Conservatives Need to Take Inequality Concerns Seriously

The far left is ascendant. Syriza, Greece’s radical left-wing party, has won two national elections in a row this year. Jeremy Corbyn, a relic of 1970s Britain, has taken command of the Labour Party. Polls put the Bernie Sanders, a socialist senator from Vermont, ahead of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the United States.

All three seem to have captured the imagination of especially young voters.

Perhaps there is nothing new here. Young people everywhere are more liberal than their parents and always have been. As they get older and settle down, marry, buy houses and have children, their priorities typically shift from the causes that galvanized them in their youth to bread-and-butter issues. Their voting behavior shifts accordingly, from the left to the right.

Perhaps we’ll look back in twenty years and see this surge in youth activism on both sides of the Atlantic as but the latest iteration of an age-old pattern in which the seemingly carefree 1990s were the exception.

Conservatives and liberals shouldn’t take the chance. Read more “Conservatives Need to Take Inequality Concerns Seriously”

Note to Corbyn: Your Political Opponents Are Not Evil

The British Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008
The British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008 (Flickr/Jasn)

Why is it so difficult for Labourites in Britain to see the ruling Conservatives as anything but cruel and vindictive?

In July, there was Stephen Timms, a Labour representative for East Ham, London, accusing the government of an “attack on the low paid” and not caring about child poverty.

In August, leadership contender Andy Burnham chipped in, saying the Conservatives were “playing politics with the lives of vulnerable people” and “terrorizing” the disabled.

Now the man who beat him to the leadership is at it, writing in The Observer that the deficit is “just an excuse” for the ruling party to “railroad through the same old Tory agenda: driving down wages, cutting taxes for the wealthiest, allowing house prices to spiral out of reach, selling off our national assets and attacking trade unions.” Read more “Note to Corbyn: Your Political Opponents Are Not Evil”

Andy Burnham’s Shameful Evil Tories Rhetoric

This blog remarked last month on the British Labour Party’s inclination to see the ruling Conservatives as cruel and uncaring.

At the time, we criticized Stephen Timms, a Labour representative for East Ham, London, for accusing the government of ignoring child poverty when it decided that throwing more money at the problem wasn’t going to make it go away.

Lately, one of the party’s leadership contenders, Andy Burnham, has taken aim at the same politician Timms did: Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary for work and pensions. Read more “Andy Burnham’s Shameful Evil Tories Rhetoric”

Walker’s Sensible Plan to Replace Obamacare

Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

Scott Walker’s campaign for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination has so far not impressed this blog. The governor of Wisconsin seems to be trying to appeal to every constituency in his party at once and the easiest way to do that is not say anything meaningful.

On Tuesday, he finally took a step toward defining what, if nominated and elected, he would actually do. And it’s not at all bad. Read more “Walker’s Sensible Plan to Replace Obamacare”

“Conservatives Don’t Care About Poor Children”

Surely one of the most annoying things that can happen in politics is when one’s very humanity is called into question by an opponent. Leftwingers seem to be guilty of this more often than those on the right, seeing conservative policies as cruel or uncaring whereas conservatives just think lefties are wrong.

Charles Krauthammer, an American columnist, observed as much more than a decade ago, writing, “Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”

This is not just true for the United States. Replace “liberal” for “leftist” and his statement works in Europe as well.

Case in point: Stephen Timms, a Labour representative for East Ham, London, writing in the New Statesman that the ruling Conservative Party no longer has any intention of eliminating child poverty. Read more ““Conservatives Don’t Care About Poor Children””

Leadership Candidate Right About Where Labour Failed

At least one of the candidates to succeed Ed Miliband as head of the British Labour Party understands where he went wrong. Liz Kendall writes in The Guardian that the party needs to be far more trusting of people to make their own decisions.

Miliband resigned after losing the election for Labour last month. His leadership had marked a departure from the centrist “New Labour” of former prime minister Tony Blair. Miliband moved his party back to the left and — despite his talk of “new politics” — revived what is one of socialism’s least attractive qualities: its inability to trust people.

Rather than rely on individuals to know what’s best for them and make their own decisions in a free market — allowing for the possibility that they might make bad decisions, like eating too much fast food or borrowing too much money — socialists would rather give “experts” the power to make choices for everyone.

In twentieth-century Britain, this left-wing mentality conspired with a right-wing paternalism to create one of the most centralized states in the developed world. Read more “Leadership Candidate Right About Where Labour Failed”

Labour’s Proposal to Restrict Zero-Hours Contracts Misguided

Britain’s Labour Party’s proposal on Wednesday to clamp down on zero-hours contracts is misguided. Putting this plan at the heart of its election campaign only serves to highlight how little economic sense Labour’s platform makes.

Party leader Ed Miliband said he would entitle workers to a regular job after twelve weeks on a zero-hours contract and insisted the issue represents the “key question” of the May election.

Who does our country work for? Does it work just for the rich and the powerful? Or does it work for working people?

He had prominently raised the “problem” of zero-hours contracts in a television appearance last week when Prime Minister David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, was forced to admit he wouldn’t be able to live off a zero-hours contract either.

Most Britons on zero-hours contracts, however, aren’t on such contracts to make a living. Read more “Labour’s Proposal to Restrict Zero-Hours Contracts Misguided”

Anti-Business Mentality Blinds Labour to Health Improvements

Blinded by its anti-business mentality, Britain’s Labour Party would roll back liberalizations in the National Health Service if it wins the election in May, leader Ed Miliband said on Friday.

Miliband said in London his party would halt the “tide of privatization” he claims has taken place in health care since the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came to power in 2010. Although it was Labour that brought private contractors into the system in the first place while the rate at which services are outsourced has actually slowed under the current government.

No matter. Under the next Labour government, Miliband said, private firms would have to reimburse the National Health Service if they exceed a 5 percent profit cap on contracts. Read more “Anti-Business Mentality Blinds Labour to Health Improvements”

Labor Unions’ Opposition to Pacific Trade Pact Misguided

Seattle Washington port
The port of Seattle, Washington, June 14, 2012 (camknows)

America’s largest trade union federation said this week it would withhold campaign donations from Democrats who voted in favor of giving President Barack Obama the authority to negotiate a free-trade agreement with Pacific nations. Their arguments against the Trans Pacific Partnership are not unreasonable but ultimately misguided.

“We know NAFTA” — the North American Free Trade Agreement that came into force in 1994 — “has not worked,” Tefere Gebre of the AFL–CIO told the Democratic National Committee’s labor council last month. “CAFTA” — the Central America Free Trade Agreement — “has not worked,” he added, “and we have lost jobs and they have brought our wages down.”

Why the hell would we think a new, larger NAFTA-on-steroids TPP would work?

The unions say speed approval of a Pacific trade deal would lower labor standards in the United States and create additional wage stagnation.

They are not altogether wrong. Read more “Labor Unions’ Opposition to Pacific Trade Pact Misguided”

Britain Refuses to Admit Health Service’s Failure

A hospital in London, England, February 21, 2010
A hospital in London, England, February 21, 2010 (Lars Plougmann)

There is no denying Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is in trouble. Fifty years ago, it consumed only 3 percent of economic output. Now it consumes 8 percent and is on track toward claiming almost a fifth of gross domestic product by 2060 if current spending levels are sustained. By then, the NHS would account for half of public spending, crowding out defense, education and welfare.

The current government has done little to reverse this trend. It shielded the NHS from spending reductions while most other departments were forced to make deep cuts. Indeed, health spending is up 3.6 percent since the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came to power in 2010. The NHS budget is £114 billion this year.

Even so, care is lacking and the money remains tight. Three million patients are waiting to be treated. The health service itself expects to post a £30 billion shortfall by the end of the next parliament.

Yet the ruling parties are backing away from their own reforms which were meant to rein in costs. The coalition gave health officials more autonomy and handed control of purchasing care to local doctors. This modicum of competition and decentralization was slammed by the opposition Labour Party as tantamount to undermining the whole system where it actually built on cautious liberalizations brought in under the previous Labour government.

If the Conservatives are now shrinking from the problem, Labour simply denies there is one. It rules out privatization and charging users for some health services. Instead, it wants to roll back reforms made under both the last Labour government and by the coalition and merge social care, which is run by local authorities, with the National Health Service. Yet the party has no plan for how to pay for this all — unless one counts its vague pledges to raise taxes on the rich. Read more “Britain Refuses to Admit Health Service’s Failure”