24 July 2017

A bold new Democratic agenda

Democrats have announced what they describe as a “fresh vision”.

Let’s run through the three first planks of this “bold approach”.

1. Break up consolidated corporate power

The new vision:

The Better Deal agenda takes several swings at reversing this trend. The first is through new federal merger standards that would put the onus on corporations to prove that their merger wouldn’t make the economy less competitive, rather than on the government to show why it would.

Contrast with the Hillary Clinton vision:

Clinton believes we should robustly enforce antitrust laws to prevent creating and exploiting excessive, harmful economic power. […] She recognizes the importance of promoting competitive market structures and strong presumptions that market concentration can lead to anti-competitive conduct—as well as the need for careful, thorough legal and economic analysis of the potential consequences of mergers and acquisitions.

New vision:

Another is a new federal “Trust Buster” agency. Similar in scope to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Dodd-Frank law, this new post would give a federal “advocate” the power to recommend criminal investigations of anticompetitive conduct to the Department of Justice.

Clinton vision:

She believes that executive departments and agencies should take part in promoting competition by identifying actions they can take, and working with and referring anti-competitive practices to enforcement agencies.

New vision:

Finally, the plan proposes to force regulators to review corporate mergers, rather than just have the option of conducting the review, as well as powers for regulators “to take corrective measures if they find abusive monopolistic conditions.”

Clinton vision:

Ensure post-merger retrospective reviews, and transparency. Clinton believes we should empower the antitrust agencies to conduct post-merger monitoring and retrospective analyses on a regular basis to further enforcement and accountability.

2. Crack down on prescription drug pricing

New vision:

Democrats say they’d rectify this first by allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers […]

Clinton vision:

Allow Medicare to negotiate drug and biologic prices. Hillary Clinton has long believed that Medicare should use its leverage with more than 40 million enrollees to negotiate and drive down drug and biologic prices for seniors and others in the program.

New vision:

Democrats would also create a “‘price gouging’ enforcer” to oversee a new federal agency devoted to driving down drug prices. This “enforcer” would be able to fine drug manufacturers that have “unconscionable” price hikes, though the exact mechanism for leveling the fines isn’t made clear in the early proposal.

Clinton vision:

Hillary’s plan will ensure consumers have dedicated oversight and protection with new, aggressive enforcement tools to take on unjustified, outlier price increases. Hillary will convene representatives of Federal agencies charged with ensuring health and safety, as well as fair competition, to create a dedicated group charged with protecting consumers from outlier price increases.

New vision:

Finally, Democrats are calling for new legislation to force drug manufacturers to explain why they’re hiking drug prices.

Clinton vision:

An unjustified price increase would be determined by a review of criteria including: 1) the trajectory and scope of the increase in price; 2) changes in the cost of production; and 3) the treatment’s relative value to patients, among other factors that give rise to threatening public health. After a careful investigation and review of the evidence, this group would have an aggressive new set of enforcement tools to respond if it determined that a drug experienced an unjustified price increase.

3. 10 million new jobs through infrastructure spending, tax credits

New vision:

The plan outlines several key ways to create those jobs — a massive infrastructure program, expanded apprenticeship programs, new tax credits, and expanded training and technical programs at community colleges.

The biggest change is that this new proposal includes new tax credits meant to boost training and wages. “We propose a new tax credit for employers that train and hire workers and employ them at a good wage,” the proposal notes, without identifying a specific amount that would be invested. “The credit could only be used to defray the costs of new investments, above what the business already spends on training.”

Clinton vision:

Now the heart of my plan will be the biggest investment in American infrastructure in decades, including establishing an infrastructure bank that will bring private sector dollars off the sidelines and put them to work there.

and:

For training providers: Giving training providers, including community colleges, the support they need to scale up and respond to the needs of the local workforce and employers – while insisting on accountability, transparency and high quality.

For workers and job-seekers: Providing more robust, coherent, and accessible training programs and resources that are up to date for 21st Century technology and that lead to good jobs and lifelong skills and credentials. […]

The proposal would put forward a tax credit for businesses of $1,500 per apprentice and would insist on accountability for employment and earnings outcomes for programs receiving the credit. Clinton also said that businesses should receive a bonus on that tax credit for providing opportunities specifically for young people.

Conclusion

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me that this set of “better deal” “new era” policies is a selection of policies from the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Here’s a list of policies conspicuously absent from the “bold new” Democratic vision:

  • Healthcare for all, via Medicare for All.

  • Increasing the minimum wage.

  • Guaranteed Basic Income to help the long-term unemployed.

  • Immigration reform, to protect against exploitation of low-wage workers driving wages down.

  • Ensuring the right to unionize.

  • Ensuring the right to paid sick leave, paid family leave, and some vacation time each year.

  • Ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

Trotting out a set of policies from last year’s disastrous failed elections and pretending they are new and progressive is incredibly cynical and incredibly stupid. They’re not bad policies, but the idea that they will change the outcome of any upcoming election is utterly delusional.

© mathew 2017