Much has been made of the Republicans’ travails, and rightly so since they’ve lost two presidential elections in a row. Nevertheless, much of their agenda is at least clear to the American people: tax reform, entitlement reform, defending defense, etc.
If a budget reflects a party’s values, then what is the Democratic Party after? Not tax reform. They simply want to ratchet taxes on the top earners. Not entitlement reform. Not fiscal prudence.
They want anti-gun legislation but seem to have recognized only a minimal portion of that will get through.
They like the idea of immigration reform, but it remains to be seen if they are serious about a guest-worker program and border enforcement.
They see Obamacare is unpopular, financially flawed and, in some cases, unworkable, but no one dares to touch it or suggest there is a better approach.
The Hill reports that Democrats “have signaled that their budget will do more to raise revenue than to cut spending and that it will not end deficits. In a memo, [Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty] Murray adumbrated the justification for this by noting that Congress has already approved $1.8 trillion in spending cuts since 2010 but only $600 billion in new taxes.” Poor Sen. Ron Wyden (R-Ore.). His party of no wants no part of a tax reform plan, just as they wanted nothing to do with the Ryan-Wyden Medicare reform plan. (His plan to “include detailed tax instructions in the bill that would expedite tax reform through a process called reconciliation, which precludes a filibuster . . . is opposed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who told Murray he does not want his hands tied by the budget as he crafts a plan for tax reform.”)
What is missing? Democrats have no serious plan for attending to our biggest domestic problems — ballooning debt and an achingly slow economy. Really, background checks and half-baked immigration reform are their big ideas? (No one in the Senate seems much inclined to go down the president’s climate-control path.) Where is the meat? Skimpy stuff. The party that holds the Senate and the White House doesn’t appear to know what it wants to accomplish.
And as Republicans are wrestling with a post-Arab Spring foreign policy, the Democrats are playing the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil game. Until Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stood up, they were uninterested in oversight on drones. Is their big idea to slash defense and make empty threats to the Iranians?
There is a bigger problem at the heart of liberalism, however: It doesn’t work. That is, the welfare state it imagines is not sustainable and is incompatible with a high-growth, dynamic economy. The Democrats’ retreat-and-cut strategy internationally is not a recipe for international peace and stability. They may have a near-certain 2016 candidate in Hillary Clinton, but they have a dearth of forward-looking, reform-minded initiatives.
That is in large part because the president is intent on knocking the GOP from House leadership in 2014, rather than on advancing an agenda. The president’s leading-from-behind national security policy is a flop (Benghazi, North Africa, sanctions failure, etc.), and he has appointed lightweights (even lighter than the first term) who are not policy architects.
At least Republicans have an array of potential leaders both in governorships and in the House and Senate. The party’s recent losses are compelling it to be more creative in policy development and more flexible (one would hope) on issues that are non-starters with a wide electorate. It will have a budget that accomplishes something rather than merely coaxes along the status quo.
Republicans should encourage, and not foreclose, policy innovation. Senate Republicans should offer their ideas on the budget. And Republicans should proffer as many ideas as they have for health-care reform. If they do so and the Democrats don’t awake from their intellectual doldrums, they will have a 1990s presidential candidate with a 1970s agenda. That is not a good place to be.
Republicans should aim to leap-frog the Democrats on everything from defense reform to tax-simplification to immigration. If they do, they can pin the stodgy, dim label on the Dems. And they might even start winning elections.