Can Democrats capitalize on Owens’ success?

Are any Democrats following in Bill Owens’ footsteps or is he an outlier in North Country politics?

In politics, there are two kinds of winners, those with coattails and those without coattails.

Congressman Bill Owens should know.  In 2009, he fought his way into office riding the still-powerful wave of Barack Obama’s early popularity.

The Democrat from Plattsburgh has since established himself on his own merits as the most powerful politician in the North Country and looks very tough to beat in 2014.

But a question remains:  What does Owens’ success mean for the region’s broader Democratic Party? Can he carry others along in his wake?

Is he the start of something, or an outlier?

First a little history.

I think it’s fair to argue that the groundwork for Owens’ success was laid by other prominent Democrats, from Hillary Clinton’s US Senate run, to the brief flash of popularity enjoyed by Eliot Spitzer.

By the time Owens appeared on the scene, the Republican-leaning mood in the North Country had clearly changed.

And thanks in large part to former New York Democratic Party chair June O’Neill, from St. Lawerence County, the party’s grassroots strength had grown just enough to capitalize.

Yet serious questions remain about the ability of Democrats to mature into a true regional powerhouse, capable of competing race-by-race and contest-by-contest.

Yes, there are some prominent Democrats working at the local level, including Essex County board of supervisors chair Randy Douglas and Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau.

But the party has  yet to develop the kind of talent and infrastructure that will allow them to fight for bigger Assembly and state Senate seats.

Those are the kinds of victories that Democrats need if they’re going to play on par with the GOP.

It was a major stumble last year when Democrats failed to front a top-tier candidate for the Assembly seat being vacated by Teresa Sayward — but truth be told, it wasn’t an unexpected stumble.

In far too many races, Democrats just aren’t recruiting and supporting the kind of political talent that can match the GOP’s bench.

Even in urban elections — in Watertown, Plattsburgh and Glens Falls — Democrats aren’t competing effectively for the top seats that would seem like viable targets.

Which brings us back to Bill Owens.

He may be a lock in the next election cycle and, indeed, he’ll be hard to beat as long as he chooses to keep running.  But right now, it’s hard to find Democrats coming up through the ranks who would be a plausible next-contender for a job like his.

One part of the problem may be that Owens has tacked so hard to the middle and worked so hard to win support from Republican moderates that he may just not be able to develop real partisan coattails.

For the moment, this is all good news for Republicans.

They may have lost the big prize in North Country politics.  But for the moment at least, the GOP still dominates almost every other regional or state-level office.

 

96 Responses to “Can Democrats capitalize on Owens’ success?”

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  1. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Newt, did you happen to read the last para in your quoted article? “What makes a society great is libertarian democracy that provides a forum for the development and enforcement of codified rules of the free market game. This means that libertarian democracy is more than a convenience for citizens.” Interesting.

    The Forbes author gives his ranking, his opinion, that’s all well and good. There is more to the story than just one mans opinion. Some of the listed nations have very low unemployment rates, but how many of the workers are employed by gov’t and what are the resulting tax costs to the citizens?

    I’m not going to waste peoples time going into a long diatribe about economic systems. Suffice it to say that it gets to the point of comparing apples and handsaws after a while when you see that there are huge differences in systems and what different people view as desirable indicators. As one friend who immigrated from Germany to our neck of the woods puts it, ” I love Germany, I love the country and the people. I just hate the gov’t and the costs and the fact you can’t do anything without paying someone in gov’t for the privilege of breathing.”

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  2. The Original Larry says:

    “worst Presidents of the last 100 years”

    Harding
    Carter
    Truman

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  3. newt says:

    Walker-
    Of course I was being coy, or as I like to call it, “ironic”, or, “sarcastic”, as with when I failed to name the one nation in top-performing economies that does not guarantee healthcare to it’s (non-poverty level) citizens.

    While CEO compensation is certainly a factor for Americans’ bottom of the industrialized nation standard of living, I doubt that it is the only major one. Certainly a major factor is that, with the enthusiastic of support from many voters, corporations have been allowed to run as free as the Mongol Hordes did under Genghis Khan, with equal levels accountability.

    European nations regard corporate success as a necessary means to the greater good of national prosperity, whereas, in the U.S., corporate, and CEO, success is viewed as the end itself, and the good of the citizens a nice, but dispensable, byproduct . For example, when the waves of the great recession washed over Germany, it’s Federal government developed, and businesses accepted, a program whereby workers would get shortened work-weeks, but still much or all of their original salaries, with government subsidizing the difference. This shameful act of socialism resulted in Germany weathering the the recession without having to lay-off millions of hard-working people, and instead kept them working, paying taxes, and not having to rely on welfare and unemployment. As the economy improved, subsidies were cut back, or eliminated.

    We all know the devastating affect this socialistic interference in the free market had on the German economy (sarcasm, again). Thank goodness we live in a nation where everyone is free to succeed though hard work, or fail through hard work for the wrong employer, and everyone is free to sleep under the bridge of his or her own choosing, (and again).

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  4. The Original Larry says:

    Walker, it’s my opinion. Unlike you, I don’t think my opinion is “facts”.

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  5. Walker says:

    Larry, it is a very simple fact that total taxes in the U.S. today are lower than they were 30 years ago. No opinion, fact.

    “Our national debt, above and beyond the budget deficit, is making our dollar less and less valuable against other currencies. This is starting to show up on the world stage and just this AM there was an article on possible currency wars as in 1931.”

    Gee, RC, conservatives have been saying this for so long, while the data has been showing the opposite, that I can’t quite believe that you’re willing to go on record one more time. Wolf! Wolf! There’s a wolf! Run for your lives!

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  6. newt says:

    Citation for my above, “The Guardian”Oct.1st, 2009: (won’t let me link)

    “America’s flexible labour market has not prevented an increase of five percentage points in the unemployment rate, which at close to 10% is at its highest level since the early 1980s.

    In Germany, by contrast, the sharp contraction in industrial output has led to – so far at least – a rise of only three-quarters of a point in the jobless rate.”

    THREE QUARTERS OF A PERCENT. In October, 2009.

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  7. newt says:

    Larry-

    I can understand the others, if not agree, but Truman?

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  8. Peter Hahn says:

    “More to the point, while we have relatively low Federal taxes at this time, the bill is going to come due at some point. Tax revenue is far lower than spending now. Our national debt, above and beyond the budget deficit, is making our dollar less and less valuable against other currencies. ”

    Nobody argues that the bill isnt going to come due some day. The issue is which is the best way to deal with it. Lowering the value of our currency has many advantages. From your point of view, it lowers American wages, and you should be thinking of it as a good thing. If Spain, for example, could devalue their currency, they wouldnt have to renegotiate all those labor contracts to try to reduce wages and benefits. They would just make the money worth less (and all the mortgage debts).

    (and the article you cite is about Federal taxes only – Walkers “facts” are total taxes – Federal State and local)

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  9. newt says:

    Crabtree-
    Re your comment on the Forbes article.

    Your quote from the German economic “refugee” gets to the heart of the problem. Many Germans do, and many Americans would, find the German way too restrictive, and would choose greater freedom for security. And when I was researching the article about their govt’s protection of jobs, I also saw articles about accusations of this program protecting companies and jobs from healthy competition.
    But Germans, as a whole, have a society that is both economically healthy and successfully protective of the health and well-being of the vast majority of people. And the vast majority of Germans want it that way.
    I would like to see a nation that is a little more like Germany, and other economically successful nations that also protect the health and well-being of their citizens (no sarcasm). You may not like them, you may think that they are wrong, but PLEASE don’t pretend, to yourself, or others, that such nations are not economic successes.

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  10. Peter Hahn says:

    Singapore is another economic success where you might not enjoy living, unless you think getting flogged for chewing gum on the sidewalk is a good idea.

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  11. Paul says:

    “Paul, don’t believe the hype.”

    So why didn’t this payroll tax hike just bounce right off us? The facts you are talking about are relative to income since they are in percentages on income. So it isn’t the lower wage theory.

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  12. Paul says:

    Walker the good news for you is that taxes are on the rise so things should start looking up. I hope you are right I would be glad to see that the “hype” is just hype.

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  13. Paul says:

    I think it is still against the law to spit in the village of Saranac Lake. So carnival goers beware!

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  14. Walker says:

    “…the good news for you is that taxes are on the rise so things should start looking up.”

    Paul, that 2% is the discontinuation of a tax holiday, not an ordinary tax increase. If it were up to me, they would have extended it a bit longer, but conservatives keep screaming about the deficit…

    It’s not taxes that make things look up, it’s broad-based spending, infrastructure jobs for instance (just to trot out a brand new idea no one’s ever heard before).

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  15. The Original Larry says:

    After WW II, the US was the undisputed #1 superpower and the only nuclear power. Truman mismanaged that into Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe and the loss of China to the Communists. I know it was not that simple and that there were mitigating factors but still, to have such power and lose so much is not a great record.

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  16. Peter Hahn says:

    It is weird that the conservatives railed against ending the Bush tax decreases but insisted on the reinstating the payroll taxes.

    Some of you conservatives want to explain the logic? They are both Federal taxes that go into the same pot. Both are taxes on income.

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  17. Walker says:

    “They are both Federal taxes that go into the same pot. Both are taxes on income.”

    Peter, the payroll tax is a regressive tax– conservatives like that. The one percenters hardly even feel it. It only affects the Little People.

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  18. Peter Hahn says:

    Walker – but what is their rationale? They must have one. It cant be just “we want to tax poor people’s income and not rich people’s because thats only fair.”

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  19. Paul says:

    It looks like you guys have it all figured out. Good.

    Walker, I agree it isn’t taxes that makes things look up.

    Here is what one evil conservative had to say about it, but I am sure he is just a lying liar like me:

    “It is a horrible idea,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He said it was wrong to diminish the amount Americans pay into Social Security at a time when the program is at risk of insolvency.”

    Read more: http://thehill.com/homenews/house/180781-conservatives-join-liberals-in-opposing-payroll-tax-cut#ixzz2KKbqVNm7

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  20. Peter Hahn says:

    But Paul- couldnt you say the same thing about the national debt?

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  21. Peter Hahn says:

    It seems pure sophistry. We need to raise payroll taxes on the poor so we can pay for social security and medicare, but we cant raise income taxes on the rich to pay for the national debt. – Especially since they are both taxes on the same thing going into the same place.

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  22. Paul says:

    You guys make it sound like anyone who isn’t poor is rich. Most people that are considered wealthy make an income (sometime a large one) that they pay payroll taxes on. This is quite a lot of money. What you see now is as that money flows out of the market and consumer spending took a big hit. That was from the little guy the big guy and people in between like me and my family. That is fine to do when the economy is in good shape and folks have some extra money and are saving or investing more, to do it now is tough. I don’t disagree with the idea of fixing that tax holiday but we still have to deal with the effect.

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  23. Paul says:

    Personally I think that we should fix the revenue problem (and we do have a revenue problem of sorts) by creating more taxpayers not more taxes. But we have all agreed to disagree on that a long time ago.

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  24. Peter Hahn says:

    Im still waiting for that rationale.

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  25. Walker says:

    “…creating more taxpayers…”

    How?

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  26. newt says:

    Larry-

    I’m no Truman-worshiper, but you might check out a “The Candy Bombers” by Andrei Cherny. It is wonderful and exciting story of the Berlin Airlift. I tend to think I know everything about history, but I learned a lot from it, including about Truman. Harry obviously had a huge load dumped upon him when FDR died , not the least of which was A-bomb decision, about which he had known nothing before that fateful April day. I did know that when Stalin started to try to pressure the Allies to cave on Berlin and West. Germany, we had almost no ground forces left in Europe, and almost no stomach to take them on. We only had nukes to hit back with, and there was a great fear that if we didn’t back down, it would result in America starting another nuclear war.

    What I didn’t know was that there was enormous pressure from both right-wing Republican isolationists like Taft, and also liberal progressives like Henry Wallace (who had been FDRs VP, but was ousted by conservative Dem forces in the 1944 convention. Had he not been, it would have been President Wallace as the Cold War heated up) not to challenge the Russians over Berlin. Wallace was a big believer in the basic reasonableness of Good Old Uncle Joe Stalin, would have happily turned over the key to Berlin, and in fact did campaign around the country to force Truman to more or less do this. ( I think Wallace could actually, honestly be described as an honest-to-God Pinko, something I used to think was a Conservative fantasy. And Truman might have caved, had it not been for the heroic, and highly-publicized heroism, of the American pilots who risked their lives to break the Berlin blockade. But Truman did not back down. Had he, the Iron Curtain might very likely have ended only at the English Channel, if there.
    Truman did OK with what he had to work with.

    As for losing China……maybe the Chinese lost China?

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  27. scratchy says:

    Newt and Walker:
    I have long thought that the US should look to the German success story, and you have made the point quite well.

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  28. Paul says:

    “”…creating more taxpayers…”

    How?”

    The same way you always do. More business activity.

    “but what is their rationale? They must have one. It cant be just “we want to tax poor people’s income and not rich people’s because thats only fair.”"

    Like I said here you are not only taxing poor people’s income.

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  29. Paul says:

    Cutting payroll tax is not the right way to deal with social security issues. So it isn’t inconsistent to want to restore that tax and then do something like change the retirement age to match with the real world. One country that is doing that now is Germany.

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  30. Walker says:

    “The same way you always do. More business activity.”

    Are you being intentionally dense, or cagey? How do you propose to generate more business activity?

    Too much skiing again, Paul? Of course cutting payroll tax is not the right way to deal with social security issues. Obama cut payroll taxes to give consumer spending a quick boost. How would anyone in their right mind imagine that you would fix SS by cutting the tax that supports it?

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  31. mervel says:

    Well the FICA tax I think should be separate and should be paid by everyone who is going to collect it from the generations behind them. As far as the wealthy, well they ARE going to pay more that is part of the new scheme of taxes that has happened under our Presidents plan, we will see how it works. I think we could increase the Social Security tax by making it less regressive. I don’t think there should be a cap; all earned income should pay social security, it shouldn’t stop at 100k or whatever the amount is? (I obviously have not hit it).

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  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Been busy and I have only skimmed this thread so I hope Im not repeating a point, but Germany requires that a worker representative has a seat on every corporate board (I’m told), which would make it much more difficult for a group of investors who wanted to raid a corporation for it’s pension plan and to sell off its assets, maximize management pay at the expense of business viability, etc.

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  33. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The other interesting thing about Germany is that it is so financially stable after the whole re-unification process. The Germans decided to pull together for the greater good. If only we could get the Tea Party to think about that for two seconds.

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  34. Paul says:

    Yes, I am dense. Think about it.

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  35. mervel says:

    Well maybe they are just successful because of their culture, not their plans or strategies.

    Now in our defense Germany and frankly the rest of Europe is not multicultural in reality, they talk about it a lot but in reality compared to the US and our size and scope these guys are not at all, we are a huge country trying to put together a LOT of different cultures and people. We need to do better, but we don’t have a unified 500 or longer cultural identity to draw on, which is NOT a bad thing.

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  36. mervel says:

    But we need to lose our arrogance and pride and pick up some of these good ideas from Germany and even France!

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  37. The Original Larry says:

    Newt,
    Interesting info about the influence of the American politics on Truman’s actions. He certainly was left a mess to deal with, but still, he held the whip hand in the post-war era and seems not to have known how to handle it. Stalin outmanouvered all of his allies in both Eastern Europe and China. I have often wondered to what extent Stalin’s post-war ascendancy was aided by Soviet agents (Hiss, Philby, Burgess, et al.) in the American and British governments. Doubtless they were important to Stalin and they may have enabled him to stay several steps ahead of Truman. It’s also interesting to see that McCarthyism wasn’t exactly the unfounded witch hunt is has been made out to be.

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  38. Paul says:

    It is a good thing. Thank god we don’t have the kind of anti-semitism that is plaguing France:

    http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/123659/anti-semitism-in-france-update

    This is what happens when people start to fight over what the the government has to dole out.

    But yes they have some good ideas as well. For example raising the retirement age to save their safety net I think is a good idea.

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  39. Peter Hahn says:

    The French just “raised” the retirement age from 62 to 60 – you like that idea?

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  40. Rancid Crabtree says:

    I can’t begin to cover everything you guys but I’ll hit a couple points-

    “European nations regard corporate success as a necessary means to the greater good of national prosperity…” Thats an idea we should adopt. Currently corporate success, almost all success in fact, is branded unfair and wrong. If we punish success, why would people seek success at all?

    Currency wars- http://www.cnbc.com/id/100441340 Last I knew CNBC was not a conservative mouth piece.

    Peter- why would I be in favor of devaluing our currency? I don’t want lower wages for Americans, I want lower costs for Americans! We are devaluing our currency to help lower our debt load but as we do that our buying power becomes less and less. It’s pretty simple.

    I’m not saying Germany and some other nations aren’t economic successes. But how did they get that way and what do they do that differs from what we do? Most of Europe was rebuilt with American dollars, depends on American protection, markets to American citizens. Most of them will not enter into ridiculously high debt, they are rather conservative in that regard. And some of them take a dim view of throwing money at problems without a solution in sight. We can take the good from those European nations that have proved out their models, but we don’t need to become France or Spain. The problem is too many people want the “something for nothing” without looking into how it’s payed for.

    Peter- “It is weird that the conservatives railed against ending the Bush tax decreases but insisted on the reinstating the payroll taxes.

    Some of you conservatives want to explain the logic? They are both Federal taxes that go into the same pot. Both are taxes on income.”

    Don’t confuse Republicans with conservatives. Seriously, just because there’s an “R” behind a guys name doesn’t mean he’s at all conservative. The idea with the fiscal conservatives is to have lower gov’t spending and subsequent lower taxes across the board. To do that we need a working population in a vibrant economy. If we have closer to full employment we collect a lot more taxes and pay down our debt. Now I don’t know who was in favor of reinstating the payroll tax specifically, but I can understand it if it’s looked at from a debt standpoint. I wasn’t in favor of it, but I get the idea. And as far as taxing the “rich”, which looks to be anyone making $60K or more these days, that’s fine in one sense. the problem is we can tax them to death and still not get enough money and it will hurt investment in business. That’s been proved out time and again. The more it costs to be in business, the more taxes you have to pay, the more incentive to go elsewhere or shut down. That’s not good for anyone. I know it’s a crazy idea, but the idea behind any business is profit in the end. It’s not to provide jobs, only the gov’t can do that and it’s done at a loss. Profit is not a sin. Yeah, I get PO’d just like everyone else when the head of a failing company gets a zillion dollar bonus. Well, that we can fix by changing some laws. I’ve supported that idea before. Change the rules back so the stockholders rule the roost. (Then you’ll see the teachers and clerks and firemen voting to make their profit!) It can be done. Raise the taxes on the truly wealthy if you want. Close their loopholes and tax their actual wealth. That will result in new hurdles and a lot of them will simply leave, but we can do it. But it still won’t solve the spending problem. That’s what we need to fix- spending vs revenue. You can’t do it just through taxation, you just can’t. Not at the spending and debt levels we’re talking about.

    That is the conservative logic. Or at least it’s my logic. The Bush/Obama tax rates have doubled the child tax credit. That’s meaningful money in the pockets of Joe Sixpack. 3-4% is meaningful money to a small businessman. All the left does in concentrate on the upper levels, it’s more complex than that.

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  41. mervel says:

    As far as an international comparison if you think about it we are more on a track toward Mexico than Germany, not because of Mexican immigration either. Mexico is a country with very wealthy people, big oil and gas industries, big light manufacturing, physical beauty, a crazy history, a tiny middle class, and a whole bunch of peasants.

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  42. Paul says:

    “The French just “raised” the retirement age from 62 to 60 – you like that idea?”

    Yes, they had it right when the raised it to 68 recently.

    Sure as long as they are dying younger it makes sense.

    Peter, do you really support these things that have a basis in the days when folks were kicking off younger? The net should be there but a “hammock” is just a bad idea.

    Here is what the French president says about this:

    “The reforms will cost the state billions of euros a year but can be afforded through higher worker and employer contributions, according to the government.

    No problem.

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  43. Rancid Crabtree says:

    “…higher worker and employer contributions…”. Even in France they shy away from calling them taxes!

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  44. mervel says:

    What is interesting though is I had thought given the larger wages mentioned above that Germany would have a higher median income than the US, which is a better measure than an average for looking at income.

    However they don’t, the US is still 2nd in median income in the world, Germany is at 15. The question is would we be ready to lower that to pick up some of the changes that are needed in our society?

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  45. mervel says:

    So even with heavy unionization, our economy produces higher median wages than Germany.

    Where we fail is in our policies to stop poverty and provide people with the safety net that is needed.

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  46. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Well, that one way of looking at it Mervel. Another way is to say we don’t provide the opportunity for people to find good jobs. I’m not sure about Germany, but in some of the European nations the gov’t mandates you work if you can. I think it was Germany that was having problems finding suitable work for their drug addicts a few years back, might have been Holland.

    We stop poverty by creating a vibrant economy which pays for the needed safety net. You can’t tax such an economy into existence.

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