Democrats’ economic agenda needs some work

The Democrats are pushing a new message aimed at reaching populist voters who went for Donald Trump in 2016. So far, their agenda skates over some of the most important economic issues we face.

This past week the Democratic Party began unveiling an economic agenda ahead of next year’s midterm elections, assuming it can’t merely run against President Donald Trump.

Depending on what happens with GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare,the party might get a very simple, powerful message against their opponents: Republicans took away health care from millions and raised insurance prices for millions more.

Still, the Dems think they have to be for something, not merely oppose. Hence, the evolving plan called A Better Deal (playing on FDR’s New Deal, which played on his cousin Theodore Roosevelt’s Square Deal).

Unfortunately, the new policy recommendations (beginning with a New York Times Op-Ed by Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer) lack the boldness and clarity of either the Democratic or Republican Roosevelt. (FDR, facing national crisis, was also willing to experiment relentlessly and without ideological blinders).

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Among the Better Deal ideas: a $15 minimum wage, better control of monopolies and antitrust, an effort to bring down drug prices, and tax credits to companies in exchange for training workers.

Most of this is preaching to the choir. If Democrats believe this will win them Trump voters, they are delusional.

The $15 minimum wage is popular — and perhaps doable — in blue Seattle. But in addition to being potentially counterproductive in less prosperous places, it is a boogeyman for the right, an example of government run dangerously rampant. I suspect its advocacy would only strengthen red districts as Republicans pose as defenders of small-business owners and “economic freedom.”

The rise of industry consolidation, including monopolies, cartels and companies such as Amazon and Wal-Mart with overwhelming market power, has hurt job creation and competition and has clear-cut the economic assets of many a town and city. Yet the Better Deal would hardly be the trust-busting of TR.

Schumer writes, “We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they’re hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition.”

No one would argue that Amazon, with its low prices and ease of buying,…

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