As we turn the page on 2009, it’s tempting to bemoan all that went wrong this year. The year brought 10 percent unemployment, a $1.4 trllion budget deficit and a dramatic increase in the role (if not effectiveness) of government. At his inauguration less than a year ago President Obama said:
Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
Many Americans argue we haven’t lived up to that vision. 2010 can – and must — be different if our children’s children are to take pride in our actions. With that in mind, we should turn a hopeful eye toward 2010 and identify five key policy changes that would strengthen America.
Job creation is the most pressing priority. Last January, the unemployment rate stood at 7.6 percent. Now it’s 10 percent. Misguided “stimulus” spending in the last year highlights the importance of federal policy, something the President seems to have finally realized earlier this month. At his second jobs summit of his tenure, Obama “ultimately true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector.” “It is only when the private sector starts to reinvest again,” he added, “that we’re going to have the kind of economy that we want.”
Unfortunately, the President and Congress have shown little desire to create the climate which would foster investment. As a result, job creation has been noticeably and understandably absent during this recession. As my colleague James Sherk writes, businesses are not only responding to the recession, but they “have also grown wary about the future of the economy, especially in light of the many new threats emanating from the White House and the Congress.”
There must be a focus on private sector (not government) job creation, part of which is removing the threats (higher taxes, increased government intervention and unnecessary regulations). The other is promoting pro-growth policies in the area of taxes, trade and financial services.
Over the past year, the number of people who consider health care reform a top priority has more than tripled. However, the public doesn’t support the various proposals outlined by the President and liberals in Congress. A Rasmussen poll found that “only 16 percent now believe passage of the plan will lead to lower health care costs.” It should come as no surprise that the American people are skeptical of government’s ability to reduce the cost of anything. Obamacare aside, policymakers should focus on keys such as tax equity, state-based reforms and sound financing.
Above all else, our government has the responsibility to provide for the common defense. Winning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is essential, and announcing an exit strategy based on political timetables instead of victory — as the President did — isn’t helpful to those efforts. However, there is more to protecting America. Conservatives should commit to ensuring our military is properly funded, we must pay for current operations and also modernize our forces to ensure a free and prosperous world.
One out of every six Americans now say that the federal budget deficit is the most important issue facing our country. If spending — both discretionary and mandatory — isn’t reduced, we may be placing a crushing and immoral burden on our children’s children. There’s no silver bullet, but there are any number of critical steps that could be taken, including an entitlement commission, budget process reforms and various transparency mechanisms.
Energy and Environment
The supposed threat of global warming isn’t the top environmental priority of most Americans, let alone their top domestic policy priority. Public opinion, combined with Climategate and the economic implications of taxing energy, should lead policymakers to scrap the whole notion of limiting carbon emissions via legislation and, simultaneously, deny the Environmental Protection Agency the power to regulate greenhouse gases.
Having stopped the assault on our economy in the name global warming, their attention could turn to producing the energy necessary to drive economic growth. That means moving forward with exploration for carbon-based fuels such as oil and natural gas, both on- and offshore. America must also seek a fundamentally different approach to nuclear energy by fixing the problem of waste and the outdated and ineffective process for licensing new plants.
Reasons for Hope
Conservatives who are disheartened after a year of government expansion should take comfort in realizing that only 1 in 5 Americans consider themselves liberals. The townhall meetings in August, the tea party rallies around the country and the marches on the Capitol are not an aberration. They are a sign of something much more significant. Americans are energized and eager for conservative principles and policies.