Democratic presidential candidate profiles

Editor’s note: The following profiles of presidential candidates are intended to help voters decide whether individual freedom will advance or retreat if the candidate is elected.

Hillary Clinton
A Hillary Clinton presidency poses substantive threats to individual freedom. Her statist approach would injuriously intrude into nearly every aspect of life.

Clinton would have the government dictate everything from alternative energy choices to tax-funded universal preschool and tax-funded universal health care, retarding market solutions in each area.

She would eliminate tax cuts, interfere with the housing market’s self-correction by freezing foreclosures and impose arbitrary carbon dioxide cap-and-trade programs to save us from the nonthreat of global warming.

Basically, Clinton views government as the default problem solver, even for problems that don’t exist. She doesn’t recognize that government’s intrusion creates problems, while it impinges on personal freedoms.

To justify government intrusion, Clinton claims “income inequality has risen to the highest levels since 1929, and wages have stagnated.”

Her class-warfare approach ignores the fact that family income generally reflects how many and how much family members work. Income is about as widely distributed as any time in U.S. history. It was much more concentrated among top earners before World War II. Indeed, middle- and lower-income families fared best during the Reagan boom years, 1982-89. Today’s poor are tomorrow’s rich, and vice versa, thanks to economic mobility, not government aid.

These are facts, except to Clinton, who sees instead oppression, stagnation and inequality in order to justify the laying on of government’s heavy hand with its incentives funded by other peoples’ tax money and its disincentives of regulation and penalties.

Rather than recognize that government subsidies and mandates drive up education and health care costs, Clinton prescribes more of the same. The hubris of this government-centric, top-down approach leads her campaign to proclaim that: “Hillary would transform our economy,” as if government dictates and redistribution of wealth are effective and beneficial.

Her approach is epitomized in Clinton’s unfortunately resurrected new version of the disastrous health care program from her husband’s first term. This one is estimated to cost $110 billion, reason enough to fear another Clinton administration.

John Edwards
If you listen to former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, you might be tempted to look around, pinch yourself and see if this is for real.

He describes two Americas, one where the rich live with unalloyed wealth and escape any accountability for their actions, the other a world out of Dickensian England, where the poor wear rags and live in hunger.

He refers to “(o)ne America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks.”

In Edwards’ view, private corporations such as Wal-Mart, which provides low-priced goods and decent jobs, and pharmaceutical companies, which provide life-saving drugs, are the prime evils, whereas the government, which taxes and regulates, is the savior.

It’s hard to think of a policy more antithetical to the views on this editorial page and those of the nation’s founders.

He is adamantly opposed to free trade, preferring instead a government-micromanaged scheme called “fair trade.” He is an advocate of mandatory unionization. He wants to massively increase federal spending to “help” the poor. He wants to increase the federal minimum wage and engage in a new version of those disastrous urban-renewal schemes.

He wants to dramatically increase federal environmental restrictions. He promotes a socialized health care plan. He doesn’t want to do anything significant about the Social Security problem. He promises higher taxes. He advocates a shareholder “bill of rights” that will penalize corporations.

He advocates universal, government-funded preschool programs. Even though wealthy people pay the bulk of taxes in progressively taxed America, he wants to shift even more of the tax burden to those who create the jobs and the wealth that keep the economy humming.

Even on issues on which we might expect him to be OK, he’s bad. For instance, Edwards adamantly opposes the decriminalization of marijuana. We agree with him on the need for sentencing reform and he isn’t as bad as the other Democratic candidates on the Second Amendment, owing perhaps to his upbringing in the rural South.
So, Edwards is basically wrong on everything.

Barack Obama
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is in some ways the most intriguing candidate to emerge this year.

Born of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, he has offered the promise of moving beyond the confrontational poses that have kept issues dividing baby boomers — abortion, civil rights, war and peace, the scope of government — from being resolved rather than fueling fundraising efforts on all sides.

He opposed the Iraq war before the invasion. He has talked about merit pay for teachers. He can inspire people to idealism with his speeches, and he talks about reaching across party lines to find pragmatic solutions.

Until recently, Obama seldom overtly mentioned race, pointing perhaps toward a day when his being African American is no more significant than Rudy Giuliani seeking to be the first Italian-American elected president.

All that said, Barack Obama has seldom put much policy flesh on his sometimes gauzy idealism. His record, however, suggests a fairly standard-issue, left-liberal Democrat whose first-reach solutions will call for more government — typically the opposite of what should be done, from a freedom perspective.

He supported the McCain immigration legislation, has co-sponsored restrictions ostensibly calculated to reduce global warming and promote energy independence, and he sees an active role for the government in managing the economy.

Although he has opposed the Iraq war, he seeks a more active role for the U.S. in Darfur and other conflicts. His comments about pursuing al-Qaida in Pakistan whether the Pakistani government likes it or not demonstrated a certain naïveté about foreign affairs.

He seeks universal health care tightly regulated by government, with only slightly fewer mandatory elements than Sen. Hillary Clinton’s approach. He also supports a more active role in education for the federal government.

He’s for repealing the Bush tax cuts and is not shy about wanting to tax “the rich” and corporations more onerously and to restrict the use of offshore tax havens. He supports a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions.

Sen. Obama may be vulnerable on the experience issue, though he has more national-level policy experience than Bill Clinton did when he was elected. Unfortunately, his calls for “change” usually involve more government programs, not private or free-market approaches.