Published on Thursday, October 16, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
by Ira Chernus
I've written a lot of columns for Commondreams over the years. But I don't recall any that got as much response as a piece I posted recently urging lefties to support Obama. Many of the responses were heartfelt outbursts of emotion; some of them were surprisingly angry, even venomous, attacks. Hey, I thought we lefties were supposed to be the tolerant ones.
But some of the responses were quite thoughtful, and they call for a response in kind.
Most of the thoughtful writers offered a list of ways the Democrats were quite similar to the Republicans, and they challenged me to give some specific issues on which Dems are demonstrably better than the GOP. Fair enough. So here are just a few highlights. To name all the meaningful differences would take far too long for one column.
Let's start with the big economic picture. Noted economist Larry Bartels has run the numbers for the past sixty years and here's what he found: "Real incomes of middle-class families have grown twice as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans, while the real incomes of working-poor families have grown six times as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans."
There's no mystery about it. Republican economic policy aims, above all, to protect the interests of the very rich. They make nearly all their money from investments. Inflation is their greatest enemy, because it eats up the profits they expect from their investment. So Republicans regularly throw the economy into recession. Lots of people lose their jobs, which means wages go down, which means inflation stays low.
That's why we had major recessions during the first Reagan administration, the George H.W. Bush administration, and the current Bush administration. Republicans are happy to see the middle class and the poor suffer, as long as they damp down inflation to protect the rich.
On top of that, of course, the GOP gives massive tax cuts to the rich, much larger than the Democrats. That runs up budget deficits. With government having to borrow huge sums, there's more competition for investment capital, so interest rates go up. Working people have to pay more on their mortgages and credit cards, but the rich get better returns on their investments.
Labor unions give huge sums to the Democrats because they understand these significant differences between the economic policies of the two parties. In return, of course, Dems are much more likely to support legislation that protects the rights (and the safety) of workers and helps unions build their strength. Republicans have a long record of supporting laws that gut labor's efforts to organize.
Perhaps the biggest single group of workers who are consistently pro-Democratic is not a union but a professional organization: the National Education Association. Teachers know that Republicans pursue all sorts of strategies for de-funding and weakening public schools. Democrats consistently support public education, which in effect means the right of poor children to get as good an education as the rich. Read rest of article here.