Robin Hood Democrats and Political Demogoguery
On October 19, Republicans narrowly passed a 2018 federal budget in the Senate 51-49. The budget ultimately aims at cutting taxes and has nearly unanimous Republican support, with all Republican senators but Rand Paul voting for the proposal. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, voted unanimously against the budget, with many attempting to turn debate on the budget into classic partisan demagoguery.
Prior to the vote, top tier Democrats stepped forward to criticize the proposal for its plans to cut federal spending and its aspirations to stimulate the economy by reducing taxes. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren called the budget “immoral,” saying that it will only benefit the “super rich members of the Trump administration.” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who in the past equated Trump’s budget to a “comic book villain bad budget,” called the proposal “nasty and backwards,” claiming that it makes “cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in order to give a tax break to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans.” Senator Bernie Sanders, who had already called Trump’s budget plan “grotesquely immoral” in May, repeatedly called the budget the “Robin Hood principle in reverse”, where Republicans “take from those in need and gives to those who are already living in incredible opulence.”
Democratic leaders have repeatedly posed the budget debate as the noble and righteous Democrats against the corrupt and avaricious Republicans. Robin Hood and his merry men against the greedy Sheriff of Nottingham and his goons. It is a foolishly simple method of framing the debate that fails both as an analogy and an assessment of the budget plan as it stands now.
As Republican Senator Ted Cruz was quick to point out in his tax debate with Senator Bernie Sanders on October 18, the “Robin Hood in reverse” analogy completely collapses when one recalls that the villains in the classic tale of Robin Hood were the tax collectors. This places Sanders and several other Democrats in the awkward position of being the villains in their own analogy for not supporting the budget plan and its end goal of tax reduction.
As for the budget proposal itself, it currently stands as a blueprint for federal spending and still has a long way to go before it is finalized and an
official tax plan is put forward by Republicans. Like previous federal budget plans at this stage, it lacks specific detail that will be determined later in the process by various budget committees. However, as a blueprint, the proposal still provides basic insight into how the federal government plans to move and cut spending to make the budget work. This vague general budget outline cultivates the perfect environment for large speculation on the budget proposal.
Amid the chaos of this speculation by politicians and budget analysts alike, there seems to be one common goal which most have agreed needs to be achieved by the 2018 federal budget: deficit-neutrality. Under the previous administration, the U.S. National Debt increased by $9 trillion. Nearly everyone agrees that the budget deficit cannot continue to increase at this rate without drastic consequences for the U.S. economy. In hopes to achieve neutrality, the current 2018 federal budget proposal outlines cuts to social programs to make way for future tax reductions for all Americans that many Republicans predict will grow the economy and overwhelmingly compensate for any potential short-term deficit increase. Democrats, however, are extremely skeptical of this outcome, arguing that the cuts will both hurt Americans who rely on social programs and increase the national debt.
The 2018 federal budget debate is far more complex than most politicians make it out to be. While it is standard practice for politicians to frame debates and political opponents in a way that strengthens their argument, the current U.S. political climate has become so driven by the exercise that it has taken priority over actually debating the issue, making it nearly impossible to come to bipartisan agreements. This has become especially prevalent in the Democratic Party, where characterizing the opponent has deteriorated into schoolyard name-calling and “good guy versus bad guy” clichés. If politicians from both parties do not learn to control their virtue signaling and demagoguery, discussions on topics like the federal budget will continue to become increasingly polarized, turning what was once constructive policy debate into pure emotional manipulation.
Contact Connor Madalo at [email protected]