Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hour 1 for Democrats

I remember when Republicans swept into congress halfway through Clinton's first term. I remember the sinking feeling that the promise of Clinton's election was at that point all for naught.

Or at least it would fall short, far short of its potential. With a burgeoning economy and the end of the cold war establishing American pre-eminence Clinton had been given the opportunity to position America as a beacon of hope here at home and a force for good in the world abroad.

Instead we got Kenneth Starr, Whitewater (does ANYBODY know what that was about, even now?) and Monica Lewinsky.


As Democrats take control of congress for the first time since 1994, the challenges facing the US are rather different. Mired in Iraq, impotent in the rest of the world, with an economy that does nothing but widen the divide between haves and have-nots, the Democrats will have to do more than just hound a president they loathe.

Not that they shouldn't do that, they just need to do much more.

And while efforts to provide an actual check on presidential excess, raise the minimum wage, wean the US from its dependence on non-renewable energy sources, reign in pharmaceutical costs, back stemcell research and shore up homeland security are all important tasks, no task is more important, and most importantly no task is more do-able than ethics reform.

Without risk of presidential veto, without needing the assent of obstructionist Republicans (though if they were wise they would help, not hinder), the new Democratic congress can fix much that ails this government, or at least make it easier to do so, if they make real progress against the pay-for-play atmosphere so prevalent in Washington.

And while the effort to reign in lobbyists is all well and good, the best thing congress can do for itself is to severely curtail the use of earmarks.

And while an outright ban would be preferable, an easier and more politically acceptable soultion to this problem exists: disclosure.

Publish (preferably on the internet)

  • *The name of the sponsoring congressman
  • *The names and memberships of those special interest groups supporting the earmark
  • *Analysis of what those special interest groups and their members stand to gain from the earmark
  • *List all perks and donations to the sponsoring congressman and any of his favored PACs, charities and relatives by said special interest groups and their members.

Shine the light of day on slimeball behavior and the behavior will either stop, or those who insist on continuing their corrupt ways will be rooted out and then booted out.

So instead of government for special interests, the final result will be a government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, and FOR the PEOPLE.

And that has a nice ring to it.

No comments: