Monday, March 13, 2006

No More 'Compassionate Conservative' Lies?

Encouraging news for Democrats out of Memphis Sunday. Four major Republicans look like they'll make budget austerity a major theme of their potential presidential races, perhaps bringing a little more honest face to Republicans' continual efforts to shift the tax/spend scale toward America's richest citizens.

Republicans rhetorical return to their historic fiscal home should be welcome news for the Democrats -- they shouldn't have to worry about the Republicans (dishonestly) co-opting the issues on which they're strong. With Bush signing a prescription drug benefit that looks good from the outside (but whose holes are as big as a donut's) and talking regularly about an "ownership society" from which everyone can benefit (but which, in reality, only benefits the well-off), it was tough for Democrats to convince those rural values voters that they were the party of the little guy.

The next two years will be the time to regain that title. Republicans will inevitably harp on the runaway costs of programs that people care deeply about, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, giving Democrats the opportunity to regain their mantle as the party that cares about society's neediest and the slightly better off (and perhaps a chance to talk more honestly and "compassionately" about the fiscal reforms those programs do indeed need to keep them sustainable over the long term). Add in some solid education reform proposals and some much-needed tax readjustment (a hike on the top bracket and a cut for the middle-class -- the formula that, with Bill Clinton's leadership in 1993, carried us to the biggest economic expansion in U.S. history in the late '90s) to winnow the budget deficit, and the Democrats are set up nicely for '06 and '08.


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