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Sunday, May 14, 2006

What Is To Be Done

by the Democratic Majority in the House of Representatives if one is elected November ?

The quote should make it clear that I am advocating class war. Some smart people and some dumb people (listed below) discuss how the Republicans will welcome a target, since all they are able to do is attack and how Democrats will have to be careful to choose which crimes and misdeeds to investigate first and to keep their individual egos in check. All true.

I think I have something to say about another issue. It is alleged that it is useful to be in opposition, because the opposition doesn't have to actually design policies that work. Policies that sound good but are voted down by the majority are fine. Also the opposition doesn't have to count noses. They lose in any case so they don't have to compromise with members of the delegation who are beholden to special interests (that means you Sen Carper).

All true. On the other hand, they don't get to schedule hearings and no one pays attemtion to bills that don't get into committee let alone out of committee. If the Democrats control the house, they should be able to pass bills that will be excellent policy, wildly popular and blocked by Republicans in the Senate or vetoed by Bush. The Republican priorities are so awful that it is easy to find excellent popular reforms which they will not accept. The reforms are likely to be so popular that bought Democrats will be afraid to vote against the caucus. The only risk (near certainty) is that the party leadership will not promote such reforms because donors or inside the beltway pundits disapprove.

What is to be done ?

1. Class War. As a policy matter it is urgently necessary to make the tax code more progressive. This policy is wildly popular. Evidence from past tax reforms shows that it is easy to cut taxes of 95% of Americans, reduce the deficit and improve the economy. This is a no brainer. Why am I sure the Democrats won't use the issue to crush the Republicans.

2. Medicare Plan D. It is obvious that paying private insurance companies more per patient than Medicare costs to convince them to compete with Medicare is insane. The Republicans can't stand a debate on this issue. Also, of course, it is insane to forbid the medicare administration from bargaining with drug companies. Again no way the Republicans can stand debate on this issue and no way they can keep the debate out of the press if the Democrats control a house of congress.

3. Immigration. The Republicans are tearing each other to pieces on this issue. The Democrats are divided too, but not too divided to keep the debate going and mainly watch the Republicans denounce each other.

4. Port Security and Chemical Plant security. Wide open waiting for an attack.

5. The Bridge to Nowhere. Republican pork is not the main cause of the deficit, but it can be a bridge to the Whitehouse.

6. Oversight and investigations. Not the only thing the House is for but very nice, very exiting. Maybe a bit too exiting as argued at length by 2 smart people and some others below.

Digby, Ad Nags and Billmon discuss the possible disadvantages of a Democratic Victory in the House. Billmon's point is that "having control of all three branches -- with a opposition party that's virtually invisible -- has clearly caused a major malfunction in the Rovian attack machine. Right now it's spinning around like a heat-seeking weapons system without anything to lock on to." An excellent point as always.

He also recalls the Iran Contra hearings, which remind me of Michael Kinsley's prescient column written when the scandal broke in which he asked a series of questions that last of which was something like "but the biggest most puzzling question is 'how are the Democrats going to manage to blow this one'." Somehow they managed and Billmon is clearly both right to be concerned and able to think of a relevant analogy.

In contrast the crook and the killer quoted by Nagourney warn the Democrats not to make the same mistakes the Republicans made by shutting down the government and impeaching an extremely popular president. As Digby pithily puts it "Lord knows the Republicans have suffered in the wilderness ever since then."

Depithing Digby, I note that, while the Republicans hurt the country and damaged their reputation with pundits and reporters (who couldn't help feeling a bit guilty about participating in the insane idiocy) they also went on to almost win a Presidential election against a serving Vice President during an almost unprecedented boom (and with a depraved idiot for a candidate too). Only a fool (or a Republican) would argue that it would be a bad idea for the Democrats to aggressively investigate the Bush administration if and when they get the power of the suppoena.

However, it is certainly true that the docket will be crowded. I agree with everyone that it would be better if the Democrats focused (also I wouldn't mind if chickens had lips). The press and public can't handle more than 2 or 3 scandals at a time and the press will only go into feeding frenzy if they have one main juicy scandal to sink their teeth into. Clearly various chairpeople of various committees will insist that the scandal under their jurisdiction is the key scandal. Thus they will fight each other for attention and, quite likely, begin repeating Republican talking points about each other. Their behavior will be probably be less pathetically attention seeking if said chairmen are all representatives. As Billmon puts it "Grabbing the Senate would help, although the advantages -- in terms of having a more high-profile platform for investigations -- are offset by the increased attention it would bring to Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden and (if he survives his primary) Joe Leiberman. To my way of thinking, any day those three aren't on television is a good day for the progressive movement -- and we don't have enough good days as it is."

Man, just cutting and pasting Digby and Billmon makes me feel smart. Ah yes, avoiding narcissism will be a problem, but I'm sure we can handle it.

But I mean really with so much appalling misconduct to investigate and with a public already convinced and eager for proof, even the Democrats are going to have trouble blowing these ones.

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