The Democrats an `the Interests’ weapons procurement, as opposed to, for example, payments to military personnel. Any Democrat worth his salt ought to be able to explain this to the electorate and to make the case for a leaner military budget, if only by cutting the “fat” that so. notoriously exists in every other category of public spending. There is no sense at all in cowtowing to George Bush on this question. Working Papers THE EARLY POLLS are showing Dukakis leading Bush in the race for the White House. Undoubtedly the gap will narrow in the next three months, but for now a spirit of possibility fills the air. People are catching themselves in the assumption that the next administration will be a Democratic one. New agendas are being drawn up in anticipation of the day when the government is taken back from the Republicans and their special interests. In this issue we present five working papers for a new Democratic agenda. Our intention is to discuss not only the things that have gone wrong under Republican rule, but what could be done about it. The five issues we have chosen the housing crisis, rural economic development, democratization of the money supply, the revitalization of the labor movement, and creation of child care policies strike us as not only some of the most important issues of the day but as issues the Democratic Party could win on. One unifying theme that emerges from the pieces we’ve commissioned is this: government must now seriously address the question of how and where the wealth of this country is invested. It is clear that Reagan’s economy of unfettered or less fettered capitalism has simply failed to invest in affordable housing, in the farm economy, and in the manufacturing sector. The myth that it is not government’s role to direct the industrial investment of the nation must be recognized as the hogwash it is. Reagan himself has been the greatest proponent of the investment of government funds in industry of any President in history it’s just that his industrial policy has been entirely oriented toward the military. Meanwhile, administration and Federal Reserve policies have prevented small businesses and farmers from obtaining the credit they need for their own economic development. As the manufacturing sector has deteriorated it has served the Republican goal of weakening organized labor. And, of course, even the most basic social policy reforms such as child care plans that acknowledge that we’ve moved out of the 1950s have been distant dreams. Truly, we are entering a time that is ripe for reform. –DD BY JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH Cambridge, Massachusetts AS A CITIZEN OF, I trust, reasonably responsible concern, I am disturbed by what I read about interest groups. And especially, as one who votes Democratic with some certainty, by what I hear of the grave subordination of past and present Democratic candidates to their influence. In 1984, Walter F. Mondale was widely condemned as the candidate, even the captive, of interest groups. Gov! Michael S. Dukakis is now being warned every other day of the danger of succumbing to similar influences with similar result. No one doubts that the Rev. Jesse Jackson is deeply committed to interest-group politics. Knowing, or anyhow being told, that we should have a President who is responsible impartially to all America, all will understand my discomfort. To be specific, a Democratic candidate is thought vulnerable to the demands of the minorities, the trade unions, women and more especially those who assert women’s rights, the environmentalists, the aged and more especially the infirm, and, if more generally, the urban poor. Any politician who must respond to the needs and desires of all these groups is hardly a free agent. So the conclusion: better the Republicans with their pure commitment to the polity at large. Or, anyhow, so on first thought. But on further reflection I am led to wonder: is it possible that we have been captured by a rather limited, not to say eccentric, conception of the interest group? In these last years, the affluent have fared very well under President Reagan. Their share of income both before and after taxes has increased substantially. David A. Stockman, his former budget director, even went so far as to affirm that so-called supplyside economics was really a cover story for lowering taxes on the rich. Those so rewarded, then and now, contribute heavily to political campaigns, are generally articulate, and show up John Kenneth Galbraith. is emeritus professor of economics at Harvard University. This article originally appeared in the New York Times and is reprinted with permission of the author. reliably at the polls. Most are known to be Republicans. But oddly they are not an interest group. That, perhaps, is because in our democracy it can never he the case for legislation that is for the benefit of the rich. Similarly, American corporations have in these last years been liberated from highly unwelcome regulation and protected against even more inconvenient restraints that might otherwise have been enacted. Banks and savings and loan institutions have turned with no slight success to the Reagan Administration for salvation. There recently has come welcome support from the President on plant-closing legislation. Business firms have a strong organizational presence in Washington and are served by a large deployment of lobbyists. Responses by politicians at all levels are mellowed by funds from the political-action committees the corporate PACs. Many, one thinks most, businessmen are Republicans. But they are not an interest group. Further, there is the weapons industry. This is known to have an exceptionally wellendowed lobby in Washington or, even more conveniently, in nearby Virginia. To that industry the present Administration has been extremely favorable; some think it may be its captive. But the weapons firms are not an interest group certainly not in the same way ,as are trade unions, women, and blacks. The Christian fundamentalists will rally strongly to the Republicans this autumn. But they are not an interest group. Though women who support the right to abortion are an interest group, those who oppose it, mostly Republicans, are only upholding traditional American and religious values. Trade unions are undeniably an interest group. Those who defend the right-to-work laws are simply on the side of the free market. The conclusion seems inescapable. An interest group is any association of citizens that is numerous, most likely of low income, and has aspirations that are unfulfilled. If the participants are affluent, small or manageable in number \(the fundamentalists and have already made it in Washington or elsewhere, they are not an interest group. Rather, they are a politically innocent expression of the American dream. 4 JULY 15, 1988
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