The recent election is a celebration, especially for Democrats. President-elect Obama comes to Washington at a time when the country is desperate for a change in how we do business. And he now has more Democrats to help in the House and the Senate.
But Democrats won’t achieve our vision for America, if we don’t do a better job communicating to middle class Americans that we understand them and what they are hoping to achieve.
Americans are ready to leave the last eight years behind, but Democrats must offer a vision of change that helps the middle class get ahead.
The Democratic Congress and President-elect Obama must embrace new ideas that deliver real solutions that help the middle class achieve success in the way they define it - sending kids to college, affording a nice home in a safe neighborhood, saving for retirement, starting a business, and getting ahead.
First, we need to cut middle class taxes. For too long the party has treated this issue as an after thought. But at a time when the tax burden in the city is among the highest in the nation, having a discussion about how to lessen it is overdue.
Second, we ought to adopt a fresh approach to fiscal responsibility, one that emphasizes transparency and simplicity. Democrats are right to defend what works, but when money isn’t being spent the right way, our party should put the spotlight on failure - and propose a way to do it more efficiently.
Third, we should improve public education through better teacher pay and a strong approach to school discipline. Our schools are the future and our kids won’t be able to compete if they don’t have a world class education. That means paying our teachers like professionals and holding them accountable.
Fourth, we must renew our commitment to safe cities and communities. It was a grave mistake to diminish the COPS program that put 100,000 new police on the street. But by combining new initiatives to hire more police with a strong focus on community policing, we will foster an environment in which citizens and police work together to make neighborhoods safe for everyone.
Fifth, we need to bolster support for small business. Small businesses create jobs - more jobs than even the big corporations our nation is famous for. But we don’t do enough to nurture small businesses and the spirit of entrepreneurship. Easing the tax burdens on small businesses would be a start, but we must also return the Small Business Administration into the powerhouse it was before the Bush administration cut much of its funding.
Sixth, we have to ensure all citizens have health care they can afford. A key constituency may be middle class who will want to know reform means more affordable, guaranteed coverage but does not mean loss of choice and quality.
Seventh, we should recommit ourselves to rebuilding the American infrastructure. Among other things, that means making broadband available everywhere and expanding mass transit resources.
Eighth, we need to support the development of new affordable housing. Under this administration in Washington, affordable housing has taken some tough hits. Urban members of Congress in particular will need to go to bat with the next administration.
With the rise of President Obama, there is a tide of excitement that our long national nightmare in the White House may be over. But even though we won the election, what’s important now is that we understand what the middle class wants and take real action to help them achieve it.
Anthony Weiner is a member of Congress representing the 9th Congressional District.