Star Parker

Mudslinging by leading Democrats, usually taking form these days as trying to brand Republicans as racists, confirms what I have been writing about for a number of years: the Democratic Party is running on an empty tank. Bankrupt of ideas, the only thing they have to offer is slamming the opposition and playing the race card.

The latest case in point is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Martin Luther King Day pandering to a black audience in Harlem, telling them that Republicans run the House of Representatives "like a plantation and you know what I am talking about."

According to Mrs. Clinton, Republicans have been managing the House "in a way that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."

Have Republicans really cornered the political market in Washington, as Mrs. Clinton claims here, and beaten their poor opposition into impotence?

If this is indeed the case, how is it that the first major initiative advanced by a confident and freshly re-elected President Bush, reform of Social Security, has disappeared into a mist of memories? The answer, of course, is that the initiative hit a Democratic wall of opposition.

How about the first major domestic initiative advanced in the first Bush term, No Child Left Behind? The act underwent major surgery in Congress as result of compromise with Democrats. A key, perhaps the most important, aspect of education reform that the act contained, school choice, was amputated.

How about the President's faith-based initiative program? As result of not being able to pass the thing in Congress, the president proceeded administratively and just started setting up offices in the various government departments.

What about the marriage amendment? Where did that disappear to?

Mrs. Clinton's portrait of the Republican stranglehold on the Congress is obviously a smokescreen for the fact that the Democrats do indeed wield a lot of power. The issue isn't whether they have it, but rather how they choose to use it.

I challenge anyone reading these words to identify a single idea or initiative addressing any serious problems like health care, education, retirement or anything else, that any Democrat has put forward.

There's a reason you're drawing a blank. There are none. Every new and creative initiative, the kind of innovations that would overwhelming help blacks and the poor _ private retirement accounts, health savings accounts, school choice _ have been Republican initiatives. Democrats have used power for obstruction and to preserve big government status quo.

This gets around to the question of Hillary's "plantation" accusation.

I wrote a book called "Uncle Sam's Plantation." I used the plantation analogy because the bigger government is, the less control individuals have over their own lives and the more dependent they are on the decisions that others, i.e., politicians, make for them. For poor folks, reliance on government builds a culture of dependency that often never ends. It is generally appreciated today the damage that the welfare state caused in poor, mostly black, communities.

We've got kids from poor families all over the country today trapped in pathetic, failing inner city public schools. Yet in a nation which prides itself on being free, we refuse to allow competition and allow parents to choose where to send their kid to school. This defines a big government plantation.

Mrs. Clinton analogizing the House of Representatives to a plantation is absurd. No one is forced to be there. Members are elected every two years. What Mrs. Clinton doesn't like is that Americans keep re-electing Republicans and putting them in control. And this means more initiatives to try and reduce the big government plantation that Hillary in fact loves. Recall that her answer to health care was to essentially nationalize it.

Rather than government-run "Hillary care," low income folks need health savings accounts that would give them the same tax breaks that big corporations have.

Could Republicans be doing a better job? Sure. But the Democratic Party would help if it became a real opposition party with ideas and alternatives.

If Democrats really wanted to push for the interests of those struggling to make it, they'd be pushing to give these folks more, not less, control over their lives.

But, to use the plantation analogy properly, Hillary and the Democrats don't want to free the slaves. They love Uncle Sam's Plantation. They just want to run it.


Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.