Whether we are talking Healthcare or Education, the Democratic approach should be the same:
1. Guarantee Universal access to a quality Education and Healthcare as the Right of every American Citizen.
2. Use the free market to deliver these services without the daily interference of Government.
Democrats must sever the link between a government mandate and government being responsible for the delivery of the service. This also includes the "oversight" mentality. Oversight should be focused only on fraud and abuse. We as a people through our government should not interfere in the honest judgements that individuals make. What we should do is set up a fair system where a normal peson would make good decisions:
Establish a refundable tax credit that would be enough to pay for a quality education.
Do likewise for quality healthcare.
Then step back and let the market rule. In education, the government shouldn't have an interest in whether it's a public school, private, religious, home school, environmental, new age, etc. Only whether it is an honest educational institution and actually teaching the children.
The parents should determine whether a school is failing their child or succeeding. We should not use government tests or any other "accountability" system. The government (at any level) should only be involved in delivering education in cases where there is fraud or abuse. Even then, the goal should be to eradicate the government and return to private decision-makers as soon as possible. The principle here is that millions of parents will make better decisions for themselves and their children, rather than people on centrally planned school boards, and departments of education. That's because people who plan for thousands of children at a time can't possibly take into account all of the special needs involved. They range from exceptionally gifted students who need more art and music; to regular students who need more discipline, to female students who need more confidence, etc.
While parents may not have all the choices they would like, they could better determine what suits their family and have more ownership of the process. The current system where most students are assigned a public school based on arbritrary boundaries is unAmerican in 2007.
Healthcare should be addressed with a similar model. A person could choose a basic catastrophic plan, a fee for service plan, a HMO, a community hospital, or something not created yet. Again, the government's only role is to make sure healthcare is delivered as promised, and to attack fraud and abuse. Government officials have to refraim from judging the choices made, and mandating more than a person wants beyond a minimum national standard.
The money not spent would be refunded on the tax return. So the difference between the money spent on their plan and the tax credit would be an incentive to shop wisely. This actually would improve service and lower costs.
As a party we should shrink the size and role of government from areas that aren't vital to actually living. We need to distinguish between discretionary activities, and what we determine are vital. For the former, we should have almost no government whatsoever; for the latter we should do as stated above. This is a recipe for an enduring Majority that respects Americans as individuals who make choices we may/may not agree with, while fostering a vibrant American Identity with shared values.
making the word "liberal" safe again!