Today, the Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives launched America Speaking Out, a "grassroots" effort to hear from the American people about what they want Congress and their government to do. As a Democrat who is profoundly concerned about the direction of the country, I hope Americans do speak out and tell the Republican Party what to be for because their "Just Say No" agenda is damaging the country and we need them to stop.
The categories the House Republicans list on their web site are important. The first is "American Prosperity." Hopefully Americans will tell the GOP that we need to have an innovation agenda that rewards risk taking while ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to enjoy the prosperity that the top 10% have. More tax cuts for the wealthy will not cut it as an economic policy anymore. Americans without means need more help with health care, child care and financial aid for advanced education so they can keep working and getting educated to compete with Chinese, Indians, Europeans and others.
The Republicans ask for ideas on "Fiscal Accountability." Americans are right to ask how much money we are spending on wasteful projects and how we continue to pay for the entitlements that have saved the elderly from poverty like Social Security and Medicare. At the same time we have a bloated Defense Department budget that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is taking a scalpel to. The GOP should support him and come up with a few of their own ideas. It would be Pollyannaish not to acknowledge that we need to look at revenues. Even if we made every tolerable cut, many experts believe that the U.S. will have to raise taxes to balance the budget. This is tough stuff and Americans should help the Republicans choose which cuts to make and revenues to raise.
As for "American Values," the American people have been telling their leaders for years where they stand. We value opportunity for everyone here legally to participate and excel. We value letting people live their own lives without the heavy hand of government in our bedrooms or our doctor's offices. We value each individual being able to practice his or her own religion (or not) without the government's stamp of approval. We also value our environment and Americans should help the GOP decide which program to support to limit the use of fossil fuel and encourage a transition to new energy sources.
Finally, the Republicans highlight "National Security." After the excesses of the George W. Bush Administration that led to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, torture and rampant wiretapping without court orders it is important for Republicans to have a debate on this issue. America needs a bipartisan policy on fighting terrorism that captures and kills our enemies while minimizing collateral damage that could create more of them and protects our fundamental values.
I am not naïve enough to believe that the people who offer their ideas or the Republicans who draft the plan that emanates from this exercise will come up with a program that I like or support. They do not have to impress me, but they need to come up with a program that Republicans can support so that in the next Congress, the conservative party can contribute to our direction and not sit on the sidelines hurling fruit at the players on the field. Our position is precarious and our needs are mammoth. America needs both progressives and conservatives in the fight for our future to offer good ideas and create a strategy that does not lurch from what extreme to the other after each election. So speak out America and hopefully Republicans will listen and then finally do something other than just saying no.
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