Stealth liberalism and the politics of fraud

Kimberley Strassel:

The Reagan revolution is dead! Just don't expect us to bet this election on it!

If there's a theme that's emerged from this week's Democratic National Convention here, this is it. To listen to liberal pundits and party leaders (and Bill Clinton on stage Wednesday night) modern conservatism has had its run and is now kaput. Americans -- burdened by "inequality," soaring doctor bills, falling home prices -- are ready for a new Great Society. We are all progressives now.

But for a party that supposedly has history on its side, the Democrats sure aren't acting like it. Substantively, Barack Obama's agenda would indeed result in the biggest expansion of government and income redistribution since LBJ. Not that voters would have picked that up in his acceptance speech last night. Democrats are instead pitching this program to Americans in terms that would make the Gipper proud.

Mr. Obama proposes one of the steepest tax increases in modern history, raising rates on personal income, capital gains, dividends and even death. The money Mr. Obama takes from taxpaying Americans he would hand to nontaxpaying Americans in the form of "refundable" tax credits. This is called a "tax hike" and "income redistribution" -- even in the Harvard economics department. And given Mr. Obama's concern with "inequality," you'd assume he'd be proud of it.

Instead, Mr. Obama is careful to declare these new government handouts a "tax cut for the middle class." Joe Biden, in his own nomination speech, stole a favorite Republican talking point, claiming Mr. Obama's dizzying array of tax credits would in fact "reform our tax code." And the Obama team likes to reassure voters his higher capital-gains and dividend tax rates would still be less than those under (can you guess?) Ronald Reagan.

The Illinois senator would create a new "universal" health-insurance plan, which in its size and scope would be the largest government entitlement since Johnson's Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The ultimate goal (as Mr. Obama has hinted) is to pull ever more Americans under the government-health umbrella, until such time as Democrats can kill off private insurance altogether. To hurry us toward "Medicare for All," the Obama plan imposes tough new regulations on insurance companies and big new taxes on business.

And how do confident Democrats describe this bold step toward Canadian health care? Mr. Obama's Web site hastens to tell voters that they do not have to join his plan, and moreover that it is nothing more than that which is currently on offer to federal employees. Should they join, however, it will offer "choice" and "portability," as well as "affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles." It will also simplify paperwork and rein in health-care costs, and "raise quality" and "efficiency." Milton Friedman, eat your heart out.

The Obama team would slap new rules on every bank and mortgage provider in America. Publicly, this is presented as more "transparency" and "oversight." An Obama administration would micromanage the energy industry, rewarding wind and solar, punishing oil and nuclear. Publicly, they describe this as "freeing" America from foreign oil. An Obama Washington would target unpopular industries, imposing a "windfall profits" tax on the oil world. Publicly, the Obama team justifies this as "closing loopholes" to eliminate preferential tax treatment.


Packaging liberalism always requires a good bit of fraud. It is unpopular so it must be disguised with a spoonful of sugar to make it go down. At their heart Democrats are control freaks. To make liberalism work you have to give up freedom. That requires some selling and they do it by demonizing their target groups while at the same time making victims of their constituent groups. That is what Obama did last night.


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