August 20, 2010 | Commentary on Economy
How-To Guide for Cleaning Up Obama’s Mess
President Obama hit the campaign trail last week and returned to a familiar theme of attacking his critics for lacking ideas on key policy issues.
“They're offering fear, and they're offering amnesia,” Obama said at a Democrat fundraiser in Los Angeles. “My campaign, you’ll recall, our slogan was, ‘Yes, we can.’ Their slogan is, ‘No, we can’t.’ On every item.”
Chiding conservatives for a lack of policy solutions is a regular talking point for the White House. It’s a tactic Obama has used to elevate his own ideas for America’s problems—albeit ideas that resemble Socialist schemes to rapidly grow the size of government.
Unfortunately for the President, his 20 months in office have produced a remarkable backlash from the American people. Gallup’s daily tracking poll is a good indicator: last week Obama hit an all-time low of 42% approval.
These are trying times for the White House. The President is embroiled in a controversy over the planned mosque near Ground Zero in New York City, and he’s losing friends on the professional left for unflattering comments from his spokesman. Liberal candidates would prefer he keep his distance on the campaign trail for fear that he could alienate independents.
Meanwhile, America is adrift. The post-partisan President who was supposed to lay a “new foundation” appears to instead be re-enacting Jimmy Carter’s failed presidency. The economic recovery has slowed, double-digit unemployment is possible once again, the deficit and debt threaten the country’s fiscal health.
Obama often points, defensively, to the problems he inherited. But they pale in comparison to the mess he’s created. Obamanomics is a complete failure and Obamacare threatens to be an even bigger one. His solutions for energy would make government more burdensome, while his national security agenda puts America at grave risk from our enemies.
Conservative don’t lack innovative ideas or robust policy solutions. Obama simply hasn’t paid any attention to them.
But we keep trying. This week the Heritage Foundation released “Solutions for America,” a document that recommends 128 specific policy prescriptions for Congress to consider in 2011. It’s a how-to manual for politicians in both parties to use when debating some of America’s most pressing problems. Some ideas are new; others already have sponsors on Capitol Hill. All of them would set the country on a course of prosperity and freedom.
It will take guts and determination to act on many of the solutions Heritage recommends. For too long, Washington politicians have been content to kick the can down the road. But time is running out to fix the big three entitlements—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—and the longer Congress waits to enact spending reforms, the worse the problem gets.
That’s why lawmakers should consider a firm cap on overall federal spending, tying future increases to inflation plus population growth.
On entitlements, lawmakers must put an end to autopilot increases each year. To address these massive, unfunded liabilities, Congress should establish a five-year budget and regularly review the programs to ensure they remain within congressionally approved limits.
Nearly 15 years after President Clinton worked with a Republican Congress to pass welfare reform, it’s once again time to rein in spending on these programs. Federal spending on welfare approaches $1 trillion annually, but because Congress doesn’t treat the 71 means-tested welfare program holistically, they’re harder to control. Lawmakers should change their approach and cap welfare spending increases at inflation, plus require recipients to give something back.
While spending remains one of the most pressing problems today—and the motivation of many Tea Party activists—it’s hardly the only policy area in need of attention.
To encourage investment and job creation, Heritage recommends reducing America’s high tax rate on corporate earnings and bringing it into alignment with our 30 largest trading partners—approximately 25%.
Seniors over 65 should be exempt from Social Security taxes—along with their employers. At a time when many are working later in the life, this has the added benefit of keeping them on employer-sponsored private health insurance plans rather than Medicare.
These are just a few of Heritage’s ideas. The solutions span the policy spectrum—from a renewed interest in federalism to a robust foreign policy and strong national defense. The policy prescriptions address government regulation, overcriminalization and marriage. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it is robust.
With the midterm elections around the corner, Washington’s consultancy class is engaged in a debate whether conservative should play small-ball or go for the home run. Heritage firmly believes bold and transformative solutions are the only way to put the country on track.
Mr. Bluey, a contributing editor to Human Events, is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Human Events