THE BLOG
08/01/2013 11:43 am ET Updated Oct 01, 2013

A 'KISS' (Keep-It-Simple-Stupid) Strategy for Dems to Win the '14 Elections

I have already described a strategy for either party to win the '14 congressional elections: link their own salaries to the unemployment rate. The party that does that will immediately connect with the American people in ways that no words, no matter how eloquent, could achieve.

Although the president and congressional Democrats have stated an unwavering dedication to the middle class, and they describe a means to achieve it, it has too many moving parts to fire enough people to get out and vote for it. Republicans have done such a masterful job of conflating spending with deficits and debt, that enough sand can be thrown in the eyes of the public to cool enthusiasm.

Instead, the Democrats should adopt the following KISS strategy: keep current income tax rates so that further deficit reduction will occur from increased revenues from economic growth; do $200B/year of the $2.2T of infrastructure upgrades, repairs and construction; pay for it by i) ending tax havens, generating $150B/year; and ii) imposing a 0.5% fee on financial transactions, generating $100-200B per year from equity trades alone. Recognizing that revenues do not always match projections as taxpayers evolve increasingly exotic avoidance schemes, I have assumed just a portion of the projected revenues.

The projects should be listed by congressional district. The election is, therefore, about getting Wall Street and the tax-evading rich to pay for road/bridge/rail/sewage/water/retrofitting buildings/school building/electrical grid upgrades on a district-by-district basis and the jobs that are created to do them.

Further, to drive home the point, rank the priorities by need and by district. Address those projects in districts whose member voted for the entire package before those in districts whose member opposed it. Elect a Senator who opposes the measure, and the entire state goes down on the priority list.

Yes, let us end the hypocrisy of members who rail against spending, but grab the spotlight for the ribbon-cutting ceremonies in their districts when the money is actually spent. Now, if one wants a bridge repaired in one's district earlier rather than later, one has to vote for the package.

And, yes, there are a host of other measures required to fulfill the President's vision of a sustainable economy for the future. In a presidential election year, one can expect sufficient coverage of a range of proposals that would ring the bells of different interested segments of the electorate and to clear at least some of the fog from Republicans' deliberately obfuscating claims.

But, in a non-presidential year, the KISS (keep-it-simple-stupid) approach is far more effective.

"Wasteful spending," you see, is what happens in other peoples' districts. "Prudent investing" is what happens in yours. Linking the expenditures to specific projects in specific districts, therefore, enables voters to see the direct benefits to them as prudent investments. Making it clear that voters need to elect members who will support the program, rather than oppose it but take credit for it, for their projects to receive priority provides a clear choice.

If Democrats link their salaries to the unemployment rate, and run on this infrastructure-building proposal as the way to create the jobs, people will be convinced that they really mean it as the members themselves benefit (or not) as the jobs are created (or not), and the proposal is a credible way to achieve job growth, while also lowering the deficit, not taxing the middle class and building a foundation for future economic growth.

To win the '14 elections, Democrats especially have to generate enthusiasm, a reason for minorities and young people and women to vote in the same numbers as they do in presidential election years. Republican gerrymandering has made their task even more difficult than usual in the 6th year of a party's presidency.

Keeping it simple, keeping the choice and the outcome clear by linking votes for the proposal with spending priorities, bonding with the electorate by linking members' own salaries to unemployment rate, will generate that trust and enthusiasm, win the elections and let the right-wing extremists crawl back under their rocks.