- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2005

Maybe I missed the memo, but exactly when did the Democratic “leadership” stop fighting for the poor? Why are they now turning their backs on the “Soul of their Party” to concentrate on “middle class” voters? Certainly not for crass political gain. And why is so much of the mainstream media ignoring such a monumental and calculated political transformation?

For at least the last four decades ? the “Great Society” years the Democrats have, through the power of self-proclamation, deemed themselves the “champions of the poor.” Of course, as one who grew up during that time, and lived well below the poverty line, I have and always will, take exception to that title. If anything, my personal experience, as well as that of those I suffered with, was that the Democrats, by and large, were the champions of taking people living in true misery, for granted.

Leaving that charge aside, let’s focus on the Democrats of today and their disappearing allegiance to a class of people to whom they owe much of their electoral success during the later half of the 20th century. For all intents and purposes, they seem to be ending even the pretense of caring for the poor, to now chase those “white Christian” voters that Howard Dean spoke so recklessly about.

There are numerous recent indicators as to why this is so. From John Kerry slighting the base of his party at the Democratic convention in Boston, to the Democrats assuming, incorrectly, that they had the poor, the black and the Hispanic vote in the bag and didn’t need to give them a real seat at the table, to the shocked “we are going after the wrong voters” statements uttered by Democrats after President Bush’s historic re-election.

There are more examples, but let’s just focus on one of the most compelling. The Democratic leadership’s response to Mr. Bush’s call for Social Security reform and the drastic effect it could have on the poor of our nation.

Even with understanding that most of the media refuses to give the GOP any credit for caring for, or helping the poor ? credit for things like the Republican message that one of the best anti-poverty programs are competent, accountable teachers and good schools; or the best way to get out of poverty to increase minority homeownership and minority small-business development; or that by strengthening families we cut down on single motherhood and the childhood poverty it breeds ? it’s still hard to come to grips with why the mainstream press won’t give a fair accounting of the benefits the poor would derive from the president’s Social Security reform plan.

Plain and simple, through the voluntary personal retirement accounts in the president’s plan, low-wage workers will benefit greatly. In addition to their Social Security benefits upon retirement, because of the PRA’s, they will have an additional nest egg of well over $100,000. Something that is impossible under the current, failing system.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid knows this, as does House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. They, along with the rest of the Democratic leadership know that low-wage earners living from paycheck to paycheck will realize a dramatic increase in their savings with personal retirement accounts, and yet, for purely partisan, obstructionist reasons, they are willing to deny the “Soul of their Party” such an advantage to try and hurt the president.

Worse, they are insulting the intelligence of the poor by assuming they can’t read a newspaper, can’t comprehend a television report or can’t go online and do their own research on the issue. While Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi damage their and their party’s credibility by saying the Social Security crisis only exists in the minds of the Republican’s, the vast majority of poor Americans know better.

They understand the basic math the Democratic leadership tries to hide from them. They understand that in 1960, there were 5.1 workers to every Social Security beneficiary. That today, there are 3.4 workers for every beneficiary, and that by 2030, it will be 2.1 workers to every beneficiary.

The system is failing, the Democrats know it and, yet, they have been basically ordered by Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi, not to offer any solutions. This, in spite of the fact that by an overwhelming 70-22 margin, Americans think that those who oppose the president’s plan have an obligation to put their own on the table.

To prove the obstructionist charge against Mr. Reid, the media need look no further back than 1999, when he said, “Most of us have no problem taking a small amount of the Social Security proceeds and putting them into the private sector.”

Of course, in 1999, Bill Clinton was president and the Democrats could still pretend to care about the poor. As we approach the 2006 and 2008 elections, the poor need to understand that they have now been officially dumped by the Democratic leadership in favor of a higher-income demographic.

As one who lived in poverty and is now a Republican, I say, “Welcome to my party.”

Douglas MacKinnon served as press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole. He is also a former White House and Pentagon official, and a novelist.

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