Magazine article The American Prospect

Republicans' Favorite Democrats. (Comment)

Magazine article The American Prospect

Republicans' Favorite Democrats. (Comment)

Article excerpt

THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP Council (DLC) was organized by southern governors, business Democrats, defense hawks, and social conservatives to push the party to the center. The theory was that this repositioning would win presidential elections (and also raise a ton of corporate money). Bill Clinton was taken as the DLC's vindication. But how is the DLC doing now that the Democrats are in opposition?

Mostly, the DLC is up to its old habits of splitting the difference with a Republican administration. This is not exactly useful either in energizing the party base or in helping congressional Democrats resist the Bush onslaught. For instance, the 1996 welfare-reform program is now up for renewal. Welfare reform worked better than expected, partly because a strong economy provided plenty of jobs; the ensuing surplus could then be spent on job training, wage subsidies, and child care so that former welfare recipients could succeed in the workplace.

The Republicans and their DLC allies are stuck in a 1996 time warp, in which the issue is who can be tougher on the poor. The Republican House bill increases the percentage of welfare recipients who must work 40 hours a week (some short-term education and training also counts) to qualify for government help. As Mark Greenberg demonstrates in our forthcoming special supplement on reforming welfare reform, this screw-tightening will make it harder for welfare recipients to succeed at work; and more families with serious problems will just be dumped. (For a preview, go to www.prospect.org.)

The DLC bill sponsored by New Democrat Senators Bayh and Carper basically accepts the harsher Republican work formula and adds more child care money. It's actually to the right of a "tripartisan" plan co-sponsored by Senators Breaux, Hatch, and Jeffords. The Senate bill, of course, must ultimately go to conference with the Republican House. One could imagine a final deal that reluctantly traded draconian work requirements for better child care. But why give away your final compromise as the opening gambit? You can understand the White House using salami tactics on the Democrats. …

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