Congressional Republicans are right to savor Scott Brown’s stunning Senate victory. Democrat Martha Coakley’s self-destructive gaffes notwithstanding, conservative Republican Brown’s formidable 52 percent to 47 percent win is akin to Rep. Barney Frank surfacing in Salt Lake City and, three weeks later, zooming past a pro-market entrepreneur right into the Senate. Massachusetts voters rejected Kennedy-style liberalism and Obama-Pelosi style leftist overreach. They embraced limited government, fiscal discipline, lighter taxes, and tougher treatment of terrorists. There is no spinning this away. Republicans should enjoy this moment and thank Brown for reminding the GOP of how to run a winning campaign.
Once the high-fiving and hoisting of beer glasses has abated, however, Congressional Republicans should show Americans how much more they can offer. GOP lawmakers quickly should develop a coherent legislative agenda and promote it throughout this election year. If President Obama and other stunned Democrats gravitate toward the political center and help Republicans implement these objectives on a bipartisan basis, splendid. But if Democrats cling to big-government “solutions,” Republicans should use this policy shopping list like a latter-day version of 1994’s Contract with America. Congressional Republicans’ mini-platform, which they physically signed in public, helped them capture the House that year.
Here are ten such priorities for this still-young century. Call it Agenda 21.
‐Patient-driven health care: Brown’s win seems to kill Obamacare as we know it. The elephantine proposal that Brown loudly, clearly, and successfully hammered should yield to market-friendly, patient-centered reforms, including voluntary, universal, tax-preferred Health Savings Accounts. Individuals and groups should be free to buy health insurance across state lines. This increased competition will cut costs, as occurs with auto, home, and life insurance. Uninsured U.S. citizens ineligible for existing private or public assistance should receive Health Stamps. Like Food Stamps, such an affluence-tested subsidy would help them choose and purchase private coverage that satisfies their basic needs, with government furnishing money, not micromanagement. Medical-malpractice reform also would reduce needless and expensive diagnoses and treatments designed to combat lawyers rather than diseases. Such legislation need not span more than a few dozen pages, rather than the Senate’s 2,457-page Obamacare bill.
‐No more Mr. Nice Guy on terrorism: America’s Islamofascist enemies should be barred from civilian courts. Cancel the planned Manhattan trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other al-Qaeda mass murderers. Guantanamo should remain open until al-Qaeda is crushed like a quail egg beneath a steamroller. Enhanced interrogation — up to and including waterboarding — must remain in America’s anti-terrorism arsenal. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who nearly exploded a passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day, should experience this policy firsthand.
Scott Brown ran hard on this issue. According to a Rasmussen survey, among voters concerned with national security, he beat Coakley 67 percent to 29 percent. Rasmussen also reports that, by 58 percent to 30 percent, American voters want the Nigerian crotch-bomber waterboarded.
‐Fiscal discipline. Massachusetts voters gagged at Team Obama’s relentless outlays and this fiscal year’s $1.4 trillion federal deficit. Republicans should fight for a two-year freeze in overall federal expenditures. Money can shift among various agencies and programs. However, the overall bottom line should stay flat. After 2012, spending should remain at or below inflation. Republican legislators should cut federal civilian salaries, including their own, by 10 percent. Federal employees average $71,206 annually versus $40,331 among private-sector workers. For once, let’s see tightened belts in Washington. The GOP also should declare a policy of zero tolerance on earmarks. These steps finally would apply a hydraulic brake to Washington’s runaway spending locomotive.
‐Tax relief: According to Americans for Tax Reform, Washington Democrats have enacted or proposed some $2.1 trillion in tax hikes since President Obama’s inauguration. During a severe economic slump, this included $858.45 billion in taxes that would hit families earning less than $250,000, breaking Obama’s solemn promise.
The GOP should offer a dramatic alternative: An optional flat income tax, ideally at 15 percent, would let Americans file their tax returns on a simple postcard. Taxpayers who like loopholes and deductions could keep them under today’s U.S. tax code. The death tax, reduced to 0 percent this year, should stay dead forever. America’s 39.1 percent combined federal and state corporate tax is the world’s second highest, only lagging Japan’s 39.5 percent levy. To boost competitiveness and growth, corporate taxes should be below 26.3 percent, the OECD average. Companies also should be freed to write off their capital investments immediately, if they wish.
‐Drill, baby, drill: America should stop jailing our own fossil fuels and forcing ourselves to buy oil and gas from people who want us dead. Federal impediments to petroleum production should vanish, especially given today’s high-tech methods that make oil spills largely a bad memory.
Increased atomic power should be in the energy mix. One question still nags: Where should we discard nuclear waste? Why not finally persuade Nevadans to bury America’s radioactive refuse at Yucca Mountain in exchange for the other 49 states paying Nevada’s energy bills so long as Yucca Mountain stays open?
‐Government accountability: Republicans should demand a quadrennial top-to-bottom audit of each Cabinet department and federal agency. These should be performed by outside, private accountancies like Deloitte or PricewaterhouseCoopers. They should identify inefficiency and fraud, which authorities subsequently should excise and prosecute. Best practices should be highlighted and promoted government-wide. Failing bureaucracies should be padlocked and dysfunctional bureaucrats sacked. Star performers should enjoy bonus pay. Give federal employees a concrete incentive to reduce their own expenditures: Officials who economize tax dollars should be awarded 1 percent of such savings during the first year they are realized.
‐School choice: In 2009’s most cynical and disgraceful act, Obama and congressional Democrats threw Washington’s low-income black kids under the school bus with the teachers’ unions at the wheel. Hence, Republicans should restore D.C.’s school-voucher program with all deliberate speed.
‐Worker freedom: Republicans should promise to increase the legal protection of secret ballots in union elections. Every American should be free to choose to join or not join a union without a Big Labor boss breathing down his or her neck. The federal government also should be denied the power to impose labor contracts on disputing parties via binding arbitration.
‐Immigration: Republicans should unveil a vibrant program to allow guest workers to labor here legally, and then return home after their assignments. Employers could request such permits and offer them to workers as needed. Immigrant students who graduate from U.S. colleges should be invited to stay here and work, rather than jet home, as currently required. Quickly give “Emerald Cards” to one million overseas millionaires. These “super Green Cards” would require each recipient to deposit $1 million in a U.S. bank account, open a business, and hire at least five Americans. This would pump $1 trillion of private capital into American banks and create 5 million jobs. Immigrants must have clean criminal records, learn English, and understand and respect American history, traditions, and laws.
Republicans should introduce these measures in Congress throughout the year and give nervous Democrats a chance to do the right thing. If they go along, America will prosper. If not, Republicans will meet Democrats at the polls on November 2, and let voters choose between these two competing visions.