Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Economy Should Help Democrats, but Doesn't

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Economy Should Help Democrats, but Doesn't

Article excerpt

AVERAGE wages are falling in the United States, after taking account of inflation. Profitability of American corporations has reached a record high. The distribution of income has worsened - the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer.

To Washington political commentator Kevin Phillips, such facts should be giving Democrats campaign fodder. But they aren't being used well so far, he says. Too many Democrats are aiming to attract what he describes as those with a "yuppiesque, upper-income, Paul Tsongas, hair-shirt bias." These people want to cut budget deficits rather than help ordinary people. Democrats, Mr. Phillips argues, should be appealing more to their core constituency of working-class Americans.

Moreover, he charges, when Democrats had control of Congress and its committees, they muted their liberal ideology to obtain Political Action Committee money from trade groups and other special interests. Now, with the GOP running Congress, that money fountain is expected to wane for the Democrats.

Perhaps, he argues, middle- and lower-income working people - bus drivers, farmers, and so on - would go to the polls in greater numbers if President Clinton and his party members aimed their pitch more at those who feel left out by the economy and didn't bother voting in the congressional elections of 1994.

Lawrence Mishel, an economist at the Democratic-leaning Economic Policy Institute, agrees that Democrats haven't been able to capitalize on the wage-stagnation issue. In the November 1994 election, the vote of those hurt most - men with only a high school education or some college - shifted 19 percent toward the Republican Party from the 1992 election, he says. Democrats also got 9 percent fewer votes from less-educated white women than in 1992.

Low-wage earners "have been sold a bill of goods" by the GOP, he charges.

But Martin Anderson, President Reagan's domestic-policy adviser, now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif., says:"I hope the Democrats keep believing this stuff." He notes that Gov. Pete Wilson (R) of California won reelection handily last fall after cutting welfare and the state budget, and despite defense-spending cuts and an earthquake that hurt California's economy. …

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