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June 17, 2006
2006 Agenda 2.0

The Democrats have announced their latest version of the electoral agenda for the 2006 midterms, but they selected an unusual news day for its release. Politicians use Friday afternoon to release information that they hope will see little coverage, and in reviewing Agenda 2.0, one can understand why:

Their plan, presented at a news conference, included promises to raise the minimum wage, make college tuition tax deductible, eliminate subsidies for oil and gas companies, negotiate lower drug prices for the prescription plan passed last year, increase stem cell research and restore a pay-as-you-go policy for federal budgets.

They noted that Congress had not increased the minimum wage, now at $5.15, since 1997, a fact that Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, declared "immoral." Their proposal to raise it to $7.25, they said, would benefit seven million workers. They rejected the argument that such a raise would shrink the economy, noting that jobs increased after the last raise.

The Democratic leaders also pledged a 25 percent reduction in oil use by 2020, largely by developing fuel alternatives in the United States. "We want to send our energy money to the Midwest, not the Middle East," Ms. Pelosi said.

Over and over, the leaders contrasted Republican priorities — which they deemed "the wrong direction" — with their own — "a new direction." Under Republican rule, they said, health care, college and gas costs have risen faster than incomes.

They also opposed eliminating the "death tax", claiming it would cost the Treasury $1 trillion in revenue over the next ten years. However, if that number is true, then it shows that the estate tax affects a lot more people than just the superwealthy. Most of the billionaires already have their fortunes in foundations and trusts in order to protect their children and grandchildren from a double-dip from the federal government; just ask the Kennedys, whose foundations will keep their extended family in Hyannis digs for at least two more generations. The upper middle class will bear the burden of that tax as they do now -- the independent business owner whose family will either have to sell out to pay the taxes or shut the business down entirely, either way losing a great deal of sales leverage.

As far as the other items mentioned, at least two of the three can get chalked up to excessive government interference in the particular markets. Government subsidies for college is one of the factors driving tuitions out of sight. Calleges rely on these subsidies in the form of grants and loans to continue increasing their rates. Health care has a panoply of requirements from the federal government which increase costs. Since the traditional Democrat approach on these issues is to throw more money and more regulation at them, their agenda will do nothing but throw gasoline on the fire.

Does anyone notice what the Democrats did not have on their agenda yesterday? Not a mention was made about investigations into the Bush administration, which was central to the agenda they announced five weeks ago. Back then, the "confident" Democrats announced their agenda for the Sunday paper instead of the least-read Saturday editions, and their leaders crowed about their intent to turn the House into the Washington Inquisition:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in an interview last week that a Democratic House would launch a series of investigations of the Bush administration, beginning with the White House's first-term energy task force and probably including the use of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Pelosi denied Republican allegations that a Democratic House would move quickly to impeach President Bush. But, she said of the planned investigations, "You never know where it leads to."

We found out where it leads -- it leads to voter turnoffs and riling the restive conservative base enough to have them turn out it large enough numbers for the Democrats fail to win control of the House. That announcement, coming in close conjunction with Russ Feingold's push to censure George Bush, reminded everyone why having a Speaker Pelosi instead of Minority Leader Pelosi would do real damage to the nation. Apparently, the Democrats figured it out as well, and tried to sneak this watered-down update through on a Friday afternoon press conference when the fewest people would pay attention.

That speaks volumes about how the Democrats feel about their agenda, and how strongly they will feel bound by it. I suspect that after the election, we will soon see Agenda 3.0 if they manage to win control of the House.

UPDATE: Kennebunkport should have been Hyannis; thanks to commenters below.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 17, 2006 7:05 AM

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