- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

House Democrats unveiled this week what they are calling their New Partnership for America’s Future. I call it their New Partnership for Their Future, since all it does is try to woo every imaginable special-interest there is and lay the groundwork to spend money that the government does not have. If anything, their plan highlights the fact that the Democratic Party is returning to its tax-and-spend roots.

The plan is not unlike the House Republicans’ Contract with America of a decade ago, in that it outlines a series of legislative proposals. As with the Republicans’ pledge, the Democrats’ chief cook and bottlewasher for their undertaking is the speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi always has seemed to be a nice lady, but her politics leave a lot to be desired. In her opening remarks, by way of example, Mrs. Pelosi said, “Our tradition has been to expand opportunity, and strengthen family and community.” Yet the legislative initiative is chock full of proposals that would do exactly the opposite, or either imply that the Bush administration has substantially fallen short of addressing those key domestic issues, or proven that House Democrats are the Mockingbirds of Capitol Hill.

Indeed, some of their goals, such as “Provid[ing] a high quality early childhood education system,” cannot be met. And it is not because a Republican happens to be in the White House or because Republicans control both houses of Congress. It is simply impossible for the federal government to provide a “high quality” anything regarding public schools, and that’s mostly because neither politicians on Capitol Hill nor federal bureaucrats select the people who work in America’s schools.

The rhetoric espoused by Mrs. Pelosi et al. also closely mocks that of the Kerry-Edwards campaign, which, says one of its many goals is to strengthen families. As a matter of fact, some aspects of the Kerry-Edwards proposal are what I meant when I said the Democrats’ agenda will have the opposite effect of strengthening families. Further, the campaign wants to strengthen families by creating yet another entitlement — one that would use tax dollars to cover the cost of transportation for children in after-school programs.

“John Kerry and John Edwards are strong supporters of after-school programs,” their Web site says, professing that their after-school plan will make “it easier for parents to balance work and family” and “give students extra help, keep them out of trouble, and offer peace of mind to working parents.”

Whoever thunk up such a plan must surely know that it will not work. For one thing, cities and counties would need enormous infusions of cash to keep their doors open for what the Kerry-Edwards team calls its “School’s Open ‘Til 6” program. Imagine the costs: Everybody from the principals and teachers to the janitors and school bus drivers would want overtime pay; utility costs would mount; and children in urban areas would be at greater risk because, instead of heading home before the evening rush-hour begins, they will be heading home at the height of the evening rush. That’s only the half of it.

To be sure, there are ways to make “it easier for parents to balance work and family” — and neither the Democrats nor the Bush administration have offered such a policy. It is a policy that would make it easier for parents whose occupations mean they must work nights and weekends — postal workers, public-safety personnel, health-care workers, grocery clerks — the list is never-ending. Such a policy would encourage day-care providers to stop looking at America as though it still is a 9-to-5 society. It is not. It has not been for a very long time.

Providing such day-care opportunities would truly make the lives of working single parents easier, as well as those of parents participating in welfare-to-work programs, who already utilize day-care subsidies.

The Democrats hardly thought out-of-the-box. Their New Partnership for America’s Future mocks not only their agendas dating back to the 1960s, but the backward thinking that led to the creation of the U.S. Department of Education. At a time when even President Bush is deservedly taking heat from within his own party for huge budgets, voters are looking for proposals that take less, not more, of their tax dollars.

House Republicans, who on Wednesday celebrated the 10th anniversary of their Contract with America, are barely paying attention (they barely can lift the shovel that dug the holes). No matter. Neither party has much to crow about these days.

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