August 5, 2019 Reading Time: 4 minutes

In theory, we have two distinct political parties. On one side are the Democrats, and on the other are the Republicans. These parties are supposed to be different from each other in all sorts of ways. And often they do indeed hold very different opinions on important political issues. However, any real distinction completely disappears when you look at their proposed “solutions” to whatever social issues preoccupy them. Both parties view the use of force by government as a perfectly acceptable way to impose their policy goals on the American people. 

In fact the similarity is striking. 

Take, for instance, spending. I have documented for years the fact that Democrats are the biggest spenders when in power — only to be outspent by the Republicans when the GOP is in power. Republicans may not want to spend on the same things as Democrats, but both parties want to spend — big-time. And so not surprisingly, both sides have argued that, contrary to the evidence, government spending would stimulate the economy. 

Republicans support the government preventing gays from marrying and Americans from using drugs, and the building of a border wall. Democrats want the government to prevent Americans from drinking sugary soda, from eating fatty foods, and from bargaining freely in competitive labor markets. Both parties support cronyism. 

The Democrats are especially eager to subsidize Tesla and solar panels. Republicans love to subsidize Boeing and farmers. Both sides are A-OK subsidizing the U.S. automobile industry and protecting “essential” industries from foreign competition. And both sides believe that it is the role of government to create or protect jobs through protectionism, or other government-granted privileges.

And remarkably, both sides now favor the federal provision of paid leave, although they put their support behind very different paid-leave models. Both parties have called for a return to industrial policies. Then we have Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who suddenly finds himself agreeing with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that Facebook has too much power in our lives and that something must be done:

After Warren tweeted that the platform’s actions demonstrated her point that “FB has too much power” and that it was acting as an unopposed “censor,” Cruz retweeted her, saying it was the first time he’d ever retweeted his liberal colleague. He has criticized Facebook in the past over claims it censors conservative voices.

“She’s right—Big Tech has way too much power to silence Free Speech,” Cruz tweeted. “They shouldn’t be censoring Warren, or anybody else. A serious threat to our democracy,” Cruz said in the tweet.

There is so much more we could say about Republicans and Democrats being more similar than different in their willingness to use the power of government to achieve their goals. 

But I will conclude with one of the most revealing pieces of evidence showing that both parties are in fact simply different sides of the same coin when it comes to using the power of government against private companies and Americans. This evidence comes to us via Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), both of whom arrogantly assert that they are heroically attempting to hold American companies accountable for two different separate perceived abuses by using the exact same type of government powers.

Case 1. A few months ago, Harris, as part of the presidential campaign, promised that if she is elected president she would put in place her plan called “Holding Corporations Accountable for Pay Inequality in America.” She believes that companies discriminate against women by paying them less than men get paid for doing the same work. She is apparently oblivious to the fact that this claim has been widely debunked by economists not only on the right but even on the left.  

Harris’s solution to this fake problem is to require employers with more than 100 workers to prove to a federal bureaucrat (in this case the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) that “they’re not paying women less than men for work of equal value” in exchange for an “Equal Pay Certification.” The goal is for companies to get a certification of compliance. If they fail, they’ll have to pay Uncle Sam “1% of their profits for every 1% wage gap they allow to persist.” 

For more on this terrible progressive idea, see this and this.

Case 2. Hawley believes that conservative viewpoints are being silenced on social media platforms such as Twitter, Google, and Facebook. This is not a new idea, which may or may not hold as much water as conservatives claim. 

One of his “solutions” is to require these platforms to demonstrate to a federal bureaucracy that they are not discriminating against conservatives. In the process they would apply for an immunity certification from the Federal Trade Commission, which would then investigate to make sure that the petitioner satisfied a “requirement of politically unbiased content moderation.” 

For more on this totalitarian conservative legislation, see my colleague Jennifer Hudleston’s excellent piece. Mercatus’ Adam Thierer’s piece is here, and I also recommend this recent report by Huddleston and Brent Skorup. 

What I find striking about each of these examples is how they mirror each other. Both Republican and Democratic politicians accuse companies of different crimes, but their “solutions” are remarkably similar — and dangerous. Companies must prove to the government that they are not devious abusers. Companies must ask for permission and conform to the government’s goals to operate their business. Companies must obtain a certification from the government.

As I said, Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the same big, abusive, and anti-freedom government coin.

Veronique de Rugy

Veronique de Rugy

AIER Senior Fellow Veronique de Rugy is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a nationally syndicated columnist.

Her primary research interests include the US economy, the federal budget, homeland security, taxation, tax competition, and financial privacy.

She received her MA in economics from the Paris Dauphine University and her PhD in economics from the Pantheon-Sorbonne University.

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