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November 06, 2012

Can the Center be Electorally Successful?

Posted by: Katie Heasley

Happy Election Day! Our Election Tuesday series concludes with a piece from Peter Wenz, author of Take Back the Center: Progressive Taxation for a New Progressive Agenda.

This election will determine if the sane center championed in Take Back the Center can be electorally successful in spite of the misrepresentations of right wing anti-government anti-tax ideologues. Although few Republicans still talk about “death squads” when discussing healthcare reform and Mitt Romney no longer questions the existence of climate change, new fabrications have replaced the old. Recently, Governor Romney charged that the government-led auto bailout was unnecessary because GM and Chrysler could have borrowed money from private sources. This claim has no backing in the financial sector. More outrageously, Mr. Romney claims that Chrysler is shipping jobs to China, a charge that Chrysler has explicitly denied as it builds new manufacturing plants in Ohio.

Why can’t the Republican agenda be championed honestly? The agenda is to lower taxes so that entrepreneurs will have more incentive to create businesses that improve the economy and lower unemployment. There is nothing wrong with this idea so long as government receipts remain sufficient to fund the services that only government can provide while still balancing the budget. However, the federal government is running significant deficits, and Republicans have no credible plan for raising revenue to replace money lost when taxes on rich people are lowered. The likely result of lowering such taxes is therefore increased federal deficits and continued deterioration of our country’s human and physical infrastructure. In short, the current Republican agenda requires ignoring a host of inconvenient truths that most Democrats acknowledge.

We need to invest more in education from preschool through graduate school so that our country will have the educated workforce needed for international competitiveness. Our highway system is deteriorating. Transportation by rail, which is more efficient, needs development. Renewable sources of energy need federal help to increase our energy independence and combat global warming. Our electricity grid needs a complete overhaul, as illustrated in part by outages stemming from Hurricane Sandy. In sum, Republican love of free enterprise has blinded them to the necessity of government expenditures that create and maintain the public goods which are prerequisites of economic success in the private sector. A fact-based approach, unlike the current ideologically-based approach of most Republicans today, would recognize the need for greater balance between the private and public sectors of the economy. In large part, the current election is about restoring that balance.

Historically, Republicans have been represented as well as Democrats in the sane center, a center that faces facts and acknowledges the importance of the public sector. Dwight Eisenhower championed the interstate highway system and Richard Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency. This election will determine if Republicans are forced by the electorate to come back to the center or whether, instead, they can beguile voters with ideologically-inspired fantasies that will plunge our country into an even deeper and longer-term abyss than the one from which we are currently emerging.

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