This is an issues piece from a moderate conservative perspective. We have a structurally imbalanced deficit, and spending restraint alone will not cut it. We’re in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Because of this, on social issues, I agree with Mitch Daniels: We have more serious priorities. I may very well be wrong, but I’m pessimistic that the GOP will regain the majority in either house, mostly because we’re moving so far to the right that we’ll lose the independent vote. In order to win, I think a more moderate approach will help the GOP into majority status.
Economy. At this stage, if anything, the economy needs stimulus, not austerity. A combination of federal spending and temporary tax relief would fit the bill. Spending would be allocated to state governments and real infrastructure projects. The guiding principle is timely, targeted and temporary.
Jobs. David Frum has a piece on jobs that I half agree with. The disagree part is that we need to induce “moderate inflation”. I do agree with his take on regulations. More regulation is fine for the financial sector but counterproductive in other industries. Bottom line, I don’t see any real silver bullets for growing jobs. Appropriate federal spending could help, and so could a more healed lending environment. From the Puget Sound Economic Forecaster: “It will take 14 quarters–until mid-2013–before the region has recouped the 133,800 jobs lost during the recession. Even then the unemployment rate will still register 7.2 percent.” Courtesy of Davinci, adding a $1 billion to the U.S. Patent Office could generate as many as 2.25 million new jobs over the next three years. That would be real stimulus.
Trade. (1) Continue to lower tariffs and other trade barriers. For example, the Brazilian tariff on ethanol has no reason for being except to protect already-subsidized cornbelt farmers. (2) Work to establish more free trade agreements. (3) Phase out corporate subsidies. Farm subsidies were originally intended for family farmers, but no longer. The camel is in the tent, or some metaphor like that.
Taxes. We have a structural imbalance. The way to work closer to “balanced” is a combination of tax increases and spending restraint, to begin when economic conditions are more robust. On taxes, the Bush tax cuts should lapse for incomes over $200,000. The alternative minimum tax needs to be indexed, which will lower overall tax revenues, but the AMT was never intended to work its way down to the lower tax brackets.
Social Security. Raise the retirement age to 70. Allow some percentage to go to personally directed accounts. This will sound completely non-Republican, but we should increase the wage base (currently at $107,000) by an order of magnitude (it’ll have to be phased in), using some of that increase for the less-advantaged.
Immigration. We could use comprehensive reform. This would entail a combination of enhanced border security and a process for illegals to become legal, such as the Z card. The applicant pays a fee upon application and renewal. Employers are financially hit if the immigrant does not have any sort of legal residency. If law enforcement catches someone who is an illegal immigrant, the person is immediately deported. Discussions about the changing the 14th Amendment are counterproductive and don’t address the root cause.
Health care. It’s a waste of time to try and repeal Obamacare. The GOP should focus on taking steps to reduce the cost of health care. After all, it was primarily health care inflation that helped create this mess.
Afghanistan. Let the Petraeus Plan go forward. Reevaluate in mid-2011.
Iraq. The withdrawals should be conditions-based as much as possible, but there is a Strategic Framework Agreement in place, so there isn’t much wiggle room. Our only remaining serious options are to assist with security and to use diplomacy to help the Iraqi government move in a positive direction.
Detainees. I don’t care if they stay at Guantanamo or are transferred to a county jail, so long as the facility is secure. If there is uncertainty as to their status, they should appear before a competent military tribunal for a determination. The tryable ones should be tried in military courts under the UCMJ. The untryables should rot, but periodic reevaluations are okay. They should all be treated humanely while under lock and key. Interrogations per the Army Field Manual are fine.
Iran. There’s little we can do. Strikes on their nuclear facilities would be counterproductive. The only real options are sanctions and giving the Iranian people moral support.
Pakistan. Assist them in ridding the Taliban cancer, if they want the help. Assist with political and economic reforms. Good information ops are needed. They have a virulent news media.
War Against Militant Islamism. Continue to marginalize al Qaeda and spin-off groups. I disagree with death warrants on American citizens, even al Awlaki.
Israel-Palestine. Encourage an agreement with Israel and the West Bank. Discourage the expansion of Israeli settlements. For Gaza, wait until Hamas loses Gaza or until Hamas recognizes Israel, which could be a long time.
Cuba. It’s time to lift travel and trade restrictions. We’re already Cuba’s biggest food importer, and the Fidel reign is petering out.
North Korea. Wait until the current Kim dies, and hope for better luck with the next Kim. Encourage six-party talks on nuclear weapons.
Don’t ask, don’t tell. Other militaries in other nations have more open policies, and their situations have worked out.
Redefining marriage. A matter for the states, which is basically the Cheney-Obama position.
Abortion. The McCain position is fine. No federal funding. Reasonable regulation.
Energy. The long-term goal should be replacement of coal-fired electricity with nuclear, wind and solar. Also, we need to expand our energy base but fossil fuels have to make up a decreasing percentage of the total. We should make a serious effort at thorium reactors. A McCain-approved cap-and-trade bill would be okay. In the shorter term, we should adopt policies that focus on conservation and efficiencies because that’s where the real progress will be made.
Race. Progress has been made over the past few decades, but we should recognize that the descendants of American slaves are still experiencing adverse impacts. Poverty–and the culture of poverty–remain problems. Generally, the best path is education advancement and helping to strengthen families. For all races, we should encourage fathers to marry the mothers of their kids, so long as no bigamy or polygamy laws are broken.
Education. (1) Mend but don’t end No Child Left Behind. Testing and accountability are okay, but there needs to be some flexibility. In Washington State, the process was too formulaic, which put undue pressure on teachers. (2) Make it easier to fire those teachers who truly have no business teaching.
The Tea Party. Their principles of individual liberty, limited government and economic freedom are attractive, but most of their policy prescriptions are either ill-conceived, contradictory or ineffectual, as discussed here. A onetime Journolista has a good perspective on the movement here.