Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What The Democrats Should Do The Next Two Years

Well, I had gotten caught up in a few other projects, namely a National Novel Writing Contest that naturally I'm not going to finish in time (sigh). I had tried writing up a post just before the Nov. 2006 midterm election about the horrific amount of mudslinging and election-day dirty tricks that had been going on, and any suggestions on how to fix our electoral system so that our elections are honest, fair and smudge-free. It's still on my draft board, and someday I'll get around to it.

Instead, with the election over and with the Democratic Party now in firm control of both houses of Congress, the big topic inside the Beltway has been "How evil and backstabbing" that mean ole Wicked Witch of the West Nancy Pelosi is. Sigh. Some things don't change, do they? Seriously, the big topic has been "What will the Dems do with their control of Congress?"

Some issues are unavoidable. Iraq has become such a mess that 'Civil War' is now the only way to describe the situation there.

Some issues are so easy to highlight. One example: Raising the minimum wage was practically the only nation-wide campaign theme the Dems had going. Considering that at the state level EVERY STATE that had a Minimum Wage Increase referendum passed their referendums (meaning that this is something voters across the board WANT), you know the Dems will be voting a national wage increase first chance they get.

Some issues had been stealthy. No one wanted to talk about how a Democrat-controlled Congress will fare against a Bush Administration that had gotten used to doing things their way under the last 6 years of One-Party-Rule. But now it's here. And now you have to consider the increase in congressional subpoenas that are going to head down Pennsylvania Ave come January...

So, here it is, my laundry list suggestion of things the Democrats should, and could, do now they have control of Congress.

I've divided this up into three sections: Domestic Issues, Foreign Policy Issues, and Reform Issues.

Domestic Issues:
  • Obviously, boost the minimum wage. Nearly every newspaper editor, TV pundit, and street-corner prophet knows the Dems will make this a signature opening move on Day One. You may hear screams from the pro-CEO crowd that increasing wages will force companies to raise prices (eek! Inflation!). But things have been increasing in price already without the salary adjustments to average American wages since the last wage increase. Businesses haven't been including Cost-Of-Living increases to people's Annual Evaluation increases (or in some cases the other way around) in the last 25 years, whereas before both COLAs and Evaluation increases used to be the way of things in the 1950s and 1960s, back when wages really meant something. There ought to be ways to ensure that the coming wage increase won't affect inflation. The priority is to improve people's wage earnings: there are far too many families sliding toward or are now under that Poverty Line...
  • Another suggestion I have is add a Salary Cap to CEOs. Oooooooh, that's gonna touch a nerve. Back in the 1950s, CEOs were making roughly 20 times more than the average middle class worker. Today: it's over 200 times more. CEOs and upper management get massive salaries not to mention perks that average workers don't get, and along with that they also get better Annual Evaluation boosts to their earnings (I saw an USA Today article, swear I did, that showed CEOs getting 25 percent increases where the average worker got a 2-5 percent increase. I am still looking for that article and will cite ASAP). If companies are serious about holding down costs, why don't they do something about how expensive their top employees really are? Oh, right, we'd be taking away their ability to pay for that 5th executive golf course country club they joined yesterday. And that 5-car garage mansion with 10 extra dining rooms they never use but love to show off. So here's my suggestion: Put a Cap on any CEO/President of a company employing more than 100 people to where said CEO/President's salary (combined with perks such as stock options, performance bonuses, company-owned items like cars planes and vacation homes) is 20 times more than the average non-management level employee. It should do two things: cut down on high-priced CEO salaries, and increase the employees' wages so that their average wage goes up to give said CEO justalittlebitmoremoney. Don't call me a communist: Call me a fan of the NFL. Thank you Pete Rozelle. Woot.
  • Do something about Medicare. The 'reform' package passed under Bush's watch has proved too expensive (that they lied about the costs to Congress before the bill passed remains one of my major grievances with the Bushies). The costs of pills, one of the biggest items on any bill for those on Medicare, have not gone down. There are serious flaws in the Medicare program, and while a majority of Americans don't see it as a higher priority (Iraq, Iraq, and oh yeah Britney's impending divorce) they still feel it's a major problem in need of fixing. Personally, I'd suggest doing something to lower prescription costs, again doing it in a way that the costs don't get shifted somewhere else; I'd also do something about the increased bureaucracy and cut back on that. And there's something about how Plan B on Medicare got twisted to where it will collapse on itself by the next decade: That doesn't sound good.
  • Alternate Energy Programs: Very simple reasoning. Let's get rid of dependence on foreign fuel. We're in the Middle East because of oil: we want peace in the region to improve our access to it (and there are some who want war in the region to hinder our access and increase the value of the oil we can get). We wouldn't care much about Venezuela being run by an egomanaic if there wasn't oil there. Oh, and a lot of the renewable 'alternate energy' resources don't pollute as much as oil and coal and nuclear power do.

Foreign Policy Issues:
  • Obviously. Iraq. Oh, yes, let's talk about cutting and running. Because that's pretty much the only option left to us. There may be a blue-ribbon committee coming out with its recommendations soon, but what options we have aren't healthy ones. We can't stay, that much is obvious, and sooner or later our troops need to exit Iraq (and head back to Afghanistan where we're losing the one real victory Bush had against the Taliban and Al Qaida). Other options include partitioning Iraq, effectively Balkanizing the nation into its three ethnic sections: North Iraq becomes Kurdistan; Central Iraq for the Sunnis; South Iraq for the Shia. Problems with that? Most times a nation gets split up like that, the surviving new nations hate each other with a vengeance (try India and Pakistan) and immediately go to war on each other (hello, what's left of Yugoslavia!), especially when they'll be stoked to anger by their neighbors (wanna trust the Sunni nation to Syria and the Shia nation to Iran?). Plus, Turkey will not be thrilled with a Kurdish state at their border while Kurdish insurgents inside their nation will be pumped with the urge to have their parts of Turkey annexed to the new Kurd nation. Our other options would include getting other nations to take over the rebuilding process (no one will want the job); increase our troop deployment and go back to waging a full-time war against the insurgents and outside agitators (we don't have the manpower anymore: the Two-Front Army planned for years has finally been stretched too thin); a more drastic option would be to spread the war to the nations most likely supporting the failures in Iraq as a way of cutting back the horrors in Iraq (meaning invading Iran and/or Syria, which would inflame more Islamic extremists across Asia and Africa into thinking this is a full-out Christian Crusade against Islam). One option that makes the most sense is getting Iran and Syria into direct negotiations and barter out a deal to end their support of the insurgency. My suggestion would be to bring in all Middle East nations to such a summit: Turkey, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAB, even Egypt and some of the former Russia-stans in the region. I wouldn't bring in Israel or Gaza Palestine into it, either in discussion or by inviting them to said summit: we do that and Syria and Iran will go out of their way to make Israel their bogeyman issue and intentionally fail the talks. I'd bring Lebanon into the mix, but their issues with Syria right now would prove distracting, so that one I'm not sure about. We have got to get all the Middle East nations to recognize that a stable united Iraq is in their mutual best interests. And if it means we have to flat-out bribe some of them into supporting a stable Iraq, well then we'll need to invite China because they've got all our money right now.
  • It's not much, but Congress could do something to improve our international image, which isn't much right now thankyouverymuchGeorge. I dunno, maybe send all the other nations a nice whipped-cream-topping cake, or hey cupcakes from magnolias Bakery mmmmm that ought to work...

Reform Issues:
Corruption turned out to be a major voter-turnout issue, not surprising seeing how the GOP-led Congress was filled to the rafters with lobbyist payoffs, nespotic-like incompetence, self-serving greed, blind ignorance to the criminal activities of colleagues, etc. Now with the GOP out of favor, what can the Dems do?
  • Go back to the Roberts Rule of Order! The GOP during its tenure of power had been very naughty ignoring committee protocols, hiding meetings, refusing to follow voting procedures, what have you. Enforcing rules of order, even on themselves, will go a long way toward making voters trust Congress more than they do now.
  • Strengthen the Ethics Committee. While the Ethics committee for Congress has been notoriously lax in enforcing any kind of ethics on their fellow legislators, under the Gingrinch/DeLay years (forget Hastert, he was following DeLay's lead more often than not) the committee became a flat-out joke. When DeLay got caught committing major infractions no one could ignore, his buddy Hastert simply got rid of the committee members they didn't trust and installed lackeys who would look the other way. There were a handful of other things the Ethics Committee never got around to facing, and Abramoff was at the center of most of it. If there was anything the Ethics Committee did right... it was probably in their selection of what breakfast pastries to have at their morning sessions. If I were the Democrats, even though this might come back to bite their own party on their collective ass, I would grant the Ethics Committee more independence from Congress to prevent tampering the way DeLay/Hastert did; I would grant them greater investigation enforcement powers, and the ability to issue criminal charges where warranted; I would do whatever it took to end all of the blatantly criminal activities going on between congresspersons and lobbyists, and even all the subtle sh-t too.
  • Make no-bid contracts illegal. Investigate the existing no-bid contracted companies and make sure they stop ripping us taxpayers off.
  • Protect the Constitution from Bush/Cheney's attempt to seize all the power under the Executive branch. Make the White House accountable to the law. That does mean subpoenas and investigations into a lot of the criminal activity, and yes it is criminal what they are trying to do.

There. That's my laundry list. Now, back to figuring out how to end mudslinging without destroying the First Amendment...