Republicans must embrace big, bold ideas that reflect conservative principles
By: David Coughlin
Republicans and conservatives in particular, base their beliefs on the strict interpretation of the Constitution with limited government, free market capitalism and a strong defense. Unfortunately the policies and legislation created by the GOP does not align with the originalist rhetoric. Republicans have found out that it is easier to “talk the talk” than actually “walk the walk.” Consequently Republicans have been accused of becoming Democrat-lite with one-off proposals. If conservatives want to differentiate themselves from liberals, then they must create big, bold ideas for change that align clearly with the underlying conservative principles.
How can conservatives demonstrate support for limited government – why not target cutting the federal government in half? Recognizing that the Constitution was open-ended, the 10th Amendment clarified the limits of federal power “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” With a strict interpretation of the Constitution, the first step should be to dismantle, or devolve to the states, half the cabinet departments – Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, and Transportation. Abolishing these cabinet departments will also eliminate the annual redistribution of state wealth, over $600 billion in 2012, by eliminating all transfer payments, collected by federal government which is then redistributed among the states. As the federal government is downsized and employees are already protected by the civil service, repeal Executive Order 10988 removing authorization for public sector unions.
The federal government may oversee and regulate private industry, but nowhere in the original Constitution does the federal government have any role competing directly in the private sector. Ronald Reagan remarked “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!” The only way to downsize the federal government is to completely abolish the entire organization and mission. The federal government has no role participating in the financial industry, so privatize Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, Export-Import Bank, and other financial entities. The federal government has no Constitutional role in retirement insurance, so privatize Social Security returning ownership to individuals; much like Chile did years ago. The federal government has no role in the insurance industry, so privatize all Crop Insurance, Flood Insurance, Property Insurance, Terrorism Risk Insurance (TRIA), Windstorm Insurance, and Pension Benefit Insurance. The federal government has no role in medical care or medical insurance, so privatize Medicare as patient based care, repeal the ObamaCare over-reach, and devolve Medicaid to the states. The federal government has no role in the energy industry, so abolish all energy subsidies, privatize the energy administrations, and restrict the EPA to pollution control, removing federal regulation from the marketplace. The federal government has no role in the agriculture industry, so abolish all agriculture subsidies, once and for all. The federal government has no role in the transportation industry, so privatize airport operations and air traffic control, port operations, and the TSA and devolve the highway and seaport infrastructure to the states. Finally privatization of Amtrak and the Post Office are long overdue, since they already operate as stand-alone businesses that currently operate with federal employees. None of these roles existed in the Constitution but nevertheless evolved over time into federal government departments, that unless explicitly abolished will continue to operate forever!
How can conservatives demonstrate support for free market capitalism – why not target growing GDP by 4% annually and return to an unemployment rate of 5%? Government regulation and interference in the free market impedes growth, so repealing federal regulations as the federal departments above are downsized and privatized will have the biggest impact. Henry David Thoreau said it best “That government is best which governs least.” A smaller government would also result in lower taxes. There are many ways to raise money to pay for government operations and now might be the time to abolish the class-warfare-based “redistribution of wealth” income taxes replacing with consumption based (fair) taxes, collected at the time of all sales. The federal government balance sheet includes many excess assets, such as excess land and buildings that the federal government has accumulated that may be sold to help lower the debt burden. Federal lands may contain energy resources and energy exploitation leases can generate huge revenues for the government. Finally the best free market idea is to require the federal government to operate under a balanced budget each year. Free markets operate best when they are simple, fair, and predictable.
How can conservatives demonstrate support for a strong defense – why not set aside 4% of the GDP for ongoing defense needs while backing away from the One World Order under the United Nations? Defense is an explicit responsibility of the federal government in the Constitution. Providing for a common defense must not be termed “discretionary” with affordability driving funding levels. Our all volunteer military must be utilized efficiently and effectively supporting our national interests wherever they may exist. Troop forward bases must reflect national needs of the future and not tripwires from the past, and rapid deployment capability requirements are required to enable forces to deploy quickly into remote situations. The United States pays a disproportionate percentage of United Nations and NGO costs, and frequently their actions are not in our best interests. It may be time to objectively assess the value received and decrease the annual payments by 10% a year until the costs match the benefit received. Foreign Aid is another value black hole, with value received bearing no relationship to aid provided, so we should abolish the foreign aid program and replace with targeted aid programs with annual reviews against discrete metrics. More importantly we should abolish the redistribution of national wealth by the IMF and other NGOs. Somehow it appears like our national interests are no longer our first priority.
These are all major, sometimes radical, changes that support the Constitution as originally conceived supporting the conservative principles of limited government, free market capitalism and a strong defense. Maybe what we need is to pass term limits on Congress and federal judges, since the current group of career politicians has only made this situation worse. Obviously all of these ideas can’t be done all at once, but it would be nice if Republicans would differentiate themselves by embracing federalism and the original intent and limitations of the Constitution. Conservatives can set themselves apart by packaging a number of these big, bold ideas into a Republican Fundamental Transformation. It is so important to begin the journey back to founding principles, and then build on success to repair the damage done by the liberals.
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).