A Democratic Agenda

Steve Teles offers a plan for the Democrats. I concur, except for a strong plea against guest-workers.

I think Steve Teles mostly has it right (see two posts down).

As to investigations, we can start by releasing all the reports various Republican committee chairs have been sitting on, and ordering a slew of GAO studies.

As to earmarks, how about a blanket repeal of all earmarks to secret appropriations, or even to all defense and intelligence-community appropriations? (Murtha will have a chance to put his pet earmarks back later.) The case against earmarking in secret is overwhelming, and most of the relevant cases have MZM written on them. So the hearings on that bill could properly have an investigative aspect, and it would be extremely hard to vote against or veto.

Just one note on “comprehensive” immigration reform. The notion that a guest-worker program is a concession to the pro-immigration side makes sense only if you’re thinking exclusively from the employers’ viewpoint. To control illegal immigration, we need more legal immigration.

(Whether or not you think that, in theory, less total immigration would be better is largely irrelevant, because we probably can’t achieve it without a stronger employer-sanctions program than is politically, or maybe even operationally feasible. I have a proposal that would make illegals virtually unemployable, and which would therefore cut down drastically on illegal immigration &#8212 offering a green card to any illegal who turns in his employer &#8212 but it doesn’t pass the straight-face test.)

Those legal immigrants should, ideally, be people who intend to settle down and become Americans, not indentured serfs tied to a particular employer on pain of deportation.

Update I fully endorse Bernard Yomtov’s proposal (see comments) for putting a set of voting reforrms on the fast track.

(See next post.)

As to reinstating the torture ban (mentioned by another commenter), I’d be for it if we could actually get something into law, but I see no point in trying and failing. If the Democrats had been the Senate majority when the torture bill passed, we could probably have preserved habeas corpus (I say “probably” because some of the Republicans who voted “right” might not have done so when push came to shove), but I’m not sure there’s an anti-torture majority in the new Senate or the new House, and I’m certain there isn’t anything like a veto-proof majority. Obviously, the pro-torture sentiment in the country wasn’t strong enough to make it a decisive issue when the Republicans tried to use it, but equally obviously opposition to torture isn’t a popular position, and I don’t think it’s incumbent on Democrats to take a political hit when doing so can’t actually change the law. On the other hand, if we had a firm majority, we might be able to write a “No funds appropriated …” clause into the Defense Appropriation, and dare Bush to veto that.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

13 thoughts on “A Democratic Agenda”

  1. I'd like to see one item added to the list:
    A Voting Rights Act of 2006 that would:
    Require states to allocate polling places and equipment in such a way that voting is roughly equally convenient statewide, in terms of likely waits, access to polling places, etc.
    Prohibit the use of any voting system that did not provide a paper audit trail.
    Make it a felony to deliberately misinform voters about voting places or days.
    Extend the do-not-call list to cover political robocalls.
    Establish expedited methods for dealing with problems that arise on voting day or shortly before.
    Require a serious non-partisan analysis and testing, and appropriate certifications of voting equipment before it can be used.
    Other things.
    The way we conduct elections is an embarrassment. Let's fix it.

  2. I see repeal of the torture bill is nowhere on the Dem agenda. Was the outrage just a passing fad?

  3. Mark me down as someone who thinks all immigration should be restricted. The population growth since about 1960 has been 100 million, with about half of that immigrants or children thereof. This population increase has been a major contributor to the declining quality of life, at least in Southern California.
    Of course, the increase in population density has had a great impact on housing affordability. But, just like proposition 13, if you can manage to "get in", then subsequent developments over time make you richer, and more inclined to support ownership-friendly policies. Ethics be damned.

  4. Your comment on legal immigration is exactly right. The current visa system leaves highly educated, productive people–the very immigrants most likely to make an immediate contribution to American society–wandering literally for years in a Kafka-esque bureaucratic maze, wondering every morning whether a sudden layoff will banish them from the country the very same day.
    I hope the Democrats can spur a broader debate over immigration that addresses these very real problems as well as stemming the flow of laborers from our southern border.

  5. Another item that requires attention lies in the personal freedom/intrusive government area. It is sometimes implied that the South is racists, but that it only partly true. There is a leave me alone and don't tread on me element to the Southern and Western attitude. If the Demos are going to try to consolidate power by taking a populist turn this libertarian constituency should be include under the tent. I thought that this was what Dean had in mind when he said he wanted to be president for the the guys with confederate flags on their trucks. He got flack for that. But he was on to something.

  6. If the Southern and especially Western posturing about rugged independence and individual rights weren't so regularly associated with a completely insouciant and apparently bottomless demand that federal tax money be shipped in for one subsidy program after another (water, for example), it would be more admirable…

  7. Quiddity wrote, "Of course, the increase in population density has had a great impact on housing affordability. But, just like proposition 13, if you can manage to 'get in', then subsequent developments over time make you richer, and more inclined to support ownership-friendly policies."
    Of course. People like Henry George understood this more than 100 years ago.
    Modern neoclassical economists either don't understand (many of act as if there are two rather than three factors of production), or think it's fine to shovel ~ 15% of GDP in landowners' pockets for doing nothing.

  8. What I mean is that the only reason Mark's proposal isn't practical is that there's very few people outside of my (a), (b), and (c).

  9. Mark Kleiman wrote, "As to earmarks, how about a blanket repeal of all earmarks to secret appropriations…?"
    Or in other words: actually complying with what the Constitution says about appropriating funding.

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