A *Real* Contract With America
Can Democrats Get Their Groove Back?
Democrats are likely to pick up seats next year just by continuing to hammer at GOP failures and corruption. But to engineer a landmark election that dislodges incumbents and marks a fundamental shift, Democrats have to make themselves the party of change, championing an activist government in service to the common good. House leader Nancy Pelosi has stated that Democrats are working up their version of a Contract.
In concept, the task isn't too difficult. Simply putting forth popular progressive alternatives that contrast with glaring Republican failures would provide a clear platform for change. Central elements could include:
Crack Down on Corruption
: In contrast to conservative cronyism, shut the revolving door between corporate lobbies and high office. Prohibit legislators, their senior aides and executive branch political appointees from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Require detailed public reporting of all contacts between lobbyists and legislators. Pledge to apply this to all, regardless of party. Take the big money out of politics by pushing for clean elections legislation.
Make America Safe
: Commit to an independent investigation of the Department of Homeland Security's failures in response to Katrina. Detail action on the urgent needs that this Administration has ignored: Improve port security, bolster first responders and public health capacity, and require adequate defense planning by high-risk chemical plants. End the pork-barrel squandering of security funds.
Unleash New Energy for America
: In contrast to the Big Oil policies of the Administration that leave us more dependent on foreign supplies, pledge to launch a concerted drive for energy independence like the one called for by the Apollo Alliance. Create new jobs by investing in efficiency and alternative energy sources, helping America capture the growing green industries of the future.
Rebuild America First
: Rescind Bush's tax cuts for the rich and corporations, which create more jobs in China than here, and use that money to put people to work building the infrastructure vital to a high-wage economy. Start with challenging the Administration's trickle-down plans for the Gulf Coast, which will victimize once more those who suffered the most.
Make Work Pay
: In contrast to the Bush economy, in which profits and CEO salaries soar while workers' wages stagnate and jobs grow insecure, put government on the side of workers. Raise the minimum wage. Empower workers to join unions by allowing card-check enrollment. Pay the prevailing wage in government contracts. Stop subsidizing the export of jobs abroad.
Make Healthcare Affordable for All
: Pledge to fix America's broken healthcare system, with the goal of moving to universal, affordable healthcare by 2015. Start by reversing the Republican sellout to the pharmaceutical industry by empowering Medicare to bargain down costs and by allowing people to purchase drugs from safe outlets abroad.
Protect Retirement Security
: In contrast to Bush's plan to dismantle Social Security, pledge to strengthen it and to require companies to treat the shop floor like the top floor when it comes to pensions and healthcare.
Keep the Promise of Opportunity
: Instead of Republican plans to cut eligibility for college grants and to limit loans, offer a contract to American students: If they graduate from high school, they will be able to afford the college or higher technical training they have earned. Pay for this by preserving the tax on the wealthiest multimillion-dollar estates in America.
Refocus on Real Security for America
: In contrast with Bush's pledge to stay in Iraq indefinitely, sapping our military and breeding terrorists, put forth a firm timeline for removing the troops from Iraq. Use the money saved to invest in security at home. Lead an aggressive international alliance to track down stateless terrorists, to get loose nukes under control and to fight nuclear proliferation.