McAuliffe Blasts Progressives' Free College, Federal Jobs Guarantee Proposals

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe / Getty Images
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe / Getty Images
January 3, 2019

Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe criticized some members of his own party on Thursday for overpromising to the American people in their push for tuition-free college and a federal jobs guarantee program.

The former Virginia governor wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post where he slammed President Donald Trump for his "fantastical" and unrealistic campaign promises, and he warned his fellow Democrats of making the same mistake.

"Americans are asking us to focus on improving their lives, not to make unrealistic ideological promises," McAuliffe wrote.

He went on to criticize two specific policies that the progressive wing of the Democratic party is pushing; a federal jobs guarantee program and tuition free college.

For example, some senators have started to discuss a "federal jobs guarantee" — a promise that, in certain formulations, means that anyone who wants could have a government job paying $15 an hour with great benefits. Sound too good to be true? It is. Proponents of a jobs guarantee are smart people with good motives, but they surely recognize that it is not a realistic policy.

Similarly, a promise of universal free college has an appealing ring, but it’s not a progressive prioritization of the educational needs of struggling families. We need to provide access to higher education, job training and student debt relief to families who need it. Spending limited taxpayer money on a free college education for the children of rich parents badly misses the mark for most families.

Lawmakers like Sens. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Kristen Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) have all announced support for a federal jobs program, which would provide any individual with a $15/hour wage and additional benefits. A greater, and increasing, number of Democrats have come out in support of free college.

McAuliffe argues that Democrats need to resist "dishonest populism" in order to win in 2020.

"Resisting dishonest populism is not just a policy imperative for serious Democrats but also a political imperative for 2020," he wrote. "Across the country, voters just sent a powerful message that they are tired of the broken promises of this administration, especially on health care and taxes."

The former Democratic National Committee chairman is considering a run for president in 2020, but if he decides not to run, he will work closely with Democrats to ensure their message is "realistic, optimistic and focused on helping all Americans."

McAuliffe recently announced his support for Medicare for all, a health care policy pushed by Sanders, among others, that the Virginia Democrat was skeptical of in the past.