Now that the Democrats are back in power, the American public can finally exhale. Bush is doomed. Cheney is on the ropes. Condi is updating her résumé while Rove prepares his exodus. Well, such an optimistic outlook is boldly misguided. The Democrats may have regained control of both houses of government after twelve long years, yet small changes are all we're likely to see come out of the 110th United States Congress.
On the surface things look like they are moving in the right direction. Democrats are enthused to increase the minimum wage and roll back subsidies to the oil cartels. They want the Fed to work with Big Pharma to give Americans access to cheaper prescription drugs. Democrats also want to lower interest rates on student loans. Not bad for the first 100 hours in office. But not all that wonderful either.
Most of what Democratic leaders are proposing are minor, long-overdue reforms, not the type of progressive restructuring we really need. As Ralph Nader recently warned, "Early and troubling signals from Capitol Hill indicate that the Democrats are not going to move to remove the brazen Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, are not going to go after the huge waste and redundancy in military weapons contracts . . . are not going to end massive corporate welfare . . . and are not going to propose a serious crackdown on widespread corporate crime, fraud and abuse."
Perhaps even more alarming than Nader's prescient omen is that our Middle East foreign policy isn't on the road to recovery. Israel will continue to have an affable government in the U.S. that funds the occupation of Palestine and supports Israel's bullying of Iran. As The Times in the UK recently revealed; Israel may be planning a nuclear strike on Iran to destroy the country's uranium enrichment facilities, something Israel denies. All contradictions aside, the Democrats in Washington overwhelming back such an attack.
Following these reports, the new House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told the Jerusalem Post that Democrats wouldn't rule out using force on Iran to block Tehran's nuclear aspirations. In the past, similar remarks had been made by Democratic leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, along with presidential hopeful John Edwards and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Even superman Barack Obama won't challenge the Bush administration's erroneous Iran approach.
As Obama told the Chicago Tribune in September of 2004, "[T]he big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures [to stop its nuclear program], including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point ... if any, are we going to take military action? ... [L]aunching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in" given the ongoing war in Iraq. "On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse."
Some other Democrats seem to have come to their senses, and many plan on objecting to Bush's push for more troops in Iraq, a commonsense position that we should hardly congratulate them for taking. Sen. Harry Reid had initially supported such a surge, but later back-peddled after realizing he'd see repercussions from the antiwar wing of his party.
Similarly, if we want the Democrats to change their tune on Israel and Iran, we've got to hold their feet to the fire. If left to their own devices Democrats will continue to mimic the neocon's strategy for the Middle East, not alter it.
Other Recent Articles by Josh Frank