Now that the onrushing Republican train wreck called the 2000 elections has been settled in every important way except the counting, it is not too soon to plan what the 107th Congress' new, improved Democratic majority ought to be up to.
First, there are six years of Republican roadblocks to be overcome. There is nothing so obstructionist as a government majority that hates government, so a lot of what the Republicans did comes under the heading of simple mischief. But once the layers of pin-striped graffiti are scraped off the Constitution, some underlying issues can then be tackled.
The Algore Rhythm for electoral success propagated itself throughout the Senate and House races of 2000 in a show of Democratic unity last seen in 1964, and before that in 1948. Everybody was on message, from highest to lowest, and the result will have been a new Congress and new Administration willing to do some work, wanting to do it together, and encouraged to do so by the voters.
So they can tackle campaign financing reform. They can deal with improving the health care system. And the budget surplus can be used to pay down the deficit, not to give away tax breaks to the already-rewarded.
Meantime, a few little legislative matters can go a long way toward improving the national life. These are presented in no known order of importance, but with at least as much seriousness as the average Bush scion gives to rewarding the family's business backers. (God, isn't it great to be able to permanently forget about the whole Kennebunkport Mafia?)
Every citizen ought to have the kind of deal that every Senator and most CEOs have. Accordingly, let's organize domestic policy around providing everybody with the kind of support they need to do their jobs and live their lives. If it's important enough for the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, State, and Justice or the chief executive officer of Megacorp USA to have, then it's important enough for the average mother of three children to have. Let's start with these minimum services, provided at state and corporate expense:
Cook (three meals and snacks)
24-hour medical help
Masseur/euse on call
Employer-contribution-only pension, instantly vested, fully portable
Personal banker, unlimited loans
Sick days off work on demand
Subsidized travel, medications, and accounting and legal advice
Personal shopper, laundress, and concierge
A minimally-serious effort toward providing these services would have the interesting side-effect of achieving an absolute end to unemployment.
It is a truth universally recognized that a man in possession of his faculties must be in need of a sport to watch. However, there has been a serious over-supply of the commodity of humans in funny uniforms running around in various ways. Not that there are too many sports. But there are certainly too many individual games. With every half-baked burg from Charlotte to Sacramento claiming a "major league" team of some kind, it is too much to expect that, prior to the next Republican recession, (scheduled, I believe, for 2009), the number of sports teams is going to decline. What we can do, though, is shorten the seasons to limit the number of games.
Accordingly, the following calendar rules must be legislated:
1) No regular season baseball game can be played prior to Jackie Robinson Day, the second week of April commemoration of Robinson's insertion into the lineup in 1948. No regular season baseball game can be played after Ted Williams Day, the last week of September commemoration of Williams' hitting .409. Thus spring training could not begin sooner than the second week of March, and all levels of playoffs would have to be over by October 15th.
2) A similar paring of the football schedule is in order. No regular football should be played before Labor Day, and the playoffs should be over by the weekend after the New Year.
3) Hockey and basketball, too, should last from the end of baseball season in mid-October until the beginning of baseball in mid-April.
4) Semi-pro (college) sports of any kind should not begin before Labor Day nor end after Easter.
The various Cabinet-level agencies (not all of which are in the Cabinet, nor all of which are full departments) came along at various points in the nation's history. State, Treasury and War (now miscalled Defense) were with us from the beginning. Agriculture did not come along until Lincoln's second term. Health and Human Services is a creature of Lyndon Johnson's. EPA was invented by Nixon in order not to have to do anything about the environment. But it's time to reorganize, not only the duties, but the names of the departments in order to give a better sense of what the American people can expect, or ought to get, from them.
For instance, building on the centuries-old joke that a diplomat is one sent to lie abroad for his country, the State Department really ought to be the Lying Abroad Department. Veterans Affairs is really more accurately the Department of the Maimed. The Department of Transportation ought to be called the Wheels Department. I am sure that many more will occur to our busy legislators as they go about the task of recovering from six years of Republican legislative incompetence.
Meantime let's all genuflect reverently toward those Bush family friends who rallied round and got the Republicans in the year 2000 to run against Bill Clinton yet again, with about as much success as they had the first two times (three, if you count impeachment as an election, and I think we should.)
James McCarty Yeager of Bethesda, Md., recently promoted The Progressive Populist on-air on Caroline Casey's "Visionary Activist Show" on KPFA-FM, Berkeley, Calif. If you're not in the Bay area, listen on the web Thursdays at 5 p.m. Eastern time at www.kpfa.org.