The jobs picture is bleak. Official unemployment sits above 9%. Real unemployment remains around 16%. May and June produced only 43,000 jobs, most of which were offset by 30,000 layoffs announced last week. Millions of Americans are out of work, many of them more than 99 weeks now.
Up to now, the Republicans have been happy to let the jobs picture remain bleak. With Obama and 21 Democratic Senators up for re-election, the current bad economy presents a nightmare scenario for the Democrats. Indeed, the Democrats have struggled mightily in recent weeks to come up with a jobs plan. But their ideology has limited them to (1) more stimulus, (2) job training, and (3) minor tax cuts for hiring. None of that will help.
But I think the Republicans need to establish an agenda. I think they need to show that they care about getting people back to work, rather than just cutting government spending. The need to insulate themselves from the charge of do-nothing-ism, and of indifference. They also need to cut off the inevitable Democratic claim that the spending cuts they get in the debt deal caused the current economic situation.
To that end, I propose the following plan for Congressional Republicans:
1. The biggest problems with our economy right now are (1) lack of certainty created by Obama’s constant threats of new taxes and regulations and (2) the drag caused by the red tape Obama and the Democrats have created. The Republicans should form a team to go through the US code/Federal Register (CFR) and identify specific laws/regulations the Republicans want to repeal.This would seem to be a pretty good start and should show the American public that Republicans are very serious about making the US a much more business friendly environment and getting people back to work. It also insulates the Republicans against the standard Democratic attacks.
Start announcing this list one agency every couple weeks. This will give business confidence of the change in the business environment to come and will highlight how much regulation the Democrats have piled onto business. One caveat though, don’t talk about repealing anything that is either popular or can be spun into “they want to kill orphans”. . . do those quietly.
2. Propose the elimination of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes for teen workers (under 18) and seniors (older than 65). This makes it cheaper to employee these people. This makes the skills the seniors possess more useful and teaches the teens good habits.
3. Propose tax cuts across the board combined with a “revenue-neutral” elimination of deductions/subsidies. This would provide a powerful incentive for people to work, and could not be attacked as helping the rich or as increasing the deficit. What’s more, the Republicans should be pointing out each week the most egregious deductions they will eliminate. This could be a big step toward a flat tax and will go a long to way to breaking the stereotype that Republicans are the tools of big business.
4. Eliminate the corporate tax and the capital gains on the sale of tangible assets (e.g. machinery). This will bring corporations flocking to the US and get them trading in their old equipment.
5. Tort reform. Eliminate class action suits entirely. Make plaintiffs file individual suits and let them be consolidated as multi-district litigation instead. This wipes out the incentive for lawyers to go plaintiff shopping . . . like the guys on TV. Eliminate punitive damages and cap pain and suffering at one million dollars.
6. Free trade deals. There are a series of free trade deals sitting there unratified. These include South Korea and Columbia. These would cause a farming boom in the US and would offset the loss of ethanol subsidies. I would also propose a free trade deal with England and Japan to tie us closer to our friends.
In terms of the timing, I will be a bit cynical and suggest that the Republicans start talking now but delay passing these bills until mid-2012, so that the positive effects don't start kicking in until right about the time Obama is loading up the moving van for Chicago and not sooner.
There are other reforms we could talk about too. For example, doctors should be allowed to practice in any state. The teaching profession should be opened too, by federalizing the licensing requirement and then eliminating the requirement for an education degree. But I would suggest the big push should come on the jobs front.
So what would you add to/subtract from the list? What else do you want to see on a Republican Agenda?