As we approach the 2010 mid-term elections, the GOP is poised to make big gains in the House of Representatives, State Governors offices, and State Legislatures. The GOP will also likely pick up several seats in the U.S. Senate, but not enough to gain a majority.
Few people predicted this outcome when Barack Obama took office less than two years ago.
So what happen? In short, Obama and the Democrats blew it. They took a bad situation, created by George Bush, and made it worse.
It didn't have to be this way. In spite of some of some my more partisan friend's opinions to the contrary, the left does come up with some good ideas on occasion. However, most of those ideas never get implemented because of the left's dependence on government employees unions for their political muscle.
So, what would a strong, center-left agenda actually look like? Here are a few examples how Obama could could have put such an agenda together:
A.) Education, education, education.
Everyone knows that are nation's schools are failing. It's not only our inner-city schools. American schools in general are under-serving our kids as evidenced by our drop out rates as well as math and science test scores, compared to the rest of the developed world. Davis Guggenheim (a liberal) just released a movie "Waiting for Superman" which digs into the issues our public school system faces. Everyone should see this. When you do, it will scare the hell out of you.
We cannot compete in a increasing technological world with drop outs who don't know much about math and science.
Money is not the problem. America spends more money per student than all but two other countries. As a percentage of GDP, America spends more on education than most of the countries who have better results than we do.
Democrats have come up some great ways to reform the system. Charter schools are public schools where the parents and principals, not bureaucrats, are put in charge. The first Charter schools were implemented in Minnesota (a liberal state). Magnet schools are schools for the best and brightest, which focus on a specialized area, like math and science. Governor Jim Hunt (D-NC) put a huge focus on Magnet schools in the 1970s. They were a key to attracting tech companies to the Research Triangle in Raleigh. I'll add in Vocational schools for high school kids who aren't going college. Instead of having them waste their time in film appreciation classes, they could be learning a skilled trade that will help them and society.
These are Democrat ideas that work.
Obama could have used the "stimulus" to champion educational reform. After the 2008 election, he certainty had the political capital to do so. Instead, he just showered "stimulus" money on the teachers' unions to "save" their jobs for one year, without any significant reform at all.
B.) Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.
Our aging infrastructure is crumbling. In many places it hasn't kept up with population growth. A real center-left agenda would have used a big part of the "stimulus" money to build a world-class, 21st infrastructure for the U.S. -- roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, shipping ports, and more. Yes, a few infrastructure projects were funded, but the funding was a tiny, small part of the stimulus. Instead, Obama used most of the "stimulus" money to bail out government employee's unions to "save" their jobs for one year.
C.) Simplify, simplify, simplify
Our tax system is a mess. We have the highest corporate tax rates in the world, yet many corporations escape paying taxes. We have a progressive personal income tax system, yet the wealthiest American generally pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than do the middle to upper-middle class. Complying with our Byzantine tax system costs the American economy several hundred billion dollars a year.
It doesn't have to be like this.
When Jerry Brown ran for President in 1992 he advocated scrapping all federal taxes and replacing them with a 13% flat rate income tax and a 13% VAT. No deductions. No loopholes. Ralph Nader had a similar proposal in 2004.
Every study has shown that a flat rate tax would collect more money from the super rich because the loopholes would be gone. It would also save Americans and our companies hundreds of billions of in tax preparation fees each year. And it would do a lot better job "stimulating" the economy than Obama's "targeted" tax cuts.
Obama could have really provided some vision here and gotten a whole bunch of Republicans to join in. But he didn't. Instead, he relegated himself to spewing class warfare rhetoric while arguing about whether or not the top tax rate should be 36% or 39%. It's just pitiful.
The bottom line
There are many other proposals that a visionary center-left government could have undertaken, that would have gained broad support in the country, and been successful in really moving the country forward.
Unfortunately, Obama is not a visionary. He is a captive of his history -- a past of associating with people like 1960s radical Bill Aires, union thug Andy Stern, and racist Jeremiah right, all of whom who do nothing but brood about their class and race grievances.
This is why Obama has failed. This is why the country is failing. This is why we will see a significant political change next Tuesday.