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It's All a Song and Dance

ALTHOUGH I am a liberal Democrat, I find much to admire in the Republicans' Contract With America. For starters, it has been a public relations bonanza. Perhaps the Democrats can create their own Contract. I have come up with several bills that they ought to stand squarely behind. To grab the public's short attention span, I suggest using song lyrics and titles:

War (Huh!, Goodgosh Lord), What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing! Act of 1995 (Edwin Starr). The cold war is over, yet we continue to spend obscene amounts on the military. This act would cut military spending in half. Why don't the Democrats challenge this insane idea of a two-front war? Against what countries? Why do we continue to kowtow to the military? The Democrats should be able to provide real choice here.

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He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother Act (The Hollies). In a recent national survey, the average amount that the American public thought the nation spent in foreign aid was 15 percent of the gross domestic product. Fifteen percent?!? Not even close. In fact, we give only .15 percent, and much of this does not go to the poorest nations in the world. This act would first educate the American people about how much we provide in foreign aid, and second would provide 1 percent of our GDP -- an amount we already have agreed to in principle -- to assist the less fortunate.

Money, Money, Money, Money Act (some 1970s group I forgot). Even more bothersome to the Democrats than the degree to which money dominates our political system, I suppose, is that most political-action committee money is now being coerced in the direction of the Republicans. Let's see the Democrats stake out a definite position by completely removing PACs from our political system, and instead finance campaigns publicly.

I Shot the Sheriff Act (Eric Clapton). The Republicans now want to remove the ban on assault rifles. Rather than having this issue dominate discussion of gun control, let the Democrats do something even more meaningful: take the position that all guns, except those used for recreational purposes, should be removed from public circulation.

Papa Was a Rolling Stone Act (The Temptations). Why has all this discussion of welfare reform centered on women? Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't it take two to make a baby? The Democrats should propose to go after deadbeat dads in a meaningful way: by having federal enforcement, and by taking child support directly from a father's paycheck. No need to mess around with state-by-state enforcement or the whims of individual judges. This is a federal problem and a federal law should determine what percentage of income noncustodial parents should pay.

The Green, Green Grass of Home Act (all I know is that my grandfather used to sing this song to me). We supposedly have the environmental vice president. However, there has been little indication of this, or of any real Democratic concern for the environment. The Democrats should stake out the claim -- and back it up -- that they truly are interested in protecting the environment, and take whatever heat might come their way.

You Say You Want a Revolution Act (The Beatles). House Speaker Newt Gingrich and company claim to be revolutionaries. Well, let's really talk revolution. A study released last week showed that the United States is now the most unequal society in the Western world. In fact, with a tiny minority of the richest Americans owning nearly half of the nation's wealth, we look a lot like France did before the French Revolution. Let the Democrats address this issue and have the Republicans respond by stating: ''Let them eat cake.'' Whenever the Republicans raise the spectre of ''class warfare'' the Democrats hurriedly change their tune and the subject. Enough.

Perhaps the solution is to turn loose the tax man. If so, then let it be.