Eric Cantor, former House Majority Leader, has some interesting thoughts on the next Congress. Some are good but most indicate how we dodged the bullet when he lost his primary.
After six years, the differences between President Obama and Congressional Republicans are well known. Republicans want to repeal the president’s health-care law and oppose his efforts to regulate climate change and his unilateral moves on immigration. The president opposes the Republican plans for entitlement reform and tax reform.
It would be a disservice to the American people if the next two years are spent simply relitigating these differences.
Already you hear cries that both Republicans and Democrats need to simply use the time between now and November 2016 to define the presidential election. But with each passing day the 2016 agenda will be set more by the Republican and Democrat Presidential contenders and less by Congressional Republicans or President Obama.
How then should the new Congress and President Obama spend the next two years? By focusing on that number: 8,053,000 and what they owe these new Americans.
I think Cantor gets this half-right. Congress should step aside from undertaking major legislation because it is important that our nominee, whoever that is, gets a chance to set the agenda for the general election. This is not to say that Congress should do nothing, but it does mean than comprehensive immigration reform and all its works should be off the table. He says Congress should have two priorities: growing the economy and ensuring access to quality education. These are great buzzwords but the devil, of course, is in the details. There are conservative and federalist ways of accomplishing these goals and there are big-government-nanny-state ways. Unsurprisingly, Cantor shows some affinity for the latter.
Growing the economy
They can begin by moving swiftly on trade promotion authority and finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a new agreement with Europe (TTIP). Swift approval of updates to our patent laws can encourage more American innovation by deterring patent trolls. A permanent and expanded R&D tax credit (it has been temporary since 1981!) can likewise encourage new and sustained investment in the technologies that will create the next generation of jobs. Accelerating LNG exports, permitting crude oil exports, and streamlining the approval process for new domestic pipelines are all critical steps in sustaining America’s recent energy renaissance and keeping prices moving lower for American consumers.
Some of this is good. Some is nothing but crony capitalism. The government’s record in picking winners and losers in technology doesn’t give one great hope that the federal government should be in the business of “encouraging new and sustained investment.” One only has to look at the boondoggles that are electric cars and wind farms that survive only because of special federal grants and tax benefits to see that the government’s involvement simply distorts the market for research capital from useful enterprises to the bank accounts of the well connected who can afford to lobby Congress.
Access to quality education
A brighter future for those 8 million little boys and girls must include access to a quality education. The zip code of a child’s birth should never be the determining factor in the type of education he or she will receive. Over the past decade the rise of charter schools — especially in our inner cities — has brought new educational opportunities to millions. Unfortunately, when the current school year began, over 1 million children were on waiting lists for the charter school of their choice.
Last year the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation to expand proven charter schools. But like so many other bills it went nowhere in the Senate. Republicans and Democrats should come together and enact this bill before the start of the new school year. Our children shouldn’t have to wait another year for Washington to get its act together.
The real solution here is not some jihad in favor of “equality.” Your ZIP Code will always have an heavy impact on your education as it sort of defines you home situation, your neighborhood, your friends, the property tax rate that funds your school, the community’s dedication to education, and the quality of teacher your school system can attract. The real solution is to block grant education money, dynamite the Department of Education building and turn it into a something useful, like an open air drug market, and repeal the plethora of federal laws that control every aspect of education from the food in the cafeterias to the sports programs offered.
High-mindedness is nice. But the real issue before Congress is the, to use Cantor’s words, “relitigating” differences with the Obama administration. The economy suffers when coal is effectively outlawed as a fuel because of the nonsensical “anthropogenic global warming.” The economy suffers when EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers continue to classify every mudhole as an inland waterway for purposes of regulation. The economy suffers when CAFE mileage standards are increased. If American STEM graduates are being displaced by H1B visa holders, an employment situation that is much more akin to indentured servitude than to a free man in a free market, then the economy suffers. If the largest spending expense of middle to low income families is suddenly health care then fighting Obamacare, tooth and nail, is vital. If the administration is flouting immigration law on a truly Biblical scale, Congress must act or become irrelevant. If Congress truly wants to create a clean slate for our candidate to run on in 2016 then it must step up and fix some of these problems in short order.
While the legislative initiatives proposed by Cantor are important to the firms he lobbies for, they, by themselves, account for very little. In short, you can’t get to where Cantor wants to go, in terms of broad policy, without fighting Obama on a daily basis.