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New Agenda for the Democrats-Ideas, not Policies
By Tom Proebsting


June 18, 2006

The Democrats announced their new political agenda last Wednesday (June 14, 2006). They call it "A New Direction for America." The plan promotes such policies as increasing the minimum wage, cutting interest rates on student loans, and putting new restrictions on lobbying. However, the program, though long on policies, is short on ideas. Looking at the blueprint, there are no ideas.

There is a difference between a policy and an idea. An example of a policy is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The corresponding idea is that people who deposit their money in a financial institution are entitled to a certain degree of safety in the eventuality of a run on bank deposits. In one word, the idea is safety.

The Republicans are not short on policies or on ideas. Their ideas include a safer America, lower taxes, stronger family values, and smaller government. They push their agenda no matter who approves or disapproves of it. The Democrats need to take on the same attitude.

I propose a new and expanded idea for the Democratic Party-one of benevolence. If society's denizens are expected to evolve, it should be in the direction of empathy, kindness, giving, and peaceful coexistence.

Benevolence may be used in the example of prison reform. The Democrats should promote the idea of abolishing capital punishment, the legalization of marijuana, and the plan of prisoner work release programs. Killing a fellow human being who is accused of murder is a savage act and will not bring back the deceased victim. Also, there are too many serving jail time for dealing in marijuana, a drug which many consider less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. Finally, instead of persons rotting in jail because they are accused of stealing, let them free so they can work full-time in order to repay their victims. The released felon may be electronically monitored.

Benevolence is the idea. Used in prison reform, three examples of policies are born. In the long term, the Democrats need an idea if they are to remain a viable alternative to the party of the conservatives. An idea may spawn many policies.

Benevolence may be used in the area of foreign policy. Instead of keeping our troops in Iraq indefinitely, let's pull them out, station them in neighboring Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, and send funds to the new government for the rebuilding of the war-torn nation. The insurgency is likely to abate after the coalition forces leave. If not, our troops won't be far away.

Benevolence may be used in public education. Let's cut or eliminate college tuition and allow more financially strapped students to attend and obtain their degrees. A better educated workforce is a huge advantage for America. In addition, let's change the curriculum for our public junior and senior high schools. We can teach practical subjects, along with the basics, simple but effective curriculum such as balancing a checkbook or checking fluid levels under the hood of a car. Also, we should teach our children to think critically, to plan strategically, to solve problems, and to use their imaginations. Rote memory just doesn't complete an education.

Benevolence may be used in the medical profession. Let's pass a law for a national health insurance plan. Free medical aid and prescription drugs are components of a policy that is too long overdue.

Benevolence may be used in the energy field. Instead of relying on Middle Eastern oil, let's spend the money to find alternative fuels or an alternative to the internal combustion engine. Can we develop electric cars so they can replace our current spate of polluting gas hogs? I'm sure we can as some of the world's greatest minds reside in America.

Where will the funds for these policies come from? If we rely less on imported oil and spend less on military adventures, we may have more than enough money. A fine example is the story from the New York Times which reported Friday that Congress has passed nine supplemental appropriations bills for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the tune of $420 billion. This spending is outside of and in addition to the normal federal budget. As you can imagine, changes from the idea of benevolence will not happen overnight.

Don't make the mistake of assuming these are high-sounding ideas or policies. They are not. Our prisons are over-crowded, changes are needed in Iraq, alterations are needed in our somewhat-inept educational system, too many Americans are neglecting their health due to sky-high medical costs, and oil is a finite resource. To think otherwise is to stick your head in the sand.

Benevolence is an idea which is long overdue. I would like to see the Democrats adopt it. If they do not, then the Republicans or a third party may beat them to it.

Tom Proebsting
Reply to:
Moberly, MO - USA

About: Tom Proebsting is a writer and a blogger.


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