I've been running around the country hawking my new book, listening to what people are saying, and scribbling notes about what a new Republican platform should contain — at least what one should contain if we ever want to win again.
Herewith, my top nine planks, offered for your consideration at a time of continuing economic angst and rapid cultural change:
•Reduce spending by half a percent.
Seventeen and a half trillion dollars of debt and counting (not to mention the hundreds of billions spent on interest each year). Both parties are responsible, but the Obama era has been spectacularly expensive with over $7 trillion in new debt added over the past five years alone.
This fiscal approach is unsustainable — and immoral. And while there is no silver bullet to cure our self-imposed spending dilemma, some slowing of our spending pace is in order. I propose half of 1 percent. Such a cut equates to a savings of $18.9 billion next fiscal year.
I realize that even this minimalist proposal will excite those who rely on federal largesse. In a word, they will go "nuts." Apocalyptic predictions will dominate media coverage. But this would not be the end of the universe as we know it. The federal government would still spend nearly $4 trillion dollars. The market would respond in spectacular fashion. And for the first time in a long time, America's creditors (especially the Chinese) would see that we might be serious about a fiscal policy that sustains our super power status.
Real entitlement reform
Entitlement reform is long past due. The allegedly untouchable "third rail" may no longer be electrified; the burden of doing nothing is better understood today than in previous generations.
So, let's keep it real — and doable:
1. Increase the Social Security retirement age (from today's 66) phased in at the rate of two months per year. Those born in 1973 and later would be the first to plan for a new retirement age of 70 years old. TheCongressional Budget Office estimates such a change would save $120 billion by 2021. We are living much longer than originally envisioned; our benefits should reflect this fact of life.
2. Increase Medicare premiums for the wealthy. This is a big revenue raiser ($50 billion in President Barack Obama's budget). One would hope that liberal purveyors of the "hands off Social Security" mindset might find this proposal too tempting to pass up.
3. Reform the Social Security Disability Trust Fund, presently scheduled to run dry within the next two years. A quadrupling of beneficiaries since the beginning of President Obama's first term reflects a broken program suffering rampant fraud, as evidenced by recent Congressional oversight reports. This should be the (politically) easiest trust fund to fix.
Immigration done right
The borders remain porous, and there are as many as 13 million people in the U.S. illegally. The Democrats have given up, finding it more politically expedient to ignore the law (sanctuary status, two tier drivers licenses) than enforce it.
Conversely, some Republicans want to round up the 13 million dragnet style and send them home. These folks do not live in the real world.
To borrow a phrase from my friend, Charles Krauthammer, we need "radical fence building," followed by "radical legalization." We must build significant barriers (along with high tech drones and anything else we can throw at the problem) that work — i.e., slow the flow to a trickle. Only after a successful security initiative will the country's leaders possess the credibility to institute a "path to legality." Then, the illegal millions will be placed in line behind those who have followed the law, but only after back taxes are paid, after criminal background checks and after passable English is learned. Yes, it's a path — just not a free path.
Advantages abound. Border security strengthened. Out-of-the-shadows living (and paying-taxes) for millions, a potential path to legal status (green card) that could lead to citizenship, and a strengthening of the rule of law.
Obamacare: repeal, replace, repair
Thomas Jefferson once famously warned, "Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities."
Yes, single party work products tend to be dysfunctional. They by definition have little room for error and enjoy shallow reservoirs of good will. But what to do about it?