Skip to content
Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Democratic Offensive

As President George W. Bush rushes around the country frantically trying to find acceptance of his exaggerated, deceptive and sometimes deliberately inaccurate (note his use of the word “bankrupt” ) plan for a social insecurity system, the pundits and the polls say he is not gaining traction. A large majority still opposes his proposals for private investment accounts.

Yet, Bush and his political brain, Karl Rove, are winning in another way — their ongoing, successful strategy of distraction that puts the Democrats in a chronic posture of playing defense.

Bush’s politics of distraction has made the Republicans take command of the offense, of the agendas, of the media coverage of Washington, DC.

The drumbeat to war, invasion and then the occupation of Iraq crowded out the Democrats and was a significant factor in tipping the 2002 Congressional and 2004 Presidential elections to Bush. It took the spotlight away from the domestic necessities of the American people. It shoved aside the entry of the corporate crime issue into the political arena where it could have engulfed the Bushies and their big donor buddies who were enmeshed in many big time scandals and thefts.

Bush’s social insecurity gambit pleases his Wall St. It distracts attention from the present, real-time crisis of the private corporate pension system, which is collapsing on the hopes and dreams of millions of active and retired American workers. There are $450 billion of unfunded private pension liabilities in the corporate sector.

Pension plans have been looted or drained during the years of both boom and bust. The federal government’s Pension Benefits Guaranty Corp. that is supposed to bail out failing corporate pension plans is already nearly $30 billion in the red. United Airlines, in bankruptcy but still operating and paying handsome salaries to its top executives, has just dumped its gigantic pension plan onto the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corp.

Since corporate bankruptcy is now considered as a competitive strategy against other companies in an industry, there may be a rush by beleaguered companies to unload their pension liabilities on the backs of a potential taxpayer bailout. Only raising the premiums paid into this fund by companies can avert that possibility. Companies have more lobbyists inside Congress than do individual taxpayers.

If you landed from Mars and had one question to ask about which of the two Parties is prevailing over the other, that question would be: Which Party is on the offensive and which Party is on the defensive?

The Republicans are on the offensive with a most offensive, sugar coated agenda against America, against workers, consumers, justice and the environment. While the Democrats have no countering agenda as a Party.

Here are some suggestions for an offensive against the Republicans. The Democrats should come out clearly for a living wage. There are 47 million American workers laboring full time who make between $5.15 (not counting illegal sweatshop workers) and $10.00 per hour. The federal minimum wage at $5.15 is much less than it was in 1968 adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile the rich have gotten richer.

The Democrats should advance a comprehensive corporate reform agenda (as described in the new book The People’s Business by Drutman and Cray) which includes a much tougher crackdown on corporate crooks who destroy the health, safety and economic savings of millions of Americans.

The Democrats should stand for fundamental tax and labor law reforms to make the tax system less rigged and to give workers in companies like Wal-Mart a chance to establish trade unions.

Abolishing the outrageous forms of corporate welfare — subsidies, handouts, giveaways and bailouts of largely big business — should become a trademark of the Democratic Party. This approach will not only lift burdens on small taxpayers but also free monies for good job-producing public works repair and modernization projects in communities’ schools, libraries, drinking water systems, clinics, public transit and parks.

Democrats should stand for shifting more power to the people by electoral reforms so that dirty money elections badly counted will be replaced and regular people can pursue their grievances in courts and before agencies more readily.

A determined national fuel efficiency and solar energy movement should be spearheaded by the Democratic Party. Imagine all the good arguments and support for that timely initiative.

Well, I’ve run out of space to suggest more Offense. Are the Democrats too distracted dialing for corporate dollars to listen to these urgings from the few progressives in their Party?