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Dems' New Agenda: The Good, the OK, and the Ugly

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Dems' New Agenda: The Good, the OK, and the Ugly

Roll Call newspaper reports that House Democrats are going to soon release "their platform and the major policies they will promote on the campaign trail next year" (the article is attached). That's excellent. The problem is in some of the details.

First, the good stuff. Roll Call notes that among the proposals will be one to create "stronger investments in U.S. armed forces." I'll assume this means increasing funding for veterans health care, military facilities, body armor, and equipment needed to protect troops in battle. That's excellent.

Also good are proposals to achieve "energy independence in 10 years," "universal college education through scholarships and grants as well as funding for the No Child Left Behind act" and "an economic package that includes an increase in the minimum wage." We'll have to see the details about the energy stuff and whether the economic package will include the standard Bill Clinton/Bob Rubin/DLC advocacy of corporate written "free" trade deals, but nonetheless this is promising as well.

Now for the only OK. First we get word that there will be "budget restrictions to end deficit spending." From my time working on the House Appropriations Committee, I learned that this kind of language usually was a euphemism for cutting non-defense programs (aka. health, education, housing, job training, etc.). It is true, we face record deficits, but Democrats play right into the right-wing's hand by focusing on spending as the culprit instead of the real culprit: the massive tax cuts Republicans have slated for the wealthiest Americans. This raises a serious red flag about whether the Democratic Party is still scared to talk about taxes.

Also raising a red flag is the proposals to create "affordable health insurance for all Americans." What's wrong with that, you ask? Nothing, except for the fact that again, this kind of language has been used in the past to avoid taking a more serious position in favor of a single-payer national health care system - a concept polls show Americans support, and a system which every other major industrialized country in the world has. Creating "affordable health insurance" has been used as a euphemism to simply fork over taxpayer cash to already-wealthy health insurance companies instead of fundamentally reforming the system. Let's wait and see what the proposal is, but keep an eye on this one.

Then there is the idea that "Democrats will also promise to return ethical standards to Washington through bipartisan ethics oversight and tighter lobbying restrictions." There are some decent bills out there by Democrats aimed at this - but again, the party seems to be avoiding a far more serious position in support of public financing of elections. Remember, all of the "culture of corruption" scandals surrounding the Republican Party these days has to do with lobbyists buying influence through campaign donations. Public financing of elections goes right at that problem.

Finally, the ugly. Roll Call says Democrats will push to create "benchmarks for determining when to bring troops home from Iraq." Is this a joke? Do actual politicians who have run campaigns and been elected to office believe citizens will accept this as an "alternative" to the GOP's stay the course crap? Apparently so - and sadly we shouldn't even be surprised at this too-cute-by-half behavior, especially after watching Rep. Rahm Emanuel's sickening slipperiness on the issue on NBC's Meet the Press recently. Frankly, there's a case to be made that it is better to say nothing on Iraq than try to peddle this smarmy have-it-both-ways position that insults voters' intelligence.

Again, with all of this, we have to wait and see the details. Some might be better than expected, others worse. Stay tuned.

Veterans' health care cuts:
Cuts to military facilities:
Inadequately funded body armor:
Clinton/Rubin/DLC's "free" trade advocacy:
Dems' afraid to put tax cuts on trial?
Polls show Americans support a single-payer health care system:
Decent Democratic proposals on lobbying/ethics reform:
Dems need to make public financing of elections a centerpiece:
Emanuel evades taking a serious position on Iraq on Meet the Press:

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)

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