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|Senator Kennedy's "Blueprint for America's Future"
By Robert S. Sargent Jr.
Not long ago, I went into a used-book store which had a large political-science section. It seemed that all the books I picked up that were dated before about 1970, were written by authors of the left. New ideas on public-policy came from the Democratic side. As the dates got closer to today, the authors got more and more conservative. I wondered if this was the reason for the change in the majority party: The party with the most new ideas to real problems, appeals to a majority of the voters.
Senator Edward Kennedy gave an address at the National Press Club on January 12 called "A Democratic Blueprint for America's Future." I thought that if anybody could put forth some new ideas for the Democratic Party, it's the dean of all liberals.
Kennedy starts out, "Today, I propose a progressive vision for America." The first issue he addresses is the war in Iraq. His solution? "I'm convinced (we) could have worked with the international community to end that war and bring our troops home with honor."
Kennedy then addresses domestic issues. "I strongly believe that our highest priority must be a world class education for every American." He acknowledges we have problems in our education system. His solution? 1) Guarantee a college education. "I propose that every child in America, upon reaching eighth grade, be offered a contract. Let students sign it, along with their parents and Uncle Sam. The contract will state that if you work hard, if you finish high school and are admitted to college, we will guarantee you the cost of earning a degree." 2) Speaking of math and science, "We should make tuition in graduate school free for needy students in those disciplines. And we should make undergraduate tuition free for any young person willing to serve as a math or science teacher in a public school for at least four years." 3) "We must invest much more in early education…for the youngest children…"
Senator Kennedy then addresses our economy. Problem: "...(making) sure the economy lets (our children) fulfill their American dream.". Solution: "…the private and public sectors must work together toward specific goals." The goals? "…investing in clean energy." "We should invest in new schools…" We should invest in research and development…" "We should invest in broadband technology…" "We should invest in mass transit…" "…(demand) immediate action to reduce global warming."
Kennedy addresses the workplace. Problem: "…(helping) families cope with the relentless and growing pressures of everyday life…" Solution: "…require all employers to give employees at least seven days of paid leave a year."
Another problem: poverty. Solution: "…a strong safety net."
What about health care? "The answer is Medicare, whose 40th birthday we will celebrate in July. I propose that as a 40th birthday gift to the American people, we expand Medicare over the next decade to cover every citizen – from birth to the end of life." You get the picture.
There isn't a new idea in this "Blueprint for America's Future." Not one. Mostly he is expounding the tired argument to invest more and more money to programs that are already in place.
If it's true that voters respond to new alternatives to real problems, (for example, right or wrong, vouchers is a real alternative solution to the growing problem of our public school system; more money isn't. Right or wrong, private accounts is a real alternative solution to the coming Social Security crisis. "We must oppose it – and we will defeat it," isn't.) then the Democrats just don't get it. If I were a Democrat, this speech would be as depressing as the recent election results: Coming from one of the most senior and respected liberals, it signals a bleak future.
Robert S. Sargent, Jr. is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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