In the past, I've been known to beat up a bit on Tom Vilsack. But his latest post at TPMCafe
is definitely praiseworthy. In it, he discusses the need for Democrats to champion smart infrastructure improvement proposals as well as the ideological bankruptcy of the Republican Party.
Infrastructure improvement is something I don't hear Democrats talking about enough. It's completely vital to our economy, yet so much of it is derided as little more than pork. But certainly something like funding of levee improvements in flood zones is entirely warranted. Many progressives have been griping lately about the transportation bill and its attached rotten pork, such as Don Young's Bridge to Nowhere.
But at the core of SAFETEA-LU are important transportation infrastructure improvements. Think of the bill as a piece of bread with way too much butter. The bread was necessary. A little bit of butter was justified. But using the whole stick was ridiculous. I just hope in the current fervor for fiscal responsibility, Democrats continue to recognize the difference between being reasonable and being miserly.
In his TPM post, Vilsack discusses an Iowa infrastructure improvement program of community challenge grants that got the ball rolling on new projects all over the state.
In Iowa, we used $300 million over a five-year period and challenged communities to rebuild cultural and recreational attractions. By leveraging other resources, this state investment led to over $2 billion in new construction and renovation. The program, called Vision Iowa, helped to breathe new life into both cities and small rural communities. The program was administered by a public/private board.
This is infrastructure improvement as smart governing policy. Too often, especially with the Bush administration and the GOP-controlled Congress, what we see is money for infrastructure being doled out as reward for party line loyalty. In pitching a reform agenda, Democrats should vow to do away with political pork prizes in favor of responsible and justified policies in all areas, not just public infrastructure. Vilsack also makes this point.
The news about Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay's criminal indictment underscores a problem: we have a Republican leadership is clearly not focused on an agenda to help the American people. America deserves better. They deserve a government that can innovates policy at least as much as it innovates politics, and a government committed to bringing the best out of our communities.
We can show America that we have better solutions, and better ideas about how to govern.
For years, Democratic candidates have run away from Republican attacks that they're too stiff, nerdy, and wonky. A large part of the GOP agenda has been to replace liberal intellectualism with unfettered fratboy capitalism as a moral virtue. But the American voting public has seen where that gets you and they don't like it.
Obviously, retail image politics are not going away. But at the same time, we need to hammer home the message that only Democrats are going to further the smart public policies that can make America a better place.