Former Congressman Harold Ford spoke to the Democratic Leadership council. He called on Democrats to make this the primary, not about money, but about ideas. He announced a new website IdeasPrimary.com. The web site would track the ideas candidates put forward and provide a place for experts around the country to weigh in on whether ideas would work or not. It is to serve as an online laboratory for ideas.
Ford put forth six challenges that primary ideas needs to address. First, rebuilding the foundation on which our national security rests, the Armed Forces. He states clearly that Iraq may not be the last war America may have to fight and that if we find ourselves at war again we need to do so with strong military. A new army that is bigger and stronger and is “certain that it always go to battle with the armor it deserves and come home to the heroes’ welcome it has earned.” This increased size of the army would guarantee guardsmen and Reservist would not be called on to serve endless tours of duty. A new GI bill that would guarantee every soldier and veterans would have the promises made to him fulfilled. To increase our security by developing a Greater Middle East prosperity plan to spur economic growth and investment bringing the Middle East into the world trading system. Develop a patient, peaceful plan to foster democracy an individual liberty in the Middle East, even if that places us in opposition with friendly autocrats. If conflicts cannot be resolved using U.S. diplomacy and the United Nations, then we should develop other forums such as a Worldwide Democracy Coalition.
His second challenge is to give Americans the tools they need to compete through a new social contract. This contract would include universal healthcare and universal college education. He would reduce the cost of healthcare by modernizing the system and rewarding results rather than procedures. Ford states that America cannot serve as an inspiration to the world when we haven fallen from first to seventh place in the percentage of young people with college degrees. He would like to stop subsidizing banks that offer student loans and use the savings to provide free education to anyone willing to work or serve.
His third challenge is to hold government accountable for results. Ford shared how, when he was a child, and his dad was in congress, he used to run around the place. He remembered people used to say Democrats want to tax and spend and cant be trusted with your money. Ford said, “My, my, my –the Lord works in mysterious ways. How things have changed…You cant and shouldn’t expect it to be to much for people to ask that we treat our books like they have to treat theirs…If they have to make ends meet, then we ought to have to do it here.” He would start by cutting the number of federal contractors by 750,000, cutting the number of political appointees in half, and breaking up the Department of Homeland security. H would pass tax reform that would reward work as much as much, if not more than wealth. He would restore a progressive tax code.
His fourth challenge is creating a hybrid energy economy. He would like to set a goal for every American household to own an American made hybrid car or its equivalent by 2015. He would create a clean energy market with a cap and trade system and subsidies small farmers who grew renewable energy sources. He said, “We ought to demand more of our leaders. If our leaders in finance can figure out how to engineer the most unbelievable deals that produce the most unbelievable yields, then I know if we challenge them to sit around and develop answers to the most promising challenges of the day, be they education, the environment or war, they will respond well.”
His fifth challenge is to make America the most pro family nation on earth. He would provide three months paid leave for parent. He would encourage major corporations to allow parents to take up to a five-year leave of absence for raising children. He also called on companies to curb “cultural pollution” aimed at our children. The sixth challenge is to end poverty for those who work. He would pass the Aspire Act and launch a national campaign to reduce teen pregnancy by fifty percent. The debating and defining of these issues of the next eight months should help the democrats develop a sound party platform for the 2008 presidential campaign.