Solutions 2020

Solutions 2020

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The Heritage Foundation has stood as a pillar of American conservative thought for nearly half a century, shedding light on the principles and values that make our country exceptional among nations. Since its founding, Heritage has worked to formulate public policy solutions around the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

These principles and the policies derived from them work to benefit all Americans. Regardless of income level or background, every American has the freedom and the opportunity to chart his or her own path in life, to think freely, to live in peace, to worship as he or she believes, and to grow and prosper.

Heritage researchers develop model policies for government with the individual in mind. They are policies that allow every American to experience even more freedom and opportunity to flourish and pursue his or her dreams.

This Solutions book provides policy solutions for America’s biggest issues in the areas of health care, taxes and spending, foreign policy, immigration, social programs, defense, and much more. The book also provides the rationale and data to firmly back up each solution. Additionally, this guide is written in everyday language that makes it easy to compellingly share these ideas with every American.

The Heritage Foundation has taken the overarching principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense and has broken them down more specifically into this collection of 14 True North principles, which serve as the guide for all the solutions contained within this book:

  • The federal government exists to preserve life, liberty, and property, and it is instituted to protect the rights of individuals according to natural law. Among these rights are the sanctity of life; the freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly; the right to bear arms; the right of individuals to be treated equally and justly under the law; and the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.
  • The federal government’s powers are limited to those named in the Constitution and should be exercised solely to protect the rights of its citizens. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” Powers not delegated to the federal government, nor prohibited by the Constitution, are reserved to the states or to the people.
  • Judges should interpret and apply our laws and the Constitution based on their original meaning, not upon judges’ personal and political predispositions.
  • Individuals and families—not government—make the best decisions regarding their and their children’s health, education, jobs, and welfare.
  • The family is the essential foundation of civil society, and traditional marriage serves as the cornerstone of the family.
  • The federal deficit and debt must not place unreasonable financial burdens on future generations.
  • Tax policies should raise only the minimum revenue necessary to fund constitutionally appropriate functions of government.
  • America’s economy and the prosperity of individual citizens are best served by a system of free enterprise, with special emphasis on economic freedom, private property rights, and the rule of law. This system is best sustained by policies promoting free trade and deregulation, and opposing government interventions in the economy that distort markets and impair innovation.
  • Regulations must not breach constitutional principles of limited government and the separation of powers.
  • America must be a welcoming nation—one that promotes patriotic assimilation and is governed by laws that are fair, humane, and enforced to protect its citizens.
  • Justice requires an efficient, fair, and effective criminal justice system—one that gives defendants adequate due process and requires an appropriate degree of criminal intent to merit punishment.
  • International agreements and international organizations should not infringe on American’s constitutional rights, nor should they diminish American sovereignty.
  • America is strongest when our policies protect our national interests, preserve our alliances of free peoples, vigorously counter threats to our security, and advance prosperity through economic freedom at home and abroad.
  • The best way to ensure peace is through a strong national defense.

The True North principles that guide this 2020 edition of Solutions are unwavering and have withstood the test of time. They are what we as conservatives dedicated to finding solutions stand by because they will continue to guide America toward an ever brighter future. They are why our solutions work better and can assure a more free and prosperous future for all Americans.

The American spirit is forged by boldly facing new challenges while continuing to uphold the ideals that have made us great.

The United States of America has been tested time and time again, and its success is predicated on the fact that our nation is not just a nation of people, but one of ideals: ideals such as the freedom of the individual to exercise his or her God-given rights responsibly and that government exists solely to secure those rights in practical application of the rule of law rather than rule by law.

As we move into the next decade of the millennium, attacks on our American spirit are ever-present and unrelenting. The rejection of strong moral values in favor of the doctrine of socialism and the ideology of collectivism is intensifying from within. And the state of global affairs is no walk in the park, either.

The conservative of today fights vigorously to keep the American spirit alive and thwart these attacks. The conservative of today understands that while we hold a healthy reverence for our traditions, we must look forward to resolve our challenges and remain vigilant to face that which confronts us, both now and in the future. The vision cast by the conservative of today is one of an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.

That is why The Heritage Foundation continues its tradition of putting forth Solutions: a policy briefing book that pairs timely policy prescriptions with the timeless principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

In order to confront the barrage of junk science, baseless agendas, and even ad hominem attacks, conservatives must arm themselves with the facts and prescriptions that are laid out in this policy briefing book.

Solutions 2020 is an arsenal of today’s best conservative policy recommendations, backed by the analysis of hard data, for those fighting on the front lines of American political life, whether by running for office or simply being an active citizen in their community. Conservative policymakers, candidates, and the informed citizen can draw information from more than 30 domestic, economic, constitutional, and foreign policy topics from over 100 of our policy experts.

Heritage scholars come from a diverse background of expertise in various industries within the private sector and all levels of government. The policy recommendations in each chapter of Solutions have been rigorously debated and widely agreed upon. Past editions of Solutions have been in the hands of some of the most effective lawmakers in a great field of conservative policy victories.

Where do the principles that guide our policy recommendations come from? The Heritage Foundation and its scholars are true students of history’s greatest political thinkers. The ideas and solutions in this policy briefing book hold tightly to the wisdom of Edmund Burke, who said, “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors,” and the insights of Alexis de Tocqueville, who warned that “[t]he American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

As patriotic citizens of the United States, we have a duty to preserve the American spirit. Future generations depend on our ability to not succumb to the whims of those who wish to dismantle our institutions. And with what would they be replaced? A society that is governed by despotic mob rule hiding behind a mask of misplaced equality?

Solutions 2020 provides its readers with a summary of the policy landscape, policy proposals for Congress to act upon, and authoritative facts and figures to support them. Each chapter of this policy briefing book will prepare the dedicated American to lean into the challenges that our nation faces, fighting for the noble cause to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

Pandemic Response

On March 11, 2020, the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic, and two days later the United States entered a state of emergency. The disease has wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans who have dramatically changed their behavior and businesses in response. States have reinforced these changes with stay-at-home orders and mandatory closures of “non-essential” businesses. Millions of American workers are now jobless.

To help guide local, state, and federal policymakers, the private sector, and communities through crisis and into recovery, The Heritage Foundation assembled the National Coronavirus Recovery Commission. The mission is clear: Develop recommendations to protect both lives and livelihoods. Essential to any response is a strong commitment to the Constitution and to the American values of individual liberty and free enterprise that have made this country great and guided it through many severe challenges. America is strengthened by its states, which, as laboratories of democracy, allow decisions to be made closest to and reflective of the needs of the people. The states, in turn, are critically aided by Congress and the executive branch, which provide reliable information, regulatory relief, coordination, and targeted and temporary funding. This governing system of unity and diversity has enabled a flexible response to a virus with widely divergent effects in communities across the country and within states.

Building on that solid ground, policymakers, the private sector, and civil society must navigate a return to work while making strategic adjustments to slow the spread of the virus. Indeed, good public health policy is good economic policy: lives and livelihoods.

A sound public health strategy not only helps to reduce illness and mortality associated with the disease, but also helps to mitigate the long-term economic effects. Health policy should thus focus on constraining the spread of the infection, treating and quarantining the sick, and protecting the most vulnerable—not on shutting down American life. Indiscriminate “lockdowns” are blunt tools that neither qualify as intrinsically good public health policy, nor adequately reflect the varied virus exposure within states and regions. Rather, states and localities should employ more far more measured, data-driven approaches. At the same time, policymakers should expand Americans’ access to healthcare and reduce regulatory barriers that inhibit innovation in research and development of disinfectants, therapeutics, and vaccines needed to help fight the virus.

Economic policy should focus on empowering Americans and businesses to safely return to work. Work and workplaces are central to American life, not just for the sake of the economy but also for the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Temporary and targeted aid is useful. But the government cannot spend its way into national prosperity: Americans need paychecks more than they need stimulus checks. Therefore, durable policy change will send a stronger signal of the stability and confidence American businesses and workers need to innovate and adapt to a new normal. Regulatory reform has been essential to crisis response, opening up critical resources and enabling people to solve problems expeditiously across the economy, civil society, and public health sectors. It will indispensable to a confident recovery.

Similarly, by strengthening economic freedom among America’s allies and partners, the U.S. can lead a global recovery. Throughout history, there has been no better model than that of free enterprise for how to lift people out of poverty and into better, healthier standards of living. Now is the time to double down on that commitment. Countless American jobs involve the exchange of materials with our allies and trading partners around the world; those jobs also depend upon the skills and talents of people on both sides. The virus also has posed global challenges, and solutions will similarly come through the synergy of a network response. Reopening supply chains and removing barriers to free trade will reinvigorate economic activity and improve access to innovative life-saving technology to fight the virus. At the same time, the experience of the pandemic has highlighted areas in which the U.S. is too reliant on foreign sources and manufacturing for critical supplies, and underscores the need to verify information and data coming from authoritarian regimes that lack accountability.

Looking ahead to the future, it is critical that when the next pandemic comes, we are not simply responding to the previous one, or ignoring the investments already made toward preparedness. Even now, governments at all levels should review funding priorities and amend their regulatory environments to be more flexible in crises. Businesses must learn now how to adapt quickly for the future. And civil society must be strengthened so that Americans have thriving communities to which they can turn when they need support. Where structural change is needed to our safety nets, health care systems, and financial systems, we should evaluate the needs and pursue appropriate reforms now.

While each branch and level of government is playing an important role in responding to the current pandemic, no other sector of society has been as essential or successful as have everyday Americans and businesses, who have rallied in creative ways to help one another and meet the needs that the government cannot. The best and the brightest have stepped forward during this pandemic to work on the most challenging problems of the day. This experience also has demonstrated exactly how important free markets and ideas are to overcoming crises; free markets and ideas unleash the incredible ingenuity of the private sector and civil society. Recovery will be driven by American innovators, entrepreneurs, businesses, and consumers. They are the key to recovery and hope for whatever the future holds.

The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission has offered 265 recommendations for an “all of society” approach that engages state and local governments, Congress, the Administration, businesses, schools, community organizations, churches, and civil society as they navigate the current crisis and prepare for the next. The recommendations cover a wide swath of issues ranging from healthcare access, education, protections for the vulnerable and disabled individuals, and improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program to international trade and travel, barriers to innovation and research, 5G infrastructure, tax policy, and small business capital formation, among many others. Together, these recommendations inform a balanced strategy to save both lives and livelihoods.

Key among these are recommendations that would quickly reinvigorate economic activity while making smart accommodations for vulnerable individuals and communities.

States and local governments should allow businesses in counties with low incidence of COVID-19 to reopen. Just five states—New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, and California—accounted for 50 percent of all of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 57 percent of all related deaths by May 2020. Most counties (80 percent) have had fewer than five deaths related to the new coronavirus.

States and local governments should use stay-at-home orders sparingly and only where necessary. Better, more targeted approaches should focus on infection hot spots, isolate the sick from the workplace, and protect the more vulnerable (those who are elderly, in nursing homes, or have preexisting conditions).

The White House should establish a national portal with accessible data on the spread of the coronavirus as well as the modeling used to support decisions made by governments at all levels. Access to information is absolutely critical for governments, medical professionals, businesses, and individuals to make the best decisions on how best to respond. Specifically, the availability of this information would reinforce consistency in standards that can be carried out locally, helping physicians. More access to information also would help to eliminate uncertainty about the virus that hurts the confidence of businesses and consumers.

States and local governments should immediately allow all medical offices to reopen. Many states shut down health care services considered “nonessential” to prepare for projected massive surges in patients infected by the coronavirus. This government-created impediment has hindered the ability of medical professionals to meet Americans’ ongoing health care needs, and many medical workers are being unnecessarily furloughed. Amid an unprecedented health crisis, over one million health care workers face unemployment.

All federal departments and independent agencies should review all regulations that have been waived or modified in response to COVID-19 and consider permanent changes. Such a clear statement by the President to executive agencies would provide more long-term confidence and stability for businesses by ensuring regulatory regimes work in good times and bad, facilitate innovation and market advancement, and still protect health and safety.

State and local governments should make decisions based on data for the local district, and even the specific school, not the entire state. Further, states should help families return to work, and students to maintain education continuity by lifting barriers to online education and making education funding student-centered and portable.

The federal government should partner with churches, grassroots organizations, NGOs, and state and local governments to increase wellness education, including education on nutrition, fitness, and risk avoidance, among minority communities. This is necessary because of the disproportionate effect of this virus in minority communities. Regardless of their race or color, Americans must be vigilant in adhering to mitigation efforts if they must leave their homes each day to go to work. If minority communities are not participating in recommended risk avoidance, they risk a slower return to normal. Further, the President should task federal health agencies, as they build scientific understanding of COVID-19, with investigating the underlying causes of the virus’s disparate impact on minority and other communities.

Congress should expand liability protections with a safe harbor for businesses and workers that follow guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in good faith. A safe harbor by Congress would provide much-needed confidence and stability that would encourage business owners to reopen.

Congress should liberalize future Paycheck Protection Program loans to broaden eligible expenditures, extend the relevant period, and limit the loans to businesses that were hit hard. Businesses that were forced to shut down must rehire and retrain employees, secure inventory, reestablish vendor relationships, and settle balances. Congress should broaden what can be paid for and forgiven with new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for businesses that suffered a substantial decline in gross revenues because of the coronavirus.

Congress should reduce small-business tax liability with a “physical presence” standard. Every small business that sells online, no matter where it is physically located, is subject to the more than 10,000 different taxing jurisdictions around the country—each with its own tax rates and rules. This burdensome, complex requirement threatens to bankrupt many small retailers and prohibit others from retooling to ship new products. Congress should protect vulnerable retailers by codifying a physical presence test for tax collection.

Congress and the Administration should coordinate legislative and regulatory changes to expand access to capital for small businesses. Entrepreneurs will drive recovery by reopening existing businesses and taking on new risks to meet new needs in the post-crisis world. Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission should remove barriers for small businesses to access peer-to-peer lending, credit unions, and investment finders. By simplifying exemptions and disclosure frameworks, and working to simplify regulations, small public companies will find it easier to recover and grow.

Congress should incentivize research and development and infrastructure investments with permanent full expensing. Starting in 2022, research and development expenses and new spending on machinery and tools no longer will be fully deductible, which will discourage innovation and investment. Research and development spending is critical as the private sector develops new remedies and reorganizes to meet the needs of a post-coronavirus recovery.

America’s thought leaders (economists, academics, authors, and journalists) should investigate and communicate how freedom has shaped America’s response to the coronavirus and its economic effects in contrast to responses by authoritarian regimes such as China. America’s freedom of speech and press, freedom of association, freedom of conscience and religion, and right to free assembly have enabled civil society to participate in disseminating information about the virus and to provide medical, material, and social assistance to citizens in ways that government cannot. In addition, our freedoms have enabled citizens to hold federal, state, and local government accountable. These positive externalities of civil rights, in addition to economic freedom, should be included in messaging about America’s leadership of the free world’s economic recovery.

The Administration should eliminate all tariffs imposed since 2018. Trade freedom is vital to economic recovery and to building certainty in supply chains. Countless U.S. jobs depend on materials from Great Britain, the European Union, and around the world—and vice versa. The Trump Administration should remove Section 201, Section 232, and Section 301 tariffs to benefit all parties.

Fact: COVID-19 is the latest in a series of highly infectious viruses that have appeared over the course of modern history.

  • Ebola, measles, poliomyelitis (polio), yellow fever, and smallpox are all dangerous viruses, and smallpox alone killed approximately 300 million people in the 20th century. The 1918–1919 influenza (flu) pandemic resulted in an estimated 500 million people worldwide infected and approximately 50 million people killed, with 675,000 of those deaths occurring in the U.S. Three additional flu pandemics occurred during the 20th and 21st centuries (in 1957, 1968, and 2009).

Fact: Although all states have reported cases of COVID-19, the distribution of cases and deaths has remained heavily concentrated in a small number of states and counties.

  • As of May 11, just 10 states accounted for nearly 70 percent of all U.S. cases and 75 percent of all deaths (higher than their 52 percent share of the U.S. population). Fifty percent of all U.S. counties (with a 10 percent share of the U.S. population) had zero COVID-19 deaths, and 63 percent (representing 15 percent of the population) had no more than one.

Fact: National and global economic activity have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

  • After millions of job losses in April, the U.S. unemployment rate declined to 13.3 percent by May. However, more than 20 million Americans remain unemployed, and the number of “permanent” job losses continued to rise, increasing by 295,000 in May to 2.3 million.
  • In its April 2020 World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund warned that economic activity worldwide is expected to contract 3 percent—the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The gross domestic product of the three USMCA countries is greater than that of all 27 nations in the European Union combined. However, their economies are projected to contract by –5.9 percent (U.S.), –6.2 percent (Canada), and –6.6 percent (Mexico) by the end of 2020.

Fact: Indiscriminate shutdown orders are extremely costly and have blocked access to important ongoing healthcare for Americans.

  • Roughly 1.4 million health care jobs were lost in April, reflecting a 9 percent drop across the industry. Healthcare spending fell by almost 20 percent on an annualized basis between the months of January through March as routine but still important care was stopped.
  • Lockdown orders lasting eight weeks could cost Americans $2 trillion in lost output, lost employment, and the cost to taxpayers of unemployment benefits all of which reflect the extent to which Americans are no longer able to live their lives. This does not take into account further social and public health costs.
Policy Proposals
  1. States and local governments should use stay-at-home orders sparingly and only where necessary.
  2. Congress should expand liability protections with a safe harbor for businesses and workers that follow guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in good faith.
  3. Review all federal regulations that have been waived or modified in response to COVID-19 and consider permanent changes.
Quick Facts
  1. After millions of job losses in April, the U.S. unemployment rate declined to 13.3 percent by May. However, more than 20 million Americans remain unemployed, and the number of “permanent” job losses continued to rise, increasing by 295,000 in May to 2.3 million.
  2. Roughly 1.4 million health care jobs were lost in April, reflecting a 9 percent drop across the industry. Health care spending fell by almost 20 percent on an annualized basis between the months of January through March as routine but still important care was stopped.
Saving Lives and Livelihoods
  • Good public health policy is good economic policy. The response to the pandemic should be guided by one key principle: protecting both lives and livelihoods.
  • Essential to any response is a strong commitment to the Constitution and to the American values of individual liberty and free enterprise that have made this country great and guided it through many severe challenges.
  • Policymakers, the private sector, and civil society must navigate a return to work while making strategic adjustments to slow the spread of the virus.