Tag Archives: doug bandow

Will the Republicans embrace an agenda that will get our country back on tract?

Will the Republicans embrace an agenda that will get our country back on tract?

Republicans need to cut spending as the video above says. I wish the Republican candidates for president will embrace these policy positions:

A Republican Agenda for Real Change

by Doug Bandow

This article appeared in Forbes on October 3, 2011

The desperate search for an acceptable Republican Party presidential candidate continues. Republican leaders apparently are pushing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who previously said no, to jump into the race.

The GOP’s frustration is palpable. Mitt Romney has been running for four years but generates little enthusiasm. Rick Perry was an instant front-runner before losing much of his support after unimpressive debate performances. Michelle Bachmann briefly streaked across the political firmament but now barely registers in the polls. Newt Gingrich committed political seppuku shortly after announcing his candidacy. Ron Paul’s support is fervent but limited.

However, the real Republican problem is positions, not candidates.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire(Xulon).

More by Doug Bandow

The Republican Party cheerfully ran up the national debt before surrendering the keys to Capitol Hill and the White House. President George W. Bush’s promiscuous war-making cost the U.S. thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, while making Americans less secure. The GOP centralized more power in Washington. Republican lawmakers managed to turn laudable opposition to tax hikes into a deplorable defense of the status quo.

Most of the GOP presidential candidates offer little new. Mitt Romney, the ultimate political weathervane, implemented ObamaCare in Massachusetts before there was ObamaCare. He now fervently defends Social Security, despite its design as a public Ponzi scheme. Gov. Perry talks of domestic budget cuts but on foreign policy appears to be Bush-lite, yet another hawk disconnected from reality. The sharpest dissent from big government conservatism comes from the candidates least likely to win the nomination: Rep. Paul, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who has been excluded from most of the debates.

President Barack Obama obviously is vulnerable, as well he should be. The problem is not that he is responsible for all of America’s economic woes — no president “runs” the $15 trillion U.S. economy. But this president has no solution for slow growth and high unemployment other than spending more money, increasing the deficit, and running up the debt.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, simply denouncing President Obama for every ill known to man may not lead to victory. Voters dislike much current GOP orthodoxy. President Obama could win an election which turns into competitive political demonization and personal destruction.

Republicans should offer a positive agenda while addressing the party’s past failings. First, they should explain that current budget policy is unsustainable on both a short- and a long-term basis. Economist Larry Kotlikoff figures that America’s real public debt is $211 trillion, 15 times the nominal national debt. Public finance in states like California already looks a lot like that in Greece.

Unless Americans want to turn their entire incomes over to government, public spending must be cut, and cut sharply. And it must be cut across-the-board.

However, to regain lost credibility GOP politicians should lead with proposals to cut spending benefiting “their” interest groups. Corporate welfare should top any Republican Party list of budget cuts. Too often Republican apparatchiks have been pro-business rather than pro-free market, attacking financial transfers to the poor while endorsing subsidies for corporate America.

The GOP also needs to support significant reductions in military outlays. There is no more important responsibility for the U.S. government than protecting America. However, most of the Pentagon’s current activities have little to do with protecting America.

Instead, most U.S. forces currently defend prosperous, populous allies around the world. Europe has a larger GDP and population than America, yet continues to rely on Washington to provide most of NATO’s combat capability. Japan long had the world’s second largest economy but nevertheless relied on America for its protection. South Korea has 40 times the GDP of its northern adversary, but nearly 30,000 U.S. military personnel remain in the South, creating a “tripwire” for war.

Equally wasteful and far more costly in human terms have been nation-building exercises in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more. Going to war in 2001 to punish the Taliban for hosting terrorist training camps made sense. Staying at war a decade later in an attempt to create a competent, honest centralized government in Kabul is foolish.

Also required is an honest discussion of Social Security’s and Medicare’s funding crises. Neither is financially sustainable and both risk triggering generational conflict. The longer Congress puts off addressing these issues the costlier will be any solution.

The GOP should reaffirm its opposition to tax hikes, but emphasize that taxes can be kept low only if outlays are reduced. Endless borrowing threatens a financial death spiral of increased debt, higher interest payments, slower economic growth, and lower investor confidence. The U.S. now is on the road to fiscal ruin.

Moreover, Republicans should endorse President Obama’s attack on special interest tax breaks. Not all tax preferences are equally bad, but the narrower the tax break the more it approaches a special interest subsidy. The GOP should push legislation that simultaneously kills dubious tax “loopholes” and reduces overall marginal tax rates. Republicans should similarly respond to tax proposals from President Obama or congressional Democrats. Rather than defend the undefendable, the GOP should challenge yet another form of corporate welfare.

With job creation at issue, Republicans should develop a list of regulations and taxes which interfere with a growing economy. Political candidates enjoy denouncing “over-regulation” in the abstract, but they would be more convincing if they targeted specific policies costing real jobs. The House GOP should follow the example of its earlier majority which held hearings on regulatory abuses.

Republicans should challenge politically popular public agencies. For instance, the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were at the epicenter of the housing and financial crises. The GOP rightly criticized Democrats for not including the two GSEs in last year’s financial “reform” bill. But so far House Republicans have done nothing to close Fannie and Freddie, which continue to lose money.

Deregulation should include proposals to make more market friendly controls which are necessary even in a free society. After all, few Americans want to breathe dirty air or swim in dirty water. And there is no simple market solution to such problems. But people don’t want to needlessly waste money and destroy jobs when cleaning up the environment.

The Republicans also should offer a more restrained foreign policy. Doing so is necessary to curtail military outlays — in effect, the defense budget is the price of a nation’s foreign policy, since the more Washington seeks to do in the world, the more military force it requires. So long as the U.S. government is determined to dominate every region of the globe against every power, it will have to spend as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. Indeed, real, inflation-adjusted military outlays have doubled over the last decade, and today are higher than at any point during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War.

But a more humble foreign policy also would be a better foreign policy. Rather than engage in social engineering abroad, Republican politicians should leave friendly states with responsibility for international problems. If there is a problem in the Balkans or North Africa, Europe should address it. Japan, South Korea, Australia, and other democratic nations should cooperate to restrain potential Chinese aggressiveness. Only the Afghans can create a sustainable political order, of whatever form, in Afghanistan.

The GOP should simultaneously support a globally engaged America and Americans. For instance, international cooperation can help meet humanitarian, environmental, and other problems which transcend national boundaries. Whatever U.S. policy toward illegal aliens, Americans should expand the legal immigration of entrepreneurial professionals.

Trade benefits Americans. Washington’s failure to ratify the free trade agreement with South Korea is beyond foolish. A commercial war with China would hurt Americans while poisoning the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century.

Other issues also deserve attention — such as expanding educational opportunities for children stuck in poorly performing public schools. Even here, however, the GOP needs to break with recent Republican Party orthodoxy. President Bush and the Republican Congress centralized even more authority in Washington with the “No Child Left Behind” legislation.

Perhaps Chris Christie or some other late electoral entrant will revolutionize the GOP presidential sweepstakes. But without good ideas well-expressed, the GOP could still end up outside the White House looking in. The Republican Party deserves to win in 2012 only if it recognizes that it deserved to lose in 2008.

Advertisements

Brantley misses the point, it is time to cut spending dramatically

Max Brantley wrote on the Arkansas Times Blog:

REPUBLICANS: BOTH SIDES NOW: Super committee budget talks having failed because of a Republic refusal to increase taxes on the rich, they have now set about having it both ways. They are now saying, contrary to evidence, that they indeed proposed to raise taxes on the rich.

____________________

When the federal government brings in 2.2 trillion and spends 3.7 trillion a year then it is time for dramatic cuts. Taxes should be off the table. He has gone on for months blaming the Republicans for not wanting to raise taxes but spending is the problem.

Take a look at a portion of this article below by Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute:

The budget problem is a spending problem. The Bush tax cuts accounted for just 14 to 16 percent of the massive shift from surplus to deficit over the last decade. According to the Congressional Budget Office future deficits will be massive and rising even with federal revenues above the 40-year average of 18 percent of GDP.

We are spending too much, and not spending wisely. The answer is to cut outlays. Not to give politicians more money, which they also will spend, and not spend wisely.

The failure of the supercommittee should not surprise anyone. Legislators never like making tough decisions. After spending wildly for years, they aren’t prepared to cut back.

But reducing outlays is not just an accounting exercise. It requires Americans to rethink what they want the U.S. government to do at home and abroad. Only if they decide to have Washington do less can Washington spend less.

First, Social Security and Medicare should be narrowed to focus on the poor. No more middle class welfare. If you can afford to care for yourself, you collect no more federal checks. And the young should be allowed to opt out of the programs, putting money aside for their own retirement and health care. Over the long-term this will cut trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities.

Second, Medicaid should be turned into a competitive voucher program that shares cost savings with frugal recipients. It will never be cheap to provide health care for the poor, but only by changing the program’s underlying incentives can much money be saved. Reforming Medicaid is important for state governments as well as Washington.

Third, the U.S. government should focus defense spending on defense. No more social engineering around the world. No more subsidies for rich states and nation-building in poor ones. No more interventions here, there, and everywhere for no good purpose. Then military outlays could be cut substantially.

Fourth, take these steps and the government would borrow less, reducing interest payments naturally. That would create a “virtuous cycle” of falling outlays, deficits, and debts.

Fifth, toss in big reductions in domestic discretionary spending for good measure. Let people spend their own money for their families and communities. Then government would be left doing the few things that it really should do.

Solving Washington’s budget crisis is simple, but not easy. Only if the American people demand that Uncle Sam do less will he spend less. Ultimately we, not the super committee or anyone else, are responsible for our fiscal future.

Romney attacked in Republican debate of October 11, 2011 (with video clip)

I am not too pleased with Mitt Romney and the article below shows one good reason to oppose him.

Can Mitt Romney Escape His Romneycare Albatross?

by Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire (Xulon).

Added to cato.org on August 29, 2011

his article appeared in Forbes on August 29, 201

Health care remains one of President Barack Obama’s greatest political weaknesses. The issue remains an equally serious problem for Republican Mitt Romney.

President Obama’s program to centralize medical decision-making in Washington remains as unpopular as ever. Insurers are raising premiums and canceling policies. The president’s promise that Americans can keep their existing coverage has turned out to be void. Health care providers and insurers are cutting back operations and dropping jobs to comply with the new law. Washington has been forced to issue temporary waivers — over 1400, as of mid-June — to moderate the legislation’s impact.

Moreover, ObamaCare has bent the cost curve upward by reinforcing the underlying third party payment problem. The administration even double counted its imagined cost savings, causing Medicare’s chief actuary to warn that the program’s latest estimates were essentially fraudulent.  Future Congresses will have to reduce promised benefits or public subsidies, or hike spending.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire (Xulon).

 

More by Doug Bandow

No GOP presidential contender officially supported the administration legislation. However, Mitt Romney instituted an early variant of the Obama program.

As part of his liberal phase when governor of Massachusetts — political principles have been ever-flexible for Romney — he orchestrated passage of legislation with eerie similarities to ObamaCare. Massachusetts mandates purchase of insurance, decides what benefits must be offered, and maintains a complex system of subsidies and penalties. Declared Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker, the two programs are “not identical, but they’re certainly close kin.” MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who advised both Gov. Romney and President Obama on health care, asserted: “Basically, it’s the same thing.”

Out of either policy pride or political calculation, Romney continues to defend his approach as “a model that works.” But he probably could not escape the legacy even if he wanted to. Walker wrote: “Health care was Romney’s greatest achievement by so wide a margin that it’s hard to know what to compare it to.”

However, Romney has grown increasingly desperate to distinguish his legislation from that of Obama. The best the former can say is that his program was constitutional, since states possess the so-called “police power,” allowing them to regulate most anything within their jurisdiction. In contrast, the federal government was created with only limited, enumerated powers. The Founders would never have imagined that Washington could force people to purchase health insurance under the guise of regulating “commerce among the states.” (So far the federal courts have split on the issue.)

Alas, even the former governor’s constitutional scruples are suspect. In 1994 he backed a federal mandate. His concern about the overweening federal government apparently was not so finely developed then.

In any case, the fact that RomneyCare is constitutional does not mean that it is wise.   Americans want their president to exercise good judgment and common sense, as well as respect the office’s constitutional limits. RomneyCare fails the first two standards.

Yet so far Romney has gotten off easy in the Republican contest. In the first debate former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty failed to criticize Romney on the issue of “ObamneyCare,” as Pawlenty termed it, when given the opportunity. Pawlenty’s belated attempt to toughen his message highlighted his political weaknesses, and he soon departed the race. (In fact, Pawlenty as well as former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman both supported a mandate, though their respective state legislatures eventually passed more limited legislation.)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entry may end Romney’s easy ride. Perry already has gone after Romney, observing: “I think Mitt is finally recognizing that the Massachusetts healthcare plan that he passed is a huge problem for him, and yeah, it was not almost perfect.” This is likely only the first of many hits.

“ObamneyCare” was not a revolutionary attempt to overturn the status quo. Rather, the usual special interests did quite well. The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner observed: “In Massachusetts, Romney needed and got buy-in from the powerful hospital, insurance, and corporate lobbies. To win that support, he could not fundamentally change the way they did business. Instead, private insurance companies got more customers thanks to the individual mandate, hospitals kept their beds full, and corporations that failed to insure employees paid only a token penalty of $295 per worker.”

Romney’s legislation sought to extend insurance coverage. About 95% to 96% — the state claims 98.1%, but the actual rate appears to be lower — of Massachusetts residents now are insured. That is a genuine achievement but still not universal coverage. Moreover, as Peter Suderman of Reason observed, “the state’s insurance coverage rates were already unusually high to begin with: About 90% of the state’s population had health coverage prior to the law’s passage.” In short, Gov. Romney’s accomplishment actually was rather modest.

Moreover, at what cost? Defenders of RomneyCare argue that its goal was to expand coverage, not to cut expenditures, but Gov. Romney was not alone in promising “affordable” health care. Anyway, the legislation certainly was not supposed to drive costs skyward.

However, paying for more benefits for more people inevitably makes medicine more expensive. Costs for Commonwealth Care, the Massachusetts government’s subsidized insurance program alone are up a fifth over initial projections. Last year State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill wrote: “The universal insurance coverage we adopted in 2006 was projected to cost taxpayers $88 million a year. However, since this program was adopted in 2006, our health-care costs have in total exceeded $4 billion. The cost of Massachusetts’ plan has blown a hole in the Commonwealth’s budget.”

State finances have not collapsed only because RomneyCare spread the costs widely, forcing virtually everyone in and out of the state to share the pain. Cahill cited federal subsidies as keeping the state afloat financially. Indeed, a June study from the Beacon Hill Institute concluded that “The state has been able to shift the majority of the costs to the federal government.” The Institute pointed to higher costs of $8.6 billion since the law was implemented. Just $414 million was paid by Massachusetts. Medicaid (federal payments) covered $2.4 billion. Medicare took care of $1.4 billion.

But even more costs, $4.3 billion, have been imposed on the private sector — employers, insurers, and residents. This estimate is in line with an earlier study by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which figured that 60% of the new costs fell on individuals and businesses.

As expenses have risen, so have premiums. Noted Kuttner, “because serious cost containment was not part of the original package, premium costs in the commonwealth have risen far faster than nationally — by 10.3%, the most recent year available.” Economists John F. Cogan, Glenn Hubbard, and Daniel Kessler figured that RomneyCare inflated premiums by 6% from 2006 to 2008. This at a time where the state-subsidized Commonwealth Care was displacing private insurance for many people, thereby reducing demand, which should have reduced cost pressures.

Unfortunately, noted the Beacon Hill Institute, “private companies have no choice but to pass the higher costs onto the insured. Some of these costs fall in the double-digit range.” That naturally displeased public officials, since it undercut their claim to have solved Massachusetts’ health care problems.

Gov. Deval Patrick responded like King Canute: he insisted that premiums not rise. Predictably, his rejection of proposed rate hikes required insurers to operate at a loss and placed several in financial jeopardy.

Robert Dynan, the career insurance commissioner tasked with maintaining insurer solvency, wrote that the state “implemented artificial price caps on HMO rates. The rates, by design, have no actuarial support.”  Last year Sandy Praeger, Kansas’ insurance Commissioner, observed: “Right now, premium increase have never been more political. If there is any way to justify not granting the increase, commissioners are looking for them.”

Thankfully, Gov. Patrick’s price controls did not fare well when challenged in court and his administration eventually negotiated reduced rate hikes. But the governor then came up with a new legislative program to arbitrarily reduce medical costs.

Even weaker restrictions would be counterproductive. The Beacon Hill Institute warned that “Controlling costs will translate into capping services provided by physicians and other caregivers. These are, in effect, price controls that will dampen the incentive to provide services and lead to longer wait times and the rationing of healthcare.”

Even worse, bankrupt insurance carriers would mean either no health care coverage or expensive government bail-outs. Yet John Graham of the Pacific Research Institute detailed shrinking margins and pervasive losses for Massachusetts health insurers. He warned “that if politicians refuse to allow health plans to increase their premiums at a rate commensurate with the increase in medical costs, health plans will plunge into financial crisis within a remarkably short period of time.” Indeed, carriers “will stand at the precipice of insolvency if the political class in Massachusetts insists on continuing to follow the path that it has chosen.”

Unfortunately, worse is likely to come. The Rand Corporation concluded that “in the absence of policy change, health care spending in Massachusetts is projected to nearly double to $123 billion in 2020, increasing 8% faster than the state’s” GDP. Added Rand, continued cost increases of this magnitude “threaten the long-term viability of the initiative.” Nor can the state count on an increasingly strapped federal government to continue its generous subsidies. Moreover, at some point people and businesses will flee the state rather than pay ever more to underwrite the state’s health care program.

Finally, RomneyCare inflated demand for medical services without increasing the corresponding supply. The Beacon Hill Institute concluded: “The vast number of the newly insured residents in Massachusetts is responsible for bottlenecks in the primary care system that forces residents to utilize emergency room care at a significantly higher than expected rate.”

A fifth of adults report difficulty in finding a physician to treat them. Earlier this year the Massachusetts Medical Society discovered “more than half of primary care practices closed to new patients, longer wait times to get appointments with primary and specialty physicians, and significant variations in physician acceptance of government and government-related insurance products.”

New York internist Marc Siegel observed: “The wait time for an appointment is now routinely over a month for primary-care doctors and specialists … . Internists and family practitioners report being so overwhelmed — too many patients, too much time pressure — that more than half are closing their practices to new patients.” You’d think Massachusetts was a province of Canada.

The state’s subsidized programs effectively drive away doctors. Explained Siegel: “More than half of primary-care docs in Massachusetts find themselves unable to work with Medicaid or Commonwealth Care (state-subsidized insurance), which both pay providers poorly.” Acceptance rates are far lower than even for Medicare, and one Massachusetts legislator has proposed making medical licensure contingent upon acceptance of state-subsidized plans.

Although the expansion of insurance was supposed to reduce emergency room use, visits rose 9% from 2004 to 2008. Ironically, noted Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, “difficulties in getting primary care have led to an increasing number of patients who rely on emergency rooms for basic medical services.” Thus, uncompensated care still costs more than $400 million annually.

The state also encouraged adverse selection, as predicted. Many healthy people chose to remain uninsured and pay the fine (or lie about having purchased coverage). They then bought insurance when sick, and dropped the policy when it was no longer necessary. Massachusetts was forced to institute an open enrollment period, limiting when people could sign up for insurance — an otherwise bizarre restriction when the objective is to increase the number of people insured.

ObamneyCare is bad policy. Gov. Romney’s signature policy achievement, no less than President Obama’s principal legislative victory, is a bust.

At least Mitt Romney did not compound bad policy with unconstitutionality, but his health care failure inevitably taints his presidential bid. He rightly faces an uphill task in convincing Republican primary voters that he is the best choice to be their nominee.

Will the Republicans embrace an agenda that will get our country back on tract?

Will the Republicans embrace an agenda that will get our country back on tract?

Republicans need to cut spending as the video above says. I wish the Republican candidates for president will embrace these policy positions:

A Republican Agenda for Real Change

by Doug Bandow

This article appeared in Forbes on October 3, 2011

The desperate search for an acceptable Republican Party presidential candidate continues. Republican leaders apparently are pushing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who previously said no, to jump into the race.

The GOP’s frustration is palpable. Mitt Romney has been running for four years but generates little enthusiasm. Rick Perry was an instant front-runner before losing much of his support after unimpressive debate performances. Michelle Bachmann briefly streaked across the political firmament but now barely registers in the polls. Newt Gingrich committed political seppuku shortly after announcing his candidacy. Ron Paul’s support is fervent but limited.

However, the real Republican problem is positions, not candidates.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire(Xulon).

More by Doug Bandow

The Republican Party cheerfully ran up the national debt before surrendering the keys to Capitol Hill and the White House. President George W. Bush’s promiscuous war-making cost the U.S. thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, while making Americans less secure. The GOP centralized more power in Washington. Republican lawmakers managed to turn laudable opposition to tax hikes into a deplorable defense of the status quo.

Most of the GOP presidential candidates offer little new. Mitt Romney, the ultimate political weathervane, implemented ObamaCare in Massachusetts before there was ObamaCare. He now fervently defends Social Security, despite its design as a public Ponzi scheme. Gov. Perry talks of domestic budget cuts but on foreign policy appears to be Bush-lite, yet another hawk disconnected from reality. The sharpest dissent from big government conservatism comes from the candidates least likely to win the nomination: Rep. Paul, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who has been excluded from most of the debates.

President Barack Obama obviously is vulnerable, as well he should be. The problem is not that he is responsible for all of America’s economic woes — no president “runs” the $15 trillion U.S. economy. But this president has no solution for slow growth and high unemployment other than spending more money, increasing the deficit, and running up the debt.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, simply denouncing President Obama for every ill known to man may not lead to victory. Voters dislike much current GOP orthodoxy. President Obama could win an election which turns into competitive political demonization and personal destruction.

Republicans should offer a positive agenda while addressing the party’s past failings. First, they should explain that current budget policy is unsustainable on both a short- and a long-term basis. Economist Larry Kotlikoff figures that America’s real public debt is $211 trillion, 15 times the nominal national debt. Public finance in states like California already looks a lot like that in Greece.

Unless Americans want to turn their entire incomes over to government, public spending must be cut, and cut sharply. And it must be cut across-the-board.

However, to regain lost credibility GOP politicians should lead with proposals to cut spending benefiting “their” interest groups. Corporate welfare should top any Republican Party list of budget cuts. Too often Republican apparatchiks have been pro-business rather than pro-free market, attacking financial transfers to the poor while endorsing subsidies for corporate America.

The GOP also needs to support significant reductions in military outlays. There is no more important responsibility for the U.S. government than protecting America. However, most of the Pentagon’s current activities have little to do with protecting America.

Instead, most U.S. forces currently defend prosperous, populous allies around the world. Europe has a larger GDP and population than America, yet continues to rely on Washington to provide most of NATO’s combat capability. Japan long had the world’s second largest economy but nevertheless relied on America for its protection. South Korea has 40 times the GDP of its northern adversary, but nearly 30,000 U.S. military personnel remain in the South, creating a “tripwire” for war.

Equally wasteful and far more costly in human terms have been nation-building exercises in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more. Going to war in 2001 to punish the Taliban for hosting terrorist training camps made sense. Staying at war a decade later in an attempt to create a competent, honest centralized government in Kabul is foolish.

Also required is an honest discussion of Social Security’s and Medicare’s funding crises. Neither is financially sustainable and both risk triggering generational conflict. The longer Congress puts off addressing these issues the costlier will be any solution.

The GOP should reaffirm its opposition to tax hikes, but emphasize that taxes can be kept low only if outlays are reduced. Endless borrowing threatens a financial death spiral of increased debt, higher interest payments, slower economic growth, and lower investor confidence. The U.S. now is on the road to fiscal ruin.

Moreover, Republicans should endorse President Obama’s attack on special interest tax breaks. Not all tax preferences are equally bad, but the narrower the tax break the more it approaches a special interest subsidy. The GOP should push legislation that simultaneously kills dubious tax “loopholes” and reduces overall marginal tax rates. Republicans should similarly respond to tax proposals from President Obama or congressional Democrats. Rather than defend the undefendable, the GOP should challenge yet another form of corporate welfare.

With job creation at issue, Republicans should develop a list of regulations and taxes which interfere with a growing economy. Political candidates enjoy denouncing “over-regulation” in the abstract, but they would be more convincing if they targeted specific policies costing real jobs. The House GOP should follow the example of its earlier majority which held hearings on regulatory abuses.

Republicans should challenge politically popular public agencies. For instance, the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were at the epicenter of the housing and financial crises. The GOP rightly criticized Democrats for not including the two GSEs in last year’s financial “reform” bill. But so far House Republicans have done nothing to close Fannie and Freddie, which continue to lose money.

Deregulation should include proposals to make more market friendly controls which are necessary even in a free society. After all, few Americans want to breathe dirty air or swim in dirty water. And there is no simple market solution to such problems. But people don’t want to needlessly waste money and destroy jobs when cleaning up the environment.

The Republicans also should offer a more restrained foreign policy. Doing so is necessary to curtail military outlays — in effect, the defense budget is the price of a nation’s foreign policy, since the more Washington seeks to do in the world, the more military force it requires. So long as the U.S. government is determined to dominate every region of the globe against every power, it will have to spend as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. Indeed, real, inflation-adjusted military outlays have doubled over the last decade, and today are higher than at any point during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War.

But a more humble foreign policy also would be a better foreign policy. Rather than engage in social engineering abroad, Republican politicians should leave friendly states with responsibility for international problems. If there is a problem in the Balkans or North Africa, Europe should address it. Japan, South Korea, Australia, and other democratic nations should cooperate to restrain potential Chinese aggressiveness. Only the Afghans can create a sustainable political order, of whatever form, in Afghanistan.

The GOP should simultaneously support a globally engaged America and Americans. For instance, international cooperation can help meet humanitarian, environmental, and other problems which transcend national boundaries. Whatever U.S. policy toward illegal aliens, Americans should expand the legal immigration of entrepreneurial professionals.

Trade benefits Americans. Washington’s failure to ratify the free trade agreement with South Korea is beyond foolish. A commercial war with China would hurt Americans while poisoning the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century.

Other issues also deserve attention — such as expanding educational opportunities for children stuck in poorly performing public schools. Even here, however, the GOP needs to break with recent Republican Party orthodoxy. President Bush and the Republican Congress centralized even more authority in Washington with the “No Child Left Behind” legislation.

Perhaps Chris Christie or some other late electoral entrant will revolutionize the GOP presidential sweepstakes. But without good ideas well-expressed, the GOP could still end up outside the White House looking in. The Republican Party deserves to win in 2012 only if it recognizes that it deserved to lose in 2008.