Opinion

KOLB: Democrats For President Dream About Spending Other People’s Money; What Else Do They Offer?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Charles Kolb Deputy Assistant to George H.W. Bush
Font Size:

Whether you’re a centrist Democrat (former Vice President Joe Biden) or a lefty progressive Democrat (Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren), it’s now evident what the future holds for wealthy Americans. They will be squeezed, deeply and often, to fund a lengthy list of goodies dreamed up by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

“The [rich] are going to pay every penny; they are going to be squeezed as a lemon is squeezed — until the pips squeak.” Actually, I’ve taken liberty with this 1918 remark from British politician Sir Eric Geddes at the close of World War I. Geddes helped popularize “pipsqueak,” but his reference was to Germany (not rich people) and the heavy indemnities Germans would pay for having started the war.

Germans did pay, and pay heavily. So heavily, in fact, that the country’s subsequent economic collapse led to the rise of Nazism and World War II. Those pips squeaked, indeed.

Most of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are proposing lots of expensive free stuff: free health care, free early education, free postsecondary education, eliminating most student loan debts, and massive infrastructure spending on everything from roads, tunnels, bridges, and rails to smart cities, airport renovations, and broadband access.

When asked how to pay for everything, many candidates embrace massive tax increases on the rich, the top one percent of taxpayers who supposedly fared well in President Trump’s 2017 tax legislation. It’s simple: tax away their wealth; squeeze them until they squeak. Or, as Warren recently said, until they shed tears.

One new, and unwelcome (at least for progressives), squeak came from former New York City Michael Bloomberg, who is eyeing the 2020 race. There are primarily two reasons why Bloomberg (reportedly worth a cool $53.4 billion) is considering a presidential run: (1) the current front-runners (Biden, Sanders, Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg) are considered weak candidates, and (2) as a pragmatic business leader and successful mayor, Bloomberg knows their proposals are unworkable and unaffordable.

On Nov. 14, Biden joined the bidding with a 10-year, $1.3 trillion infrastructure plan that he touts as “invest[ing] in middle class competitiveness.” Read Biden’s 12-page fact sheet carefully and you’ll see that his plan is also about “strengthen[ing] worker organizing, collective bargaining, and unions.”

The former vice president also wants “a robust public engagement process in planning all new transportation projects.” Read the many books and articles by attorney and best-selling author Philip Howard, and you’ll understand quickly how procedures like this have produced massive cost-overruns and mind-numbing delays for previous infrastructure projects. We need a thoughtful, cost-effective, and practical approach to infrastructure spending, not Biden’s.

Biden pays for his proposals by “making sure the super-wealthy and corporations pay their fair share.” Whatever “fair” means. Doesn’t he realize that every time Democrats play the class-warfare card, it backfires? Income inequality may be high, but there are few signs that Americans want more class tensions; they prefer good jobs and economic growth.

It’s easy and fun to spend other people’s money. The socialist mentality believes that if you tax the rich, you can afford anything. To his credit, Sanders is frank about his intentions; Warren is not.

The most recent example of applied socialism is Venezuela, a failed state sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves. Caracas once was a modern, thriving capital. Now, Venezuelans can’t afford basic medicines and even toilet paper. Twenty years of socialist policies under Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro killed Nicaragua’s “golden goose.”

In the American nonprofit sector, fundraising is a major part of any executive’s job. There are literally thousands of fundraisers around the country today dreaming how to spend the fortunes of successful entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, George Soros, and other billionaires.

Dreaming is fine, but there are always more dreams than dollars. Smart, generous billionaires channel their philanthropy through carefully structured and run foundations.  Today’s Democratic presidential candidates are doing the same thing: dreaming how to spend the wealth of the super-rich. Perhaps these candidates would fare better running nonprofits, not the country.

Even President Obama said recently that Americans are “less revolutionary” and more “interested in improvement” rather than “tear[ing] down the system.” His fellow Democrats should listen carefully.

Charles Kolb was deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy in the George H.W. Bush White House from 1990-1992. From 1997-2012, he was president of the nonpartisan, business-led think tank, the Committee for Economic Development.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.