Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer unveiled the party’s economic platform heading into the 2018 November election cycle and it looks a great deal like President Donald Trump’s in 2016.
Trump campaigned in 2016 promising to bring jobs back to the U.S.; reform the tax code to make American businesses more competitive; repair and rebuild American roads, bridges and waterways to improve commerce; and unleash American innovation to make the U.S. competitive on a global scale. The Democrats’ 2018 platform looks incredibly similar.
Hoyer rolled out the Democrats new platform Monday, titled “Make It In America.” The minority whip, who originally came up with platform in 2010, and House Democrats spent the past year traveling the nation to better understand the needs of American businesses and workers.
Make It In America is focused on encouraging “private sector job creation” in the U.S., with primary focuses on improving the economy through education, promoting entrepreneurship and strengthening infrastructure. Essentially, Democrats want to make it easier for Americans to find work, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and increase American innovation.
Coincidentally, each of the areas Democrats are targeting the president addressed in his 2016 economic agenda.
In terms of education, Democratic leadership has two goals: promoting pathways to career opportunities and making training and education accessible and affordable. To achieve those ends, Democrats recommend “stackable credentials for students preparing for the workforce, as well as those already in the workforce” to help them face the challenges of finding a job in a strengthening labor market. Democrats want to use Pell grants, subsidized by the taxpayer, to help pay for the costs of new training programs.
The Trump administration and Republicans are already trying to address the problem of having a shortage of skilled workers. The president signed an executive order on July 19 to try to align government job training programs with the needs of the market.
The order created a new council — the Council for the American Worker — that will consolidate a number of federal job training programs initiatives into a specialized program that is intended to better suit the needs of the U.S. economy. The new council will have a special focus on retraining those already in the labor market without college degrees and expanding apprenticeship programs — a policy that was pushed in the 2016 presidential election by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Businesses are responding to the president’s executive order. Some 23 businesses, including FedEX, General Motors, Home Depot, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft and Walmart, signed a pledge the same day as Trump’s executive order promising to expand apprentice programs, increase job training and educated workers throughout their careers.
The need to train workers is real, pressing concern for the American economy. U.S. firms have complained for years about the skills gap among American workers.
There were over 350,000 more job openings than available workers to fill them in June. That is the largest amount since the Department of Labor began tracking the figures in 2000.
Hoyer listed infrastructure as one of the three top goals of Democratic 2018 economic agenda. The two main goals of infrastructure will be unleashing “our economy and job creation by repairing and rebuilding our aging infrastructure” and building the “innovative infrastructure of the future.”
Democrats acknowledge accomplishing those goals will be no easy task. Hoyer called for “multi-year, fully funded” authorization bills to address the backlog for “both transportation networks and water infrastructure” — a task that will not prove simple in a Congress that has failed to agree on infrastructure reforms since Trump took office nearly two years ago. Other areas listed were key infrastructure platforms of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, like creating new clean energy electrical grids and laying the groundwork for increased access to “5G networks” in rural areas.
Trump campaigned for the presidency pushing one of the largest infrastructure overhauls in the nation’s history, promising a “trillion-dollar rebuilding program” that would rebuild American roads, waterways, airports and the power grid. Despite the administration’s best efforts, Congress has failed to get anything substantive accomplished with infrastructure reform.
The White House rolled out an infrastructure framework in February, asking lawmakers to use as a starting point in their negotiations. The framework was met with immediate backlash from Democrats, who took up issue with the administration’s focus on funding the reforms in partnership with private companies and local governments. Some House Republicans also got cold feet, expressing concerns about where the money would come from within the government.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan eventually squelched the debate, arguing that the necessary reforms would or have come in piecemeal form with other pieces of legislation. For example, leadership argued that some much-needed water reforms came in the Water Resources Development Act, which the House approved in early July.
It isn’t clear whether or not Congress would be able to pass a massive, single infrastructure bill that would pass muster within the House Republican and Democratic conferences. In the upper chamber, there is very little floor time left for legislation and there has yet to be a single major transportation bill to make its way out of committee this year.
The Democratic platform also doesn’t have any more substance than simple policy recommendations, so there is no litmus test for how their policies would play out with House and Senate lawmakers if they take back the majority in November.
The final pillar of the Democrats’ economic platform is entrepreneurship. To promote innovation and entrepreneurship, Democrats believe that increasing access to health care and social safety nets, like retirement security, are the keys to driving the American worker to innovate.
The party also recommends increasing access to capital for small businesses as a driver of entrepreneurship.
It is not easy to pinpoint exactly where the president addressed entrepreneurship while on the campaign trail, however, his administration and Republicans have a few talking points on the topic.
Trump’s administration and Republicans argue that the 2017 tax cuts and jobs act has done more to spark economic growth and innovation in the U.S. than any other piece of legislation in the past 30 years. Additionally, the president signed two bills in 2017 aimed at promoting female entrepreneurship and encouraging more women to enter into STEM fields. The administration also hosted an entrepreneurship summit with India in November 2017.
Voters appear to be satisfied with Trump and Republican’s economic agenda, with half of all registered voters in America giving the president a thumbs up when asked how he is handling the economy, according to a Monday NBC and Wall Street Journal poll. That could be a reason why Democrats appear to be aligning their economic platform with Republicans in 2018.
Democrats believe they have a real shot at taking back the House in November and, looking at the number of Republicans leaving office, it could happen.
Fifty House Republicans are either resigning, retiring or seeking other office in 2018. Roughly 22 House members retire each election cycle, so to say the party is going through a rather seismic shift is not a misnomer.
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