Introduction The Democratic Party has become increasingly radicalized over the past few decades, to the point where it can no longer be classified as a liberal party. Traditional liberalism was defined by its commitment to four principal values: individual rights (as opposed to group rights); the rule of law (as opposed to governance stemming from …
The Democratic Party has become increasingly radicalized over the past few decades, to the point where it can no longer be classified as a liberal party. Traditional liberalism was defined by its commitment to four principal values: individual rights (as opposed to group rights); the rule of law (as opposed to governance stemming from the whims of powerful men in positions of power; limited government; and free enterprise (the only economic system compatible with individual liberty).
But the Democratic Party today is a hard-left – indeed, communist – party that flatly rejects the aforementioned liberal principles which it once embraced. Specifically, it is a stalwart champion of:
- group rights and collective identity, rather than individual rights and responsibilities (e.g., the racial preference policies known as affirmative action, and the left’s immersion in identity politics generally);
- the massive expansion of government rather than its diminution (favoring ever-escalating taxes to fund a bloated welfare state and a government that regulates virtually every aspect of human life);
- the redistribution of wealth (through punitive taxes and a mushrooming welfare state), rather than the creation of wealth through free markets based on private property rights; and
- the circumvention of law rather than the rule of law (as exemplified by the flouting of immigration laws, the denial of religious liberty rights in the name of “nondiscrimination,” and a disregard for the separation of governmental powers, such as when the Executive and Judicial branches usurp the legislative authority of Congress).
The Democratic Party’s sojourn into communism is clearly documented, for all to see, in the policies and worldviews that constitute its official Party Platform. Thus it is not at all surprising that every Democrat who thus far has announced his or her intent to seek the party’s presidential nomination in 2020 – Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Julian Castro – openly embraces a set of agendas that are classically communist. As such, the candidates themselves are interchangeable. While their various styles and personalities may differ somewhat, their core beliefs, priorities, values, and agendas do not. There are no truly liberal Democrats left in Congress; they are all creatures of the far left. The liberal Democrats of yesteryear – John F. Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Scoop Jackson, Joe Lieberman – would be, without exception, persona non grata in today’s Democratic Party.
The “Cortez Communist Party”
The term “Cortez Communist Party” is used here to emphasize the fact that everything which the Democratic Party currently stands for is reflected in the agendas of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the celebrated 29-year-old Bronx resident who in 2018 left her job as a bartender and won election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Ocasio-Cortez has received immense media publicity and is widely heralded as a rising star of the Democratic Party. The substance of her campaign and her political promises focused heavily upon an environmental program known as a “Green New Deal”; wide-ranging access to tuition-free colleges as well as universal pre-school; a government-run universal healthcare system dubbed as “Medicare-for-All”; massive tax increases on high individual earners and corporations; and the enactment of living-wage laws that would place enormous financial burdens on entrepreneurs and business owners. Each of these agenda items are examined in this essay.
Ocasio-Cortez is a proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America, an organization which believes that “the capitalist market economy not only suppresses global living standards, but also means chronic underfunding of socially necessary public goods, from research and development to preventive health care and job training.” She describes socialism as the political system most compatible with “democratic participation in our … economic, social and racial dignity.” “To me,” says Ocasio-Cortez, “what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity. It’s asserting the value of saying that the America we want and the America we are proud of is one in which all children can access a dignified education. It’s one in which no person is too poor to have the medicines they need to live. It’s to say that no individual’s civil rights are to be violated. And it’s to say that we need to really examine the historical inequities that have created much of the inequalities – both in terms of economics and social and racial justice – because they are intertwined.”
In a July 2018 interview on PBS’s Firing Line with Margaret Hoover, Ocasio-Cortez was asked if perhaps capitalism was “no longer the best vehicle for working-class Americans.” In her response, she said: “I do think that right now we have this no-holds-barred, Wild West hyper-capitalism. What that means is profit at any cost. Capitalism has not always existed in the world, and it will not always exist in the world. When this country started, we were not a capitalist [nation], we did not operate on a capitalist economy.”
When Hoover, in the same interview, asked if Democratic Socialism “calls for an end to capitalism,” Ocasio-Cortez replied: “Ultimately, we are marching towards progress on this issue. I do think that we are going to see an evolution in our economic system of an unprecedented degree.” And when Hoover suggested that Ocasio-Cortez appeared to be “skeptical that capitalism is going to continue to be the right answer,” Ocasio-Cortez responded: “Yeah, I think it’s at least a question. I think it’s absolutely a question.” Further, she asserted that “a system that allows billionaires to exist” is immoral, particularly while there are “parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health.”
The Green New Deal
In an October 2018 campaign appearance, Ocasio-Cortez – on the premise that the greenhouse gas emissions (especially carbon dioxide) associated with human industrial activity are responsible for potentially catastrophic “climate change” – made reference to a “Green New Deal” that would aim to make the U.S. 100 percent reliant on renewable energy sources (wind, water, solar) by 2035. “There’s no debate as to whether we should continue producing fossil fuels,” she said. “There’s no debate. We should not. Every single scientific consensus points to that.” In another campaign speech that same month, Ocasio-Cortez likened the fight against climate change to America’s battle against Nazi Germany:
“So we talk about existential threats, the last time we had a really major existential threat to this country was around World War II…. We had a direct existential threat with another nation, this time it was Nazi Germany, and the Axis, who explicitly made the United States as an enemy, as an enemy. And what we did was that we chose to mobilize our entire economy and industrialized our entire economy and we put hundreds if not millions of people to work in defending our shores and defending this country. We have to do the same thing in order to get us to 100 percent renewable energy, and that’s just the truth of it.”
“The Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan,” Ocasio-Cortez said on yet another occasion during her campaign. “It will require the investment of trillions of dollars and the creation of millions of high-wage jobs. We must again invest in the development, manufacturing, deployment, and distribution of energy but this time green energy.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s comparison of the Green New Deal to the Marshall Plan was highly reminiscent of a 2016 article titled “A World at War,” in which the author, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, drew numerous parallels between World War II and the fight against climate change. For example, McKibben wrote: “And just as FDR brought in experts from the private sector to plan for the defense build-out, she [Hillary Clinton] could get the blueprints for a full-scale climate mobilization in place even as she rallies the political will to make them plausible. Without the same urgency and foresight displayed by FDR—without immediate executive action—we will lose this war.”
At a climate-change town hall meeting in December 2018, Ocasio-Cortez said that the Green New Deal “is going to be the Great Society, the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation. That is the scale of the ambition that this movement is going to require.”
In a January 2019 interview on CBS This Morning, host Anderson Cooper asked the newly elected Ocasio-Cortez if her Green New Deal would mean “everybody having to drive an electric car.” The congresswoman replied: “It’s going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now. What is the problem with trying to push our technological capacities to the furthest extent possible?” Emphasizing that her energy plan would require wealthy people “to start paying their fair share in taxes,” she proceeded to suggest that tax rates of “60 or 70 percent” on top earners would be fair and appropriate. When Cooper subsequently observed that Ocasio-Cortez was proposing “a radical agenda,” the legislator replied: “Well, I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country. Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security.” Cooper then asked, “Do you call yourself a radical?” To that, Ocasio-Cortez said: “Yeah. You know, if that’s what radical means, call me a radical.”
Operationally, the Green New Deal would eliminate all fossil fuels from the U.S. electric grid by 2030, thereby forcing Americans to use much more expensive and much less reliable energy sources such as wind (which costs twice as much as power derived from coal, natural gas, and oil) and solar (which costs three times as much). The plan would also mandate trillions of dollars in public expenditures on government-approved “upgrades” and “retrofits” of all existing homes and businesses in the United States — e.g., installing insulation, weather stripping, thermal windows, and storm doors to make the buildings more “energy efficient” — and implementing zero-carbon standards for all new building construction. This facet of the Green New Deal is particularly significant, in light of the fact that buildings produce about 40 percent of all annual carbon emissions in the United States.
In a January 2019 analysis of the Green New Deal’s call for the elimination of fossil fuels, the Heartland Institute points out that “when there is more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, plants generally grow faster, which means there’s more food available to feed the world’s growing population of people and animals.” Aside from that, adds the Institute, “regardless of what we do in the United States, the rest of the world is going to continue increasing its fossil fuel use, more than offsetting any CO2 reductions we might make.” In short, any carbon-cutting measures taken by the United States would be doomed to irrelevance.
In addition to doing away with fossil fuels, the Green New Deal would seek to raise the living standards of low-income people by guaranteeing that they could be trained and hired for federal “green jobs” paying them at least $15-per-hour to implement the aforementioned upgrades, retrofits, and construction projects, thereby helping those people make a “just transition” from their previous occupations to the new “green economy.” The premise underlying these training/hiring policies is that some form of economic reparations or wealth transfer should be put in place to counteract America’s historical discrimination against “low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, [and] the front-line communities most affected by climate change, pollution, and other environmental harm.”
And the Green New Deal’s redistributionist measures would not stop there. Scholar Tim Huelskamp, who describes the plan as “the most radical socialist proposal in modern congressional history,” explains that its provisions extend far beyond matters that are even remotely associated with energy efficiency, the environment, and climate. That is, the Green New Deal seeks to remake the entire American economy:
“[T]heir real desire is to accomplish the Left’s longtime goal of moving the United States toward full adoption of socialism. This isn’t just a theory. Significant provisions of the Green New Deal reveal its true purpose of imposing socialism on an unprecedented scale. The plan would create a ‘basic income program’ and federal jobs guarantee providing a ‘living wage’ to everybody who says they want one. It would impose a federal-government-run, single-payer health care system with bureaucrats and liberal politicians in Washington, D.C. in charge of every American’s health care. It would encourage the Federal Reserve to unleash inflation and create a system of government-owned banks to ‘create’ tens of trillions of dollars needed to fund these immense programs. None of these proposals has anything at all to do with climate change.”
As the Heartland Institute notes, the Green New Deal “is appropriately named after the original ‘New Deal,’ the big-government power grab imposed by President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s.” “Under FDR,” says Heartland, “Democrats tripled taxes in seven years, and the government imposed an endless array of regulations, mandates, and even a secret police force to enforce them. The economy limped along for the entirety of the 1930s, with an average unemployment rate of a whopping 17 percent and Americans more dependent on government than ever.”
The origins of the term “Green New Deal” can be traced back to Richard Murphy, a British tax scholar and political economy professor, who in 2007 collaborated with a number of newspaper editors, economists, and environmentalists to form a “Green New Deal Group” that proposed massive public expenditures to fund: (a) the development of a zero-carbon-emission transportation infrastructure wholly reliant on renewable energy sources; (b) the wide-scale insulation of homes to make them more energy-efficient; and (c) the establishment of training programs to develop a national corps of workers to carry out these objectives. To fund the initiative, Murphy advocated a combination of tax hikes on wealthy people and corporations, “straightforward deficit spending,” and the implementation of quantitative easing – a strategy whereby the government would establish a green infrastructure bank that would issue bonds which the government, in turn, could buy back. On July 21, 2008, Murphy’s “Green New Deal Group” published a report detailing its specific recommendations.
In a similar spirit, on October 22, 2008, United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner unveiled a “Global Green New Deal” initiative designed to simultaneously strengthen the world economy and curb climate change by creating jobs in a wide array of “green” industries. The following year, the United Nations drafted a report explicitly calling for a “Global Green New Deal” to promote government stimulus spending on renewable energy projects. Such objectives gained significant popular momentum in the United Kingdom when the ruling Labour Party in 2010 established a green infrastructure bank, as Richard Murphy had proposed. But when the conservative Tories swept into office later that year, they sold the bank and cut subsidies for renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs.
Among the first to introduce the concept of a “Green New Deal” in the United States was New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who in January 2007 wrote: “[W]e will only green the world when we change the very nature of the electricity grid — moving it away from dirty coal or oil to clean coal and renewables. And that is a huge industrial project – much bigger than anyone has told you. Finally, like the New Deal, if we undertake the green version, it has the potential to create a whole new clean power industry to spur our economy into the 21st century.”
In 2008, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama added a Green New Deal to his campaign platform. In April of that year, the self-identified revolutionary communist Van Jones — who in 2009 would become President Obama’s “Green Jobs Czar” — made clear his desire to incrementally socialize, by stealth, the U.S. economy: “Right now we say we want to move from suicidal gray capitalism to something eco-capitalism where at least we’re not fast-tracking the destruction of the whole planet. Will that be enough? No, it won’t be enough. We want to go beyond the systems of exploitation and oppression altogether … until [the green economy] becomes the engine for transforming the whole society.”
A few months later, in February 2009, Jones proclaimed that America’s new “green economy” would emphasize “gender equity,” in contrast to “the pollution-based economy” wherein women “are making 70 cents to the dollar” as compared to men. Moreover, he charged that the United States was built on land that had been “stolen” from “our Native American sisters and brothers,” who were “bullied and mistreated and shoved into all the land we didn’t want, where it was all hot and windy.” But under a “renewable energy” system (i.e., solar and wind power), he explained, there would be retribution, as Native Americans would “now own and control 80 percent of the renewable energy resources.” “Give them the wealth!” Jones shouted. “…We owe them a debt!” “A clean energy revolution,” he emphasized, would merely be the first step toward wholesale societal transformation: “[W]e gonna change the whole system! We gonna change the whole thing!”
But when the cap-and-trade legislation known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act died in the Senate in 2010, talk of a Green New Deal became suddenly scarce.
Then, in 2012 and again in 2016, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein revived the idea by making a Green New Deal a central part of her campaigns. Moreover, the Green New Deal became part of the Green Party‘s official platform.
Around that same time period, the tenets of a Green New Deal mentality found an ideological home in Canada. Most notably, in 2015 an array of Canadian “eco-socialists” and leftists such as Naomi Klein and David Suzuki – along with left-wing environmental groups like 350.org – authored a socialist green-energy plan called the “Leap Manifesto,” which called for: making Canada 100 percent dependent on renewable energy sources by 2050; enacting “a universal program to build and retrofit energy efficient housing” and “green” public transportation projects; developing “a more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system”; guaranteeing all people a “universal basic annual income”; raising existing taxes; and adding a tax on carbon-dioxide. Among the Leap Manifesto’s “initiating organizations” were such far-left groups as Black Lives Matter–Toronto, Greenpeace Canada, and Climate Justice. Moreover, dozens of socialist organizations endorsed the plan. Among these were the International Socialists, the Socialist Project, and the Socialist Caucus of Canada’s New Democratic Party.
It is noteworthy that although Ocasio-Cortez and some other Democrats likewise began promoting a “Green New Deal” during the 2018 campaign season in the United States, it was not until December 2018 – well after Election Day – that their plan was actually fleshed out in the form of a tangible piece of legislation. Remarkably, their Green New Deal was drafted during a single December weekend by young millennial staffers employed by Ocasio-Cortez and three like-minded progressive organizations – the Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, and the New Consensus. According to Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff: “We spent the weekend learning how to put laws together. We looked up how to write resolutions.”
Before the end of December 2018, 40 House Democrats had joined Ocasio-Cortez in openly declaring their support for the Green New Deal. These were: Jared Huffman, Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, Ro Khanna, Judy Chu, Ted Lieu, Mark Takano, Mike Levin, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Joe Neguse, John Lewis, Mike Quigley, Tulsi Gabbard, Danny Davis, Chellie Pingree, Deutch Ruppersberger, Jamie Raskin, Jim McGovern, Lori Trahan, Joe Kennedy III, Katherine Clark, Seth Moulton, Ayanna Presley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Chris Pappas, Annie Kuster, Deb Haaland, Nydia Velazquez, Carolyn Maloney, Adriano Espaillat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jose Serrano, Earl Blumenauer, David Cicilline, Steve Cohen, Peter Welch, Gerry Connolly, Pramila Jayapal, and Mark Pocan.
As of February 2019, other notable supporters of the Green New Deal included every Democrat who was already campaigning for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Julian Castro.
The current Democratic Party Platform makes it explicitly clear that the push for tuition-free college is central to the Party’s overall agenda:
“Democrats believe that in America, if you want a higher education, you should always be able to get one: money should never stand in the way. Cost should not be a barrier to getting a degree or credential, and debt should not hold you back after you graduate. Bold new investments by the federal government, coupled with states reinvesting in higher education and colleges holding the line on costs, will ensure that Americans of all backgrounds will be prepared for the jobs and economy of the future. Democrats are unified in their strong belief that every student should be able to go to college debt-free, and working families should not have to pay any tuition to go to public colleges and universities.”
In an effort to actualize that objective, Senator Bernie Sanders in April 2017 introduced the College For All Act Of 2017, designed to make public four-year colleges and universities tuition-free to students with a family income of $125,000 or less, and to make community colleges tuition-free to everyone regardless of income. The bill had 7 Democrat co-sponsors in the Senate: Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal, Christopher Murphy, Kirsten Gillibrand, Patrick Leahy, and Jeff Merkley.
The House version of this College For all Act Of 2017 was introduced that same month by Representative Pramila Jayapal, and it had 49 co-sponsors: Keith Ellison, Bobby Scott, Raul Grijalva, Richard Nolan, Barbara Lee, Mark Pocan, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ro Khanna, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nydia Velazquez, John Conyers, Jamie Raskin, Eric Swalwell, David Cicilline, Peter Welch, Grace Napolitano, James Langevin, Earl Blumenauer, Adriano Espaillat, Jan Schakowsky, Anna Eshoo, Karen Bass, Judy Chu, Alan Lowenthal, Chellie Pingree, Zoe Lofgren, Grace Meng, Frank Pallone, Ruben Gallego, Tulsi Gabbard, Adam Smith, Gwen Moore, Darren Soto, Alcee Hastings, Ben Ray Lujan, Jerry McNerney, Louise Slaughter, Mark Takano, Mark DeSaulnier, Robert Brady, Danny Davis, Carolyn Maloney, Jimmy Gomez, Michael Capuano, Bobby Rush, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Yim Ryan, Yvette Clarke, and Joseph Morelle.
In March 2018, Democrat Senator Brian Schatz introduced the Debt-Free College Act Of 2018, which moved beyond the College For All Act of 2017 by aiming to cover not only tuition, but also the costs of room and board, books, and other expenses. “We’re at a point now where the full cost of college is more than twice as much as tuition,” said Schatz, “which is why solutions to the student debt crisis need to focus on the full cost to students and their families.” Schatz’s bill had 9 co-sponsors in the Senate: Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Jeff Merkley, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Richard Blumenthal, Tammy Baldwin, and Dick Durbin. (Another high-profile Democrat who supports tuition-free college is Hillary Clinton.)
The House version of the Debt-Free College Act Of 2018 was introduced that same month by Rep. Mark Pocan and had 27 co-sponsors: Judy Chu, Yvette Clarke, Joe Crowley, Rosa DeLauro, Mark DeSaulnier, Keith Ellison, Jimmy Gomez, Raul Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jared Huffman, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Carolyn Maloney, Gwen Moore, Grace Napolitano, Rick Nolan, Frank Pallone, Jamie Raskin, Mark Takano, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Adriano Espaillat, Jan Schakowsky, Jose Serrano, Vicente Gonzalez, and Tim Ryan.
Capturing the spirit of the bill’s supporters, Senator Elizabeth Warren said in March 2018: “Every state in the country should offer debt-free college pathways for all students. That’s why I’m glad to support the Debt-Free College Act, which leverages federal resources to give states an incentive to increase their investments in public higher education, bring down prices, and make sure students have a chance of making it through college without getting crushed by debt.”
But “free college,” of course, does not mean that college professors, administrators, and staffers will suddenly start working for no pay. It means that American taxpayers will be forced to cover the massive costs associated with the operation of many hundreds of colleges and universities. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college graduates earn approximately 68% more than people with only a high-school diploma. The broadcaster and bestselling author Mark Levin, noting that about two-thirds of Americans never earn a college diploma at all, points out that there is no moral justification whatsoever for requiring those two-thirds of the population to pay the tuition costs of the one-third who do graduate from college, and who ultimately earn substantially more money than the two-thirds.
Universal Preschool and After-School Programs
The current Democratic Party Platform shows that another agenda priority is the provision of “free,” taxpayer-funded universal preschool and after-school programs for all families with children. Under the heading “Guaranteeing Universal Preschool and Good Schools for Every Child,” the platform declares:
“Democrats … will invest in early childhood programs like Early Head Start and provide every family in America with access to high-quality childcare and high-quality preschool programs…. Democrats know the federal government must play a critical role in making sure every child has access to a world-class education…. We also support increased investments in afterschool and summer learning programs, which help working families, keep kids safe, and inspire learning at a time when many students are left unsupervised.”
Universal Health Care
The current Democratic Party Platform shows that the push for single-payer healthcare is yet another high priority:
“Democrats believe that health care is a right, not a privilege, and our health care system should put people before profits. Thanks to the hard work of President Obama and Democrats in Congress, we took a critically important step toward the goal of universal health care by passing the Affordable Care Act…. Democrats will never falter in our generations-long fight to guarantee health care as a fundamental right for every American.”
This candid declaration is entirely consistent with what a number of Democrats have previously alluded to. Indeed, after Democrats in 2010 supported Obamacare by a margin of 219-34 in the House and 58-0 in the Senate, it was clear that they viewed the new law not as a final solution to the nation’s healthcare problems, but rather as a stepping stone toward the ultimate goal of a single-payer system administered entirely by the federal government. Barack Obama himself had made this clear numerous times over the years:
- At an AFL-CIO conference in 2003, Obama said: “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer health care plan…. ‘Everybody in. Nobody out.’ … That’s what I’d like to see, but as all of you know, we may not get there immediately.”
- At an SEIU Health Care Forum on March 24, 2007, Obama declared: “My commitment is to make sure that we’ve got universal healthcare for all Americans by the end of my first term as President…. But I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be, potentially, some transition process. I can envision a decade out, or 15 years out, or 20 years out …”
- On August 4, 2007, Obama announced that he planned to pass healthcare reform legislation and then “build off that system to … make it more rational.” “By the way,” he added, “Canada did not start off immediately with a single payer system. They had a similar transition step.”
- In the summer of 2008, Obama said: “If I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system.”
- In June 2009, Obama told an American Medical Association audience that “there are countries where a single-payer system works pretty well.”
Other major Democrats were on board as well. Some examples:
- In early August 2013, Senator Harry Reid was asked whether his goal was to eventually use the ACA as a springboard to a single-payer system. “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes,” he replied. “What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.”
- In late October 2013, Rep. John Conyers stated that the ACA was just “a very small and modest bill,” and that Congressional Democrats were already contemplating ways to pass “universal healthcare for everybody, single payer.” “That’s what the new direction is,” Conyers affirmed.
- Nancy Pelosi, too, is on record stating: “I have supported single payer for longer than many of you have been—since you’ve been born, than you’ve lived on the face of the earth. So I think, I have always thought, that was the way to go.”
In January 2017, Rep. John Conyers introduced the “Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act,” which drew 124 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives: Jared Huffman, Barbara Lee, Katherine Clark, William Lacy Clay, James Clyburn, Steve Cohen, Elijah Cummings, Keith Ellison, Eliot Engel, Raul Grijalva, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ted Lieu, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mark Pocan, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Tim Ryan, Bobby Scott, Jose Serrano, Mark Takano, Marcy Kaptur, Hakeem Jeffries, John Lewis, Paul Tonko, Bennie G. Thompson, Jan Schakowsky, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Grace Napolitano, Robert Brady, Matt Cartwright, Chellie Pingree, Brenda Lawrence, John Garamendi, Zoe Lofgren, Earl Blumenauer, Robin Kelly, Yvette Clarke, Richard Nolan, Emanuel Cleaver, Alcee Hastings, Judy Chu, James McGovern, Hank Johnson, Jerrold Nadler, Pramila Jayapal, Michael Doyle, Alma Adams, Joyce Beatty, Al Green, Mark DeSaulnier, Gwen Moore, Luis Gutierrez, John Yarmuth, Danny Davis, Bobby Rush, Louise Slaughter, Alan Lowenthal, Jamie Raskin, Ro Khanna, Jackie Speier, Dwight Evans, Michael Capuano, G.K. Butterfield, Marcia Fudge, Karen Bass, Anna Eshoo, Brian Higgins, Suzanne Bonamici, Gregory Meeks, Carolyn Maloney, Adriano Espaillat, Nanette Diaz Barragan, Nydia Velazquez, Donald Payne, Frederica Wilson, Tulsi Gabbard, Peter DeFazio, Kathy Castor, Gene Green, David Price, David Cicilline, Jimmy Panetta, Anthony Brown, Andre Carson, John Sarbanes, Dina Titus, Grace Meng, Luis Correa, Diana DeGette, Jerry McNerney, Debbie Dingell, Ruben Gallego, David Loebsack, Jared Polis, Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Ed Perlmutter, Vicente Gonzalez, Adam Smith, Linda Sanchez, Brendan Boyle, Al Lawson, Eric Swalwell, Jim Cooper, Mike Thompson, Maxine Waters, Darren Soto, Doris Matsui, Peter Visclosky, Albio Sires, Theodore Deutch, Joseph Crowley, Marc Veasey, Adam Schiff, Nita Lowey, Sanford Bishop, Jimmy Gomez, Brad Sherman, Filemon Vela, James Langevin, Donald Beyer, Lois Frankel, Donald Norcross, Eddie Bernice Johnson, and Brenda Jones.
In September 2017, Bernie Sanders introduced a Senate version of the “Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act,” which attracted 16 co-sponsors: Tammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Martin Heinrich, Mazie Hirono, Patrick Leahy, Edward Markey, Jeff Merkley, Brian Schatz, Jeanne Shaheen, Tom Udall, Elizabeth Warren, and Sheldon Whitehouse.
The premise underlying these universal-healthcare bills as well as the aforementioned free-college bills was once articulated by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, when she said, from the floor of the House in May 2013: “[A]lthough health care was not listed, per se, in the Constitution, it should be a constitutional right. And if you read the words or quote the words of the Declaration of Independence — ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that we have certain inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ — one might argue that education and health care fall into those provisions of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The current Democratic Party Platform includes a section titled “Making the Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes,” which states the following:
“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, we believe the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Democrats will claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, eliminate tax breaks for big oil and gas companies, and crack down on inversions and other methods companies use to dodge their tax responsibilities. We will make sure that our tax code rewards businesses that make investments and provide good-paying jobs here in the United States, not businesses that walk out on America. We will end deferrals so that American corporations pay United States taxes immediately on foreign profits and can no longer escape paying their fair share of U.S. taxes by stashing profits abroad. We will then use the revenue raised from fixing the corporate tax code to reinvest in rebuilding America and ensuring economic growth that will lead to millions of good-paying jobs. We will ensure those at the top contribute to our country’s future by establishing a multimillionaire surtax to ensure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.”
As noted earlier, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated in January 2019 that tax rates of “60 or 70 percent” on top earners would be fair and appropriate. That same month, another newly elected House Democrat, Ilhan Omar, likewise suggested that in order to pay for the expensive social and environmental programs favored by her party. “[W]e could increase the taxes that people are paying who are the extremely wealthy in our communities. Seventy percent, 80 percent, we’ve had it as high as 90 percent.”
Such proposals are nothing new for Democrats. For example, six years earlier – in a February 2013 interview with Fox News’ Stuart Varney – Rep. Keith Ellison voiced his belief that it would be “fair” for the wealthy to be taxed at whatever rate is necessary to raise money for the provision of services to lower-income Americans. When asked if a 65% or 75% income tax rate would be fair, Ellison stuck to his principle.
The current Democratic Party Platform shows that the passage of so-called “living wage” laws is yet another high priority for the party:
“Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union and will work in every way we can—in Congress and the federal government, in states and with the private sector—to reach this goal. We should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy so every worker can earn at least $15 an hour. We applaud the approaches taken by states like New York and California.”
The Party Platform also states:
“Democrats will make investments to spur the creation of millions of jobs for our young people. Roughly one in ten Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 is unemployed, more than twice the national average. The unemployment rates for African American, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), and American Indian teenagers and youth with disabilities are far too high. That is why Democrats will provide direct federal funding for a range of local programs that will put young people to work and create new career opportunities.”
But the scenario that Democrats depict – of a minimum-wage earner striving to support a family – is exceedingly rare. Most minimum-wage workers are unmarried people younger than 25. Fewer than 20% of them have a family to support. Often they are high-school or college students trying only to earn some extra money, and 60% work only part-time.
In short, minimum-wage jobs serve chiefly as a vital bottom rung on the economic ladder for young people who have little or no prior work experience and who lack the types of job skills that would command higher wages. Notwithstanding the limitations of such individuals, many an employer is happy to hire and train them to perform certain tasks, so long as he is not required by law to pay them more than they are worth to the business. Whenever the government raises the minimum wage by decree, however, every employer is forced to evaluate whether the extra expenditures on inexperienced and relatively unskilled workers can be justified from an economic perspective. In some instances, employers simply may not be able to afford the higher pay rate and thus will either trim their work force or scale back the number of hours worked by one or more of their employees. In other cases, employers may decide to hire more seasoned workers in order to increase the likelihood of getting an adequate amount of productivity in exchange for their financial outlay. Consequently, a multitude of unskilled-labor positions, as well as starter jobs for young people, are placed in jeopardy.
According to the Heritage Foundation, the minimum wage increase which was enacted in three stages beginning in 2007 eliminated approximately 300,000 jobs. In 2011, labor economists William Even and David Macpherson released a study for the Washington, DC-based Employment Policies Institute, titled “Unequal Harm: Racial Disparities in the Employment Consequences of Minimum Wage Increases.” They found that because minimum-wage hikes remove the incentive for employers to hire workers with low skills and little experience, 16-to-24-year-old males are affected more than anyone else by such policies. Indeed, the authors report that historically, each 10% increase in a state or federal minimum wage has decreased employment by 2.5% for males in this age group as a whole, and by 6.5% for young black males in particular. Also, each 10% minimum-wage hike has resulted in a 3% reduction in hours worked by young white males, and a 6.6% reduction for their black male counterparts.
The Cato Institute agrees that “decades of research have shown that the minimum wage harms the least-skilled workers from poor families.” Hoover Institution economist Thomas Sowell puts it this way: “[T]he cold fact is that minimum-wage laws create massive unemployment among black teenagers,” regardless of economic conditions in the nation as a whole. The 1940s, for instance, were a decade that saw some of the lowest rates of unemployment ever recorded among black teenagers—not because racism had been eradicated, but because inflation took the teeth out of a 1938 minimum-wage law. That is, everyone—including unskilled laborers—earned higher hourly rates (in inflated dollars) than the minimum-wage law required employers to pay. Even in 1949, when the U.S. economy was in recession, black teenage unemployment was far lower than it would be in the most prosperous years thereafter, when the minimum-wage rate was repeatedly hiked to keep pace with inflation.
These laws of economic physics are by no means restricted to the United States. Most studies of minimum-wage hikes in countries all over the world demonstrate that when governments impose artificially high wage rates on businesses, not only do overall employment rates drop, but young, inexperienced, and low-skilled workers are affected far more than anyone else. As an American Enterprise Institute analysis concludes:
“Artificially raising wages for unskilled workers reduces the demand for those workers at the same time that it increases the number of unskilled workers looking for work, which results in an excess supply of unskilled workers. Period. And another term for an ‘excess supply of unskilled workers’ is an ‘increase in the teenage jobless rate.’”
In early 2018, the Democratic Party’s National Deputy Chairman, Congressman Keith Ellison, opened up a new avenue in the debate about minimum wages and living wages when he voiced support for the enactment of a “maximum wage” policy that would impose highly punitive taxes on any entrepreneur earning “more than 20 times more than the people who actually make the products and do the services of your company.”
Democrats Who Supported Castro
Yet another manifestation of the communist inclinations of the Democratic Party was the degree to which so many of its members openly admired and praised the late Communist dictator of Cuba, Fidel Castro. Some examples:
In February 1999, a six-person Congressional Black Caucus delegation – including Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Julia Carson, Gregory Meeks, and Earl Hilliard – traveled to Cuba to visit Castro.
In June 2000, James Clyburn, accompanied by fellow Congressional Black Caucus members Bennie Thompson and Gregory Meeks, paid a friendly visit to Cuban president Castro. Clyburn subsequently praised Castro as a “very reflective” individual and “a policy wonk” with a “great sense of history” and a “great sense of self.”
On September 9, 2000, Maxine Waters was among the many people who greeted and honored Castro during his visit to Harlem’s Riverside Church. “Viva Fidel!” the congresswoman shouted jubilantly. At the event, Castro said: “I came to Harlem because I knew it was here that I would find my best friends.”
In April 2009, seven members of the Congressional Black Caucus—Emanuel Cleaver, Marcia Fudge, Michael Honda, Barbara Lee, Laura Richardson, Bobby Rush, and Melvin Watt—visited Havana to meet with Raul and Fidel Castro. The purpose of the meeting—which took place in a secret location and without the customary presence of a U.S. State Department official—was to discuss the possibility of normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba. Afterward, Cleaver said of Fidel Castro: “He’s one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met!” Barbara Lee, for her part, described her meeting with Fidel as “quite a moment to behold.” Bobby Rush said that his own conversation with Fidel “was almost like listening to an old friend…. In my household, I told Castro, he is known as the ultimate survivor.” Moreover, Rush marveled at Raul Castro’s “keen sense of humor, his sense of history and his basic human qualities.”
In May 2013, 59 House Democrats signed a petition urging President Barack Obama to grant general licenses for all categories of travel from the U.S. to Cuba. These 59 were also urging the State Department to remove Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. To view the list of 59 signatories, click here.
- In a May 2014 delegation led by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, Gregory Meeks and fellow Congressional Democrats Barbara Lee, Emanuel Cleaver, and Sam Farr met with Cuba’s foreign minister and other government officials in Havana.
- After Fidel Castro died in November 2016, Rep. Barbara Lee said: “We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss.”
- Also in the wake of Castro‘s death, Rep. Keith Ellison issued the following statement about the late dictator: “He was a revolutionary leader who confronted a system of government that excluded everybody except the military and the money-rich. And he took them on, defeated them and then set the country up in a way where … Did he use harsh dictatorial tactics? Yes, probably he did … but, did he also stand up for peace and freedom in Africa? Absolutely. His Cuban forces took on the South Africa apartheid military forces and defeated them. And, actually deployed doctors anywhere from Chernobyl to all over South Africa, anywhere people were sick. He sent those doctors there. He made medical education very available, made medicine available. So if you look at his legacy you have to say that he confronted people with a lot of power on behalf of people that didn’t have any. He also did jail people who were political critics of his, he also did not allow … free speech … It’s a mixed bag.”