The anchor of this election season has been a fairly fixed sentiment among the electorate that they have had enough of George Bush and Republican rule.
That, in and of itself, doesn’t determine the outcome. Candidate races come down to: Compared to whom? John McCain, for example, has consistently outperformed the Republican brand in the presidential race.
Left largely unexamined, however, is the flip side of the sentiment to give the Republicans the boot. What would it mean if voters gave Democrats largely unchecked power at the national level, the presidency and large enough majorities in Congress to run over the Republican minority?
Would the result be something the American people want?
If Democrats gain unchecked power, the one thing they would most likely do is abolish the secret ballot for union elections. Even the so-called “conservative” Democrats running in swing districts are toeing the line on this one.
The House Democratic leadership forced a vote on the proposal last year, even though the issue could be used against its vulnerable members. Only two Democrats voted against it. All of the Arizona Democrats running in swing districts – Harry Mitchell, Gabrielle Giffords, Ann Kirkpatrick and Bob Lord – support abolishing the secret ballot for union elections.
The second most likely thing Democrats would do is to make the tax system sharply more redistributionist.
Obama famously vows to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year. But that is only the beginning. He says he will cut taxes for 95 percent of American families, but only about 60 percent of such families pay income taxes now.
What Obama is proposing is a series of refundable tax credits for virtually everything people do: work, raise kids, save, buy a house, send children to college. The way a “refundable” tax credit works is that if the credit exceeds your income tax liability, the government sends you a check for the difference.
Obama justifies this as a “tax cut” by saying that, for those who don’t pay incomes taxes, it offsets their payroll tax. That, however, merely means the redistribution is occurring in the way the country finances Social Security and Medicare and undermines their status as social insurance programs.
Regardless, these refundable tax credits are more properly seen as large increases in spending rather than as true tax cuts.
Unchecked Democrats are likely to enact fundamental reform in health care. Obama proposes allowing all Americans to buy into a system similar to that federal employees currently have, in which private insurance companies compete. That is the heart of many reform proposals by both the right and the left.
However, Obama also proposes a Medicare-style fee-for-service alternative that might squeeze out the private insurance options. It may be intended to.
Democrats are clearly prepared to open the spending floodgates, using the economic downturn as an excuse.
Congress already has enacted a $168 billion stimulus package, a $300 billion housing refinancing plan and a $700 billion bailout for the banking system. Now, Democrats want another $300 billion stimulus.
This from a government that has to borrow money to pay the light bill.
And brace yourself if Democrats reform financial regulation. They like to use corporations to implement their social policies off budget. Remember Fannie and Freddie?
In reciting this litany, however, it becomes clear how little grounds the Republicans have to criticize it, except for taxes.
Big government spending programs? Bush proposed the largest expansion of the federal role in education since Jimmy Carter with No Child Left Behind and the largest expansion of the entitlement state since Lyndon Johnson with his Medicare prescription drug benefit. Most congressional Republicans supported them.
Racking up deficits? Bush is the champ. Interfering in the private economy? The Bush administration just partially nationalized the banks, forcing healthy banks to accept public capital they didn’t want.
John McCain once could have legitimately claimed to serve as a check on Democratic excesses, particularly on spending. And Americans seem to like divided government.
However, McCain supported the $700 billion bailout and proposes that the federal government spend another $300 billion buying up mortgages at face value. Vetoing earmarks isn’t going to make up for that.
So, there you have it:
An election Republicans deserve to lose, but Democrats don’t deserve to win.
RANDY HARRIS/Tucson Citizen
Robert Robb, an Arizona Republic columnist, writes about public policy and politics in Arizona. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
TAXES: WHERE THEY STAND
Obama would keep the Bush tax cuts for earners whose income is less than $250,000. He would let the rate for the top income tax bracket go back to 39.6 percent. He would exempt the first $7 million for couples from estate tax, after which the rate would be 45 percent. He’d triple the earned income tax credit for the working poor. Seniors earning less than $50,000 would pay no income tax.
McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts for not being paired with spending cuts but now says they should be made permanent. He would exempt the first $10 million for couples from the estate tax, after which the rate would be 15 percent. He wants to lower taxes on dividends and capital gains and lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. He’d double the exemption per dependent to $7,000.
Results of a CBS-New York Times national phone survey of 771 likely voters. The margin of error for the poll, conducted Sunday through Tuesday, is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
OF INTEREST: About two-thirds are comfortable with Democrat Obama, and evenly split on whether they are comfortable with Republican McCain or uneasy about him. Three-fourths believe Obama has the temperament and personality to be president; just over half say the same for McCain.