Legislate for the Poor?
Dalton Conley's op-ed
in the New York Times
is a bit convoluted, but it boils down to one idea: If the government made the tax code more regressive, and if it rolled back means-testing for most public programs, then the public would be more likely accept higher taxes and a more robust welfare state. Now, if you had forty years to create a social-democratic state, this is absolutely how you'd go about doing it. But if you're trying to win a presidential election in the United States of America in the year 2008, it's an awful idea. The poor, sadly, have never swung an election.
Conley then suggests co-opting "[t]he worship of all things military… for progressive ends," particularly by expanding military benefits. This probably isn't the electoral winner he thinks it is, either. Americans do, indeed, worship the military. But Republicans are so good at co-opting this sentiment because they don't ask Americans to do anything
about it. Under Bush, we can salute the military or "rally around the flag" or whatever it is we do to be patriotic, and then quietly pocket our tax refunds when health care programs for veterans get cut. It's a lot easier—and much more fun—to "support the troops" when you don't actually have to make any sacrifices for them.