Meet the New Direction, Same as the Old Direction

So the Republicans have shown themselves to be largely incapable of spending restraint. Given the chance, they wet the bed on deficit reduction. They don't respect the First Amendment. They're unreliable friends of the free market. They love to stick the nose of the Federal Government into places in which it doesn't belong. And they love to stick the nose of the Federal Government into places in which it doesn't belong. And (did I mention?) they love to stick the nose of the Federal Government into places in which it doesn't belong. I could go on, but you get the point.

All this makes me say to myself: time to become a Democrat. Then something happens to make me aware of the major flaw in that plan, which is: Democrats.

The latest data point is the much-ballyhooed brand-spankin-new effort by the Democrats to put forward their 2006 manifesto, dubbed "A New Direction for America". This being Pun Salad, the first thing we must point out is: that title is a Emily Litella bit just waiting to happen. It's also very recycled, having been tried both by Dennis Kucinich and John Kerry during the 2004 election cycle.

(And, if you've got 95 bucks to blow, you can go here and get a document of some sort titled "THE NIXON ADMINISTRATION: A NEW DIRECTION FOR AMERICA." Description: "stples rusty, pages a bit worn and soiled. SIGNED ON THE COVER BY THEN-VICE PRESIDENT SPIRO T. AGNEW." There's nothing new under the sun.)

But it's childish to concentrate on that focus-grouped title. What about the substance? Sad to say, it turns out the title is pretty much the high point of the plan:

Democrats offer a New Direction, putting the common good of all Americans first for a change …
Love the meaningless demagoguery of "putting the common good of all Americans first" followed by the petulance of "for a change".
… and will:

Make Health Care More Affordable: Fix the prescription drug program by putting people ahead of drug companies and HMO's, eliminating wasteful subsidies, negotiating lower drug prices and ensuring the program works for all seniors; invest in stem cell and other medical research.

More meaningless demagoguery: "putting people ahead of drug companies and HMO's". What does that mean? Do people eye their medical bills and think "Whoa, I'm clearly not being put ahead of drug companies and HMOs here".

And who's not in favor of eliminating subsidies, especially those "wasteful" ones? How about naming three of them?

Notable is what's missing: any mention of "universal coverage", let alone "single payer". Gutless.

Lower Gas Prices and Achieve Energy Independence: Crack down on price gouging; eliminate billions in subsidies for oil and gas companies and use the savings to provide consumer relief and develop American alternatives, including biofuels; promote energy efficient technology.
Let's see: Shameless pandering on "lower gas prices" of course. Accusations of price gouging belie economic illiteracy. The "consumer relief" thing was a stupid idea that went nowhere when Senator Frist proposed it earlier this year. And energy independence? Gee, that's a new idea.
Help Working Families: Raise the minimum wage; repeal tax giveaways that encourage companies to move jobs overseas.
See Jane on the minimum wage. See Prof Drezner on job outsourcing. Democrats are too wedded to their old ideas and crumbling union constituencies to offer anything innovative in this area.
Cut College Costs: Make college tuition deductible from taxes; expand Pell grants and slash student loan costs.
Democrats are against "wasteful subsidies", unless they're subsidizing colleges and universities.
Ensure Dignified Retirement: Prevent the privatization of Social Security; expand savings incentives; and ensure pension fairness.
Translation: Democrats have no plans to do anything about runaway entitlement spending, other than to oppose anything that might actually let people control their own retirement funds.

And who could be against ensuring "pension fairness"? Not me. Not you. Not anyone. Because it sounds good, and it's meaningless.

Basically, Democrats look at the problem and declare themselves unwilling to make tough decisions, or even easy ones.

Require Fiscal Responsibility: Restore the budget discipline of the 1990s that helped eliminate deficits and spur record economic growth.
Nothing specific about raising taxes, which is probably what they mean by "budget discipline." Guess they'll figure out the details after the election, and let us know.

Now, what's missing? Well, terrorism, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Israel, … generally, that whole foreign policy and national defense thing. Gutless.

Also nothing on privacy or civil liberties. Gutless.

[Update: geez, how could I have left out: also nothing on immigration. Again, gutless.]

The Democrats apparently view Joe Voter as (at least potentially) a little jangly bag of fear and resentment against Them, as exemplified by job insecurity, retirement insecurity, energy costs, medical costs, college costs. So their (vague) theme is: we'll stick it to Them, and "put you first." We'll take care of you! Anybody fooled? Me neither.

Last Modified 2006-08-13 3:50 PM EDT