Goodman: Has Liberalism Lost Its Mind?


Did you notice that the standard used to attack Brett Kavanaugh was quickly jettisoned when the accused was Joe Biden? Or that the standard Joe Biden imposed on every male college student in the country suddenly became unfair when it was applied to Biden himself?

It makes you wonder whether liberals believe in anything other than getting elected and exercising power. Is there a set of beliefs you could confidently identify as comprising the liberal mind? I’m not so sure.

For most of the past four decades there have been very few times when we have even been bothered by a serious policy proposal from the left. Instead almost all the interesting reform ideas have come from the right: the flat tax, school vouchers, deregulation, Social Security privatization, etc. That’s been true in this country and around the world.

Beginning with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and moving right on into the 21st century, the left has been on defense. They put all their energy into defeating whatever it was that conservatives wanted to do.

An exception to the rule was Obamacare. But soon after it passed, the Democrats lost the House of Representatives and Sen. Chuck Schumer announced that it was a big mistake. The reason? The Democrats’ health reform spent a great deal of money on the uninsured; and the uninsured, according to Schumer, don’t vote. In other words, getting elected isn’t a means to an end. It’s an end in itself.

Schumer’s admission gives us an amazing look into the mind of modern-day liberal Democrats.

Obamacare actually spent money on poor people. No matter how badly designed, everyone agrees that the program gave health insurance to low-income families, most of whom would have otherwise been uninsured.

However, it may surprise readers to learn that this type of policy reform is very rare. Although liberals often talk about helping the poor and reducing inequality, their most cherished reforms these days would tax the poor and subsidize the rich – making inequality worse than it otherwise would have been.

Consider three ideas that are at the top of the mainstream liberal policy agenda: Medicare buy-in for young seniors, free college education and making it easier for workers (especially public employees ) to unionize.

It’s hard to think of an agenda that is less progressive in the original meaning of the word.

Take the Joe Biden idea of letting people aged 60 to 64 enroll in Medicare at premiums well below the real cost of the insurance. According to the Census Bureau, people in this age group had a median household income of $64,846 in 2018 – above the national average – and most of them had employer-provided health insurance on top of that. In fact, only 7 percent of people in this age group are uninsured. Moreover, of the almost 30 million people in the United States who are currently uninsured only about 1.7 million are seniors.

So this proposal doesn’t solve any real problem. It would take money from taxpayers generally (Medicare is mainly funded by a payroll tax) and give it to people who don’t need help and who are mainly already insured.

Then there is free college education – endorsed in various degrees by Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and other one-time Democratic candidates for president. It’s hard to believe, but California liberals actually mentioned this idea along with reducing inequality in the same sentence.

There is probably no single factor that explains inequality better than the possession of a college degree. The gap between the income of college graduates and noncollege graduates has been growing over time. There is nothing progressive about taxing the latter and subsidizing the former. In addition, students from low-income families who attend college are already paying almost no tuition.

Making it easier for employees to form unions sounds like a progressive reform. But that is because unions have been telling us for most of their history that they represent people at the bottom of the income ladder.

Not so. A union is an attempt to monopolize the supply of labor and obtain monopoly rents in the form of higher wages. But monopolies succeed only to the extent that they keep non-union members (scabs) from competing for their jobs. In other words, unions don’t represent all workers. They represent an organized group of workers by insisting that employers not hire anyone else.

I can‘t think of a single successful attempt to organize the lowest paid. Every union, without exception, consists of middle-income workers trying to prevent entry and competition from people who have less income and wealth than they have. In the process, American unions have a long and sordid history of discriminating against marginalized workers, especially racial minorities.

In some ways, public sector unions are the worse kind and the teacher unions are the largest and most powerful of them all. At $60,477 a year, the average public school teacher already earns more than most workers. You could argue that if we paid more, we could get better teachers. But no liberal Democrat ever argues that we should replace mediocre teachers with better teachers, just as they never argue we should allow low-income children to leave bad schools and go to better ones.

The worst thing about teachers exercising union power is not pay. It’s work rules that prevent the firing of incompetent teachers. To apply the Chuck Schumer standard to education: teachers vote and students don’t vote.

Also, I probably don’t have to tell you where bad teachers typically teach. There aren’t very many where the children of uber rich liberal parents attend school.

As I have said before, in most large cities low-income minority families are forced to send their children to the worst schools; they are forced to live in the worst housing; and they are subject to the worst environmental harms.

Almost all these cities are run by Democrats. The more liberal the city, the worse things are.

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