The economy is strong and the unemployment rate is at the lowest level in 50 years. If you’re a Democrat trying to unseat President Trump, how do you run against that?
Rep. Tim Ryan has a pretty good idea. The Ohio Democrat represents the district where the General Motors Lordstown plant just closed, eliminating 1,700 jobs. It’s possible an automotive startup will buy the plant, but it would probably hire just a fraction of the laid-off workers. And that deal might fall through.
“People are still struggling,” Ryan tells Yahoo Finance. “People have two jobs or three jobs. American families can't withstand a $400 or $500 emergency. We don't have a policy to win the future around industries that are growing at 25% or 30%. That takes presidential leadership.”
Ryan calls himself a “free enterprise Democrat,” and he rejects big-government ideas some Democrats embrace, like Medicare for all or the Green New Deal. But he would like to see stronger government incentives to spur more investment in key industries of the future, such as electric vehicles, solar and wind power and artificial intelligence.
“The value in really scaling up the green economy is going to come through venture capital and the private sector,” Ryan says. “I want to use tax incentives. How do we drive that growth into the Lordstown, Ohios of the world?”
We can’t ‘take people’s health care away from them’
On health care, Ryan favors a pathway toward universal coverage for everybody—but not through a new government program that would replace private insurance. “In America, we shouldn’t be in the business of taking people’s health care away from them,” Ryan says. Possible solutions: Allowing some Americans, such as employees of small business and those between 55 and 64, to buy into Medicare, paying premiums that would cover their costs.
He has a similar attitude—right idea, wrong approach—toward the Green New Deal, the left’s big plan to address global warming through trillions in federal spending. “We’ve got to decarbonize,” Ryan says. “I don’t want it to be some centralized bureaucratic thing run out of Washington, D.C. The quickest way to solve this problem is to align the environmental incentives with the financial incentives. Get the free market moving in this direction.” Example: Help farmers make money by cutting carbon emissions from agriculture.
Ryan likes some Democratic ideas for raising taxes, such as Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax and her surtax on corporate income above $100 million. But he doesn’t want to soak the rich, just to punish them for being rich. “We have to ask the wealthiest people in this country to help,” he says. “But let’s fix these systems. It’s not going to get us anywhere if we're just dumping money into broken systems.”
Ryan’s list of what needs to be fixed is long: Health care that costs too much. Global warming. A criminal justice system that sends minority kids to prison for life. Farmers who can’t make money. Subpar education. Ryan says he would seek the corporate sector’s help in finding solutions, instead of raising taxes for more government programs.
“Inviting the business community into this conversation on climate and all the rest is an important way to heal this country,” he says. “We’re not enemies. Russia is the enemy. China is a strategic competitor. We got a lot of work to do, which is why I don’t want to sit here and have a big fight with corporate America.”
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman