Thursday, October 21

Waiting on the "Declaration" of Independents

In July I got an email from the Democratic Party to complete a survey. They ask if I was a Democrat. I honestly had to reread the Iowa 2010 platform and agreed with six of the priorities:
1. We oppose corporate personhood.
2. We support a single-payer health care plan for all citizens.
3. We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act.
4. We support separation of church and state.
5. We support energy independence with locally-owned renewable, eco-sustainable sources.
6. We support removing the cap on Social Security contributions.

What was absolutely missing in these priorities are the Economy and jobs. Democrats used to be the party of the working class person. They still are to a lesser extent, it helps if you are a member of a union. But when the economy and jobs don't make your top priority list, there is definitely trouble in River City.

There are some pretty significant disconnects for both Democrats and Republicans in their platforms and that causes pain for their candidates who ostensibly run on them. Why? Because they are not running for Democrat or Republican, they are Republicans and Democrats running for offices that require getting more votes than the next person. In other words, platforms are nice, but elections are won by keeping your party happy and winning over those people who have their own agenda--these are the Independents.

What I'm focusing on are the Independents who are notorious for "voting with their pocketbooks." Since the early 2000s, their pocketbooks, like many of ours, have shrunk considerably--despite tax-cuts by both Democrats and Republicans. While soccer Moms and Dads have disappeared in this year's dialogue because of the roar of the Tea Party, they are still out there and many of them are not excited about their choices. They are concerned about what will happen next.

For them, a Congress that will help them keep more money in their pockets is better than a Congress that they perceive will take more money out. Now, in fairness to Democrats who are in tight races and somehow being perceived as hurting working families, they(and no one from either party) wants to retract the middle class tax cuts that happened in the Bush and Clinton years. The difference is where the line is drawn. Democrats argue for drawing the line at individuals making less than $200,000 and families reporting less than $250,000 which equals 97 to 98% of all Americans. Republicans argue that any new tax is bad for the Economy.

How is it logical to the independent voter that voting for a progressive or even blue dog Democrat will hurt them financially? The crux is in the idea that the remaining 2% whose taxes would go up will withhold spending, thus hurting the small business person or working stiff. Categorically, this is goofy-think. If the middle class receives tax cuts, they are likely to spend money on stuff they haven't been able to buy, pay down debt, or even "gasp" put some money into savings. All are a good thing while the economy is stagnant. Money spent either on debt service or put into savings goods frees up money to be lent and money spent keeps or puts more people to work.

Also, if those who have been not been paying their "fair share" are fully in the mix like the rest of us, the debt on the rest of us comes down fairly dramatically in a much shorter time frame and at no significant hardship to those in question. This may be unpalatable to those in that 2 to 3% range, but they aren't going to go on a peanut butter and mac and cheese diet over it either.

Also, if we ever hope to transform our economy, we need to free up resources from things like war and national defense and use it to rebuild our nation's infrastructure. For example, electricity can be generated and delivered relatively cheaply from sources other than oil or coal on smart grids and people can be moved from region to region by high-speed rail, if the investment is there.

We need education that train/retrain people to work in the new economy. Democrats are investing in this by making it possible for more people to go to college or technical schools.

Reviving the economy calls for everybody who wants a job to have one. Democrats and Republicans both are off the mark in pointing their fingers at each other. It is possible to invest both in public works to build infrastructure and invest in the private sector to build new capabilities. There is no magic to this. What is lacking is a confidence that the investment will pay off. Partisan bickering and gamesmanship are the Debbie Downer of confidence being restored (as well as lobbying efforts that attempt to quash competition).

If this election is a referendum on who "gets it"--the frustration that the Independents feel about their wallets, the Republicans will likely mop the floor with the Democrats who have been tone-deaf with this issue on November 2. If the election hinges on thoughtful people who are demanding a functional government, it may turn out to be a much closer race than expected and we'll all be better off for it. In any case, it will make 2012 a much more interesting year.

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