The Heritage Foundation, my employer, put out a comprehensive conservative road map titled "Solutions for America" earlier today. It is important for conservatives to be against bad ideas that expand the size and scope of the federal government. It is also important for conservatives to have ideas that will bring real Hope and Change to America. Let's bring this country back to the nation envisioned by our Founding Fathers. The policies of the Obama Administration that forward "Progressive" agenda including a failed Stimulus plan, ObamaCare and the New START Treaty are merely a few examples of a government that is doing harm to our economic and national security.
According to The Heritage Foundation release on the plan:
Compiled by a team of Heritage experts, Solutions for America identifies the nature and scope of our most pressing problems in 23 discrete policy areas, and recommends 128 specific policy prescriptions for Congress to consider. Some of the recommendations are groundbreaking. Others are familiar. Some are being debated right now. All have one thing in common: They would return power to the people. And, collectively, they will transform America, setting her back on the track to prosperity and greatness. Perilous times necessitate bold action. America is at a tipping point. To continue on the current path of ever-expanding central government will plunge us into a statist abyss of lost liberties, vanishing opportunity and dying prospects of a better tomorrow. But our nation can just as well correct course, as she has so often in the past. Americans by the millions have begun the process, rallying around the vision of the Founders. The policies articulated in Solutions for America are calculated to make that vision a reality, to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish anew.
Consider this an open thread and an opportunity for Red State America to suggest further ideas to forward the cause of freedom, limited government, free markets and a strong national defense.
Here are a few of the concrete ideas for change:
- Cap Federal Spending - It is important for Conservatives to come up with a plan to stop the overspending in Washington, D.C. that has lead to a $13.3 trillion national debt. "Place a firm cap on overall federal spending, and limit future year-to-year growth to inflation plus population growth. Federal spending is on an unsustainable trajectory because we lack a mechanism that forces Congress to live within agreed upon spending limits. A binding cap will force lawmakers to make the tough decisions required to get us back to fiscal sanity." There are other great ideas in cutting federal spending and your ideas would be much appreciated.
- Put Entitlement Programs Under the Budget - According to The Heritage Foundation, "the middle class retirement programs, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, will cause federal spending to jump by half, from the historical average of twenty percent of the economy to thirty percent by 2033. This tsunami of spending is a major threat to limited government because it runs on auto-pilot with automatic increases locked in by each program’s governing laws. While other programs are constrained through annual budgets, entitlements get the first call on resources." Solutions for America urges policy makers to consider "requir(ing) the Big Three entitlement programs— Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—to live within firm, congressionally approved budgets. If Congress is ever to control spending, it must end the era of open-ended entitlements. Currently, Big Three spending is on autopilot—increasing automatically year after year. Entitlement spending must be brought into the congressional budgetary process. Lawmakers should establish a five-year budget for these programs and include protective mechanisms, such as triggers, that will automatically keep spending within the congressionally approved limits." Do Red Staters have any other ideas on how to reform entitlement programs?
- Revive Federalism- ObamaCare imposes a federal mandate that all Americans in the 50 states buy health insurance. This is a clear violation of the idea of federalism. Solutions for America argues that "the federal government has usurped the states’ traditional role in areas such as transportation, education, health (especially Medicaid), homeland security, and law enforcement. Washington must cede vast swatches of its policymaking authority—and the funding that goes with it—to states willing to reassume leadership in these areas." Congress needs to consider ideas that will restore the traditional role of the states.
- Loan Welfare Money to Able Bodied Recipients - As Robert Rector and Chuck Donovan have written for The Heritage Foundation that Congress needs to take another run at Welfare Reform. "Why not treat a portion of welfare assistance to able-bodied adults as a loan to be repaid, rather than as a free gift from the taxpayers? Such a policy change would reduce the moral hazard associated with dependency, while providing temporary help to those in need. Clearly, welfare as we knew it did not end, as so many of us had hoped 14 years ago (the 1996 Welfare Reform Law). Adjusting for inflation, total welfare spending is nearly twice what it was before 1996." Solutions for America argues to "limit the unsustainable growth of welfare spending, and require recipients to give something back. Aggregate welfare spending now approaches $1 trillion annually and does more harm than good. Congress must treat all 71 means-tested welfare programs holistically, as a discrete category of federal spending, and cap annual year-to-year welfare spending growth at inflation. This will force Congress to consider new approaches that could actually help the poor surmount poverty. To this end, Congress should require able-bodied adults to treat a portion of certain welfare benefits as loans to be repaid rather than as an open-ended grant from taxpayers." Also, Congress should study how many of those 71 means-tested welfare programs are redundant and eliminate the ones that allow for double dipping. Seem reasonable?
- Stop Overpaying Federal Workers- Federal employees are overpaid at a time when the private sector is experiencing great pain. Solutions for America argues, "pay federal workers wages and benefits comparable to what their counterparts earn in the private sector. Federal employee compensation is far too generous. Total compensation—hourly wages plus benefits—is 30–40% above that of comparable private sector workers. By bringing federal compensation in line with market rates, Congress would save taxpayers approximately $47 billion a year." James Sherk of The Heritage Foundation recommends the following: Abolish the General Schedule and implementing market-based performance pay; Expand the contracting out of non-essential tasks to the private sector; Reduce the generosity of the benefits the federal government provides; and end restrictions on dismissing underperforming federal employees, thus incentivizing increased productivity. These seem like some common sense solutions to the problem of federal bureacrats making more than the average American in the private sector.
- Keep Taxes Low - Do not implement a Value Added Tax, a Carbon Tax, nor the Obama Tax Increases of 2011. Solutions for America suggests that "tax increases, especially those loaded on small-business owners (our most productive and entrepreneurial individuals), are counterproductive at any time. To raise taxes during a recession is a recipe for crippling economic growth and job creation. Maintaining the tax burden at its current level is the least Congress should do." Red Staters must have other suggested taxes to reduce or abolish.
- Implement a Pro-Growth Strategy- President Obama's $862 billion monstrosity of a "Stimulus Plan" has lead to a $1 billion earmark for a special project in Illinois and a program to study the effects of Cocaine on Monkeys. A real strategy to encourage investment and real job creation would be to reduce government interference in the free market. Solutions for America argues for policies that "encourage investment and job creation. Reduce the top tax rate on corporate earnings—currently the second highest among all industrial nations—and let businesses immediately deduct investments in new plant and equipment. These two changes to the tax code will unleash the most productive investment and create the most private sector jobs. Specifically, lawmakers should align the top rate on corporate earnings to those that prevail in our 30 largest trading partners—approximately 25%." This is a target rich environment for pro-growth ideas that retreat from the President's failed economic policies.
- Stop Taxing Seniors- Why do seniors have to keep paying taxes as they get older? The federal government should not maintain policies that essentially force older Americans to retire when they still can work. Here is another solution for America. "As part of the broader effort to reform entitlement programs, seniors who wish to work beyond retirement age should be freed from the burden of paying Social Security payroll taxes. Employers willing to retain or hire these older workers also should be exempt from paying the employer share of the FICA tax." This would be a stimulus program for older Americans and an idea that makes sense.
- Peace Through Strength - President Ronald Reagan promoted the idea of maintaining a strong military as a means to protect American citizens. Solutions for America argues that "a robust military is the surest way to deter aggression and reinforce U.S. diplomacy. To accomplish this, the Pentagon procurement holiday must end. Congress must refurbish our armed forces, especially our depleted Navy fleet and vital missile defenses." Congress needs to make sure that our defense infrastructure stays strong in the face of emerging threats from rogue nations and entities.
This is a good start. Can Red Staters respond with other ideas on how to make America better? This is a great time to send a message to politicians of both parties that they better start listening to American concerns. Cut spending, stop destroying the private sector and keep America strong!!!