stop offering their own incentives is beyond naive. This was a chance for New York to gain leadership in the technology industry, further diversify its economy away from real estate and finance, and add new dynamism to the sometimes-forgotten borough of Queens. For all those who worried about Amazon crowding out low-income housing, a community activist smartly predicted to me what will happen to that part of Long Island City. Come the next recession, he explained, real estate developers will snap up the land, turn it into luxury condos, and take a 25-year tax break in return for reserving a smattering of apartments for the “middle class” (meaning people earning $125,000). But the thrill of denouncing “the world’s richest man” is apparently worth all this wreckage.

Or consider the race by prominent Democrats to embrace Medicare-for-all. A variety of expert studies have estimated the total increased government spending for such a program at between $2.5 trillion and $3 trillion a year. Few of the many proposals being floated would likely raise anything close to that revenue. The Medicare-for-all plan by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has zero out-of-pocket costs for patients, which would make it even more generous than plans in Europe and Canada. And if a herculean effort were made to raise revenue for Medicare-for-all, there would be few easy avenues left to fund any of the other ambitious proposals on the new Democratic wish list.

Universal health care is an important moral and political goal. But the U.S. system is insanely complex, and getting from here to single-payer would probably be so disruptive and expensive that it’s not going to happen. There is a path to universal coverage that is simpler: Switzerland has one of the best health-care systems in the world, and it’s essentially Obamacare with a real mandate. No one on the left is talking about such a model, likely because it feels too much like those incremental policies of the past.

Or consider the tax proposals being tossed around on the left, including a wealth tax championed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). I understand the appeal of tapping into those vast accumulations of billionaire loot. But there is a reason nine of the 12 European countries that instituted similar taxes have repealed them in the last 25 years. They massively distort economic activity, often incentivizing people to hide assets, devalue them and create dummy corporations. Faced with a wealth tax, most rich people would likely value and transfer assets the questionable way that Fred Trump did in passing his fortune on to his children.

There are smarter, better ways to address inequality — raise the capital gains tax to the same level as income taxes; increase the estate tax; and get rid of the massive loopholes that make the U.S. tax code one of the most complex and corrupt in the world. But again, this is less stirring stuff than burning the billionaires.

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments on “60 Minutes” reminded me of a July 2016 exchange between former House speaker Newt Gingrich and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. Camerota explained that, contrary to Gingrich’s insistence, FBI data showed that violent crime in the United States was way down. Gingrich responded that it doesn’t “feel” that way to people. “As a political candidate, I’ll go with how people feel, and I’ll let you go with the theoreticians,” he said.We already have one major party that now routinely twists facts, disregards evidence, ignores serious policy analysis and makes stuff up to appeal to people’s emotions and prejudices. If the Democrats start moving along this path as well, American politics will truly descend into a new dark age.


(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Washington Post



25 thoughts on “The Left is bubbling with ideas. They’re just the wrong ones.

  1. La Moy,
    The freshie reps are like new used car sales persons.They are being labeled socialists by Trump, which makes them easy meat to the 2020 Trump re-election team. I am not impressed with his potential challengers. –Din Merican

    • Dato, there is still Howard Schultzs.

      I am not rich. I see no reason for a nation to not spend more on Bernie’s Medicare for all, using money we currently spent on guns. Even Trump’s supporter believes Trump is right on saying that America has spent more than America’s fair share in Nato. Americans (both left and right) are mostly tired of spending on being policemen of the world. Mostly, we aren’t good at it. Other times, why bother with being policemen when there is no weak parties to protect, coming from the liberal tradition of protecting the weakest (only).

      As for tax on wealth.. there is more effective to tax policy, imho. Increase tax on dividend would be much easier. Put in place stamp duty on trading transactions.

  2. If the freshies have half a brain, they will get behind Micheal Bloomberg for Prez that will humiliate not only Trump but the entire Republican party and really get things done rather than self indulging

  3. Din:

    Many of the what you called freshie reps are, in fact, socialists, especially Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, better known as AOC. Unlike during the Cold War when socialism in America was distorted and demonized to equate to communism, and socialists were painted with fangs and horns, the mood towards socialism in America today is changing, especially among the urban and educated. That’s why many of these freshie reps were elected. That’s why Donald Trump loves the “poorly educated.” The right-wing extremists are very afraid of these “socialists” who called themselves “reformists.”

    The right-wing Republicans are so terrified of AOC that they are calling her names and attacking her since she was elected last November, and Twitter trolls relentlessly attacking her even on her appearance and the way she dressed. Right-wing Republicans are terrified of AOC not because of her politics, but because of her intelligence. She’s fierce, she’s focused, she’s real, and she’s got lots of time to rock their world. She is only 29 years old. It’s not hard to see why this millennial arriviste is ruffling the feathers of crusty curmudgeons in Washington’s halls of power. They can roll their eyes and harrumph at her all they want over her lack of experience and gravitas, but she’s starting to make them uncomfortable because of her popularity and potential to rock the foundations of the ivory towers they are ensconced in.

    Take a look at this video where AOC showed how the United States has “a system that is fundamentally broken” due to the pervasive influence of corporate money wide open to rampant abuse that infects every aspect of the nation’s democracy.

    The take-down — which took just under 5 minutes — occurred during a hearing held by the House Oversight Committee. To make her point, AOC role-played the “bad guy” in an impromptu “corruption game” in a series of lightning questions with the watchdogs on the panel. With her creative attack, the freshman lawmaker exposes the non-existence of regulations to prevent lawmakers from being fully funded and controlled by big corporations and other vested interests, and just how much “bad guys” can get away with under the shameful state of our campaign finance laws.

    “So I and every member of this body are being held to a higher ethical standard than the president of the United States,” she concluded, effectively calling out Donald Trump over his dodgy business dealings and refusal to release his tax returns as well as his failure to keep his much-hyped campaign promise to “drain the swamp”. Small wonder that the billionaires who make up the 1% sitting on 40% of America’s wealth are nervous about AOC’s proposal to ramp up taxes for the filthy rich, and the fat-cat politicians in their pockets find her “dangerous”.

    Under her “Green New Deal” plan, she wants to raise the marginal tax rate on income above US$10 million up to 70% and use the money to pay for drastic cuts to carbon dioxide emissions. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is one of the luminaries in the field who like the idea. He has dismissed “the constant effort to portray her as flaky and ignorant”, pointing out: “She’s just saying what good economists say.” Another Nobel laureate and leading public finance expert, Peter Diamond, has argued the case for an even higher optimal tax rate of 73%.

    So how does the Washington establishment fight back against the reformists? By reverting to good old McCarthy-era scare tactics and labeling them as “socialists” who will reduce America to another basket case like Venezuela. That’s why Trump made it a point to declare in his SOTU address: “America will never be a socialist country.” The truth is, nobody is trying to establish a Communist People’s Republic of America. They’re only pushing for a fair system with a moral code. As AOC explained: “I’m not saying that Bill Gates or Warren Buffett are immoral, but a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong,”

    I am with you on the potential Democratic challengers to Trump. How many Democrats have declared their candidacy or their intention to run? May be 30? I am not impressed with the list of Democratic candidacy, including Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders could have won as a third candidate in 2016 but he lost his chance. I don’t believe the momentum could be recreated. Many of his supporters are still mad with him for having succumbed to Hillary Clinton. Facing a strong decision and he ran away. This is not a sign for a decisive and strong POTUS.

    The most talked about topic for the last few days on American news media is the Mueller report. If Trump could survive from all the 17 investigations to last till 2020, he has a chance to be reelected. Despite the great swell of voters repulsed by Trump’s dictatorial streaks, far-right agenda, racism, lies, egotistical tantrums, pettiness, misogyny and bullying, he still enjoys solid support among his deplorable cultist followers who have embraced his belligerent populist-nationalist doctrine, and are smitten by his celebrity status and overwhelming personality.

    In as much as I despise Donald Trump, I am impressed with his one-man phenomenon on the campaign trail, an unstoppable juggernaut on steroid, whipping up crowds into frenzy with unapologetic hate and fearmongering. And in as much as I despise his deplorable base, I am impressed with their loyalty towards Trump.

    For those Democrats who celebrate early that they would win the 2020 presidential election because of the momentum from last midterm election, I would advise them to remember how Bill Clinton was obliterated by a red tsunami in a 1994 midterm, losing both the House and the Senate to the Republicans. His approval rating then was not much higher than Trump’s now, and yet he went on to win a decisive reelection. And Barack Obama suffered an even bigger thrashing in the House in 2010, although his Democrats held on to the upper chamber. Again, with a similar approval rating, he swept back into a second term.

    For those Democrats who may think they can use Congressional oversight, investigations and subpoenas to frustrate Trump now that the Democrats are running the House, all Trump has to do is to blame them for everything that goes wrong with the country henceforth. Oh, does Donald Trump know his deplorable base really loves a scapegoat! There is no time for Democrats to be complacent.

    But Donald Trump is in serious, serious criminal problems and obstructive of justice right now. There is no telling he could survive politically.

  4. Just see what worked and what didn’t in Scandinavia and act accordingly.

    “Radical” measures of the past that worked in the USA — Social Security, unemployment compensation, NLRB, right to form unions and to go on strike, Medicare

    • Dr. Phua:

      Not that we shouldn’t see how other countries do things and swipe good ideas where we can. We should. But we also have to be careful. America is kind of its own thing, a continent-spanning nation with a large and diverse population. What works over there, might not work so well over here.

      Scandinavian countries are small and homogeneous, racial and religious diversity is limited, human capital is high, and they have been largely unaffected by violent conflict. It is not clear to what degree lessons learned from Scandinavia carry policy implications for large, diverse, and unequal countries such as the United States replicating the Scandinavian policies and institutions in societies that are fundamentally different is unlikely to be achievable or perhaps even desirable.

      Just saying.

  5. Scandinavia/Nordic Socialist Myths? Doesn’t include Anders B. Breivik?
    Alexandria casio-Cortez?

    Here’s some contrarian stuff, which i’m more partial to:
    3. From a Britisher Egghead:

    All Roads Lead to the Cultural, Religious (with apologies to the so-called atheists) and Values Environment. There is no such thing as a Tablua Rasa (Blank Slate) – so saith Steven Pinker, the Atheist.

    My favorite product from Norway:

  6. AOC et all are a reaction against the politics that swept Trump into office. The problem is not the electoral college system – which is a problem but a minor one – but the population that does not vote.

    The GOP on the federal level has become a nut job party and the reality is that unless the “minorities” start voting in large numbers instead of allwoing the “white” vote to dominate, America is going to continue on its role to shit house status.

    The problem with Fareed is that he was never as smart as the right gave him credit for nor was he as dumb as the left thought he was. Which kind of sums up American politics for the past few decades, which Fareed is a product of.

  7. Less tax on personal income. Decrease the tax incentives provided for rent seeking activities would help America great again. But, frankly speaking, it is simply not going to be a successful model for any American politicians to make such a call. It is not a simple matter of minority not voting also. Most minorities live on both coastal regions have already voted. Reagan’s Republican California has already turned that even LaMoy suggested he has changed.

    • “…even LaMoy suggested he has changed.”

      What give your freaking confused mind that I have changed? Because I speak out vehemently against Donald Trump and the right-wing Republicans? I have been a Republican all my life and shall remain a Republican, for I enjoy annoying the hell out of the right-wing party members by staying with the party and not let them have the satisfaction of driving me away.

      I am not an ideologue and was never a Reaganite. How much do you know about me to suggest that I have changed? To me it’s always country first and party affiliation is unimportant. Though I sometime give thought to party line but it is always the issues and the persons more important when I decide my vote.

      Great majority of my Asian-American friends are Democrats, as in California most Asians affiliate with the Democratic Party. Is it your logic that since I am a Republican so I am supposed not to befriend them? Or is it your logic that if I say something good about the Democrats it’s proof I have changed and turned coat? This is the problem with the country today with this kind of thinking, black and white divisiveness by party affiliations. Don’t you know every political party you have people in the left, right and center?

      Katasayang, katasayang, you are unteachable (孺子不可教也)!

    @LaMoy Not teachable, but yet you have still taught me. Thank you!
    The above LATimes confirmed many points you have raised (just for some Malaysians who are not so familiar with the California experience) Speaking of which, I found many immigrants in California actually carries a lot of Republican ideal. Perhaps, California might vote very differently, had it been Marco Rubio instead of Trump.

    California’s Latino and Asian populations boomed in the 1990s and the growing segment of voters were turned off by the Republican Party’s hard-line stance on immigration. After the party closely tied itself to Proposition 187, a controversial California ballot measure that denied public services to people in the country illegally, Republicans struggled to win back the state’s immigrant population

  9. LaMoy articulates my feelings as a conservative but more importantly as someone who has had some professional affiliations with the GOP (and DNC) over the years.

    There is very little that I disagree with of what he writes about the current American political landscape and of the GOP.

    I agree with Conrad .bro LaMoy is a good teacher and articulator of ideas. I learn a lot about American politics from his comments on this blog. Thank you.–din

    • Thank you guys, I’m flattered.

      Coming from blog friends, admiration is the best form of flattery. You can’t fake your obvious erudiction .Din

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.