I submit that the great challenge of our generation is America’s growing crisis of stagnation and sclerosis — a crisis that comes down to a shortage of opportunities.
This opportunity crisis presents itself in three principal ways:
immobility among the poor, trapped in poverty;
insecurity in the middle class, where families just can’t seem to get ahead;
and cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic elites unfairly profit at everyone else’s expense.
The Republican party should tackle these three crises head on.
First, we need a new, comprehensive anti-poverty, upward-mobility agenda designed not simply to help people in poverty, but to help and empower them to get out.
Here, my home state of Utah can be a guide. A recent study found the Salt Lake City metropolitan area to be the most upwardly mobile region in the United States.
In addition to a well-managed, limited government where jobs and opportunity abound, Utah is home to an enormously successful private welfare system led by churches, businesses, and community groups and volunteers.
We understand that, as it is lived in America, freedom doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Freedom means we’re all in this together.
This agenda must include but also transcend welfare reform. Additionally, we need to reform education, housing, immigration, health care, and our criminal-justice and prison systems.
This new agenda must recognize that work for able-bodied adults is not a necessary evil, but an essential pathway to personal happiness and prosperity.
And it should also force Republicans and Democrats to acknowledge that there is another marriage debate in this country — one concerning fatherless children, economic inequality, and broken communities — that deserves as much public attention as the other.
Second, we need a new, comprehensive anti-cronyism agenda, to break up the corrupt nexus of big government, big business, and big special interests.
We need a new corporate tax code and regulatory system to eliminate lobbyists’ loopholes and giveaways, level the playing field between businesses, big and small, and foster a dynamic, globally competitive private sector.
We need to end subsidies that unfairly favor some businesses and industries over others. And the Republican party must make a fundamental commitment to end its support for corporate welfare in any form — including for the big banks.
The Left today no longer represents the “little guy,” but the crony clients of the ever-expanding special-interest state. Progressives have become the party of Wall Street, K Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue. We must become the party of Main Street, everywhere.
Which brings me to the third essential piece of our new agenda: a new conservatism of the working and middle class.
Today, working families’ take-home pay is flat.
But the staples of middle-class security and opportunity – health care, education, home ownership, work-life balance, and children — are becoming harder to afford all the time.
Progressives say we just need more programs to give working families more government money. But as we have seen once again over the last five years, big government creates opportunity for the middle men at the expense of the middle class.
And it only masks the broken policies that artificially raise costs and restrict access in the first place. Instead, conservatives need new ideas to address the root causes of those problems.
The first and most important policy goal Republicans must adopt to improve the lives of middle-class families is, and will remain, the full repeal of Obamacare.
It’s important to understand why.
Health care is one of the main reasons why the cost of living in the middle class is increasing too quickly for many Americans to keep up. At the same time, it is the main reason why government spending and debt are out of control.