In an online release of an article in the Winter edition of National Affairs (see 3rd shield from the right above), Jim Capretta writes:
As more Americans have become dependent on federal programs — and thus opposed to significant reform of them — the federal government has morphed into an unwieldy, self-perpetuating Leviathan. It tries to do everything for everyone — and does almost none of it well. All of this was true even before the most liberal president in four decades, Barack Obama, took office. But he has since made matters worse.
There are 3 big idea in the essay worth looking at. Here's how I summarize them:
- The GOP needs the courage to speak honestly with the American people about fixing America’s long-term fiscal situation, since some of the main fixes may not be what people want to hear. Spending is out of control, and voters want that reversed, but budget-cutting is not an end in itself: Capretta says, “Measures like spending cuts…are simply means to an end: robust long-term economic growth.” And this cannot be achieved by grabbing the lower-hanging fruit of earmark bans and bureaucracy shrinkage (which themselves are not as easy as they sound). It can only happen if we play a big game consisting of reforming the tax code and moderinizing Social Security and Medicare to conform to demographic reality. It’s not clear that Americans are ready to hear what these reforms will require, or that Republicans have the courage to be up-front about them. One way to force this is to see who is willing to back Paul Ryan’s Roadmap, the most compelling GOP proposal to fix entitlements without new tax burdens that not all Republicans seem willing to embrace.
- Obama’s health care law is both the Democrats’ holy grail and the best example of Democratic overreach, and Republicans are well-positioned to confront it loudly and publicly, mainly because they have done a better job at developing policy alternatives in health care than in other areas. Republicans should hold hearings and take votes on unpopular provisions such as the individual mandate, the new long-term entitlement, and costly administrative burdens on businesses. Regardless of whether Obama vetoes anything or measures fail in the Senate, this will build public support for full repeal in 2012.
- Republicans need to show a strong commitment to spending reductions and propose a reduction package of at least $200 billion. Capretta outlines a reasonable yet aggressive package of mainly non-defense discretionary cuts. He also proposes terminating low-value agencies.
Capretta ends by saying it’s “now or never.” He's right. The longer we wait, the higher the tax burden on the middle class and the lower our economic growth projections will be. It's basic math.
I think it’s time we start getting a bit more vocal about who in the GOP is ready to embrace far-reaching reforms and who isn’t. At the risk of a few internecine battles here and there, it will have a purifying effect and increase the odds of real reform. ConservativeHome welcomes nominations of Republicans who are squishes on reform in these areas. Just email whoever is listed as Duty Editor on the home page.