Dems, keep your eyes on the prize

Commentator Robert Reich

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

SCOTT JAGOW: So, Democrats are back in power in the House and if a couple more races go their way, they'll have control of the Senate as well. Commentator Robert Reich has some advice for the party: Focus on the future, not the past.


ROBERT REICH: The 2008 Presidential campaign begins today.

Whatever the Democrats do with their newfound power over the next two years will be with that big 2008 prize in mind.

Now, some Democrats want to expose the malfeasance and nonfeasance of the Bush Administration. Find out who really knew what and when with regard to weapons of mass destruction, Abu Ghraib, Katrina, payoffs to Abramoff and all the other rot.

That's understandable, but it would be far better if Democrats used their newfound power to lay out a new agenda for America.

There's no point digging up more dirt. Bush isn't running again. John McCain, the Republican's most likely choice to replace him, has distanced himself so far from the administration that no amount of dirt will soil him.

Besides, the public and the media are already suffering from outrage fatigue. And the Democrats wouldn't be credible, anyway. It will be easy for Republicans to dismiss their efforts as more of the same old partisan bickering.

The fact is, the public is sick of mudslinging. Instead of dwelling on what's gone wrong, Democrats should focus on what to do right.

For example:

Cut the Alternative Minimum Tax so it doesn't slam the middle class, and roll back the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Open Medicare to every American who needs affordable health insurance, and use Medicare's resulting huge bargaining clout to reduce drug prices.

Bar companies from deducting from their corporate income taxes any executive pay in excess of $1 million a year.

Raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation.

Reform Social Security by eliminating the ceiling on payments so people earning over $100,000 a year pay the same percent of their income as everyone else.

Raise fuel economy standards, eliminate subsidies to the oil companies, and use the money instead for basic research and development in non-carbon-based energy.

Renegotiate the Kyoto Protocols on carbon emissions. And while we're at it, reaffirm the Geneva Conventions.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Democrats should use their newfound clout to offer ideas for tackling America's hard problems. Even if these bills get vetoed by the President, at least they set out an agenda for where the nation ought to be heading.

That's what the election of 2008, which starts today, ought to be about.

JAGOW: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich teaches public policy at the University of California Berkeley. In Los Angeles, I'm Scott Jagow. Thanks for tuning in and have a great day.

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