The Democrats Finally Get It

Democrats of America, welcome to the economic realities of the '90s! It may have taken a string of defeats in Presidential elections to pound the message home, but the Democratic Party has finally got it. Traditional redistributionist economics are as popular among voters as Saddam Hussein. Seeking redemption, the Democratic Party in its platform this year says yes, we've learned that markets are more important than big spending programs, that individual responsibilities come with collective rights, and, above all, that a government that boosts its economy does more to solve social problems than one that simply divides an existing pie.

The economic heart of the platform is its emphasis on investing in people and infrastructure. Here the traditional activist government impulse of the Democratic Party is refocused on educating and retraining the work force and rebuilding highways, both the concrete and fiber-optic kind. Upgrading work-force skills is one of the best ways to improve the nation's productivity and global competitiveness. By calling for apprenticeship programs, expanded opportunities for college education, and more funding for Head Start, the platform is right on target. Its investment tax credits and capital-gains cuts for patient investors are in the bull's-eye as well.

What is missing, of course, is who pays. Defense cuts are necessary but not sufficient--and the Democrats know it. But Barbara Jordan was the only speaker at the convention to openly admit it. In her brave speech, Jordan said, "We must frankly acknowledge our complicity in the creation of the unconscionable budget deficit...and recognize, painful though it may be, that...we must address the question of entitlements. That's not easy, but we have to do it." For all the distance the Democrats have traveled in transforming their economic positions, this is the final step. Without taking it, none of their other dreams can come true.