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?