No GOP Reset Is Needed: Just Act Like Republicans Again

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As is well known now, a limping Republican Party promised to change its ways this week in order to become relevant once again on the presidential level. As USA Today put it, the Party is "promising a host of new strategies designed to make it more appealing."

If the GOP leadership is smart it will scrap the report. Republicans don't need to change as much as they need to act like Republicans again. People like Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan were Republicans because they truly and very optimistically felt that positive policies meant to boost opportunity and the individual incentive to work would make people from all walks of life better off. It's time for the once grand Party to return to this kind of thinking.

First up, the Party's intellectual leadership needs to erase the notion of "budget deficits" from its collective brain. On its face the deficit talk plays into the hands of the Democrats for creating the staggeringly false illusion that we have a revenue problem. We quite simply do not.

As any sentient being knows, the U.S. has a spending problem. Republicans talk about a looming fiscal crisis, but the problem for them is that they're crying wolf. Love or hate deficits, the simple truth is that right or wrong, investors around the world line up to buy the debt that the U.S. Treasury issues. This was true even before the Fed became a size buyer of it, and it will remain true even if the Fed someday gets wise and stops buying it.

This isn't to say that the Republicans should stop talking about spending, but it is to say that the message should be a happy one. Republicans should be for massive spending cuts because if the federal government consumes lower amounts of always limited capital, there will be more money left in the private sector to invest in future Microsofts and Intels over the Solyndras that politicians like, there will be more money available to fund much-needed cancer and heart disease cures, and more dollars for exciting transportation innovations.

In short, when they talk about the spending, Republicans should point out that the crisis is the spending itself; that excessive federal consumption of our money means we have much less in the way of life and health enhancing goods to enjoy, that we have reduced employment opportunities, and that when we are employed, our wages are lower. Stop talking about a deficit crisis that never seems to materialize, and instead talk about how much better off we'd all be if the certain burden that is government were greatly reduced.

With deficits off of their minds, Republicans should talk about reducing the burden of taxation for all Americans given their belief that the citizenry is made better off when the price of work is lower; that lower tax rates for all earners mean greater incentives to create the Googles of the future. So while it's no doubt historically true that lower tax rates have often delivered higher revenues for the feds, there's nothing conservative or Republican about giving either political party more money to waste. Republicans should stick to reducing taxes given the correct belief that taxes are a price placed on work, and as the Party of opportunity, its politicians will constantly seek to reduce that price.

Speaking of revenues, assuming greater growth and revenues wrought by lower tax rates, the Republicans can cease being the Party thought eager to cut already promised entitlements of the Social Security and Medicare variety. Here it should be stressed that both programs were a major mistake, but rather than break what were idiotic promises, Republicans should talk about making those near retirement whole, all the while promoting a freedom agenda that says those who choose to opt out - and in doing so cease being a burden on the Treasury - should be allowed to do just that.

About immigration, rather than pandering to certain races and nationalities, Republicans should be the party of opportunity once again. They should be for legalizing all work within our borders given the undeniable truth that once an individual reaches the U.S. to work, that individual's productivity rises exponentially thanks to the economic freedom that still prevails. After that, what is conservative about empowering governments to erect walls and hire agents to arrest ambitious newcomers, and what is conservative about empowering that same government to raid businesses who hire non-citizens? Furthermore, what does any of this have to do with growth? More workers means more growth, and for those who say the immigrant burden is more a function of mothers, grandmothers and children who arrive with willing workers to access hospitals and schools, if work is legal there will be greatly reduced incentives to bring grandma and the kids for what is often seasonal work.

Of note here, National Review is a brilliant conservative publicatio, and its writers are of the view that we can't be a thriving nation if we're a nation of guest workers. Really? What's interesting there is that Manhattan, where NR is based, is one of the world's greatest examples of how untrue the latter assertion is. To walk through the halls of any Wall Street firm is to see that it's littered with "guest workers" speaking all sorts of languages. The National Basketball Association is also based in Manhattan, and it too has seen its product greatly enhanced by non-citizens from the world over. The reality is that most thriving industries largely situated in New York can claim all manner of foreign workers who lack citizenship; their arrival a large factor in what makes New York great, and America more American.

The above in mind, the dirty little secret that some conservatives dare not admit given fear of an electoral tilt toward the Democrats (as though modern GOP presidents of the Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. variety have been so great) is that most foreign workers don't desire U.S. citizenship. They simply want to work and thrive here. Good. Make work legal, while making citizenship a distant object for those who want it.

With gay marriage, Republicans don't need to pander there (nor do they need to profess a love of the concept) as much they need to return to the limited-government view that once animated the party. They should ask what's conservative about the state deciding whom one chooses to marry, and furthermore, why is the state ascribed a role in something so personal to begin with. Freedom works, and a Republican Party that talks a good game about freedom elsewhere should embrace it when it comes to marriage.

Moving to defense policy, it's quite simply inconsistent for a Party that at least audibly promotes limited government to embrace a military the footprint of which is global. Furthermore, for a Party that correctly dislikes handouts, it's totally inconsistent for that same Party to accept a status quo that has American taxpayers footing the bill for the defense of so much of the world.

Taking the notion of handouts further, Republicans are correct in pointing out that welfare, food stamps and other poverty subsidies foster dependence, and they should talk about abolishing those programs with an eye on improving lives wrecked by federal largesse. True enough, but if so, and to be consistent, they must seek cuts in a defense budget that similarly fosters dependency among higher earners whose income is almost solely a function of a massive budget funded by the rest of us. Dependency is a problem for rich and poor alike.

Simply put, a Republican Party that achieved presidential prominence during the Reagan era did so because it was the Party of opportunity and incentives. The problem now is that massive defense spending for others reduces domestic opportunity, all the while reducing the incentive on the part of our foreign friends to provide for their own defense. The GOP should be for ending our role as world's policeman, all the while optimistically talking about greatly boosting the freedom of Americans to trade with whomever they want irrespective of global locale. This would be a costless foreign policy that would very much boost our security for free trade among countries remaining the single best foreign policy of all.

Lastly, Ronald Reagan long ago observed that "No nation in history has ever survived fiat money, money that did not have precious metal backing." Reagan, like Kemp, understood that dollar devaluation was the cruelest tax of all for the worth of the dollars we earn being cheapened.

Tragically, modern Republicans (lest we forget, it was the Republicans who foisted Ben Bernanke on the electorate) who sometimes talk the talk on tax cuts have forgotten that they don't work very well (see: Bush '43) when the value of the dollar is plummeting. Innovative companies and jobs are a function of investment, but when money is being devalued investment in the intellectual concepts that actually grow the economy lose out in favor of inflation hedges.

For Republicans to be credible again, they must get real on money. Good money begets powerful economic growth, and after that it's a trust and freedom issue: governments that devalue our money steal our freedom, and in doing so, lose our trust.

So rather than weaken itself through pandering to various interest groups in ways that aren't credible, it's essential that Republicans simply tack back to what made them presidentially prominent to begin with. Limited government whose sole purpose is to protect our rights is government that fosters economic growth and opportunity. It's the Republican Party of the Reagan era, and it will work again.


John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Political Economy editor at Forbes, a Senior Fellow in Economics at Reason Foundation, and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research and Trading ( He's the author of Who Needs the Fed?: What Taylor Swift, Uber and Robots Tell Us About Money, Credit, and Why We Should Abolish America's Central Bank (Encounter Books, 2016), along with Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James Can Teach You About Economics (Regnery, 2015). 

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