Thursday, November 16, 2006
The 2008 Presidential campaign just began. Whatever the Democrats do with their newfound congressional power over the next two years, it will be with the big 2008 prize in mind.
Some Democrats want to expose the malfeasance of the Bush Administration—find out who really knew what and when with regard to weapons of mass destruction, Katrina and all the other rot. That’s understandable, but it would be far better if Democrats used their new found power to lay out a new agenda for America.
There’s no point digging up more dirt. Bush isn’t running again. John McCain, the Republican’s most likely choice to replace him, has distanced himself so far from the administration that no amount of dirt will soil him. Besides, the public and the media are already suffering from outrage fatigue.
Instead of dwelling on what’s gone wrong, Democrats should focus on what to do right. For example:
• Cut the Alternative Minimum Tax so it doesn’t slam the middle class, and roll back the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
• Open Medicare to every American who needs affordable health insurance, and use Medicare’s resulting huge bargaining clout to reduce drug prices.
• Bar companies from deducting from their corporate income taxes any executive pay in excess of $1 million a year.
• Raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation.
• Reform Social Security so people earning over $100,000 a year pay the same percent of their income as everyone else.
• Raise fuel economy standards, eliminate oil subsidies and use the money for basic R&D in non-carbon based energy.
• Renegotiate the Kyoto protocols on greenhouse gas emissions.
• And while they are at it, reaffirm the Geneva Conventions.
I could go on, but you get the point.
Democrats should use their newfound clout to offer ideas for tackling America’s hard problems. Even if these bills get vetoed by the President, at least they set out an agenda for where the nation ought to be heading.
That’s what the election of 2008 ought to be about.
ROBERT REICH, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley.