November 1, 2008

Ten Planks

While I think I'm rendering good service by diagnosing the cancers of bigotry and Constitutional subversion that have grown malignant within the body of the Republican party (an unpleasant but necessary task), there will inevitably be people who say, "Okay, TL, if we purge that stuff out of the party, what do we replace it with?" That's a fair question (no one has asked it of me yet). So, without further ado, let me suggest some policy planks we Republicans can put in our campaign platforms for the future.

1. Constitutional Amendment Requiring Congress To Report A Balanced Budget. This wouldn't mean there wouldn't be a place for debt financing, or even deficit spending, but it would require a super-majority of Congress and a Presidential veto of a projected budget deficit could not be overridden.

2. More Nuclear Power Plants. We need to make it easier for utilities to build them, and we need to set up not just one but several regional depositories of nuclear waste material. We can do this by providing government backing to the utility bonds used to pay for construction, intelligently reforming the construction and operational regulations for running a plant, and making no-interest loans to companies proposing to manufacture the support equipment needed to manufacture the products needed to make these plants work -- the Japanese foundry that holds an effective monopoly on containment chambers, for instance, could use some U.S. competition. Along with this, we should also implement broader cap and trade pollution controls for coal-burning power plants and other generators of both air-borne and water-borne pollutants.

3. Devolution of Elementary And Secondary Education. By "devolution," I mean transferring not only decision-making authority but fund-raising responsibilities to state and local levels. Despite some misgivings I have about things some local school boards might do, the Constitution seems to require it, it's popular, and it would work a net savings of tax dollars if we give education back to the states.

4. Social Security Reform. Means-test the entitlement; Bill Gates does not need Social Security. Create an optional program for new enrollees to defer receipt of benefit payments until age 70 in exchange for larger benefit payments when they do start. Create an optional program for partial (not complete) allocation of social security contributions to conservative market securities, for workers under age 40. It won't solve the problem in either the short or the long run, but it will get the ball rolling and at least delay the collapse of the system for ten or fifteen years.

5. Space Elevator. We should make it a national challenge to build a space elevator by 2025. A space elevator will make it cheap to move people and things into geosynchronous orbit, allow the orbital assembly of craft that can move people and satellites around in space without needing to be raised through or safely re-enter the atmosphere, and so on. There are lots of technological and scientific problems that need to be solved to do this, but these are within our grasp. We'd probably need to partner with a country that has a suitable site for it near the equator, but wherever we put it, this will be a spark for re-investment in high-tech and advanced engineering industries, and the know-how created this way will serve as the foundation for all kinds of products and services our companies and sell to the rest of the world. This is not only no longer a nutty idea but also one that has been thrown around for over a generation now. Let's make it real. Space elevator = profit + advanced technology = plenty of goodness for the U.S.

6. Anti-Terrorism. The idea of ridding the world of terrorism is attractive, romantic, and while not 100% achievable, can be done with a sufficiently high degree of success to make a big difference. This should be the great national mission of the United States the same way that eradication of slavery and piracy was the great national mission of the British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We can't do it ourselves and shouldn't try because the mission necessarily involves operations in other nations and we will need their cooperation. As a proposal floated by the Bush Administration, this had traction before the Iraq war blew Bush's credibility. But we can and should pick up that torch and run with it the way it was sold. As I've been saying for a long time, we do not need to choose between liberty and security, and we can and should implement a program like this that effectively takes it to the bad guys while still protecting the very freedoms that make America an exceptional place.

7. Immigration Reform. Another thing Bush got right was the idea of guest workers and a fast-track to naturalization. Republicans in Congress were the ones who stabbed Bush in the back on this one and it was criminal for them to do it. We're not going to stop immigration no matter how much we "secure the border," but we can get the immigrants into the system so they pay taxes while they're working here and if things work out for them, so they can become citizens and be productive members of our society. It's the essence of the American experience to be a hard-working immigrant and to build a better life for your children here than you could have done back in the old country.

8. Strong Dollars. The U.S. dollar has been gradually weakened compared to other world currencies for nearly a decade. This makes it attractive for foreign companies to invest in the U.S. but it makes it more difficult for the U.S. to buy goods and services from abroad. While we need free trade with other nations, we also need to get our money back home. The best way to do that is a strong dollar. While this will mean more stuff from China being sold in Wal-Mart, it will also mean that those Chinese companies will have an incentive to re-invest those dollars back here. That will also put us in a better position for our companies to invest in the same overseas factories that do the manufacturing abroad with our strong dollars will be in demand to help build those factories, so some of those profits come back home. A wealthy China that engages in massive trade with us, and which has its economy intertwined with our own is very much in our strategic as well as our economic benefit, because it makes it more difficult for that China to engage in military belligerence against us or our allies.

9. New Postgraduate Military Academy. [SEE UPDATE BELOW.] Right now, we have three military academies, each one dedicated to a different branch of the service (Annapolis produces graduates who go on to the USMC as well as the Navy). These are some of the finest educational institutions in the country and their graduates go on to serve in the military and enter the ranks of the next generation of leaders. I suggest we create a new academy, a military graduate school if you will, with an empahsis on joint and integrated service operation. To some extent, the Army and Navy War Colleges fill this function now, so the postgraduate academy I propose would integrate these institutions into a single, large, and obviously very prestigious institution for military careerists.

10. Judiciary Reform. New Federal judges would be appointed for a single twenty-year term, not for life. Upon expiration of the term, the judge would not be eligible for a second judicial appointment at the same level for another five years, but if nominated to a different position while serving a judicial term, would start a new term once seated in the new position. A Presidential nomination of such a judge (after the appropriate background checks) would be effective seventy-five days after the nomination was submitted to the Senate, unless within that time the Senate issued a majority vote to suspend or abrogate the nomination. This would mean that the Senate could not indefinitely bottleneck a nominee or a group of nominees, and that the nominee would not serve a life term afterwards. This would, of course, require a Constitutional amendment to limit the length of service of the terms of the judges.

A new Contract With America? Not necessarily. Just some ideas I'd like to throw out there, into the crucible of debate to see which ones are both good policy ideas and have political traction. The point is to think, imaginatively and productively, of ways to make the country and the government better -- because right now, us Republicans look like we're fresh out of new ideas. I'm not married to (most) of them but I think they're all at least worthy of consideration.

They could use snazzier names, too. I await your critique, Readers.

UPDATE: A friend in the military advises me that the institution of which I wrote already exists. It's called the National Defense University and has the training of integrated joint-forces leaders as its primary mission already. Damn, I just plain didn't know that this even existed. I will have to give further thought to ways in which the military, its leaders, and the lives of its rank-and-file members, can all be improved.

1 comment:

DaveBuck said...

Wow. I'm amazed at how good each of your ideas is. The space elevator was a pleasant surprise. I need to think more about the 20-year judge terms but for now, it sounds good.

One thing you left out that will help you reach many of your goals, in my opinion, is HR 25, S 1025 (The FairTax Act). It could change the U.S. back into a production economy instead of a consumer economy. It would dovetail well with many of your suggestions too. For example, we'd see more companies locating in the U.S. and we'd need more workers and thus a better guest worker program. It should make our dollar stronger and it should allow more people to park their dollars in our country instead of offshore.

That said, your list is fantastic. I'd love to hear some real movement on these ideas. Obama, do you read this blog?