Howard Dean Lays Out Democrat's Legislative Agenda
|Howard Dean, Chairman of the DNC, has laid out the Democratic Party's political agenda for what they would do if they manage to take back control of Congress in 2006. He commits them to six issues. In an attempt to emulate Newt Gingrich's “Contract for America” 12 years ago, Dean proposed:|
1.Honesty and Openness in government.
2.A strong national defense which depends on telling the truth to our citizens, our soldiers, and our allies before we send troops abroad.
3.Focus on American jobs that will stay in America, using energy independence as a new industry to create both manufacturing and construction jobs.
4.A health-care system like that of 36 other countries that includes everyone.
5.A real strong public education system that will restore opportunity and optimism back to America.
6.Retirement security so we can count on Social Security and stop the corporations of this country from raiding pension funds.
This bold new vision deserves some analysis. Let's review each initiative.
1. Dean told a group of party loyalists: "You will never see a videotape of a Democratic president getting information that he denied point blank to the American people knowing anything about." It seems that Dean has never the seen the tape of President Clinton wagging his finger at the American people saying, “I did not have sex with..”.
Dean was specifically referring to the “Katrina tape” which he asserted showed that President Bush “misled the American people.” He did not acknowledge that the AP story has since been shown to have done the misrepresenting.
That's two Dean lies used to justify his call for “openness and honesty”. An interesting approach.
There is also the issue of Abramoff and the lobbying scandal. Here the Democrats have something, but unfortunately, all but five of the Senate’s 44 Democrats have taken Abramoff-related money. In addition, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have taken more than $1.2 million, according to records provided to The Washington Times. Both parties have mud on them from this one, and real lobbying reform is needed.
2. The defense issue is another “Bush lied” accusation, referring to the WMD issue leading up to the invasion of Iraq. That there was an intelligence failure regarding WMD's is true. The trouble with this one is that most Democrats, as well as other nations, all thought what Bush thought at the time, and are on record as saying so. To call this a lie is again using distortion and falsehoods.
3. The plan to base the creation of new jobs for the country on alternative energy is intriguing, given that the 18.9 million new jobs projected in the next 10 years are going to be led in educational services, health care and social assistance, and professional and business services. For alternative energy related jobs to become the largest source of growth, it would take a plan for a national transportation system based on millions of rickshaws. Alternative energy development is too important to play this kind of nonsense game.
4. A government plan for a National Health Care System was last the pet project of Hillary Clinton in 1993, which crashed so badly that it helped to bring about the Republican majorities in 1994. What has changed since then is the growth of evidence on the failure of socialized medicine around the world, including Canada. This one is old and soured wine in a new bottle.
5. Democrats will never undertake fundamental education reform, because they will never alienate one of their largest sources for money and votes - the teacher's unions. Demanding better accountability, more rigorous curriculum and outcomes, and competitiveness in educational options are taboo to the unions and Democrats.
6. If you want a succinct and realistic appraisal of what has to happen on Social Security, try the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the professional number crunchers.
“There are four general methods of improving the financial condition of the Social Security Trust Fund: (1) reducing benefits; (2) increasing revenues; (3) improving the rate of return on Trust Fund assets; and (4) other revenue sources, such as appropriating Treasury general funds.
Benefit reductions can be accomplished through across-the-board cuts, means-testing, raising the retirement age, or changing the inflation-adjustments used to determine benefits. Revenues can be increased by raising the payroll tax rate, raising the cap on taxable income, extending the payroll tax to all government workers, raising income taxes on Social Security benefits, and diverting general tax revenues to the Trust Fund.”
These are politically nasty choices, and nothing in the Democratic position says that they are willing to face the music on this one. President Bush took a run at reform, and neither party jumped up in support. Private pension plans need to address more than the cases of Enron scamming schemes. Real solutions will have to address basic fiduciary reform such as higher deductible contribution limits, higher minimum contributions, and improved funding ratios.
So what conclusions can we draw on the Democratic agenda? It is an odd mix of misdirection based on disingenuousness, economic “Gore-isms”, old and failed liberal programs, and general pandering without tangible solutions. The most striking characteristic is what is not on the agenda. There is no plan on Iraq, no plan on terrorism, no plan on illegal immigration, no plan on Iranian nuclear development, no plan on Israel and the Palestinian problem, no plan on tax reform, no plan on Medicare, and no plan on Katrina recovery.
The Democratic party will need to put out specific proposals the American people will embrace on the issues the country cares about before they can expect to get results. This is not it. Howard Dean and the DNC better head back to the drawing board.