Reform must be at the Heart of the Republican Agenda
I have always emphasised the need for Governor Romney, and Republicans in general, to outline a clear and coherent plan affirming our party’s core Conservative principles and detailing substantive and consise policy proposals. I believe that that is the way for Republicans to reclaim the title of the party of ideas. And I think Governor Scott Walker had it right when he said that the (R) behind a candidate’s name must not only stand for Republican, it must also stand for reformer.
Gov. Walker was right. Without making tough choices to reform all levels of our nation’s governance and economy, we will be unable to restore and renew America’s promise. Paul Ryan has proposed much-needed entitlement and tax reforms. Scott Walker has been a national model for public sector labour reform. Jim Jordan and the RSC have spearheaded the fight for stricter fiscal discipline in Washington. There are many other bold leaders in our party with bright solutions to our nation’s problems. However, their proposals usually fail. This is because Republican leaders have not been able to work together in presenting a firmly united and coordinated case for them. The first thing we need is a theme. And reform should be at the heart of that theme.
Budget reform: Make Democrats stick to what they agreed to last year, and push for stricter limits on federal spending. Pursue a cyclically-adjusted balanced budget amendment capping government spending between 18-20% of GDP. Dock the pay for members of congress if they do not pass a budget on time. Continue to attack the culture of wasteful spending by strengthening the ban on pork barrel spending and conducting a regular comprehensive review of government programs. And last but not least, set out a practical schedule for deficit reduction, possibly modeled after Rep. Connie Mack’s Penny Plan, cutting spending by at least 1% each year.
Entitlement reform: As I mentioned above, Rep. Ryan has proposed meaningful entitlement reforms by transforming Medicare into a premium support program, giving seniors the right to choose affordable, high-quality insurance coverage. We can go further in this area by advocating means-testing for Social Security. It is simply unreasonable for wealthier retirees to expect their benefits to continue growing at high rates at the expense of working taxpayers. Other common-sense measures include indexing the retirement age to longevity and adjusting the Social Security COLA to more accurately reflect seniors’ needs. Last but not least, we should be willing to make the case again for allowing future generations to save and invest a portion of their payroll tax liability. In any case, we will avoid disrupting retirement plans by exempting those above 55 from changes.
Tax reform: Many Conservatives want a flat tax. Meanwhile, the POTUS-to-be Romney has advocated slashing income tax rates by a fifth, helping small businesses and working families. And all of us agree on the need to bring corporate taxes down to internationally-competitive levels. And we want to keep or create tax incentives when necessary, such as the R&D credit, full expensing of investments, territorial taxation, the personal exemption, etc. I would personally like an increase in the personal exemption, which would allow American workers to save more of their income tax-free, without the government taking it from them, as well as continuing the payroll tax holiday for a while and extending it to employers. However, whichever approach we prefer, there is a pressing need to pair tax relief with tax reform- a drastic overhaul to simplify the tax system and make it fairer for businesses and individual taxpayers. One key step is to reduce the number of tax brackets. There should be no more than three brackets in a reformed tax code. And we must also work to broaden the tax base. Our 43rd President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, as well as the ignored Fiscal Commission, offered many intriguing suggestions which should be taken into account.
Welfare reform: Mr. Obama just gave Bill Clinton a middle finger by undermining his bipartisan reform effort to make welfare truly work. That is a clear sign of how he does not value opportunity and hard work. Mitt Romney wants to cooperate with states to reform retraining programs to help individuals seek re-employment. The RSC wants to limit welfare spending. These are all common-sense proposals which should be passed, because we desperately need an overhaul of the welfare system to end the culture of dependency and make sure people are better off in work, and have the chance to work.
Regulatory reform: Governor Romney has said that he wants to repeal Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, replacing them with a streamlined regulatory framework with less red tape for job creators, passing the REINS Act, and introducing a one-in, one-out rule. Those are smart moves. However, he has failed to detail how this new framework would be implemented. Transparency and accountability- giving shareholders to power to hold management to account, ensuring prompt surveillance and enforcement to make banks and companies play by the rules, protecting consumers, and ensuring that systemic risk is detected and curbed, should be the goals of any regulatory reform plan. On the other hand, we could also be much more ambitious in slashing red tape, say, instead of “one-in, one-out”, what about “one-in, three-out”?
Government reform: The Office of Congressional Ethics is a joke, the General Services Administration is another joke, the Government Accountability Office is fought everyday, and the Congressional Budget Office is fundamentally biased against low taxes. Cutting the size of the federal government by 10% through attrition and extending the pay freeze are just tiny steps. The oversight system should be reformed to hold politicians and bureaucrats responsible. Put John McCain in charge of that…
Education reform: Parental choice means a chance for every child. Enough said.
Health care reform: Really, we’ve got great plans that we have already laid out, even in the Pledge to America. Just let people know they exist.
I would like to conclude by noting that I understand that the time is not ripe for us to release specifics, but I think Conservatives would like the assurance that Team Romney is working on them and will release them in due course.