Democrats present new plan for America at University

Nancy Pelosi and Martin Sabo spoke about the Democratic plan, “Six for ’06.”

by Elena Rozwadowski

With the 2006 election a few months away, political candidates and parties are starting to share their ideas for the future of the country with the public.

Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., visited the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs building Thursday to introduce their party’s plan for America, should the Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives or the Senate.

The plan, called “A New Direction for America,” will focus on issues Democrats say the Republican Party has ignored.

“Wherever you turn, something has gone wrong,” Sabo said, “and the Republicans, who have the power of subpoena, have been docile.”

The plan focuses on six issues: homeland security, keeping jobs in America, college access for all, energy independence, health care costs and Social Security.

The “Six for ’06” focus on issues that are meant to hit close to home for the typical American family.

For example, the Democrats want to focus on developing new energy sources to decrease the country’s dependence on foreign oil. Pelosi spent a day at Farmfest last week to promote this idea.

“We want to make sure the end of the day that the family farmer is part of this,” Pelosi said. “We will send our dollars to the Midwest and not the Middle East.”

With this new plan, Democrats also plan to help students and families pay for college by increasing Pell Grants and expanding tax credits for college tuition. They say they also plan to cut student loan interest rates in half, saving students an estimated $6,228 in their lifetime.

Pelosi said their plan does not focus on cutting the rising tuition costs, but instead on things that affect families more directly.

“The price tag for these things always gets pushed to the state,” Pelosi said. “Education is good for the country, but it also adds more to the public till. We have to fight for budgets that are more responsible.”

Other goals would be to increase the minimum wage to $7.25, lower prescription drug costs and expand retirement savings opportunities by stopping the privatization of social security.

“These are the kitchen-table issues,” Pelosi said. “We know the American people. We are here for them, and we want them to know that.”

But assistant professor of political science Kathryn Pearson said the plan is more of an outline of Democratic issues than a specific plan of action.

“They’re being relatively vague about the details,” Pearson said. “They talk about issues that are important to Democratic candidates, but this is not a specific legislative plan.”

Pearson said the Democrats likely came out with “A New Direction” both because they hope to turn the election in their favor and because of GOP criticism for their lack of a plan.

“Democrats have capitalized on criticizing George Bush,” Pearson said, “but they have opened themselves up to their own criticism that they don’t have their own plan.”

Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Sue Jeffers said she was unfamiliar with the plan, but commented on the actions of the Democratic Party.

“It’s about time the Democrats came up with a plan,” she said.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., were contacted but declined to comment.