After listening to President Obama “State of the Union” address last month, Little Dud was angry and said, “It all sounded good. Obama certainly promised a lot. Why didn’t he do all that three years ago when he got into office? Politicians make promises, promises and promises. Ultimately, that doesn’t mean anything.” Little Dud walked away. What could I say? The two main political parties seem to represent both sides of the same coin. Next time I see Little Dud, I have to figure out how to explain the following…
Historically, the two main American political parties have been very similar, but not anymore. The Democratic Party that emerged from the Great Depression (1930-41) consisted of a coalition of divergent interests: labor unions; citizens who lost jobs, homes and businesses during the Depression; small farmers; and southern state rights advocates (Dixiecrats). The Republican Party emerged from the Depression representing primarily small business interests, those with money and wealth and those who favored less intrusive government into the affairs of businesses and markets. It was said that the main difference between parties is that Republicans believe that “wealth trickled down” the class hierarchy. That is: business investments are the basis of job growth. The Democrats believe that government investment in labor, jobs and enterprise is the basis of economic growth. It seemed that either way, everyone benefited. Democrats enjoyed majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate until the past decade.
Despite their differences, both parties worked well with one another in Congress by passing compromise legislation. But since 1970 interests have shifted parties. Southern Whites shifted to the Republican Party due to The Democratic Party’s passage of 1960s civil rights legislation that eliminated racial segregation in the South. Conservative Democrats also shifted to the Republican Party as liberal Republicans have virtually disappeared altogether from the party. As a result of these shifts, four Republican presidents have been elected since 1970 and Republicans are close to becoming a majority in both houses of Congress. The historic working agreement between the parties has unraveled and there is now an outright fight between the parties for government control. Let me illustrate two important differences between parties:
Republicans: Social Security and Medicare are too expensive, can bankrupt the government and should be severely restricts if not eliminated. If these programs are continued, they should be privatized.
Democrats: Social Security and Medicare are vital “safe-nets” to the well-being of the elderly. Their costs can be controlled by adjusting income caps for eligibility and age of eligibility. Privatization poses unnecessary risk of market loss and would allow large banks to profit from a basic government function.
Eliminate the Federal Reserve
Republicans: The economy will be strengthened and jobs created by eliminating monetary controls and regulations (The Federal Reserve Bank) as well as federal oversight over banks and by further reducing taxes on businesses, corporations and people with the highest incomes.
Democrats: The Federal Reserve is vital to controlling inflation (rising prices) and the boom and bust market cycles of the past. Business, corporation and high income tax savings in the past have not necessarily produced more jobs or strengthened the economy. Government spending and regulation of the economy have.
Both of these political expressions have found their way to the streets. Tea Party advocates reject the Democratic Party and are angry with the Republican Party for its passed compromises and not governing by core conservative beliefs as outlined above. The Occupy Movement rejects conservatism and is angry with the Democratic administration for its bailout of big banks, and inability or unwillingness to hold anyone accountable for the mortgage fraud that collapsed the housing market. They are also upset with Congress’ unwillingness to assist unemployed and needy Americans.
Back to Little Dud
The current political climate and the coming election are hardly cases of two political parties that are just alike. There are now real differences and choices. Our day-to-day lives will be affected by the choices made in D.C. Unfortunately, neither Party is perfect. Our best choices are far from ideal, but the consequences for selecting one or the other party will have real effects on our lives.
Now, what do you think?