Newt Gingrich, policy wonk? Volcano is more like it. His new book, Winning the Future (published by Regnery, a sister company of HUMAN EVENTS), runs more than 200 pages and gives you the impression the man has barely cleared his throat. He covers numerous subjects at a breakneck pace. No wonder each chapter closes with a reminder to visit his website (www.newt.org) for more information on the topics covered. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D.-N.Y.) was right when he observed years ago that the GOP had become the party of ideas. And Newt Gingrich is a splendid example of the GOP’s intellectual vitality. His book couldn’t be more timely–too many Washington Republicans are getting too complacent in their perches of power, too comfortable with the perks of office. Not all conservatives will like some of Newt’s positions, such as his proposals for subsidies for hydrogen-powered fuel cells; increasing the number of U.S. officials in Brussels to keep tabs on the European Union; or his notions of paying underprivileged students to study math, engineering or science, or to subsidize government loans to graduates who stay within those same fields. Libertarians (not to mention liberals) won’t like one bit his call to reestablish God in American public life. But critics will nonetheless find the former Speaker a sparkling, stimulating challenge. The book, billed as a 21st Century contract with America, is a takeoff on Gingrich’s brilliant stratagem during the 1994 congressional elections of having Republican congressional candidates run on what was, in effect, a national platform. Gingrich, more than most in public life, recognizes the importance of ideas in moving voters, in changing the political landscape. Thanks to his masterful political and ideas-oriented strategy, as well as to then-President Clinton’s mistakes, the Republicans took control of the national legislature for the first time in 40 years and (except for a few months in the U.S. Senate) have kept it ever since. There are several parts of Gingrich’s book that Republicans should particularly ponder:
Foreign Policy. Gingrich rightly writes that we are still vulnerable to attack from Islamic fanatics. Gangsters routinely smuggle countless people–illegal aliens, prostitutes–across our borders, as well as the borders of other Western nations. Isn’t it only a matter of time before Islamic fanatics get in and either set off a hidden weapon or engage in acts of suicide bombing? Gingrich slams our intelligence agencies’ shortcomings, particularly the lack of linguists and analysts. He boldly proposes tripling the size of our intelligence agencies. He hits the administration hard for its handling of post-Saddam Iraq, from totally miscalculating the nature of the Bathist insurgency to disbanding the Iraqi army to not installing immediately–as we did after ousting the Taliban in Afghanistan–a provisional Iraqi government. He correctly identifies Iran as our biggest foreign policy challenge.
Social Security. Listen up, Republicans. Contrary to what some White House officials say, robust personal retirement accounts can go hand-in-hand with pledges of no higher taxes and no slashes in current or future benefits. The former Speaker rightly advocates such a politically and economically sensible approach.
The Courts. Gingrich relentlessly skewers judicial activism, appropriately citing Jefferson’s and Madison’s warnings about judicial overreach. Among other things, the author advocates the right of Congress to abolish judgeships that “consistently violate the Constitution.” He happily supports the idea of eliminating and recasting the 9th Judicial Circuit, which routinely makes up law and unearths previously unheard of Constitutional principles.
God and the Public Square. Social conservatives, who rarely felt that Gingrich was their heartfelt ally, will be surprised by his chapter, “The Centrality of our Creator in Defining America.” Here the author relentlessly attacks “the secular left’s unending war against God in America’s public life.” Not until the late 1940s was the place of God in our public life attacked by the judiciary. To hammer home his point, the former Speaker puts together a walking tour of Washington, D.C., starting with the Washington Monument and its references to God. (For an idea of what such a tour would show, see the HUMAN EVENTS “God in the Temples of Government” photo essays — here and here.) As he concludes, “To study American history is to encounter God again and again.”
Immigration and Assimilation. Regarding border control, Gingrich thinks it is key to institute guest-worker programs to fill those areas of the economy where foreign workers are needed. We would then know who is here and how long they should stay. But his main focus is on assimilation. A century ago “Americanizing” immigrants was widely supported. This so-called immigrant integration has been undermined over the intervening years.
Healthcare. Gingrich demonstrates how utterly backward, how paper-oriented so much of our healthcare system is. He wants faster dissemination of new medical knowledge–“It can take up to 17 years for a new best practice to reach the average doctor.” Information about the performance of doctors and hospitals should be readily accessible online. He supports Health Savings Accounts, which allow individuals and employers to put money, tax-free, into an IRA-like account. This puts patients in charge of their healthcare resources. When customers are in charge, providers have the incentive to serve them. Gingrich doesn’t yet fully grasp that many of his reforms would be quickly enacted with the widespread use of HSAs, which is why promoting HSAs should be healthcare priority number one. The former Speaker is also right in believing that the U.S. must stop subsidizing the rest of the world when it comes to developing new drugs. Pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop each new medicine, and foreign countries say to them, “Sell us your medications at a low cost or we will steal your patents.”
Education. Gingrich is surprisingly mute on the subject of vouchers, but his worries about our shortcomings in math, the sciences, and engineering are particularly well-paced.
The Environment. Like others, the author correctly puts the kibosh on the Kyoto Treaty. He disarmingly asks why government agencies couldn’t be held to the same standards that the private sector is when it comes to fighting pollution. He blasts the way the Feds mismanage our forests. Gingrich tackles many more subjects, including the need for simplifying campaign finance laws–anyone should be able to give any amount to anyone as long as the information is posted immediately on the Internet. He speaks sensibly on globalization. Only in the area of monetary policy does Gingrich not display a sure grasp of his subject. And while he favors tax cuts and the elimination of the death tax, he would clutter the code still further with all sorts of tax credits. Gingrich’s successor as Speaker, Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.), would do his colleagues a favor by giving them copies–and an audio version–of Gingrich’s book.