Many Americans have grown increasingly frustrated with the performance of President Bush and his GOP colleagues in Congress, and there is no question that the current environment presents Democrats with an opportunity to gain some ground in the fall elections.
But there is a problem. We know we aren't happy with the way things are going, but we have been waiting in vain for the Democrats to tell us just how, exactly, they would make things better.
The wait finally ended last week as the Democratic Leadership Council (the supposedly moderate think tank that propelled one Clinton into the White House and may be poised to try to repeat the feat) unveiled its vision for new-and-improved government to much fanfare at its summer meeting. Its members call their master plan the "American Dream Initiative."
I have read the document, and I can sum it up for you very succinctly. It consists of two major steps:
(1) Repeal the Bush tax breaks that chiefly benefit wealthy individuals and large corporations.
(2) Take the money saved in step 1 and create new government spending programs to appease unhappy, non-wealthy citizens.
This is classic Democratic thinking. They believe there is no problem that can't be solved by a generous government spending program. Among the goodies they are dangling before us are tax breaks and state block grants to encourage more Americans to get a college education, tax breaks for new home buyers, and a plan to provide health care for all U.S. children.
But my favorite part of the plan is what they call the Baby Bond. The Democrats want to give every child in the United States a $500 savings bond at birth, and another one when they turn 10. Is this a great country or what? "Welcome to America, kid. Here's $1,000 just for being born!"
Not mentioned in the American Dream Initiative are any details on how Democrats would deal with the Iraq situation, the terrorist threat or the impending financial meltdown the government is poised to suffer when the Baby Boomers overwhelm Social Security and Medicare in coming years. Perhaps those trifling details will be covered in a sequel.
I have a message for Hilary Clinton (chief author and head cheerleader for the "Initiative") and her Democratic cohorts. Speaking as an independent voter who is thoroughly disenchanted with Bush and his comrades on Capitol Hill, I was open to what you had to say and there was a real opportunity to win me over. And you blew it. You absolutely blew it.
We have real problems. Serious, dire, emergency-type problems like war, enormous budget deficits and the erosion of our civil liberties. And you want to give us targeted tax breaks and Baby Bonds. How very disappointing.
My vote is not for sale. I want a government that can make hard, responsible decisions and tell me what I need to hear, not what they think I want to hear. The last thing we need from our drowning-in-red-ink federal government is a new $500 billion spending program.
Try this campaign slogan on for size: "NO new spending and NO tax cuts for anyone until we get our financial house in order." I believe a lot of Americans would respond to that. We're smarter than you give us credit for.
Color me unexcited about the Democrats in '06 and Hilary in '08. They had an opportunity to step up and show some real leadership and they watched the pitch sail by.
- Bill Ferguson is a columnist for the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.