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Reflecting on the Platform Draft - Algonquin, Illinois

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On July 24, 2008, in Algonquin, IL, I hosted one of the 1,300-some Democratic Platform Meetings organized by supporters of presumptive Presidential Democratic Nominee Barack Obama.

Like every other member that has attended (or hosted) one of these meetings, I was eager to look into just how much of the results of my meeting was incorporated into the new platform. How would the Platform Drafting Committee plow through all of the documentation that was submitted and put together a document that pleases as many people as possible without going off-message?

As it turns out, a draft of the 2008 Democratic Platform was posted to the web yesterday.

The first thing that jumped out at me when reading through this was the three-page Table of Contents for the 56 page document. It really does cover a wide range of issues, with two sections divided amongst nine focal subjects (paired with numerous bullet points), as well two separate sections that cover everything from Hurricane Katrina to American Samoa.

There are quotes from several Platform Meeting attendees scattered throughout the document.

I'm sure there will be a number of other bloggers breaking this document down, but I wanted to know how much my particular Platform Meeting actually affected the creation of this document.

Upon a thorough reading, I am ultimately satisfied with how much impact our Platform Meeting had, as most subjects that my meeting's attendees focused upon were covered in some fashion. While the exact wording of our results was not necessarily used in most cases, I can only believe that our beliefs, put together cumulatively with the beliefs of others, had enough of an impact to convince the Platform Drafting Committee to cover such topics.

Do you think these meetings made an impact? Judge for yourself - listed below are the "planks" that our Platform Meeting submitted to the Platform Drafting committee (sentences in bold), followed by where I believe these planks are referenced within the Draft of the 2008 Democratic Platform (sentences in italics):

1) HEALTH CARE

We believe heath care is a right not a privilege.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 5, Lines 27-29: If one thing came through in the platform hearings, it was that Democrats are united around a commitment to provide every American access to affordable, comprehensive health care.

We also believe that individual citizens have a responsibility to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to practice preventative medicine to the extent that they can.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 6, Lines 33-36: As affordable coverage is made available, individuals should purchase health insurance and take steps to lead healthy lives.

It is in society's best interest to have healthy citizens.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 7, Lines 10-18: An Emphasis on Prevention and Wellness. Chronic diseases account for 70 percent of the nation's overall health care spending. We need to promote healthy lifestyles and disease prevention and management in places of employment and in school. All Americans should be empowered to promote wellness and have access to preventive services to impede the development of costly chronic conditions, such as childhood obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Chronic-care and behavioral health management should be assured for all Americans who require care coordination, including those with mental health and substance use disorders. We should promote additional tobacco and substance abuse prevention.

Our businesses are at a competitive disadvantage under the current system due to the high cost of heath care, and our families are forced to carry a heavy financial burden as well.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 5, Lines 39-41: Ensuring quality, affordable health care for every single American is essential to children's educations, workers' productivity and businesses' competitiveness.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 7, Lines 20-24: A Modernized System That Lowers Cost and Improves the Quality of Care. As Americans struggle with increasing health care costs, we believe a strengthened, uniquely American system should provide the highest quality, most cost-effective care. This should be advanced by aggressive efforts to cut costs and eliminate waste from our health system, which will save the typical family up to $2,500 per year.

We believe all human beings deserve quality health care.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 5, Lines 27-29: If one thing came through in the platform hearings, it was that Democrats are united around a commitment to provide every American access to affordable, comprehensive health care.

Recognizing different payment systems exist, including single payer, the financial implementation should not be complicated, and should not be tied to employment.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 6, Lines 1-4: While there are different approaches within the Democratic Party about how best to achieve the commitment of universal coverage, we stand united to achieve this fundamental objective through the legislative process.

2) AUTISM AWARENESS

In 1983, children received 10 vaccines before the age of five and the rate of autism was 1 in 10,000. Today's children get 36 vaccines before kindergarten, and today the rate of autism is 1 in 150. We believe in 1) further funding of autism research, including genetic susceptibility, mercury content of current vaccines, and studying other environmental toxins as well, 2) calling for a moratorium on the addition of any new vaccines to the current recommended pediatric schedule until they are proven safe, though it is equally important that we advocate safer vaccines rather than eliminating all vaccines, 3) mandatory testing for autism at an early age, and 4) the need for increased funding for special education programs for children with autism.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 8, Lines 9-16: Health care reform must also ensure adequate incentives for innovation to ensure that Americans have access to evidence-based and cost-effective health care. Research should be based on science, not ideology. We need to invest in biomedical research and stem cell research, so that we are at the leading edge of prevention and treatment. This includes adequate funding for research into diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, autism and other common and rare diseases and disorders. We will increase funding to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the National Cancer Institutes.

3) FISCAL POLICY

Establish and implement fiscal responsibility in order to achieve a balanced budget.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 22, Lines 20-29: Fiscal Responsibility - Our agenda is ambitious-particularly in light of the current Administration's policies that have run up the national debt to over $4 trillion. Just as America cannot afford to continue to run up huge deficits, so too can we not afford to short-change investments. The key is to make the tough choices, in particular enforcing pay-as-you-go budgeting rules. We will honor these rules by our plan to end the Iraq war responsibly, eliminate waste in existing government programs, generate revenue by charging polluters for the greenhouse gases they are releasing-and put an end to the reckless, special interest driven corporate loopholes and tax cuts for the wealthy that have been the centerpiece of the Bush Administration's economic policy.

We need a strategic plan to restore integrity and accountability to the financial system, both in the public and private sectors. We recommend further transparency in the budgeting process, including expenditures and revenue.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 20, Lines 25-35: We have failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practices. We have let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales. We do not believe that government should stand in the way of innovation, or turn back the clock to an older era of regulation. But we do believe that government has a role to play in advancing our common prosperity: by providing stable macroeconomic and financial conditions for sustained growth; by demanding transparency; and by ensuring fair competition in the marketplace. We will reform and modernize our regulatory structures and will work to promote a shift in the cultures of our financial institutions and our regulatory agencies. We will ensure shareholders have an advisory vote on executive compensation, in order to spur increased transparency and public debate over pay packages.

We want a major tax reform because the system that has evolved over several decades does not serve the country today.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 19, Lines 34-44: We must reform our tax code. It's thousands of pages long, a monstrosity that high-priced lobbyists have rigged with page after page of special interest loopholes and tax shelters. We will shut down the corporate loopholes and tax havens and use the money so that we can provide an immediate middle-class tax cut that will offer relief to workers and their families. We'll eliminate income taxes for millions of retirees, because every senior deserves to live out their life in dignity and respect. We won't increase taxes on any family earning under $250,000 and we will offer additional tax cuts for middle class families. For families making more than $250,000, we'll ask them to give back a portion of the Bush tax cuts to invest in health care and other key priorities. We will expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans can do their taxes in less than five minutes.

4) ECONOMY

We need to create meaningful jobs, reinvigorating manufacturing sectors and searching for ways to better exploit new technologies.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 16, Lines 41-44 & Page 17, Lines 1-6: We will create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to provide for our next generation of innovators and job creators; we will expand the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships and create new job training programs for clean technologies. We will bring together government, private industry, workers, and academia to turn around the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy and provide assistance to automakers and parts companies to encourage retooling of facilities in this country to produce advanced technology vehicles and their key components. We will support efforts like the recently proposed Senate Appropriations measure that gives manufacturers access to low-interest loans to help convert factories to build more fuel-efficient vehicles. And we will invest in a clean energy economy to create up to five million new green-collar jobs.

Stimulate the reconstruction of America's entire infrastructure, changing over to new sources and systems.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 17, Lines 22-37: Creating New Jobs by Rebuilding American Infrastructure - A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt called together leaders from business and government to develop a plan for the next century's infrastructure. It falls to us to do the same. Right now, we are spending less than at any time in recent history and far less than our international competitors on this critical component of our nation's strength. We will start a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that can leverage private investment in infrastructure improvements, and create nearly two million new good jobs. We will undertake projects that maximize our safety and security and ability to compete, which we will fund as we bring the war in Iraq to a responsible close. We will modernize our power grid, which will help conservation and spur the development and distribution of clean energy. We need a national transportation policy, including high-speed rail and light rail. We can invest in our bridges, roads, and public transportation so that people have choices in how they get to work. We will ensure every American has access to highspeed broadband and we will take on special interests in order to unleash the power of the wireless spectrum.

Eliminate government waste, corruption, and incompetency at all levels. Replace current tax codes that percolate taxes upwards instead of the trickle down policies that are a failure.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 22, Lines 25-26, 27-29: ... eliminate waste in existing government programs...and put an end to the reckless, special interest driven corporate loopholes and tax cuts for the wealthy that have been the centerpiece of the Bush Administration's economic policy.

5) ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

We need an aggressive energy policy based on Al Gore's ten year plan, which will move us away from oil and coal toward alternate sources of energy such as wind, solar, and other technologies such as efficient energy grid technology, improved mass transit and non-gas based autos.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 12, Lines 24-46 & Page 13, Lines 1-28: In the local platform hearings, Americans talked about the importance of energy to the economy, to national security and to the health of our planet. Speaking loud and clear, they said that America needs a new bold and sustainable energy policy to meet the challenges of our time. In the past, America has been stirred to action when faced with new threats to our national security, or new competitive conditions that undercut our economic leadership. The energy threat we face today may be less immediate than threats from dictators, but it is as real and as dangerous. The dangers are eclipsed only by the opportunities that would come with change. We know that the jobs of the 21st century will be created in developing new energy solutions. The question is whether these jobs will be created in America, or abroad. We should use government procurement policies to incentivize domestic production of clean and renewable energy. Already, we've seen countries like Germany, Spain and Brazil reap the benefits of economic growth from clean energy. But we are decades behind in confronting this challenge. For the sake of our security-and for every American family that is paying the price at the pump-we will break our addiction to foreign oil. In platform hearings around the country, Americans called for a Manhattan or Apollo Project level commitment to achieve energy independence. We hear that call and we Democrats commit to fasttrack investment of billions of dollars over the next ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to five million jobs. Good jobs, like those in Pennsylvania where workers manufacture wind turbines, the ones in the factory in Nevada producing components for solar energy generation plants, or the jobs that will be created when plug in hybrids start rolling off the assembly line in Michigan. This transition to a clean energy industry will also benefit low-income communities: we'll create an energy focused youth job program to give disadvantaged youth job skills for this emerging industry It will not be easy, but neither was getting to the moon. We know we can't drill our way to energy independence and so we must summon all of our ingenuity and legendary hard work and we must invest in research, development, and deployment of forms of new energy-solar, wind, as well as technologies to store energy through advanced batteries and clean up our coal plants. And we will call on businesses, government, and the American people to make America 50 percent more energy efficient by 2030, because we know that the most energy efficient economy will also gain the competitive edge for new manufacturing and jobs that stay here at home. We will help pay for all of it by dedicating a portion of the revenues generated by an economy wide cap and trade program- a step that will also dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and jumpstart billions in private capital investment in a new energy economy. We'll double fuel efficiency standards and we'll help manufacturers-particularly in the auto industry-convert to build the cars and trucks of the future and other green innovations. And we will help workers learn the skills they need to compete in the green economy. We are committed to getting at least 25% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Building on the innovative efforts of the private sector, states, cities, and tribes across the country, we will create new federal-local partnerships to scale the success and deployment of new energy solutions, install a smarter grid, build more efficient buildings, and use the power of federal and military purchasing programs to jumpstart promising new markets and technologies. We'll invest in advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol which will provide American-grown fuel and help free us from the tyranny of oil. We will use innovative measures to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

Join the world community to address global climate change.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 38, Lines 7-14: We will reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a new Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols. China has replaced America as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia. We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia.

Aggressive protection of public lands, open space, and endangered species.

Referenced in 2008 Draft: Page 42, Lines 12-24: We will create a new vision for conservation that works with local communities to conserve our existing publicly-owned lands while dramatically expanding investments in conserving and restoring forests, grasslands, and wetlands across America for generations to come. Unlike the current Administration, we will reinvest in our nation's forests by providing the federal agencies with resources to reduce the threat of wildland fires, promote sustainable forest product industries for rural economic development and ensure that national resources are in place to respond to catastrophic wildland fires. We will treat our national parks with the same respect that millions of families show each year when they visit. We will recognize that our parks are national treasures, protected for special values, and will ensure that they are protected as part of the overall natural system so they are here for generations to come. We are committed to conserving the lands used by hunters and anglers, and we will open millions of new acres of land to public hunting and fishing.