MoveOn's 'Contract for the American Dream' Short on Good Ideas

'Contract for the American Dream' lacks the substance of Gingrich's original 'Contract for America.'

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Back in 1994, when Newt Gingrich and the Republicans came up with the "Contract With America," Democrats and liberals derided it as nothing more than a campaign gimmick.

When the "Contract With America" propelled Gingrich into the House speakership, and earned him the first GOP congressional majority in 40 years, they attacked its provisions, calling it mean-spirited and a sop to special interests. When the Republicans did what they promised, and became the first GOP Congress to be re-elected since 1926, they pretended it didn't matter. Now they're trying to duplicate it.

In an email to supporters of, Van Jones—the former Obama White House adviser who now heads a group called Rebuild the Dream—announced the creation of A Contract for the American Dream. "And as a first step," Jones said, "if we can get at least 100,000 citizen signers right away, Rebuild the Dream and MoveOn will join together to put the Contract in a full page ad in The New York Times, so America can see the solutions to our broken politics and struggling economy writ large." [See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

The Contract has 10 components:

  1. Invest in America's Infrastructure
  2. Create 21st-Century Energy Jobs
  3. Invest in Public Education
  4. Offer Medicare for All
  5. Make Work Pay
  6. Secure Social Security
  7. Return to Fairer Tax Rates
  8. End the Wars and Invest at Home
  9. Tax Wall Street Speculation
  10.  Strengthen Democracy
  11. It's long on rhetoric. Jones says the document is "a Contract to create jobs, invest in America, and rebuild the American Dream for all" but it fails to define the specifics of what a new Democratic majority would do if returned to power along with President Barack Obama, something the GOP's Contract with America did clearly and succinctly.

    To "Strengthen Democracy," Jones' document says, "We need clean, fair elections—where no one's right to vote can be taken away, and where money doesn't buy you your own member of Congress. We must ban anonymous political influence, slam shut the lobbyists' revolving door in D.C. and publicly finance elections. Immigrants who want to join in our democracy deserve a clear path to citizenship. We must stop giving corporations the rights of people when it comes to our elections. And we must ensure our judiciary's respect for the Constitution. Together, we will reclaim our democracy to get our country back on track. " [Follow the money in Congress.]

    It sounds nice but it doesn't explain how these objectives would be reached or how any problems with little things like the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be overcome.

    In essence Jones' contract sounds like little more than an effort to claim a mandate exists to rerun the first two years of the Obama administration which, most Americans would agree, have not worked out as advertised. As an effort to grow the government, it's just fine. As a formula for solving the problems the country currently faces, it's several steps in the wrong direction.

    • Read more about the 2012 presidential election.
    • Check out our editorial cartoons on the Democratic Party.
    • See an opinion slide show of 10 wasteful stimulus projects.