(For part two, click here; for part one, click here)
If there was any doubt about how the future of this great country will be determined, the lines were clearly drawn in the recent debt ceiling fight.
On one side of the debt ceiling fight were the business-as-usual establishment Democrats and Republicans, who wish to continue the growth of spending and intrusive government; they differ only in the speed at which their policies accelerate our decline.
On the other side was the Tea Party, which is committed to reining-in both government and spending. The Tea Party is not a monolithic movement, but the recent debt ceiling fight confirmed that the Tea Party is the one force in American politics that is truly committed to rolling-back the permanent increase in spending and the growth of government that are destroying American exceptionalism and prosperity.
As much as establishment Republicans would like to keep the focus on the past three years, the problems threatening our economic recovery didn’t start on Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day. While ending the damaging policies of the Obama administration is vital to restoring economic growth and job creation there are other, proactive steps a Tea Party driven Washington would need to take to sustain long term economic growth. Those steps will require Republicans to join them and govern according to conservative principles or be swept out of the way.
Here’s the list of Tea Party policies to sustain long term growth, some of which Republicans have been talking about for years, but never quite get around to implementing when they are in power.
- Pass a fairer, simpler, flatter individual tax system. One of the major themes of the Tea Party movement has been tax simplification and fairness. Economist Arthur Laffer has estimated the total tax code compliance burden to be at least $431.1 billion, others have estimated it to be over half a trillion dollars annually. This amounts to about $3,750 annually in non-productive overhead for every household in America – more than the average household spends on eating out, clothing or heath care. As a movement driven by small business people and entrepreneurs, the Tea Party understands the employment impact of putting those dollars back into the productive economy in a way Obama never will.
- Drill for domestic oil and get out of the way of oil and gas exploration and energy production. The United States is the world’s third-largest oil producer, but Obama’s energy policies have driven-up energy prices and been a disaster for the U.S. economy. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune the de jure and de facto moratoriums on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico have cost some 19,000 jobs in the region, with wage losses estimated to be $800 million and national wage losses estimated to be $1.1 billion. Since taking control of the White House, Obama has kept 97 percent of federal offshore areas and 94 percent of federal onshore areas, all of it owned by taxpayers, off-limits to energy production.
- The energy sector has been one of the primary targets of Obama’s class warfare rhetoric, yet his policies are the reason energy prices have risen to ruinous levels. Tea Partiers understand that encouraging domestic oil and gas production would get more American energy into the market, would bring down prices and put Americans back to work.
- Lower corporate tax rates. If one listens to Obama and the Democrats one gets the distinct impression that corporate taxes are intended to punish success, not fund the operation of a limited constitutional government.
- Among the tax rates of developed countries for 2010, the United States ranked second to Japan by a fraction of a percentage point -- 39.54 percent for Japan versus 39.21 percent for the United States. But that figure is already outdated: Japan has recently moved to cut its rate for 2011 by 5 percentage points, leaving the United States with the highest corporate tax rate among the member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
- While the class warriors of the Obama Administration would lead you to believe that U.S. corporations have had a free ride, the fact of the matter is since 1990, when U.S. corporate tax rates were in the middle of the pack among industrialized countries, corporate taxes have risen to the point where the United States is uncompetitive. Tea Partiers get the impact of this because they actually pay taxes and compete in the marketplace – they realize it is long past time for Congress to lower the rate so it is equal or below the 25 percent average of our competitors.
- Cut spending and balance the federal budget. In 2011, Americans have to work 224 days – through August 12 – to support the government. No one can credibly claim that the unprecedented growth of government and deficit spending over the past five years has been good for the economy. However, the recent debt ceiling battle proved just how tenaciously the establishment, and particularly Obama and his liberal allies, will fight to maintain their chokehold on the American taxpayer.
- Establishment politicians of both parties are incapable of making the choices necessary to cut spending and balance the budget, because making choices means setting priorities and alienating donors who have their hands in the taxpayers’ pockets. Given this reality, the only solution is to amend the Constitution to provide for a balanced budget.
- Tea Party backed constitutional conservatives in Congress are among the few elected officials who have proven they understand the need for a law to govern government and who are prepared to unflinchingly commit to passing a balanced budget amendment – a critical addition to the Constitution necessary to rein-in the federal Leviathan once and for all.
As we enter the 2012 election cycle Republicans are going to be under enormous establishment pressure to compromise to keep the taxpayer dollars flowing to Washington’s business-as-usual insiders.
The 2010 election showed that it is possible to build a conservative consensus in this country, but one election is not enough to permanently realign the political landscape, and it is not foreordained that the Tea Party generated momentum of 2010 can be sustained.
To achieve a conservative consensus and a true political realignment, Republicans must offer voters clear choices and sustain the vision behind those choices over more than one election cycle. They must reject establishment pressure to keep spending and join Tea Partiers to offer voters a clear choice between the economics of a limited constitutional government vs. Obama’s foray down the road to a European-style welfare state. That's where they should start.