President Obama’s second term means for the first time since the early days of our republic (Jefferson-Madison-Monroe), we’ll have three straight two-term presidents.
One of the advantages — and challenges — of winning a second term is that there’s no transition period. So in the spirit of bipartisanship, here are three areas policymakers should tackle before the end of the year.
1. Prevent Taxmageddon.
A massive tax increase, almost $500 billion, is set to hit at the end of this year. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke calls it a “massive fiscal cliff,” and the Congressional Budget Office forecasts that it would trigger another recession. The effects would be felt by Americans across the board. In 2013 alone:
Families with an average income of $70,662 would see a tax increase of $4,138.
Baby boomers with an average income of $95,099 would see a tax increase of $4,223.
Low-income workers with an average income of $24,757 would see a tax increase of $1,207.
Millennials with an average income of $23,917 would see a tax increase of $1,099.
Retirees with an average income of $42,553 would see a tax increase of $857.
Obamacare alone is set to increase taxes by more than $22 billion, and that’s the president’s signature program. All of these tax hikes can and must be avoided. The president should work with lawmakers in the House to craft a bipartisan solution before the end of the year.
2. Get the economy growing.
During the 2012 campaign, we heard plenty of rhetoric about “women’s issues.” The most pressing issue for women — and all Americans — is a good economy. Long-term prosperity comes not only from income but also from the ability and willingness to save and invest in the future, to help finance human capital and for many, to build productive enterprises. An important way to build prosperity is to encourage marriage.
The married poverty rate is 75 percent lower than the rate for single mothers. Yet the number of out-of-wedlock births has skyrocketed, from 10 percent as recently as 1970 to more than 40 percent today (for black Americans, out-of-wedlock births are 72 percent). Welfare, tax and social policy should help and not hurt families.
Meanwhile, unless we change course, continued massive government spending and the surging public debt will gradually destroy the foundations of our economy and put the American Dream beyond the reach of our children and grandchildren.
3. Sink the Law of the Sea treaty.
According to its advocates, we need the U.S. Convention on the Law of the Sea (which often goes by the acronym LOST) for a variety of reasons. One of them concerns the oil and gas resources located in the outer limits of our continental shelf. LOST’s proponents say we can obtain legal title to it only by signing on to the treaty. But under international law and long-standing U.S. policy, we already have access to these areas.
Environmental activists are high on the treaty, too. That’s because they anticipate suing the United States if it joins LOST — to force America to adopt the radical climate-change agenda they’ve been unsuccessful at imposing so far, at least. Groups such as Greenpeace would love a chance to make the U.S. pay in international court. That’s just what we’d do under LOST — pay.
This treaty amounts to little more than an expensive power grab by America’s detractors worldwide. President Reagan was right to reject it 30 years ago. The U.S. Senate should do the same thing today.
An election is a time to choose our leaders, and Americans have done so. Now we need to hold those leaders responsible as we try to solve the big problems our country faces.
Ed Feulner is the president of the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).
First appeared in The Washington Times.