Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs. He is also the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a senior editor of The New Atlantis, contributing editor to National Review and a contributing writer to Newsweek, and First Things.
The incoming Republican House majority has a lot on its shoulders, and a lot on its plate. Its members will take power in a moment overflowing with urgent problems, and the stakes could hardly be higher. Even if they will not be able to get much past the president’s veto pen, they will have to propose real solutions, and show the country why the right should be trusted with even more power two years from now.
In a sense, the Republicans’ policy priorities are fairly clear and well known: in order to put the nation back on a track to prosperity, they must restrain the expansion of government (and with it of mounting deficits and debt), begin to address the entitlement crisis, repeal the Democrats’ health-care bill, and create once again the conditions for vibrant economic growth.
Unfortunately, that is a list (and not even a comprehensive list) of what they must do, not of how they might do it. Everyone knows what the problems look like, but what are the solutions? While they have done a fairly good job of laying out the subjects that should be high on the national agenda, Republicans must still do the work of providing the policy particulars.
Fortunately for them, there is a community of wonks in Washington and around the country whose lot in life is to provide such particulars. National Affairs, a new quarterly journal of essays on domestic policy and public life (of which I am the editor), exists to connect those wonks with a broader reading public, including policy makers. And so, with thanks to the editors of ConservativeHome for the invitation to do so, I offer three essays in particular (of the roughly 50 and counting that you can read in our archives) that members of the Republican majority ought to consult as they begin their work.
First, to understand the nature of the complicated fiscal crisis the country confronts, and to see how we might begin to climb out of the hole we have dug for ourselves, the new House majority should read Donald Marron’s essay “America in the Red.” Marron, a former CBO director and Bush White House economist, offers a clear-eyed overview of the size and scope of the problems we face, and lays out a plausible path back to fiscal sanity.
Second, as they contemplate what must come after Obamacare, they should read James C. Capretta’s and Tom Miller’s essay “How to Cover Pre-existing Conditions.” Capretta and Miller explain why the question of insuring Americans with pre-existing health problems has always posed a major problem to conservative health-care reformers, and how the problem could be addressed without a government takeover of health care—and indeed, while encouraging competition that could help lower costs.
Third, looking past the immediate struggles over the budget and health care, Republicans will want to contemplate meaningful tax reform. To that end, they will want to read Robert Stein’s essay “Taxes and the Family,” which offers a recipe for making the tax code simpler and more efficient, correcting unfair distortions, helping American families with tangible tax relief, and so once again encouraging growth—an imperative too often overlooked by conservatives and liberals alike these days.
What unites these essays, and what must define the approach of the new House majority, is an empirical approach to public policy combined with a firm belief that America’s principles—our miraculous Constitution, our democratic capitalism, our commitment to equality and liberty—can see us through this troubled time as they have seen us through far worse. With that faith in our country, and with ideas like these in their quiver, Republicans may well be ready to start.