Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saving Idiot Democrats From Themselves

An article in today's New York Times talked about how with the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, that earmarking -- the wasteful spending on such projects as Sen Ted Stevens (R - Alaska) proposing a $250 million bridge to nowhere -- would change from a Republican flavor to a Democratic one. If so, that would be a mistake.

The Democrats can't get too cocky here, or they will get bitch-slapped in 2008. Yes, they won the House, but either by running conservative candidates in Red States or replacing liberal Republicans with Democrats in Blue States. In terms of the Senate, the Dems picked up VA because George Allen may have run the worst senatorial campaign in history; they picked up Ohio because the state was awash in corruption; they picked up Missouri because McCaskill ran a skillful campaign and Talent barely won his seat before; they picked up Rhode Island because Dems control the state and could not risk a well-liked Republican returned to the Senate; they picked up Pennsylvania because PA is a pro-life, but Democratic state; and they picked up Montana because Burns ran an awful campaign and Tester is a conservative Democrat.

In other words, this was no ideological revolution. Voters were angry with the war and corruption. They also want a government that works.

OK, so the first thing Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi does is back Jack Murtha against Steny Hoyer for her second-in-command. The media mada a big deal of her "losing", but I think she may have scored points with Murtha and his supporters for loyalty, which will come in handy.

But, the Intelligence Committee chair is another problem. Pelosi and Jane Harmon don't get along. Harmon is actually term-limited, but replacing her with Alcee Hastings is not a good move (not with his past impeachment as a federal judge). A good compromise would be NJ Representative Rush Holt, who has experience in intelligence in the state department.

Appointments aside, the key becomes the legislative agenda. The Democrats have to forget any thoughts about impeachment or major, time-consuming investigations. An examination of possible graft in expenditures in Iraq (like, what happened to the missing $12 billion) would be fine, but re-fighting why we are in Iraq is pointless. The focus needs to be on the future.

So, push an increase in the minimum wage law.

Eliminate the cap on social security contributions. Right now, if you make a salary more than $125,000, you have no more social security taken out. Eliminate the cap. The people will see that as fairness, and a way of helping to fix social security.

Keep all the tax cuts in places, except for those making over $250,000 per year. Restore the rate to its 2000 level. Link that with an indexing of the alternative minimum tax. The argument becomes that letting the wealthy off the hook while jamming up more people with the alternative minimum tax is unfair.

Push legislation to fix the so-called "donut" in the prescription drug plan -- the period of time when the benefit runs out and seniors have to pay full price for their prescriptions. Find the money for that with savings by fixing loopholes in the law that don't allow for cost-savings strategies, such as competitive purchasing of drugs.

Start a serious program of alternative energy. Explore sugar-cane-based ethanol, which is much cheaper than corn-based ethanel (ask Brazil). Raise the economy standards for Detroit (and any imports) in terms of fuel efficiency, and put the industry on a short leash. They have been fighting this since the 70s.

There are other ideas, which I will come back to another time.


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