10 Pledges to Demand from Democrats
The current issue of The Nation magazine contains an important essay by Bob Borosage, head of the Center for America's Future. Like many of us, Bob has spent the last few years watching in awe and shock as the Democrats triangulated themselves into irrelevancy. With there being no realistic hope a viable progressive third part will emerge he and other progressive thinkers have been trying to figure out how to round up our wayward mule team and get it hitched back to the right wagon.
Bob's article, "A *Real* Contract With America," is an important step in that direction. In it he lays out a set of clear pledges Democrat candidates can embrace in the upcoming '06 and '08 races.
Such a "contract" is critical if Democrats are going to once again become a great party, and here's why. Democrats will regain some seats in both houses in coming elections. How could they not, considering the mess the GOP has made of things since becoming the majority party? And therein lies the entire current platform of the Democrat Party -- "Vote for us because we are not them."
But winning only because the other team committed too many errors is not the same thing as governing. It's simply being the only other alternative -- the lesser of evils. And that's not a foundation upon which greatness can be built.
You hear it every day in Washington: "Democrats have no ideas, no programs, no deeply held beliefs, no lines in the sand they will not cross." The only discernible passion Democrats display is a passion to be in power again. But in power to do what? You tell me. I have no friggin idea, and I deeply suspect neither do they.
That's why we need to force them to sign a contract with us this time. To put it bluntly, we don't trust them any longer. They've double-crossed at every major moment -- on war, on taxes, on the environment, on health care. They took or votes and our hopes and bargained them away to the enemy for the political equivalent of nylons, smokes and chocolate bars.
So I took the points Bob listed in his article, "embellished" them and put them into the form of 10 contractual pledges Democrat candidates can and should embrace. (To see Bob's original -- un-Pizzo'ed -- list click here.) Here is my list, which began as Bob's list, and will hopefully become every Democrat's list:
A Progressive Contract With America
If elected to office I promise to fully, enthusiastically and aggressively work to pass legislation that achieves the following goals:
So, maybe you should email or mail this to your elected representative and let him/her know that, if they intend to run for re-election the price of your vote is their signature on this document.
We Will Bring the Troops Home. Our military has been stretched to the breaking point through a series of unwise deployments, particularly the war in Iraq. We will begin rebuilding America's all-volunteer military by first setting a date-certain for withdrawal from Iraq, beginning with National Guard and reservists. We will pass legislation requiring US troops begin leaving Iraq at the rate of 15,000 a month. We will work as closely as possible with Iraqi government officials to make this withdraw orderly while continuing to provide them the resources needed to train and equip their own soldiers and police forces.
We Will Crack Down on Corruption. The revolving door between corporate lobbies and high public office must be closed. We will pass legislation prohibiting legislators, their senior aides and executive branch political appointees from lobbying for two years after leaving office. We will let the sun shine into the deepest corners by requiring detailed public reporting of all contacts between lobbyists and legislators and the timely posting of such contacts on the Web. We pledge to apply these rules to all, regardless of party, as one way to take big money out of politics.
We Will Make Public Officials Accountable. When public officials fail to do their job, as in the pre-9/11 and WMD intellegence faliures, we will require an independent investigation be launched so that no official's actions, regardless of rank or position, escapes review. We will 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. And we will attack fraud, waste and abuse, beginning with the pork-barrel squandering of national security funds.
We Will Unleash New Energy for America. We understand that the "age of oil," is nearing an end. Therefore we pledge to launch and fund a concerted drive towards real energy independence for America. We must approach this task with the same sense of urgency, funding and attention that the nation gave to the Manhattan Project. We will focus these efforts solely on mainstreaming renewable, non-polluting sources of energy such as hydrogen, wind and solar, with the goal of achieving total energy independence no later than 2020.
We Will Rebuild America First. We will pass legislation rescinding Bush's tax cuts for the already wealthy and corporations in order to create more jobs here than overseas. We will accomplish that, in part, by using the additional tax revenue to create good-paying jobs rebuilding America's decaying infrastructure.
We Will Make Work Pay Once Again. There are only three nations on earth with such a vast disparity between rich and poor, Russia, Mexico and the United States. It is a disgraceful effect of GOP economic policies that favor corporations and the wealthy while ignoring hard working Americans. While CEO pay has moved steadily upward, the pay of working Americans has fallen, in many cases below the official poverty level. We promise to reverse that trend, beginning by passing legislation raising the minimum wage to a level that reflects current economic reality. We will encourage workers, including white collar workers, to take a hand in their own destinies by joining unions, as well as becoming shareholders in the companies that employ them and fully participating in both union and shareholder activities. We will insist that any companies that receive government contracts pay the prevailing wage.
We Will Make Healthcare Affordable. We pledge to fix America's broken healthcare system, a to do so quickly. We will study and then propose a single-payer, universal, healthcare system to be in place no later than 2015. We will also immediately reverse the Republican shameful sellout to the pharmaceutical industry by empowering Medicare to bargain down drug prices andallowing people to purchase drugs from safe outlets abroad.
We Will Protect Retirement Security. We pledge to strengthen Social Security. We will not risk Social Security by privatizing it. Instead we will modernize Social Security by, in part, recognizing that people live and work longer than they did 75 years ago.We will also modernize the ways the Social Security Trust Fund is invested to assure it always grows at least as fast as core inflation. We will also require companies to treat the shop floor like the top floor when it comes to managing their pensions and healthcare benefits.
We Will Keep the American Dream Alive. We will immediately stop and reverse current GOP efforts to cut eligibility for college grants and to limit loans. Instead we will offer a contract to American students: If they graduate from high school, they will be able to afford college or the higher technical training needed to be successful in today's economy. We will pay for this by preserving the estate tax on the wealthiest multimillion-dollar estates in America.
We Will Provide Real Security for America. We will foster and lead an aggressive international alliance to track down stateless terrorists, capture or kill them and confiscate their assets. Captured terrorists will be always be treated in accordance with international law. We will increase efforts and funding to track down and secure "loose nukes." We will 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. We will also affirm the reality that no nation can ever be secure as long as its borders are not. We will bring order and security to our borders by increasing border patrols and controls and by instituting a fair, manageable and humane guest worker program. We will also aggressively prosecute employers who employ or exploit illegal immigrant workers.