There is an excellent editorial in the Wall Street Journal today titled “More Redistribution, Less Income,” which summarizes the findings of a recently updated Congressional Budget Office report, “The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2011.” The WSJ piece shines a harsh light on the failed arithmetic of America’s tax and redistribution system under liberal rule. And it reveals the central dilemma for Democrats in 2016: The Obama-led wealth redistribution is not working. Just look at the negative effect “Obamanomics” has had on the middle class. As the WSJ points out, “For the middle class in 2011 – two years after the recession ended . . . after-tax income . . . fell by 1.9%.”
Not to mention that the bleak CBO analysis is focused on taxes and redistribution; it doesn’t mention the staggering debt President Obama has amassed that will be heaped on future generations. All the Democrats’ new taxes, debt and wealth transfers haven’t resulted in higher incomes for average American families. As the WSJ editorial states, “Presidents who put reducing inequality above increasing prosperity end up with less growth and opportunity that benefits everyone, and thus with more inequality.” Even though there have been more transfers from the government under President Obama, families have less money in their pockets.
So what will Democrats offer voters in 2016 that, as Obama put it, has “that new-car smell”? Will their tired promises to transfer more money from the government to their targeted voters be credible? Will their pledge in 2016 be nothing more than a promise to continue what President Obama started? Will the Democrats say Obama’s policies were a good start and that we just need more of the same?
We just witnessed what happens when a political party squanders its time in office and is left without the ability to make an affirmative case for why it should continue to be in power. It has to attack, pretend and deceive; and then it loses. The Democrats are caught in a trap of their own making. They win elections by promising benefits and then they can’t stop. How will Hillary Clinton’s economic plan be different? She can promise more largesse from Washington, but she will have to hope no one holds her accountable for the details of how continuing the core Democratic economic offering will produce something better for American families than what has already occurred.
Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.