The Democrats’ ‘Better Deal’: A Hail Mary to Save the Middle Class?

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, speaks alongside fellow Democratic Party members, from left, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and Sen. Joe Donnelly during an event to unveil "A Better Deal On Trade and Jobs" in front of the U.S. Capitol. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, speaks alongside fellow Democratic Party members, from left, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and Sen. Joe Donnelly during an event to unveil “A Better Deal On Trade and Jobs” in front of the U.S. Capitol. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Why did Donald Trump, a third party-turned-Republican, defeat the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton in 2016’s election? We’ll never be able to boil it down to one simplified answer. There were a lot of reasons. But as time marches on and we move on to new and important political battles, one major criticism about the Democrats remains: They have no plan, no vision, and no road map.

Basically, they don’t know how to “make America great again.” That is one of the major reasons so many people who had voted for previous President Barack Obama switched and voted for Trump in 2016. They felt left behind. If there were a Democratic plan to help them out, they simply weren’t seeing the fruits of those labors.

The Democratic Party, at this point, is still struggling to figure out what it wants to do. Other than being the “anti-Trump” party, as many would call it at this point, the Democrats haven’t been able to sell the American electorate on its vision. There is also a lot of infighting, particularly among the upstart Bernie Sanders wing of the party and what might be called “establishment” Democrats.

But most people don’t care about any of that. They just want to see a plan and to see that plan put into action to get results. Well, Democrats have something for us.

The plan, called “A Better Deal,” takes a multi-pronged approach to helping the American middle class — the people who helped swing the election to Trump in 2016. “The Democratic Party’s mission is to help build an America in which working people know that somebody has their back,” a release from the Senate Democrats said. “Rather than having a government that benefits the special interests and very wealthy, Democrats believe that government should work on behalf of the middle class and those struggling to get there.”

Will it work? Is it sincere? You be the judge. The plan is worth reading through for yourself, but here are some of the major ways the Democratic Party plans on retaking the mantle of the “people’s party” and helping out the American middle class.

1. Job creation

Job applicants stand in line at a career fair

Job applicants stand in line at a career fair. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

  • Democrats plan to create 10 million jobs over the next five years.

Jobs and job creation were something Trump harped on relentlessly during the election, and it clearly resonated in the Rust Belt. But with the unemployment rate at 4.3%, is there much room to work with for the Democrats? Of course. The jobs we have can always be better, and wages are still growing slowly. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi writes, “Democrats are pledging ourselves to the goal of creating good-paying, full-time jobs for 10 million more Americans in the next five years.”

The hows and ifs are still up in the air, but it’s an ambitious goal. And the jobs problems we’re experiencing are rooted in yet another that Democrats plan to take on: wealth inequality.

2. Wealth inequality

girl holding '99% at Occupy Wall Street' sign

Occupy Wall Street protester | iStock.com

While the plan laid out by Senate Democrats doesn’t use the phrase “inequality” specifically, it’s clear they want to tackle the issue. Job creation was part of it. So is corralling the climbing costs of living. (We’ll get to more specifics later.) “We will fight for families struggling with high monthly bills like childcare, credit card fees, and cable bills,” the plan reads.

This is such a complicated issue that it’s hard to come up with a silver bullet, but the fact that a major party is actively (or at least talking about) looking for solutions should make you feel better. Prior to 2010, the wealth gap and inequality was barely acknowledged outside of small circles. And around the same time, discussions about taxation, particularly of the rich, began to bubble up.

3. Taxes

People attend a rally outside of the office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to protest an extension of tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent of Americans

People attend a rally outside of the office of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, to protest an extension of tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

  • 63% of Americans in a recent Gallup poll support increasing taxes on the rich, and 67% support increasing corporate taxes.

Support among the Democratic base for tax increases, particularly on the country’s highest earners, has been at a fervor for some time now. The plan doesn’t call for new taxes on millionaires, but it does call for tax incentives for employers to hire more people and to end tax breaks to special interests and corporations. It’s a little chum in the water, without specifics, meant to win over voters. But we’ll have to see whether there’s any real substance to a new tax plan in coming years.

Next, we look at the plan to tackle the “skills gap.”

4. Skills development and education

A foreman instructs a trainee in welding at the training center

A foreman instructs a trainee in welding at the training center. | Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

  • As many as 80% of employers blame the “skills gap” for their trouble in finding employees.

Again, we loop back to jobs. Employers have blamed a “skills gap” and a lack of qualified applicants, but there’s always been a simple solution. But as the plan says, “Americans deserve the chance to get the skills, tools, and knowledge to find a good-paying job or to move up in their career to earn a better living. We will commit to A Better Deal that provides new tax incentives to employers that invest in workforce training and education.” Again, we’ll see.

What about health care, one of the most toxic and contentious topics in the political sphere?

5. Health care

nurse disinfecting male arm

A nurse disinfects a patient’s arm. | iStock.com/YakobchukOlena

Health care has been an incredibly divisive issue over the past several months. You could, in fact, say it has been since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010. Interestingly enough, health care is noticeably absent from the plan, with the assumption being that Obamacare will work — with a few fixes and proper oversight. But that’s hanging a lot of hope on a system that has been under siege since its very inception. Like the Democrats’ tax and jobs plans, we’ll have to see what happens.

Jumping off of that, do Democrats have a plan to lower prescription drug prices? It’s outlined in the plan.

6. Prescription drug prices

The Democrats hope to lower the price of prescription medicines

The Democrats hope to lower the price of prescription medicines. | iStock.com/Thanmano

  • Spending on prescriptions could reach $610 billion per year by 2021.

While the plan doesn’t outline a new health care initiative or recommendations for improving the current one, it does take aim at prescription drug prices. “We will offer A Better Deal that will lower the crippling cost of prescription drugs,” the plan reads. 

As for the specifics, Democrats say they will put a stop to “outrageous” price increases, negotiate for better prices for Medicare patients, and put additional requirements on manufacturers to justify any increases in price. “In 2015, 16.7 percent of health care spending in the U.S. went to prescription drugs, compared to about seven percent in the 1990s,” the Democrats’ documents said.

Finally, Democrats plan to take a shot at corporate America.

7. Business crackdown

Monopoly

Monopolies drive inequality. | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

One thing that really stands out in the Democratic Party’s playbook is its plans for dealing with corporate America, specifically the consolidation of market power. “We will crack down on monopolies and the concentration of economic power that has led to higher prices for consumers, workers, and small business – and make sure Wall Street never endangers Main Street again,” the plan said.

This might be the freshest and bloodiest piece of red meat in the whole plan and is sure to get supporters excited. After the Obama administration’s failure to really go after Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis, many people felt betrayed. But, as we’ve discussed, we’ll have to see whether it’s all talk.

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