Problems and Policies for the Right

A Harris Interactive poll from April 2007 reminds me a law of US politics: Americans like getting things, but we don't like paying for them. 

  • A 71 percent to 15 percent majority of adults do not think "it is necessary to increase taxes to reduce the budget deficit". Large majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents feel this way;
  • Even if taxes "had to be raised", very large majorities oppose raising the estate tax (64%) gas taxes (82%), income taxes (81%), the social security tax (83%), and the Medicare tax (87%);
  • When it comes to cutting government spending, there is little support for cutting any substantial programs.

Unfortunately, our government does not have a price mechanism that would allow voters and politicians to do cost/benefit calculations in order to prioritize spending. An effectively progressive flat tax - indexed to spending and made flat across labor and capital income - would do a great deal to solve that problem.  But politicians - Republicans and Democrats - prefer red meat to reality.

A more recent Tax Foundation/Harris poll showed much the same thing, and even suggested people support some conservative/Republicans policy positions (tax reform, tax cuts).

Naturally, some Republicans always pick up on these things and use them to argue that Americans really do support Republican policies.  Well, no. 

Limited government and low taxes are not policies - they are ideals, goals.  Policies are how you achieve those goals, and Republicans have never really figured out how to address the the structural problems that created this philosophically conservative, operationally liberal electorate.

A renewal on the Right must address that problem, or we will be in for another period of power without progress.   In order to rebuild with some chance of progress, the Right's agenda must focus on policies with the following characteristics:

1. Good Policy: The policy works and will help us achieve our ideals.

2. Transformational: The policy will address the structural problems with government - public choice theory, perverse incentives, poor collective decision making systems and the lack of a price mechanism for government.

3. Popular: The policy enjoys majority support, and Republicans can win elections campaigning in support of the policy. (This excludes issues that might gain survey support, but do not actually create an electoral coalition)

4. Viable: The policy has a reasonable chance to be passed into law under a modest Republican majority.

5. Sustainable: Public support for the policy can be maintained.

So here's an open question for the Right: What Right-of-center policies are good policy, transformational, popular, viable and sustainable?

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)


Some possibilities are...

  • Any of the Grover Norquist-type bills which would make government spending transparent on the Internet
  • HR1207, the Audit the Fed Bill, now has 175 co-sponsors
  • Any of the Read the Bills Acts which have been proposed by various websites and DownsizeDC
  • A carefully crafted bill to reduce spending in areas which are very unpopular. This would require some polling work to find egregious waste that the general public really hates (i.e. Bridge to Nowhere).  Find a few billion dollars of such waste and propose a bill to cut funding for these specific projects.


Small ball does not equal transformational

While I think each of these proposals has merit, they are not going to get anyone elected or build a governing coalition.

The key item in Jon's excellent list is transformational, IMO.

In general...

... I would say that there are two ideas, historically revered, which would yield good prospects:

1). That individual independence is preferable to individual dependence; and

2). Personal dignity is a preferable state than indignities suffered upon the person.

These two ideas have fallen out of favor.

You can even join them together and say that:

Individual independence enhances personal dignity, whereas individual dependence is an indignity upon the person.

I know that most humanists would want to claim the (illicit) substitution that dependence is the natural well-spring of interdependence, but this is only due to the fact that they cannot conceive of the interdependence of independent entities. 

philosophically conservative?

Or is it "I want it all, and I want someone else to pay for it." 

Though I have been known to be cynical...

Free Market Health Care Reform

1) Equalize the tax treatment btwn. employer insurance and that purchased by individuals

2) National Marketplace instead of 50 state marketplaces.

3) Asscioation (sp?) Health Plans

4) Modest Subsidies for those at the low end of the income scale and those with pre-existing conditions, modeled after the Earned Income Tax Credit.

5) Tax Free Medical Savings Accounts.

I'm all for No. 5

I have around $600/wk coming out of my pay for insurance (sic) and they hardly pay squat.

I don't have insurance-- I have CIGNA!!

Out of that $600/wk, I get $30 knocked off of my office visit (a whole 2 of them in the past 6 months!-- busy time for me...), but I've got a fairly good prescription plan (CatalystRX).  I pay 7 to 10 bucks for most prescriptions.

My vision plan (VSP) pays roughly 2/3 of costs, and the dental plan covers $500/year.

If I took that money and bought municipal bonds with it I would do better, even if I did really shitty.

I'm the guy that insurance agents really love to talk to.

They should send me flowers after that fucking I took. 


Actually I think we already have tax-free medical savings accounts, they are HSA's.  IIRC they work a lot like Roth IRA's.  Problem is, many employers don't offer HSA plans as a part of their menu of options.

My benefits are taken out...

... as a part of a negotiated contract by the jurisdiction that I'm working under, that are then sent back to national on a quarterly basis before being credited to my home local.  Overruns are consumed.

My benefits are administered by National Employee Benefits Administrators, Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla.  IIRC, they voted in the new insurance with the '05 contract, along with moving the pension from a credit system (2000 hrs = 1 credit) to a dollar system (the money follows the man).

Every bit of my "raise" (due 01Jun09) was voted away by shop rockets toward the pension.  The pension plan is divided into 3 parts (not counting the annuity), but humble self, as a traveler (ie not a member of the local whose jurisdiction I work under) is not allowed a vote.  Small matter anyway.


Since we've gone that far, I'll say that I love working in Kansas.  There are several small refineries that have shutdowns there every year.  The wage is low, but the perdiem makes up for it.

Which is why I am against the flat tax.  Those jobs would never be manned without the per diem.  Flat tax it, and reimbursement fo rmy expenses is gone-- you've screwed me out of a job, a career-- I have to find some other line of work to go in to.  Get some Mexicans that will live 12 to an apartment up here to do it..

Tax me for insurance benefits, and you're whacking me over the head with an invisible baseball bat.  I will never see the money, but I still get my ass kicked. 

Shop-rockets don't go to the

Shop-rockets don't go to the meetings and vote! They have a job, plus they would want it on the check. FLEA(not really)

Cut the Payroll Tax in Half


Strategy for the Right

...A carefully crafted bill to reduce spending in areas which are very unpopular.

Alas, the challenge is to reduce spending in areas that are popular, very popular.  Medicare and Social Security.  Else massive tax increases are coming by 2030 -- a more than 50% income tax increase from today ... or, absent either or both, Treasury bonds become "junk" by 2027.  

For national solvency, nothing else really matters but Medicare and Social Security.

When this fiscal crunch hits the Right is going to want these programs cut to keep government entitlements and the tax cost of them from taking over the whole economy -- because that's only the start, their tax cost only rises from there.

But for the Right to convince the citizenry to cut Medicare and Social Security by a lot is going to be a heck of a political challenge.

Fortunately for the Right, the goal of the Left is going to be to get everyone to swallow those tax increases forever, plus more for national health care, and that's not going to be such an easy sell either.

A frontal assault by the Right on Medicare and Social Security to straight cut them ain't going to work, so just forget about that.

But there is a model that could work for the Right to significantly downsize them -- we know because it was already used in fixing Social Security when it went broke in 1983.

Step #1 is to means-test the rich out of benefits.  With Social Security this was started in a disguised way in 1983 by subjecting them to "income tax" -- except the tax isn't remitted to the Treasury's general revenue like real income tax, it is returned to the Social Security Administration to reduce the recipient's net benefit.  A hidden means test.

But in 2030 the Right can do this overtly and trump the Lefties who want to preserve the status quo beneits on their own "progressiveness" issue.  Today it's easy for the Left to promise benefits for everyone -- it doesn't cost them anything.  But in 2030 it's going to cost them a 50% income tax increase or the equivalent (such as a national sales tax) ... which means massive tax increases for all working age people to pay benefits for the rich, and to let the upper middle class retire early and sail off on their yachts.

What's progressive about that?  How are Paul Krugman and everyone on the left who today yelp so hard protesting "tax cuts for the rich" going to turn around and support tax increases on everyone to provide tax transfers to the rich???

The Left can be trumped there.

Then, the Right can apply the second part of the '83 Social Security fix:  reduce benefits for the then young.  In fact, the '83 Social Security fix helps the Right going forward.  It increased SS taxes and cut SS benefits (by postponing the retirement age) on the young of 1983 (who didn't vote) ... which destroyed  Social Security as an attractive investment for workers going forward.

The reason why Social Security has been hugely popular in the past is that from 1940 to 2000 it gave everyone, rich and pooer, more than they put into it -- $16 trillion more in our dollars.  Who doesn't like getting free money from the government?

But for retirees from about now on going forward, it is going to give everyone less than they put in -- $16 trillion less.  That's a $32 trillion swing for the worse!   How popular is it going to be then among the working masses, when they know they are paying a double-digit payroll tax their entire life to be made poorer by it?

At that point the Right can say:  Look, the Left has always sold Social Security as "social insurance for the unfortunate and needy".  Well, lets make honest persons of them!  Have it only pay benefits to the unfortunate and needy -- not to Bill Gates and all the upper middle-class retirees sailing off on their yachts.  Then you can cut the payroll tax that is costing you so much by maybe half, and put the half you save in private investments that will actually make you wealthier!

That is both progressive to trump the left on principle ... and it will benefit all the masses of younger (up to age 50) voters, so it will sell ... and it will seriously downsize Social Security as we know it.

The Right can then apply the exact same principles to Medicare.  Why should all the average workers in America pay big tax increaes to pay the medical bills of retiree Bill Gates and all the other seniors who are richer than them?  What's progressive about that?   Means test the rich oldsters. Cut benefits for the young who have time to plan ahead.  Save the nation from bankruptcy and huge tax hikes on all workers in the process.  It's progessive, and it benefits the masses of workers of the next generation, so it will sell via self-interest..  And the result will necessarily turn medical care back in the direction of market, private-sector provision.

This progam wouldn't produce anything like Libertarian Utopia, but it could greatly reduce the future size of government and tax collections from their future projected course -- and it is doable.

In fact I would say this basic scenario is unavoidable circa 2030 because the very same political incentives that were in play in 1983 will be in play again then -- directing that the crisis be resolved with some amount of current means testing of "the rich", combined with dropping as much pain as possible on the young, who aren't organized motivated voters yet.

The real issue is who is going to control the agenda when this reform takes place, to direct how far it goes and how.   If The Right frames the debate and controls the agenda, then it will be able to really turn these programs back with serious benefit cuts and cut the growth of government .  If the Left frames the debate and controls the agenda, the immediate benefit cuts will be the minimal needed to protect programs as much as possible, and we'll see "deferred tax increases" and the like dropped on the young to grow these programs further as much as taxpayers will allow . 

Unfortunately, I see nobody on the Right preparing now to fight the future battle on these grounds, and grab that agenda. There's only the Big Government Republicans of the Congress who deposited their party in the dumpster it's in now, and the Norquist-type "destroy the government"-ers, who among average voters who like and want  their Social Security and Medicare, have credibility of zilch, zero.

To win a future battle, you have to prepare to fight it on the grounds on which you can win.  I see nobody on the Right doing that yet.

But there's still time yet.  Obama's doing things that are going to re-energize the currently demoralized right a lot faster than most people think, I do believe. Things can change fast in politics. We shall see.

Reading that survey...

.. some random thoughts come to mind:

[] "Democracy is a political system based on the belief that average citizens know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard" --  H.L. Mencken.

[] People shouldn't be allowed to vote -- at least without some sort of simple literacy test requiring them to write a short essay on the topic , "You can't have what you refuse to pay for", demonstrating understanding of the concept.

[] There is no hope in averting the crisis, circa 2016-2030, that will produce either national bankrutpcy or, to avert it, draconian tax increases and/or cuts to benefit programs that millions of people are counting on.  Because ... blame our rotten politicians of both Left and Right as much as you want ... the politicians are all entirely answerable to the voters ... and the voters are telling them in overwheming unity: "Produce the crisis!  Crisis! Crisis! We want the crisis! Or we'll vote you out!"

Regarding "problems and policies"...

I firmly believe that when Bush the Younger came in, in 2001, the Republicans were in a position to pull a "reverse-FDR" on the Democrats and take control of politics for a generation -- if they had been willing to play a long game and wait a few years.

This would have consisted of actually living by the principle they had long claimed to be their own (lying, as they turned out) and being the balanced budget, fiscally responsible party.

They were off to a free-lunch start!  They could have had their tax cuts from the surplus they inherited, cutting revenue down to a balanced budget, and had both -- tax cuts and a balanced budget!  Every other party coming to power since WWII would have had to raise taxes to have a balanced budget.  What a gift they received!

Then, when Teddy Kennedy and the Dems came demanding  "Drug benefits! Drug benefits! We want drug benefits!", Bush could've answered: "Sure, I'll sign any drug benefit bill you want PROVIDED it includes taxes from the first day sufficent to cover its full cost on an actuarially sound basis!"    The public would have understood that!  

Do you know how much that is? About $6 trillion (!) to date -- $4 trillion start-up cost plus about $400 billion per year on average since.   The Democrats would never have proposed a tax sufficient to cover the cost of their own proposal. Never. And they would be totally tarred as being poser, "irresponsible, break-the-budget, refuse-to-pay-for-it spenders"  once more and forever more.

Then Bush could've proposed Social Security reform -- to avert the coming budget crisis, and protect benefits through it,.The Democrats would've blocked it for sure, much as they did.   It wouldn't have passed. But every time a Democratic politician came out and declared "There is no problem! Social Security and Medicare are absolutely safe until at least the 2040s when the Trust Fund runs out!", they'd have been videotaped from every angle.

Then, due to Medicare as it already existed and the unreformed Social Security, huge budget deficits start to drop the credit rating of the US, as projected by both Moodys and S&P, circa 2017, (towards "junk" by 2027).  Huge tax increases/benefit cuts are needed.  Social Security benefits stand to be means-tested or cut outright.

In the election in which these tax increases/benefit cuts are argued all the vidoetapes of all the Democrats saying "No problem! No problem unitl the 2040s!!" come out on TV ads, and the screwed-and-infuriated voters respond "Liars! Liars! Liars!".  The reverse-FDR occurs, and the Democrats go into the wilderness for a generation.

It was set up to happen. The Republicans were set up to do the right thing and to profit from it!  How often does that happen in politics?

Ah.... Fantasy.... 

Reality intervenes, in which a "long game" for Republicans is until next Tuesday.   Genius Karl Rove.... GENIUS Karl Rove ... decides to take the drug benefit off the table as an issue for Democrats, and maybe pick up a handful of votes in an off-year election, by having the Repubs enact the drug benefit themselves and not pay for it  -- so that  full $6 trillion + $400 billion a year lands on the voters of the future thanks to them.  To get it passed he and Bush force people to lie about the cost and intimidate many reluctant Repubs to voting for it against their will.

Republican credibility on fiscal responsibility (and fiscal honesty) is destroyed. All for the GENIUS ploy of trying to beat the Dems at their own game, entitlements, which they could never ever do. Then Bush tries for Social Security reform in the name of fiscal integrity, and it is ha! ha! ha!   Then the entire Repub party descends into pork-and-spend "bridge to nohwere" gluttony -- and is sent into the wilderness where it well belongs.

But all is not lost!  The Repubs are not dead. (In 1964 the Dems had much larger majorities than they do now, and in four short years their guy couldn't even run for his own nomination, and Nixon came in.  In 1972 Nixon carried 49 states, but he didn't even survive 1974.  Etc. Things change fast in politics).

The fall in the credit rating of the US is projected by both Moodys and S&P to occur circa 2017, right at the end of Obama's second term -- and that was before Obama added $7 trillion to the national debt.  He and the Dems are spending like drunken sailors, making that even worse.   Chrysler and GM could be on the government dole for years and become his "fiscal quagmire", etc.

Believe me, if the Repubs can restore for themselves even a credible pose of fiscal responsibility -- and face it, that's a lot easier when you are out of power and can't spend -- they'll have plenty of ammunition to shoot at the Dems in the 2016 election.

Look, if the voters are demanding, "Produce the crisis!  Crisis! Crisis! We want the crisis!" , you want to be out of power during the last years before it occurs, because when the voters get what they want they'll blame the party in power. Then you pick up the pieces.

It could be that by just plain dumb luck, the Repubs'  irresponsibility and incompetence sent them out of power for the lucky right eight years, setting them up to sweep back in 2016 as the crisis hits, as "the party of fiscal responsibility" to save the situation.

Voters have very short memories.

You tell me

If you have some ideas, let's hear them.  And please don't say the tax proposal in this post qualifies.  It's Republican doublespeak:

An effectively progressive flat tax a tax is progressive or it isn't.  Income tax is progressive, FICA is regressive.  Neither are both.

indexed to spending Balanced Budgeting was the Republican position until Nixon.  But Nixon engineered that great political trade: Republicans got racist southern politicians and Democrats got fiscal responsibility.

flat across labor and capital income This is a Democratic position.  Republicans want zero tax on capital gains. 


@progressive tra:

I would say that there are two ideas, historically revered, which would yield good prospects:

I basically agree with those ideas, but they are not policies.  Expressing the idea doesn't tell us how to accomplish it.


Free market health care reform

Ok, but do each of them meet the 5 policy requirements?

About the only one...

... I can think of right off the top of my head would be school vouchers.

One more word about taxes:

I pay a pretty good chunk of change toward income taxes, but it's really the property taxes that concern me more.  It might be a better situation if there were a law that would state that all property taxes gathered for schools must be distributed equally across the state per student.

And I had an idea while writing that, that maybe it would be best of all to have tax credits toward property taxes in place of school vouchers, and have the federal government withhold an equal amount from the block grants given to the states.

I believe the health savings accounts would also qualify.  They need to be easier to opt into from an employer-based plan.

I'm sure there are others. 

Right-of-center policies

Americans already support nuclear energy in large numbers.

Huge quantities of cheap, dependable energy will address both pocketbook and defense issues. Electricity produced with nuclear power will dovetail with the interest in electric cars and reducing CO2 emissions.

Utility bills are already skyrocketing in my region and the Dems' new legislation will raise them even more. Voters are going to be angry.

Pushing nuclear energy would be transformational, popular, viable and sustainable.






I find the idea appealing, but I'd be curious to see what the actual policy was.  And especially whether survey support would translate into voting support.  Many popular things become less popular when people consider the specific policy (and the popularity of nuclear energy seems volatile, varying widely by survey).  I would hope nuclear energy would be successful, but I think it would need to be framed and sold carefully.

 This quote has been on my

 This quote has been on my Facebook page for a while:

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

Buckminster Fuller


To be successful, the Republicans can achieve no less than this. Tweaking the status quo isn't going to cut it. This is why I would suggest the following policies.
Tax, entitlement and health care reform: The Zero-Tax Society
Why the Republicans aren't likely to do what it takes: It's the freedom, stupid
Unfortunately Fuller's quote most likely also applies to the Republican Party itself. 

re: This quote

Agreed on the importance of making the current model obselete.

A quote from Bucky Fuller to find fault with the GOP?????

Good God, man, do you realize that Bucky Fuller designed homes and buildings where the windows, roof and walls would leak water in a simple rain?  He has a reputation worse than FL Wright on that score alone --along with being a mego-egoist.

And you have the courage to quote a momentual failure like Bucky Fuller and apply it to the GOP?  Are you serious? What next, a quote from a space ranger on the Planet Zorg about how to solve the Middle East conflicts?  Or maybe you can find a pithy quote from the PowerPuff Girls on how to find a cure for cold sores?


Tax Loans -- help the needy with their OWN money

The transparency type bills are good, but not enough.

"Cutting" is probably a mistake -- "freezing" is a better sell.

But all entitlements can, and should, be replaced by equal "Tax Loans".  Where the receiver gets "the money he needs" -- but has to pay it back. Thru his taxes plus a loan re-payment .  It should be a progressive re-payment amount, based on the income above some minimum threshhold .

The political system is based on the lie of gov't helping people who need it, with 'free money', which is then twisted to give cash to those who are politician friends. 

Replacing 'free money' with 'loan money' (on easy terms, yes, but NOT free), will reduce the demand for it.

Any and every stimulus needed should be thru Tax Loans, available on request, of 50% of the income tax paid in 2008 -- to be received by any who paid tax, and repaid at a 3% rate (or 1% more than the Fed rate, whichever is more.) 

With later rounds available up to 100% of 2008, and even 100% of 2007 tax paid.