Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The news this election cycle seems to be primarily about what Republicans in Congress and the WH are doing wrong...and it keeps cycling against them, from Iraq (10 US troops killed yesterday) to sex scandals to lobbying scandals to military contract scandals. So, a lot of Democrats are doing the smart thing in their races -- buying ads to raise their own name recognition while tying their opponents to Bush and otherwise staying out of their opponent's way if he's got enough scandals already.
(Oh, and the accidental GOP talking point "can't tell a Sunni from a Shiite" ain't helpin' the Daddy Party, either.)
That means that one question isn't coming up a lot -- what would the Democrats actually do if they win one or both houses of Congress? After all, this isn't a "Contract With America" year, but more of a "Throw the Bums Out" year. That's why this piece by Harold Meyerson is interesting.
In the House, the Democrats have made clear that there's a first tier of legislation they mean to bring to a vote almost immediately after the new Congress convenes. It includes raising the minimum wage, repealing the Medicare legislation that forbids the government from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices, replenishing student loan programs, funding stem cell research and implementing those recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission that have thus far languished.
Meyerson says the bulk of these measures are popular with the majority of Americans, so they'll be difficult to Republicans to filibuster and/or for Bush to veto. (If he does veto them, then Republicans with elections in their future will have to consider their options.)
Dems in Congress will also be likely to return to the House rules of previous years and make at least an overture to ethics:
Cognizant that they will owe their victory in part to the public's revulsion at the way Congress does (or avoids) business, the Democrats also plan to revise House rules to enable the opposition party to introduce amendments and to sit on conference committees, from which Republicans have routinely excluded them since Tom DeLay became majority leader. They also will ban members from accepting gifts and paid trips from lobbyists.
Perhaps the one answer you hear on the street is that "at least" Bush and Republicans are "doing something" about terrorism and the war in Iraq. And Iraq would certainly be the Democrats toughest issue, although having Bush in the WH for two more years to blame for it will be handy. Meanwhile, James Baker may give them some cover:
Not every issue that the Democrats will address if they control Congress will be so easy. The war in Iraq -- to which, if they win, they will owe their victory -- will surely prove the most nettlesome. If the Baker-Hamilton commission recommends a phased withdrawal, as some reports have speculated, the Democrats may be handed a relatively easy way out, whether or not the administration goes along with it. Should the administration persist in staying the course, Congress then could pass the kind of legislation it passed in the last years of the Vietnam War, stipulating the kinds of uses to which our military spending could -- and could not -- be put. At the same time, the ranking House Democrats in military matters -- Pennsylvania's John Murtha and Missouri's Ike Skelton -- might seek to increase the size of the Army, which the Iraq war has shown to be stretched to its limits.
Doesn't sound too bad, does it? We can even toss in another fun factoid: Democrats are better for the economy. So, good times ahead, right? (Cart...meet horse.)
Yeah, and Trent Lott ought to be run out of this state (not to mention office) for telling the world, once again, that Mississippi is filled with a bunch of backward bigots with his "I can't tell them apart" statement. Thanks, Trent, for helping us show the world how far we've come. What a caveman you are. World, Mississippi is so much more than Trent Lott. Don't believe the racist hype.
I'm quoting this quoted-quoted passage from Todd's "Dems are better for the economy" link above because it's so completely wonderful -- and completely true. (The linked URL makes it seem that this must have been from a September 2004 entry at http://newdonkey.blogspot.com, but the "Archives" link there doesn't seem to work, so I couldn't confirm this.) If you had to identify one simple reason for [the South's] grinding poverty, it was the perpetual delusion of southern political and business leaders that the region had to stay poor and dumb in order to attract the capital necessary to eventually climb out of the ditch. Like some of today's third world countries, the South, right up to the 1970s, was paralyzed by the idea that decent wages, unionization, protection of natural resources, business regulation, progressive taxes, and quality education were all impossible because they would "price" the region out of opportunities for economic development. All of the South's social and economic weaknesses were perceived as essential to maintaining a "good business climate." And that benighted belief also helped perpetuate Jim Crow, since the ability to keep roughly a third of the region's population in semi-serfdom gave the South a cost advantage no other part of the country could ever meet. Gradually, by the 1970s and 1980s, southern political leaders, and even many business leaders, woke up to the fact that deliberately maintaining a low standard of living wasn't worth the paltry payoff in low-wage textile jobs. And slowly but surely, a consensus developed that decent education and adequate public services were positive, not negative, factors in long-term economic development. The states that pursued this "high road" strategy--especially North Carolina and Georgia--tended to prosper. The states that stayed on the low road--especially Mississippi and Alabama--didn't. That's why it is so profoundly depressing to see the theory of economic development that my home region finally began to abandon over the last few decades now being embraced by the national government as the way for America to successfully compete in a global economy. I'll just add to that the fact that William Winter tried to put Mississippi onto the high road during his governorship, but it didn't take, sadly.
- Tim Kynerd