Towards A Good Samaritan World

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


One positive summary of the Democrats' "100 hours":

Second, the House has now approved legislation directly addressing public concerns: raising the minimum wage, ethics reform, interest rate reductions on subsidized college loans and expanded federal support for stem cell research. It has put in place rule changes to promote fiscal responsibility and adopted recommendations from the 9/11 commission. Today, the House is expected to repeal tax breaks for oil companies. Poll-tested and guaranteed to be political winners, these achievements constitute a modest start toward a saleable centrist agenda for a party too often in the past labeled as extreme.

More important in terms of substantive future legislation, the ability of the Democrats to win over significant numbers of Republicans on most votes signals the slim but enticing possibility of Democratic mastery over a demoralized Republican Party — one that has thrived on polarized partisan warfare in recent years.

If the new bipartisanship takes root, the prospects for health care legislation and immigration reform sharply improve. These proposals cannot survive without backing from both Democrats and Republicans. When it comes to health care, a key corporate lobby, the Business Roundtable, has already formed a tentative alliance with organized labor, thereby giving cover to wavering members of Congress from both ends of the political spectrum. A parallel alliance among business, Roman Catholic Church leaders and progressive organizations like the National Council of La Raza has already formed in support of immigration legislation.

If the new fiscal responsibility rules take hold, they make it harder for Democrats to pass big new spending programs. That is, as long as they're not willing to raise taxes; but Bush would surely veto a reversal of his signature tax cuts, and any sign that the Democrats will hike taxes hurts their chances in 2008, and it's hard to make the case for tax hikes at a time when the deficit is melting away. The higher minimum wage is a bad but probably not a disastrous idea. Presumably Democrats won't overturn Medicare Part D. No protectionism so far, knock on wood. Now, if immigration comes through, Bush can retire with a fine domestic policy legacy.


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