Monday, July 12, 2010

The Republican Agenda 2010 (AndrewPrice Version)

For some time now, I’ve said the Republicans need to come up with an agenda. History has shown that a party that wins an election without an agenda usually achieves nothing except being tossed out of office again. The reasons for this are simple. Without an agenda, there are no common goals to hold your party together and there is nothing to set the public’s expectation of what you will do. The latter is particularly dangerous because silence allows the creation of conflicting expectations, which guarantees disappointment. So what should the Republican agenda be?

An announced agenda should be short and easy to understand, and it should consist of concrete policy ideas. It should include only things that will generate both broad public support and intense public interest. It should not be all inclusive, nor should it be littered with esoteric concepts or ideas that appeal only to the base. Those are best dealt with in a larger platform or direct contact.

Here is my take on the best agenda for November 2010:

1. The Fiscal Responsibility Act: As I explained before, and as Admiral Mullen of the Joint Chiefs recently agreed, our deficit has become a national security threat. We must get this under control immediately. To that end, I propose the following spending cuts:

• Cancel The TARP: We should not be using tax money to enrich banks, nor should we allow this pool of money to become a slush fund as the Democrats are trying to use it. At last count, $364 billion remains outstanding.

• Cancel The “Stimulus”: The “stimulus” was classic throwing good money after bad. Much of this can still be avoided.

• Cut Federal Employment & Salaries: During the last decade federal pay far outstripped private pay. We need to force the government to do what the private sector does in recessions: cut 10% of the civilian workforce and cut pay 10% across the board. For political reasons, I would limit the pay cuts to anyone making more than $25,000 a year.

• Non-Defense Discretionary Spending Cut: A 10% cut in spending across the board would be significant yet would not even reduce the budget to the levels it was at under free-spending George Bush -- making this something the government can do with little problem.
There are other cuts I would add, but these should be the “highlight points.” We should be able to reduce Obama’s $1.6 trillion deficit to $500 billion in the first year without even touching entitlements or defense spending, though I would touch both. . . just not in the agenda. For example, to save Social Security, we need to raise the retirement age to 70 and I would offer people a reduced “buy-in” if they want to get Social Security earlier (something like a 10% permanent reduction for every year earlier they want to start receiving it). Click here for additional details on the spending cuts above.

2. The Economic Recovery and Revitalization Act: America needs a genuine, long-term stimulus. Years of creeping regulation and taxes have hurt our economy, and now government spending is threatening to wipe it out. And everything both parties have offered for “stimulus” is an economic joke. I propose the following instead:
• Cut Payroll Taxes Across the Board by 2%: As I explained before, such a cut makes working more valuable for workers and it makes employees cheaper for employers, all of which leads to an increased desire to work and an increased demand for workers. By expanding the desire to produce more “work,” we actually stimulate the economy to achieve more, as compared to stimulus spending which merely shifts demand from the future.

• Eliminate Payroll Taxes on the Elderly and Teens: The idea here is to encourage older workers to work longer, to encourage younger workers to start working (and develop beneficial habits), and to encourage employers to bring these people into the workforce. Making non-productive “assets” (e.g. the retired and the young) productive is another way to permanently stimulate the economy. In fact, this is the basis of the various “Asian miracles” -- non-productive peasants and women being brought into the labor force.

• Cut The Capital Gains Tax On Asset Sales: As explained previously, cutting the capital gains tax encourages companies to buy new equipment quicker. This increases demand and makes companies more productive. It also gets older equipment into the used market quicker, helping smaller companies. To counter the idea that this is about stock sales, I would propose limiting this capital gains tax cut to the sale of capital equipment (or eliminating the capital gains on the recapture of depreciation). This would allow the Republicans to paint the Democrats as opposed to workers if they opposed it.

• Reduce the Top Income Bracket: It’s time to flatten the tax bracket. First, I would cut the top bracket by 2% and schedule it for further 2% cuts every two years until it hits 20%. Secondly, I would raise the lowest bracket at the same time until it reaches 20% as well. The idea is to flatten the tax code and to make sure that most Americans pay some tax, I’ve explained the reason for this before. To prevent the charge that this is anti-poor, I would include a $2,500 a year credit, which would NOT be indexed to inflation, meaning its value would fall over the next 10-15 years.

• Energy Independence: Last year, the United States bought $470 billion in imported oil -- about half came from countries that don’t like us. If we opened more land for drilling and invested in the conversion from an oil-based economy to a natural gas-based economy, about half that $470 billion would be spent in places like Arkansas, California and the Dakotas instead of Saudi Arabia. At a minimum, this would add $235 billion flowing through the American economy each year. Additionally, the new supply and competition from gas would drive down the price of oil, which would make food, goods and everything cheaper. Finally, switching to natural gas would dramatically reduce the amount of carbon put into the air. . . if you believe in global warming.

3. The Genuine Health Care Reform Act: The United States health care system is broken. It costs too much and achieves too little, its costs are out of control, not enough people have access to regular care, and it suffers from poor quality control. ObamaCare only makes this worse. Republicans should be pushing CommentaramaCare. But they won’t. So at the very least, they should be promising:
• Repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

• Fully funding Medicare.

• Granting federal licenses to doctors to allow them to work anywhere in the country.

• Opening the insurance market to interstate competition.

• Encouraging a switch to out-of-pocket payment, supplemented by catastrophic care insurance.

• Opening the medical market to new forms of competition by allowing providers to organize freely, just as any other company can, and by allowing them to introduce new pricing models.

• Requiring medical providers to make pricing available prior to treatment.

• Malpractice reform, and improving doctor training and supervision.

4. The Clean and Accountable Government Act: Corruption and abuse of power have become endemic. It’s time to change that:
• TARP/Stimulus Audits: It’s time to bring in independent auditors to examine the TARP, the TALP, and the Stimulus, to determine exactly where the money went, how it was spent, and whether we have been paid back in full.

• Require independent audits of Congress with full release of the results.

• A Perk-Free Congress: It’s time to end the perks that Congress gives itself. No more private planes, no taxpayer-funded alcohol, junkets, parties, vacations, office decorations, etc. There should also be an anti-nepotism act to prevent Congress members from hiring their own family members.

• Tighten the rules on lobbyists to stop the revolving door between big business and government.

• Campaign Finance Reform: It violates the First Amendment to tell people how they can spend their money to support campaigns, but we can (and should) require full disclosure of donations. In particular, we should require corporations to disclose their donations to their shareholders, and unions to disclose their donations to their members. We should also require unions to allow their members to “opt-out” of contributing to the union’s political funds, with a private right of action to enforce this, i.e. civil suits by members.

• Eliminate All Federal Czars: These are unconstitutional, unaccountable positions that are making informal laws that apply only to certain people. This is unacceptable in a democracy.

5. Immigration Reform: Finally, we have immigration reform. This requires its own separate post, but generally the Republicans should stick with the following principles:
• Protecting the border.

• Creating a system that lets employers verify if a prospective employee is legally in the country, and punishing employers who hire illegal aliens.

• Ensuring that guest workers can still be brought in where labor shortages exist.

• Refusing to create “a path to citizenship” for people who are here illegally.

• Taking the burden off of states.
As I said before, there are many other things I would want the Republicans to do, but they should not be included in a published agenda. For example, I would look at regulating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and I would redo the Dodd-Frank financial regulation. But trying to sell this to the public would put people to sleep.

You may also notice an absence of social policy and foreign policy. The reasons for this are simple. Right now, the public is focused almost entirely on issues of economic policy, corruption and abuse of power. Highlighting social issues at this point would not be wise. Similarly, foreign policy is omitted because it doesn’t excite the public and because it remains the zone of control of the President. This is not to say that these issues shouldn’t be addressed, but I would not include them in a public agenda.


LL said...

I normally can find one bone of contention -- but I can't this time. I agree 100%!

There are other fine print items like eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts -- clearly until the obama B. S. is set right. The whole federally funded "art about Obama" is something that needs to be spiked once and for all. Let the artists paint tributes to barack hussein obama on their own dime if they want to paint.

StanH said...

Looks reasonable Andrew.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks LL. I agree that there are lots of little things, and the example you give is a good one. But those are the kinds of things you talk about with activists directly, and then you do them quietly as part of larger budget bills.

I think this agenda would win over the vast majority of the public, it would give us a chance to put a lot of great things into place, and it would even lay the ground work for further "more extreme" or "more radical" measures once the public saw the positive effects, i.e. once we built up the public's trust that we know what we're doing.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Stan, I think so. And I think this sure beats the heck out of the current "we're not the Democrats."

Tennessee Jed said...

I could quibble a little about a couple of details I suppose, but it would be hard to argue that if this agenda were adopted, we could defeat a hell of a lot of liberal politicians in the mid-term and hopefully create a mandate. Hell, we could even get snarky like the Obamites "suggested" that Bush allow his highness to assume control early and not wait until inauguration. In that regard, the American equivalent of a "no confidence" form a new government election.

Time to put up, though, Andrew. Are you going to submit your agenda to anyone, and if so, who?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Feel free to quibble away. If anyone has any ideas they think should be added or removed, I'd love to hear them.

As for submitting it, I'm happy to submit it to anyone. I just don't think they'll listen. Still, I could e-mail it to a few Congressmen. If you know someone, then by all means send it to them.

LL said...

Though I wouldn't put it as a lynchpin of the Republican Strategy, I believe that the Gates Defense Budget trimming is prudent. The key word is 'prudent'.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, I agree. I would also like to see a refocus of our strategy to look more at (1) special ops against terror, (2) defense against China as the big threat, and (3) major investment in cyberdefense. I am seeing a lot of very bad things in the cyberworld -- probably worth an article.

And like you, I would not include this in an agenda because the Democrats would cynically morph it into "you want to send our troops out without equipment," which is the furthest thing from the truth. Our troops should always have what they need. But there is a lot of fat in the bureaucracy, and there are weapons system that the military actually doesn't want but Congress won't give up.

Joel Farnham said...


Well worth the wait. I agree with it and I would like LL's addition to it.

Who to send it to? Hmmm. Let me get back to you on that.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Joel! What we really need is a "list serve" for "important Republicans."

If there's anything else you think should be added, feel free to tell us.

patti said...

you're old enough to run for president. you have a platform. the only thing i wonder is why? run andrew run!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Patti, but I'm more of a "driver" than a "runner." ;-)

Plus, I'm not sure I can do the fund raising bit. Yuck! Talk about unpleasant: "Hi, my name is Andrew, can I have a million dollars? You can stay in the Lincoln bedroom if I win."

Ponderosa said...

Keep or restore the Bush tax cuts.

Even with a tax credit the "Reduce the Top Income Bracket" is too easy to demonize.

I think a convincing argument can made that drilling on land is safer than a mile under water.

No more recess appointments block by law or procedure.

There are several treaties I'd like to see stopped.

The Economic Recovery and Revitalization Act should get top billing - IMHO.

I do not believe there is consensus regarding Immigration Reform among Republicans. Something needs to be done but I can't stick to a position.

Nice job I like it.

On a side note - I still see Dems going after Bush on his spending. Pathetic but amusing.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I find myself agreeing with that agenda on all fronts, and in those cases where I might have a difference, it's so small as to be a mere quibble.

The biggest stimulus I can find in your suggestions is the issue of capital gains. I would only add, repeal Sarbanes-Oxley immediately.

Jocelyn said...

Andrew, my brain hurts. This just makes too much sense. Heaven forbid that we do things logically.

Jocelyn said...

Ugh, Sorry about the multiple posts, my brower was giving me issues.

AndrewPrice said...

Ponderosa, Thanks.

The reason I put the debt reduction first is because (1) people are very upset about the deficit at the moment (as shown by the polls) and (2) the Republicans need credibility as responsible stewards of the government after the free spending years of 2004-2008.

I agree about the Bush tax cuts, though I wouldn't call them "Bush tax cuts." I'd repackage them.

The 20% flatter tax would be the hardest sell. BUT, I think it's worth doing. For one thing, it's good policy. Secondly, right now the public might accept it because they are not in a pro-government mood. Third, I think it sets up a great argument: "Why can't the government get by on 20%? How much do you Democrats think the government needs?" I've seen recent polls where the public was asked "what is a fair level of tax" and the vast majority came in around 20%. So I think anything the Democrats say will be bad for them.

I agree that there is no consensus about immigration within the Republican Party, and that's a problem because there is a consensus within the population -- look at the support that Arizona's law is getting despite all the distortions and the slanders heaped upon it. It's time the Republicans just bit the bullet and made a decision on this issue -- and they should listen to the public, not big business.

I saw them trying to blame Bush for spending (and the BP thing) this weekend. But I think it's too late to blame Bush for anything at this point.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think this is a very solid agenda. As I've said before, there are other things I'd like to see them do as well, but this would make a heck of a agenda to put forward to the public as a plan for what the Republicans intend to do.

I agree about Sarbanes-Oxley, and I'd like to see that included in a financial regulation bill.

AndrewPrice said...

Jocelyn, Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. Sadly, common sense isn't so common anymore -- especially in politics.

But I have hope on this because the people are speaking loud and clear to Washington, and they are saying "smaller government, less debt, fewer taxes." And for the first time since 1994 (and 1980 before that) I think the Republicans are listening.

(Don't worry about the extra posts, they're easily deleted.)

Ed said...

Cool. I hope someone reads this. I would vote for this and I think a lot of other people would too. Great work!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed. Feel free to spread it around if you like.

Ed said...

Hey Andrew, I just read an article at the Washington Examiner that says the same thing (or close at least). They say the Republicans need to have a strategy or they'll make the same mistake Obama did when he got elected, and they are endorsing a strategy by Paul Ryan. But you were there first, so nice work!

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I saw that! I'm a fan of Paul Ryan, he's definitely one of the smarter (smartest) Republicans. And I've seen parts of his plan. It makes a lot of sense, though the party itself is scared to touch it because it advocates changes to Medicare. Hopefully though, as his profile grows, the party will start to listen to him more.

I'm also glad to see more and more right-leaning thinkers saying the Republicans need to put together an agenda. Rush said it, Fred Barnes said it, and now the Examiner said it. And they all make the same point, without an agenda, victory tends to mean nothing.

Doc Whoa said...

Great, I agree! Where do I vote for you? :)

AndrewPrice said...

Doc Whoa, I'll let you know! LOL!

CrispyRice said...

I just got around to reading this, Andrew, and I have to say that this a great agenda. I really, really like the idea of having something that we run on, not just the "we're not democrats" as you say.

We need our candidates to start talking like this. Yes, you should run! ;)

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Crispy! I'll go buy some running shoes!

Seriously, I like the idea of having something to run on as well. And that idea seems to be gaining steam lately as important conservatives are starting to figure out that we do need something to hold the party together and to give the people something to latch onto.

Hopefully, the party itself will wise up and take this advice.

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