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Op-Ed - A New Direction for America

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Families across the country are worried about high gas prices, skyrocketing health care costs and rising college tuition. And they are concerned about the security of their cities and towns and American soldiers dying in the Iraq War, which has no end in sight. It has never been more clear that our country needs a new direction.

I am proud to have worked with other Democratic Members of Congress to unveil a clear, bold plan for a New Direction for America that responds to these urgent concerns of all Americans.

Our agenda takes our country in a new direction to create security and economic opportunity for American families. Our plan would strengthen our military, create good-paying jobs, reduce the costs of energy, health care and college and help people save for retirement. Furthermore, we pay for our policies by repealing tax giveaways that encourage companies to move jobs overseas, prohibit the congressional pay raise until the nation's minimum wage is raised and restore pay-as-you-go budgets that once spurred record economic growth.

As part of our multi-faceted New Direction for America agenda, Democrats are committed to:

* Reclaiming American leadership with a tough, smart plan to transform failed policies in Iraq, the Middle East and around the world.
* Requiring the Iraqis to take responsibility for their country and beginning the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2006.
* Destroying Osama Bin Laden and terrorist networks, like Al Queda.
* Rebuilding a state-of-the-art military capable of projecting American power wherever necessary.
* Implementing the bipartisan 9/11 Commission recommendations to secure America's borders and ports; screening 100 percent of containers; and fully manning, training, and equipping our National Guard, police, firefighters and other first responders.
* Honoring our commitments to our veterans through a New GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century.

In addition, our New Direction for America will bring down record gas prices for the American people, instead of protecting the profits of Big Oil. Our plan will achieve energy independence within 10 years through real investments in alternative fuels, including homegrown American-made biofuels. Our New Direction for America will also repeal billions of dollars in tax giveaways for profit-rich oil companies and end price gouging by Big Oil.

Quality, affordable health care is a key value in America, yet it is increasingly out of reach for many Americans as health insurance costs for families have increased by 70 percent since 2000. Our New Direction for America will make health insurance more affordable for both employers and employees and fix the Republican prescription drug program, which put pharmaceutical companies and HMOs ahead of seniors.

Access to higher education is critical to building a highly skilled workforce. But the cost of college is soaring, plunging a generation of American students deeply into debt. Our plan will make tuition tax deductible, expand Pell Grants and cut student loan costs in half.

Finally, with challenging economic times, saving for retirement has become more difficult for working families, even after a lifetime of hard work. Our New Direction for America will ensure a dignified retirement for workers by stopping the Republicans' plan to privatize Social Security, which slashes benefits for the middle class and adds trillions to the national debt. We will also expand retirement savings incentives and enact real pension reform to protect employees' financial security from CEO corruption and mismanagement.

Through this New Direction for America, Democrats will work to unite our country, rather than divide it. We believe our democracy should work for everyone by building opportunity and prosperity for all, and guaranteeing real security at home and around the world.

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