The Challenge for Democrats
Democrats will be challenged in the next two years by tugs in different directions. They will want to do a good job for the American people so that they are re-elected in 2008 and gain the presidency. One group of pragmatists, represented by Tim Walz, Minnesota Representative-elect, believe that the American public voted for “healing.” Americans want, according to Walz, a time to recover from a broken government riddled with bad policies and corruption. On the other hand, several other new Democrats are ideologues, similar to their Republican counterparts that took office in 1994, who led the Republican Revolution and produced the Contract with America. That era ushered in a more conservative America in many ways, leading to such things as tax cuts and a more hawkish attitude towards defense.
The goals of the present Democrats already contain contradictions. The next Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for example, wants fiscal responsibility. She would like to balance the budget and reduce the national debt, using a “pay as you go” system of funding. Yet, already, she and several Democrats will be pushing for things like making college tuition tax deductible, cutting student loan interest rates, increased health care coverage, funding embryonic stem cell research, and a national cap on industrial carbon dioxide emissions. All these worthy programs cost a lot of money.
The Democratic theory is that they will pay for all this, and more, by getting rid of “tax cuts for the rich.” They also want to make life more fair by raising the minimum wage.
Republicans versus Democrats on the Economy
The Republicans believe that Democrats will be raising taxes on everyone, not just the rich. They judge that raising taxes even just on the “rich” will hurt the economy, killing the goose that laid the golden egg—which is the present robust economic situation, with low unemployment and the highest stock market in history. Republicans believe that raising the minimum wage will also hurt business.
Democrats counter that yes there are plenty of jobs, but that they are “Wallmart jobs,” low-paying with low benefits and no unions. Democrats believe that raising the minimum wage will not hurt business. In fact, they point to the Henry Ford theory that paying workers a livable wage will enable them to buy more products, hence helping business.
In addition, Democrats will want to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare patients; do something about industrial job loss overseas; and fight President Bush on any privatization of Social Security.
Presidential Power and Investigations
Bush will continue to try to strengthen presidential powers, an area where Democrats think Bush already has grabbed too much.
Several Democrats want investigations into missteps in the war, treatment of terrorism detainees and Bush’s expansion of executive power. Pelosi is more moderate on this. She rejects out of hand, for example, any impeachment proceedings against Bush. She was pleased that Bush accepted the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
On Iraq, Democrats clearly look for withdrawal, and place some hope in the bipartisan Iraq Study Group—led by James A. Baker III, former secretary of state, and former Representative Lee H. Hamilton. The Baker crowd and others like Condoleeza Rice, considered to be pragmatists, now have the President’s ear, as opposed to the hawkish Neo-Cons like Rumsfeld and Cheney, who were the most influential advisors up until this election.
The Baker report is expected to present two alternative policies. Redeploy and Contain calls for the phased withdrawal of US troops to bases near Iraq where they could be redeployed against new threats, such as an emerging terrorist organization, anywhere in the region. Stability First calls for maintaining a presence in Baghdad and encouraging insurgents to enter the political arena, while Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria, would be asked to help end the fighting.
The Democrats also want to enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Pelosi and the Democrats will try to be on their best behavior, so corruption will actually go way down in government for awhile, which is great. Republicans were disgraceful in this area.
Pelosi will be able to enforce fiscal responsibility with her colleagues until the 2008 elections; but then, after they have retained their majority, their Democratic instincts will overwhelm them and they will begin enacting their social and economic agendas, and will raise taxes significantly across the board. This will hurt the “little people” that they say they love.
On the other hand, I don’t think raising the minimum wage will hurt the American economy or business as much as is feared. I actually do believe in the Henry Ford theory—that raising worker’s wages will help them buy more products, which helps business eventually.
I don’t know what the Democrats, though, can do about Wallmart and the globalization of the economy. They want to re-investigate our trade agreements. Can we go back to protectionism? Can you put the runaway horse back in the barn? I somehow doubt it.
I don’t mind Democrats letting us buy prescription drugs from Canada, which is a free-market solution to drug prices. I would mind, though, if they engage in price caps. This is tampering with the economy with socialism, and leads to bleak economics, again hurting the “little people” eventually.
As far as Iraq goes, I have high hopes for the Baker commission. Both their solutions seem feasible. Plus, if you noticed, I proposed one of their solutions in an earlier post.
As far as investigations against Bush and Republicans, I say cool it Dems. Americans just want the mess to stop. They are not in the mood for congressional hearings and righteous indignation. Just stay clean and try sincerely to solve our problems.
As far as your agenda goes, Madam Speaker, congratulations. This is the first time I’ve heard a Democratic agenda in years. I may not agree with all of it, but at least now we know your intentions, and we can debate them.