Man walks along a political fork in the road (illustration)

Six months into a presidency Huffington Post calls “stillborn,” liberals are laying out their opening arguments for midterm elections.

This week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer penned a pair of editorials in the Washington Post and The New York Times making a pretty simple argument…

  1. Donald Trump sure promised a lot of things.
  2. Republicans control both chambers of Congress.
  3. Six months later, America shows no signs of inching toward Greatness Again.
  4. Democrats have real ideas for jobs, pay, and the cost of living.

This argument is obviously aimed at Trump voters who were swayed by his economic promises, not nonsense about walls and Muslims. Pelosi cites “working people from the heartland” losing to a “rigged economy,” while Schumer rails against “the elites and special interests” getting everything.

Considering that, maybe there were better papers to publish in than Trump’s favorite “fake news.” But more than cutting into Trump’s base, it’s also an agenda meant to give the Democrats a new identity, instead of simply being the opposition party that Republicans became under Obama. (Something that isn’t working out so well for them now that they have to govern.)

I think it’s the right focus, but maybe the wrong ideas.

The best idea: another Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

I have a clear favorite among the new Democratic proposals. I’ve pretty well established that I hate Obamacare and love the CFPB, so this from Pelosi tickled me:

Democrats will take unprecedented aggressive action to lower the cost of prescription drugs — the single largest factor driving increasing health costs in the United States today. We will leverage the power of Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, force drug manufacturers to open their books and justify cost increases, and create a strong, independent enforcement agency empowered to end outrageous and unjustified prescription drug price-gouging.

A CFPB-like agency to take on the pharmaceutical industry would be an incredible win for consumers and there’s already a federal model for it. Republicans may hate it, but Trump should embrace it — during the campaign, he also advocated for lowering drug prices and using Medicare to negotiate them.

As Schumer puts it, this agency would “stop vulture capitalists from egregiously raising the price of lifesaving drugs without justification” and force companies to justify price increases to the public. It should definitely appeal to older Americans and anyone with a chronic illness, even if it’s not the single-payer vision Bernie Sanders offered. Democrats need to push harder on healthcare, but this is a great start.

The other proposals: sure, sounds good

Trump promised tax cuts, truly great healthcare, the unrigging of trade (which would theoretically create jobs and lower prices) and lots of new infrastructure projects. He’s delivered none of that, and actively avoided any accountability for it.

But Democrats are offering to pick up the slack and give Trump the wins he craves. They’re promising their plans would create “good-paying, full-time jobs for 10 million more Americans in the next five years.” That would be 40 percent of the 25 million jobs Trump promised us, well ahead of schedule. Here’s what they want…

  • A new tax credit for employers to train and hire workers at a good wage
  • Expanded apprenticeships and paid on-the-job training
  • A $1 trillion infrastructure plan to create jobs and literally rebuild America
  • A $15 minimum wage

The tax credit could be targeted to help small businesses and people who have been left behind by dying industries. “Right now millions of unemployed or underemployed people, particularly those without a college degree, could be brought back into the labor force or retrained to secure full-time, higher-paying work,” Schumer says. “This will have particular resonance in smaller cities and rural areas, which have experienced an exodus of young people who aren’t trained for the jobs in those areas.”

Awesome. But the Democrats’ other big idea will be going nowhere fast, at least until they’re in control. It’s lots more regulation, even as Trump has moved to deregulate.

Pelosi and Schumer want to break up monopolies and halt mergers that don’t meet tougher standards — reforms they says would lower the everyday prices of food (agriculture companies), TV (cable companies), and travel (gas and airline companies).

Schumer drives home what we preach every day, that saving on these basic expenses would help with bigger things Americans struggle to afford: “There used to be a basic bargain in this country that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could own a home, afford a car, put your kids through college and take a modest vacation every year while putting enough away for a comfortable retirement. ”

But for now, we’re definitely talking about pipe dreams, which he also acknowledges: “We are in the minority in both houses of Congress; we cannot promise anyone that this Congress will begin passing our priorities tomorrow.”

If they don’t do better than this, though, it’s probably going to take a lot longer than tomorrow.

The right kind of promises?

You can call it The Art of the Deal vs. “A Better Deal” (their term), but don’t call it a new deal.

Democrats basically picked up Hillary Clinton’s platform, stripped it of her name and gave it some spitshine for another go. They’re not going for Bernie voters — they want people who gave Obama a chance and didn’t get what they wanted, largely because Congress was controlled by Republicans.

That makes some sense: A lot of people voted against Hillary Clinton rather than for Donald Trump. Too many people couldn’t get past her name, face, and pantsuits to listen to her ideas.

They’re not bad ideas, as they go. But they aren’t the bolder plans on healthcare and college that Bernie Sanders was promising, either.

“In the last two elections, Democrats, including in the Senate, failed to articulate a strong, bold economic program for the middle class and those working hard to get there,” Schumer acknowledges. But: “Our better deal is not about moving our party in one direction or another along the political spectrum.”

It needs to be, because Democrats need to capture a bit of both the moderate and left wings if they want to flip Congress. In the midterm elections next year, they’ll need to knock off at least three Republicans in the Senate (while defending 25 seats) for the slimmest majority — one that requires the continued support of two independents, including Sanders himself. In the House, they need to pick up 25 seats.

Without controlling both chambers, they can’t stonewall Trump as well as Republicans did Obama. And without a little margin for error, they have even less chance to enact their agenda.

Maybe they want to avoid the risk of in-fighting that plagues the GOP and tea partiers now, but good government is ultimately about coalitions. If Democrats can’t do that any better than Republicans, we’re all screwed.

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Article last modified on September 7, 2017. Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: 3 Financial Ideas Democrats Hope Will Win Back Congress - AMP.

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Article last modified on September 7, 2017. Published by, LLC .