Next week when House Republicans are sworn in as a new majority, they will have a greater opportunity to enact real change than any House majority since the Democrats took over in 1930.
The American people know we are at both a values and performance crossroads.
We know that President Obama is radically out of step with the American people. For instance, a recent USAToday/Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans believe in American Exceptionalism, and yet nearly 40% are convinced President Obama does not.
We know that a substantial majority wants to repeal Obamacare, his greatest legislative victory.
We also know that, in terms of performance, this administration is a disaster: we have the highest sustained unemployment since the Great Depression, the largest increase in federal debt in American history, and bureaucracies that don’t work but keep getting bigger, more powerful, and more expensive.
This is not 1995, when the economy was strong, unemployment was relatively low, and we were not at war. It is a very different era with a very different set of challenges.
The great opportunities today are to reassert classic American values and to develop a clear alternative to Obamaism.
The news media will want Obama to set the proposals and the Republicans to “compromise”–an elite euphemism for conservative surrender.
Instead, House Republicans, with the largest conservative majority since 1928, should set forth the proposals they believe in and urge President Obama to negotiate on their terms.
Urgent Priorities for House Republicans
Three vital areas require the urgent attention of House Republicans in order to set America back on the path of values and prosperity:
1. Creating jobs to get paychecks in people’s hands.
2. Repealing Obamacare and replacing it with an individually-centered, market-oriented approach to reform.
3. Replacing bad, centralized, bureaucratic government with smaller, more effective solutions that focus on flexibility, localism, citizen engagement, new technological opportunities, and performance outcomes.
These three areas will set the stage for a balanced budget.
Jobs should be the top priority because the first step to balancing the budget is moving from 9.8% unemployment back to the norm of the late-1990s, when I was Speaker, of 4%. Getting this 5.8% of workers (about 9 million Americans) off unemployment, food stamps and Medicaid, and back to work, earning paychecks and paying taxes, will shrink projected deficits dramatically.
Repealing Obamacare is a vital step towards scaling back government control of individual decisions. Because the enormous energy in opposition to this government takeover of healthcare was a major factor in GOP victories last November, the new House majority cannot hesitate to fulfill its mandate, or it will betray the voters who elected it. House Republicans must pass a bill repealing Obamacare this spring after holding hearings to prove the danger the law poses to our personal health and freedom.
Proving this danger will be easy. Obamacare is already rapidly centralizing and politicizing health decisions in America. The Center for Health Transformation will issue a report in January outlining the law’s 1,961 grants of power to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. A power transfer of this magnitude sets the stage for a bureaucratic health dictatorship, which will shift money from doctors to lobbyists and time from managing healthcare to managing the health bureaucracy.
In addition, the path to a balanced budget requires fundamental changes in Medicare, Medicaid, Indian Health Service, and other federal health programs. Obamacare failed to accomplish reform of these agencies in any meaningful way and must be repealed to clear the way for real reform.
Finally, House Republicans must focus on crafting a budget resolution that creates a dramatic choice between a bold new, decentralized, modernized, and citizen-oriented government, and the bad government currently being delivered by obsolete unionized bureaucracies, leftwing regulation and litigation, and the hopelessly Washington-centered micromanagement of a continent-wide nation.
Themes to Guide Real Change
Three themes can lead us to a balanced budget and a smaller, more effective, modern, and citizen-centered government.
First, we can reassert the Tenth Amendment as a guiding force in returning power “to the states and the people thereof.” Governor Rick Perry of Texas is leading this effort, which enables House Republicans to substantially shrink the federal bureaucracy and budget while getting more done at the state and local levels – all with less red tape, less lost time and more usable resources.
Second, we can learn from private businesses to modernize government. IBM and other high tech companies estimate $1 trillion could be saved over ten years (about $2.6 trillion over 20) simply by bringing the bureaucracies up to modern management and information standards. (Most state and local governments could affect comparable savings.)
Third, we can fundamentally rethink failing systems with a replacement approach rather than a repair approach. Some examples:
• Unemployment compensation (nearly $133 billion in federal and state spending in 2009) should be replaced with a worker training and human capital improvement program so everyone getting federal aid is doing something for their money.
• The Environmental Protection Agency has become a job killing, centralizing engine of leftwing, ideological litigation and regulation. It should be replaced with an Environmental Solutions Agency dedicated to bringing together science, technology, entrepreneurs, incentives, and local creativity to create a healthier environment with a better economy with more American jobs and more American energy.
• Similar to the EPA, the Food and Drug Administration is becoming dangerous to American health and destructive of American jobs. Europeans and Japanese can now get lifesaving medicine the FDA refuses to approve. Major pharmaceutical and biological companies are planning to move their research and development work to China and India as a result of FDA hostility. Creating a new model to replace the FDA is central to our health and to keeping high value jobs in America.
• We must rethink the American litigation system, which is driving up costs across our economy. For example, more than $200 billion is spent each year on “defensive medicine” – unnecessary lab tests, expensive imaging, and other procedures performed purely to avoid frivolous lawsuits. We should insulate physicians who embrace health information technology while practicing evidence-based medicine. Creating specialized health courts which use independent medical experts and rely on an indexed schedule to compensate truly injured patients would also go a long way towards improving our healthcare and legal system.
Thinking in terms of this kind of replacement can shift the budget debate from numbers to values; from more-versus-less to good-versus-bad. It is the only strategy which will rally the American people to changes that are bold enough to balance the budget.
Change on this scale will require Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to focus on reshaping the House as an institution. The Pelosi Congress was too secretive, too dominated by one person, and too focused on imposing its will on the American people to sustain the scale of change we need.
In a time of dramatic challenges, the new House GOP majority will have to invest time inventing a new, more accountable and more collaborative House institution. Just as C-SPAN brought the House into people’s living rooms beginning in March 1979, Facebook and other interactive media are about to bring the American people into the House in a dynamic way. The House Republicans need to take advantage of this opportunity to inform and empower their policy goals.
These three areas – jobs and paychecks; repealing Obamacare; and replacing bad government with good government–are historically and politically necessary.
Only when the House Republicans have achieved these three aims should they move on to other important goals.
Next week I will outline a jobs and paycheck strategy in more detail.
Your Resolutions for Congress
Over 200 readers submitted New Year’s Resolutions for Congress last week.
By a large margin, the most popular recommendation was for Congress to renew its commitment to the Constitution, with over 100 submissions offering resolutions to demonstrate this resolve. Many of these suggestions mentioned the Tenth Amendment specifically and asked for Congress to return power and control back to the state governments. Others asked for a requirement that all new bills cite their constitutional authority. Many others simply asked members of Congress to remember their oath of office, to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” before every vote.
The second most popular New Year’s Resolution for Congress was an end to earmarks. It is clear that the American people are sick of politicians using taxpayer money to pad their reelection chances. Many of you pointed out that a worthwhile project should be able to sustain an up or down vote on its own.
In third place was a resolution for Congress to fix our broken borders and immigration system. Even in the midst of 9.8% unemployment and runaway government spending, the issue of border security continues to generate a lot of passion.
Others making the top ten were repealing Obamacare, simplifying legislative language and getting rid of the White House Czars. We’ve posted highlights of your New Year’s Resolutions for Congress at Newt.org. Click here.
P.S. In writing To Try Men’s Souls and Valley Forge, our novels about George Washington and the American Revolution, Bill Forstchen and I strived to provide as historically accurate an account as possible. That is why we feel duty bound to admit one significant mistake. In To Try Men’s Souls, John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence and president of Princeton University, is portrayed as a collaborator with the British. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest this. The mistake was the result of a transcription error. We regret it deeply and thank the Descendents of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence for bringing this mistake to our attention.