Political Hay

A History of Liberal Disasters

From school busing to driver's licenses for illegal aliens, bad ideas on parade.

By 11.5.07

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It's a long list.

Add Hillary Clinton's endorsement of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants ("it makes sense") to a very long list.

The list? A seemingly unending series of bad policy proposals and loopy values that liberals have championed during the course of decades. What all of these subjects have in common is that they upended common sense in favor of a fit of moral superiority and emotional feel-goodism. They are a history of liberal disasters. All backfired or were proved dead wrong. Sometimes they were outright lethal. Collectively they are part and parcel of the real reason the once honorable term "liberal" has won such disdain from so many Americans when it isn't being hooted out of a serious policy discussion with laughter. And lying just under the surface of all the current crop of polls that predict a Democrat victory in the race for the White House is the lurking reality that any candidate who makes a point of flying the liberal flag stands a serious chance of being defeated outright. Why, after all, do you think Senator Clinton hemmed and hawed her way through the driver's license issue in last week's debate?

Here's just a handful of my personal favorites:

* Forced School Busing
The idea: to raise the education level of blacks by forcibly integrating urban schools with white kids who lived in "segregated" neighborhoods. The result? Disaster. School enrollment in Boston plummeted, the percentage of whites dropping from 65% to 28%. In one urban area after another across the country where forced busing was instituted amidst angry turmoil "white flight" to the suburbs took off, igniting a surge of what liberals now moan as "suburban sprawl." And education? A study by the National Institute of Education could not find a single study that showed black kids were better off as a result. Prominent liberal advocates, of course, sent their own kids to private schools. Slowly, painfully, most busing programs wound to a stop. But the damage -- to the kids, to the neighborhoods and to the cities -- was done

* Welfare
The idea: The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was established in 1935 with the objective to provide welfare relief for needy families and their children. The result? It wound up promoting baby bearing-for-benefits scams, smothered incentive to work, destroyed marriages and created what came to be called a "culture of dependency" that helped devastate the family structure, particularly in the black community. The election of a Republican Congress in 1994 forced the issue to the front, with Speaker Newt Gingrich making it point three of the ten-item Contract with America. Conservatives insisted on a five year lifetime limit to be on the welfare rolls, and a system that led from welfare to work. Only after vetoing the resulting bill twice, as his presidential re-election campaign loomed, did President Clinton sign the conservative reforms. The consequences were dramatic. Welfare rolls plummeted by 57%, costs fell significantly, the work requirement was a success and child poverty rates for African-American families dropped sharply. But again, the damage done before reform was considerable.

* Luxury Tax
The idea: Pushed by liberals in a 1990 tax bill, the idea was to tax big-ticket luxury items and increase government revenue. The result? Buyers of luxuries such as yachts, jewelry, furs and cars stopped buying them in the United States. Among others, American carpenters, electricians, fiberglass and metal workers lost their jobs. Boat building businesses went bankrupt. And the revenue? A projected gain of five million in taxes resulted in an actual loss of $24 million. The luxury tax was finally repealed, but not soon enough to undue the damage to hundreds of thousands who lost their jobs or businesses.

* Alternative Minimum Tax
The idea: Enacted in 1969, the AMT was to disallow deductions and exemptions in computing tax liability. Why? There were 155 -- 155! -- "rich" households who were deemed by liberals to have too many tax breaks, thus meaning they paid little or no income tax. The AMT would supposedly cure this. The result? The Congressional Budget Office now says that 34% of taxpayers earning between $50,000 and $100,000 will have to pay the tax -- which is another way of saying that liberals believe if you earn $50,000 you are rich. That 155 taxpayers has now expanded to 11% of all taxpayers. The CBO also says that if this is not changed by 2010, nearly every married taxpayer earning between $100,000 and $500,000 will be forced to pay the AMT. Predictably, after all the unintended consequences have kicked in once again, liberals in Congress are now frantically calling for repeal to avoid the wrath of their constituents.

* Bringing Peace to Vietnam and Cambodia
The idea: Withdrawing from Southeast Asia completely in 1975 would bring "peace" to the people of Vietnam and Cambodia. The result? A tsunami of murder, concentration camps and desperate "boat people" engulfed the area, not only not bringing peace to the region but resulting in what is now recorded as "the killing fields." The subject usually brings forth a deafening if not embarrassed silence from liberals when they are not busy, in face of massive evidence to the contrary, in denying the result of their idea altogether.

* Free Love
The idea: If it feels good, went this old idea that was dusted off at the end of the 1960's do it. Promiscuity? No problem. Result? The AIDS epidemic, a stunning rise in sexually transmitted diseases. Oops.

* Drugs
The idea: Turn on and drop out. Glamorized by the media, hey man, this was supposed to be great stuff! Let's party! The result: when the party was over for all those cool white kids from the sixties America woke up to a generation of drug addicts who had either died of overdoses or gotten hooked for a lifetime on any number of drugs. It drove up crime rates and the cost of health care, ruining families and wreaking havoc in the black community. Way to go.

TOO SUM UP: Whether it was education policy, welfare policy, economic policy, foreign policy or social policy, time after time after time what became the guiding lights of modern American liberalism proved to be utter disasters. Obvious consequences were ignored and unintended consequences were rampant. All too frequently people who were supposed to be helped -- African-Americans, the poor, the Vietnamese and Cambodians, women, the young -- were severely harmed. Most disturbingly, the proponents of these policies seemed to simply shrug their shoulders at the results and move straight on the next disaster.

This time? The idea is to provide a driver's license to illegal aliens. In other words, an official government photo ID that can be used to facilitate everything from voting to travel to obtaining government benefits for people who aren't American citizens. Smart, no?

Liberalism today as a philosophy is burning up faster than Southern California. Bereft of common sense, wreaking havoc on whole sections of the American and global population, it is still being championed by followers utterly oblivious to the consequences already long on the record.

"I have a million ideas," Senator Clinton said recently, thoughtfully adding that "the country can't afford them all."

No kidding.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.