Regardless of who is in the White House or who wins the recalls, by many accounts, the right has already won. It is an indication of how it has won that conservative commentators react with such shock at my suggestion that there is no American left (of significance) or a party that doesn't serve the interests of business. Says Steve Prestegard:
One wonders what's in the air wherever Craver works. Raising taxes on business isn't anti-business? Raising income taxes on people who directly pay their S corporation's income taxes isn't anti-business? Attempting to give this state the worst possible legal environment for business (see Loophole Louie Butler and lead paint) isn't anti-business? Restricting developers from turning a trash-strewn vacant lot into a job-creating business (see Bass Pro Shops) isn't anti-business?
I will admit, the air I breathe in my apartment -- a hot mixture of dust, cat hair and oxygen -- should make anybody who experiences it a communist. Now on to Steve's points.
Sure, Steve. I'm sure most businesses would prefer lower taxes, although if you look at the companies benefiting most from the current administration, which Prestegard would probably refer to as "pro-business," they are ones that benefit from higher taxes, such as road-building contractors.
I asked Steve in the comments section what Democrats he was referring to as being "anti-business." He has yet to respond, but I'll go out on a limb and assume he's referring to the Doyle administration.
Doyle spent most of his tenure trying to manage the structural deficit that Tommy Thompson created through his drastic expansion of state government spending on prisons, schools, health care and tax rebates. Doyle, who was raised in the "People's Republic of Madison," did what any other radical would do in the face of a budget deficit: Cut state jobs, furloughed state workers, closed a couple corporate loopholes, and raised taxes on incomes over $300,000 by..wait for it...one percent. The stuff of Lenin all right.
What would Tommy have done differently? Maybe he would have put more of a focus on cutting state programs, although it would have been an especially drastic reversal for him, since he was the guy that put in place the generous pensions, created BadgerCare and made it the policy of the state to cover 2/3 the cost of public education.
Doyle did about the least amount one could expect a governor to do to change the current system. He slightly expanded BadgerCare for the poor, he very slightly increased taxes on the rich, and he slightly decreased the size of government. He maintained the status quo. What would you call somebody who does that? Maybe ol' Webster can help us out. Here's a word that seems to match: Conservative: Tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.
Indeed, most people who vote for Democrats refer to themselves as moderates, and Democratic candidates consistently win the portion of the population who refer to themselves as "moderates."
What is most irksome about Prestegard's post, however, is that he uses relative terms, such as "raising/lowering taxes" to describe political philosophies. This is unfortunately an aspect of political rhetoric we see on both sides of the political spectrum, but it has become especially prevalent on the right, where candidates cannot talk about taxes -- only about their wish to not to raise them.
For instance, as much as Republicans howled about the $5 billion Doyle tax hike, they still haven't repealed them. Why not? Well, they've got a budget to balance. But according to their logic, they haven't raised taxes. (Although they've made a few symbolic tax cuts and other corporate taxes that will go into effect in future years)
Instead of talking superficially about "raising" and "cutting" taxes and programs, why don't we talk about what the appropriate tax rates are for the services we expect? If we had that debate, there would be honest disagreement about what the government should provide, but at least voters would have a better idea of the system their politicians stand for.
If such a dialogue existed in America, I don't think there would be any question that there is no meaningful left-wing power in the country. If there were, there would be a serious push for fundamental change to our economic system. Socialism, communism, the works. In fact, in the U.S. we only have one member of Congress who calls himself a "Democratic Socialist," and there are a few Democrats who talk seriously about even developing a welfare state that rivals that of other Western countries. The health care plan the GOP denounces as an end to America as we know it was a carbon copy of the plan the Republican Party introduced less than 20 years ago. It's not a "government takeover," it's simply a government handout to corporations -- something both parties have proudly supported throughout history.
You don't have to be a subscriber to Madison commie propaganda to believe the Democratic Party is not in the business of advancing leftism. You simply have to read a history book. I'm sure nobody is prouder of that fact than the people on the right who have been running the show for the past 30 years. Thanks to Ronald Reagan and his disciples, we don't have a left and a right in this country. We have a center-right and a far right. And then we have some liberals watching from the bleachers.
It doesn't always have to be that way, however. The political character of a country can change overnight, often with horrifying results (ever heard of Nazism?). People who ridicule the suggestion that Democrats could win by running further to the left either have no sense of history or are willfully ignoring it. Over the past 100 years American political values have changed drastically many times. We've gone from no income tax to a top marginal rate of 92% and then back down to 35%. We've gone from segregation to a black president. Soon we'll have gay marriage, not just because people have gradually accepted it on their own, but because enough people in politics and media talked about it that people began to see the issue differently.
There are ways a genuine American left can emerge and shift the debate, at least in Wisconsin. I discussed them in a column last week.
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