There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.
I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.
So it was to my surprise when I was reading the online version of today's WSJ that there was an editorial written by Ned Lamont - something of a surprise for a newspaper that only a week ago was saying how Lamont Democrats were dangerously wrong.
The editorial is aptly titled - it's called The Democrats Mean Business, which is a good way of framing the content of Lamont's article, which fits his positions into the context of his business experience. He describes how he started his own business, but perhaps most importantly (and maybe it's the new theme in his campaign), Lamont pulls out the following four points to explain his stances on particular issues:
First, entrepreneurs are frugal beasts, because the bottom line means everything. In Connecticut, voters are convinced that Washington has utterly lost touch with fiscal reality. We talked about irresponsible budget policies that have driven the annual federal deficit above $300 billion and the debt ceiling to $9 trillion. Meanwhile, the government is spending $250 million a day on an unprovoked war in Iraq while starving needed social investment at home. I am a fiscal conservative and our people want their government to be sparing and sensible with their tax dollars.
One of the time-honored maxims of business, even though its application at times may be questionable, is that profit should be maximized. Applied to our government, it means that we should have fiscal responsibility and should be allocating our scarce resources - income tax revenue - to the programs that people need the most. Look at the cost of war in Iraq, and one can only wonder how many uninsured people could have had health insurance, or how many kids who couldn't afford college could have gone with more federal aid to students. Lamont calls himself a 'fiscal conservative', and that's nothing to be ashamed of. The notion of a 'tax-and-spend liberal' is largely a dead one; it's only a boogeyman that the GOP raises in an effort to scare people. Bill Clinton's legacy is one of fiscal responsibility, and with the out-of-control spending policies that the GOP has instituted the last 6 years, it is the Democratic Party that are fiscally conservative - as opposed to fiscally clueless.
Second, entrepreneurs invest in human resources. Our business strives to pay good wages and provide good health benefits so that we can attract employees that give us an edge in a competitive marketplace. Well-trained and well-cared-for people are essential for every business these days, particularly in a global economy. It's getting harder and harder for American businesses to compete on price, but we innovate and change better than any economy on the planet. The quality of our work force is one of America's competitive advantages -- if our education system fails our children and our employers, we'll lose the future.
That's why I talked about my work as a volunteer teacher in the Bridgeport public schools, which can't afford to be open later than 2:30 p.m., schools that send children home to an empty house. That's why my campaign offered a strong alternative to standardized tests and No Child Left Behind. That's why I believe in an employer-based health-care system that covers everyone, and providing tax benefits to small businesses so they can provide insurance without risking bankruptcy.
Lamont does something that the Democratic Party should talk more about - the link between education and the outflow of jobs from America. Kids in middle and high school have not made gains in science, one area in particular where America has long been the leader in innovation. Nowadays, much of the exciting new progress made in science is coming from overseas. We need to have a well-educated workforce in order to compete in today's world. To do so, we need to make sure that we also have benefits for our existing workers that ensure they will remain employed. Universal health care and tax benefits to small businesses - not corporations - are important in helping the true engine of America's economy stay strong.
Third, in a market-driven economy, entrepreneurs can never lose touch with what customers, suppliers and workers are saying. A great strength of our campaign is that we embraced the grassroots and netroots, suburbs and inner cities, and used the most advanced technology to empower our door-knockers and activists. We listened hard and respectfully to what voters told us, and gave them the confidence to trust someone new.
There's been plenty of chatter about the role that the netroots played in Lamont's primary victory. While we did help Lamont get off the ground, it's important to note that the people of Connecticut - the grassroots and the ordinary citizens - played an even more important part. They were the disaffected residents who realized that Joe Lieberman no longer represented what they believed in. When you have an executive who no longer has the health of their company on the top of their list, they get fired. On August 8, that's exactly what Nutmeggers did - they fired an out-of-touch representative.
Finally, entrepreneurs are pragmatic. Unlike some politicians, we don't draw a false strength from closed minds, and we don't step on the accelerator when the car is headed off the cliff.
Much was said about how Lamont's campaign is only about Iraq. It's not, but the root cause of our continuing struggles there - blindness to reality - is something that has been evident in any action the Bush administration takes. Whether it's the inability to fund potentially life-saving stem cell research to a point where it's feasible and not just a pipe dream, or it's ignoring the awful realities that existed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit, there's been a close-minded atmosphere in Washington, particularly with the current occupants of the White House. Iraq is devolving into civil war, and yet we're sending more troops into harm's way. This is not a winning policy in Iraq; it will only serve to drive up American casualties. Joe Lieberman has been an enabler of our failures in Iraq, but Ned Lamont supports true change in our policy. Sometimes, you need to hit the breaks.
Lamont does a good job of posing himself as a sensible businessman who felt the duty to step up and defy an entrenched senator who no longer represented his interests. Anyone who reads the editorial won't see a left-winger foaming at the mouth. Instead, they'll see a moderate who is well aware of what's wrong with the country - and what needs to be done to fix it.