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December 2014 - Volume 19, Number 4


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Progressives Are the Primary Impediment to Progress

by David Burton

Merriam-Webster defines progress as “the process of improving or developing something over a period of time” or the “gradual betterment; especially: the progressive development of humankind.”


By that definition, today’s progressives are the primary impediment to progress.


Progressive policies reduce incomes, reduce employment, reduce opportunity, reduce entrepreneurship, reduce innovation, reduce economic and social dynamism, reduce productivity improvements, and reduce the international competitiveness of U.S. businesses. They ship jobs overseas. They harm children and young people by standing in the way of school choice options, by creating inadequate youth employment opportunities, and by encouraging policies that saddle them with massive student debt, a massive national debt, and crushing unfunded entitlement obligations.


Progressive policies increase costs, increase deficits, increase the national debt, and increase the future unfunded obligations of government programs. Progressive policies increase the power of government, empower bureaucrats and lawyers, and reduce the freedom and prosperity of the American people.


If you want to get a look at what progressive policies mean for Americans, look across the Atlantic at Europe’s slow economic growth. Look at Europe’s high debt levels. Look at Europe’s high unemployment rate — especially youth unemployment — and the duration of unemployment. It is not a pretty picture.


President Bush gave us a number of counterproductive spending, education, and regulatory policies; President Obama has accelerated the growth of government at a rate that puts him in a class by himself.


The ways in which progressive policies impede progress are innumerable. But these destructive progressive policies deserve particular note.


•Progressives enacted Obamacare, which has cost millions of jobs and forced people into health plans they don’t want.


•The U.S. tax system is among the very worst in the industrialized world, and progressives want to make it even worse by raising business and other taxes that will harm economic growth, job creation, and reduce real incomes.


•Progressive education policies have harmed the education of countless children, making it less likely that they will have the skills to succeed.


•Progressives support “investor protection” measures that make it difficult for entrepreneurs to raise the capital that they need to launch start-ups and grow their businesses and that keep ordinary people from investing in the most promising companies.


•Progressives have dramatically increased regulations and want to increase regulatory costs a great deal more. These regulations harm economic growth, increase consumer costs, reduce employment, and harm the competitiveness of U.S. businesses.


•Progressives want to further increase already massive federal spending on entitlement programs, leading to future tax increases and crowding out other federal spending.


•Progressives want to make it illegal for teenagers and other low-skilled workers to reach the first rung on the economic ladder by raising the minimum wage.


To realize the promise of American life, for our families to flourish and to prosper, and for our society to actually progress rather than descend into stagnant despair and discord, progressivism needs to be recognized for what it is: the anti-progress philosophy. Progressive policies are the primary impediment to a better life for the American people.


David R. Burton focuses on tax matters, securities law, entitlements, and regulatory and administrative law issues as The Heritage Foundation’s Senior Fellow in Economic Policy.


This article originally appeared on The Heritage Foundation's The Daily Signal on September 25, 2014, and is reprinted with permission from The Heritage Foundation.


LIMITS is one of our quarterly membership newsletters, arriving in March, June, September, and December. It consists of short articles and essays on protection of human rights by limiting the powers of government.


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