Republicans, how do we get there from here?
By: David Coughlin
Anybody-But-Obama has been the Republican campaign strategy so far. This is not sufficient to win the election in November. What voters need and want is a vision of the future that a Republican offers and how it would be better than four more years of Barack Obama. A return to free market capitalism and the American Dream is not specific enough to be a vision. We have now been privileged to see what a socialist looks like and have roundly rejected it. How would a conservative administration differ and how would we measure success?
The first area for comparison is the most important according to voters, the economy. Barack Obama inherited a recession that supposedly ended six months into his term, but most Americans doubt whether it has ever ended. Throwing trillions of dollars at the symptoms elongated the recovery and extended the pain. Republicans should target 5% annual GDP growth as a benchmark, which towers over the limp 1-2% recovery so far. The one area of growth has been in the size of government, so Republicans should identify specific areas to downsize the federal government (eliminate Cabinet departments, privatize Federal Reserve, Amtrak, and Post Office, or sell federal assets, buildings, land) which contrasts to Obama taking over Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Sally Mae, and General Motors. Government overreach must be stopped in its tracks, so Republicans must commit to repeal laws that never should have been passed in the first place, such as ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, and Sarbanes-Oxley before they can be totally implemented and impossible to undo. Unemployment has been an anchor holding the recovery back, so Republicans should target full employment at 5% to contrast to the new normal of 8+%. More importantly the Republicans must target putting Americans back to work instead of encouraging them to drop out of the workforce completely. Republicans must demand fiscal rigor and discipline by requiring a balanced federal budget which would stand in stark contrast to the trillion dollar deficits we have seen recently and projections of increasing debt into the foreseeable future. Republicans also must ensure entitlements are reformed, or even privatized, since Democrats are trying to ignore this gorilla in the room. Democrats are invested in a progressive income tax structure with innumerble additions, deductions, exemptions and loopholes. Republicans must lead the replacement with a simple, if not flat, tax to make the United States more competitive globally. Finally energy is a key component of inflation, so Republicans must strive for energy independence long term while driving gasoline prices down to $2 per gallon in the near term. Republicans must package each of these plans into plain English with quantifiable targets that resonate with the average voter, and achievement of these targets can then be celebrated.
Foreign policy is the next area for comparison since the current administration does not recognize American exceptionalism, but rather views America as the cause of many of the world’s problems. The first thing Republicans must do is to restate what makes America exceptional and why so many people yearn to move here and take advantage of our culture and opportunities. Next Republicans must restate that our national interests drive our actions and international bodies are useful only as long as they support our national interests. Then Republicans must restate our longstanding support for our allies in the English speaking countries and Israel. There is no need or desire to build One World Order to oversee our government and its interests. Republicans must control runaway spending on international bodies such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund by decreasing our funding by 10% per year until our cost approximate the benefit received. The principal of cost benefit must also be used when allocating foreign aid to individual countries, with an annual assessment and reallocation of funds based on past performance and expected behavior. Finally national defense is a prime directive in the Constitution and must be handled not just as another discretionary expense. National defense must once again become a national priority based on our national priorities, defense threats, and capabilities required to address those threats. Republicans must demonstrate that they believe in American leadership into the future and be willing and able to provide that leadership in ideas and actions.
The final area for comparison is the erosion of the American culture. The Communist Manifesto laid out the steps to undermine the United States almost 100 years ago, and leftists in our own government have, consciously or unconsciously, executed that strategy with incremental changes that fundamentally changed our culture for the worse. When our country was formed it was based on self reliance, individual liberty, and equal opportunity. Over the last 100 years, self reliance has been replaced with an entitlement mentality by people who gradually become more and more dependent on the government for their health and welfare. Individual liberty has been sacrificed to the government for the “common good.” Equal opportunity has been gradually replaced with equal outcome, with wealth redistribution easier than individual wealth creation. The institutions of marriage and family have been replaced by an increasingly powerful government, interfering in more and more of people’s lives. More children are born out of wedlock each year, and a multigenerational culture of government dependence has replaced family pride and support. Republicans must reaffirm their support for the American culture of self reliance, individual liberty, and equal opportunity. Republicans must lay out an agenda to repair the damage to our culture, such as actions to tighten up the safety net, a return to workfare, and re-issuing the Defense of Marriage Act. Republicans must then demonstrate how the changes they want will improve people ability to participate in the American Dream working hard, building their own future and creating their own wealth. Strong marriages and strong families offer the best path to happiness and success in our society. What is lost in the recent discussions on contraception is that Republicans are not trying to stop contraception, only stop subsidizing this behavior by being required to pay for it. Republicans have the right answer, but they must package it showing how it can help each and every American.
Americans have been warned about socialism for years, and now we have a President who has begun a transformation to a Euro socialist economy. We have also seen how the Keynesian policies do not work. Republican can now directly contrast to these failed policies with Republican alternatives including targets that people can understand. It is not necessary for the next President to accomplish everything in his first term, but rather begin changes that take many years to fully implement. The key question is what needs to be done immediately upon taking office, what must be accomplished in the first term, and what requires long term transitions? The American people do not expect 100 years of damage to be undone in two years, but rather what is the blueprint for recovery and how can we measure success along the way.
David Coughlin is a political pundit, editor of the policy action planning web site “Return to Common Sense,” and an active member of the White Plains Tea Party. He retired from IBM after a short career in the U.S. Army. He currently resides with his wife of 40 years in Hawthorne, NY. He was educated at West Point (Bachelor of Science, 1971) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Masters, Administrative Science, 1976).