Given President Obama’s abdication in presenting select priorities to the Congress, Selfish Citizenship will take the initiative to spell out the top seven legislative priorities for 2013.
You should not be surprised to see increased federal gun control legislation absent from this prioritized list.
It is assumed that Congress will be attending to passing appropriations for FY 2013 and FY 2014, plus extending the federal debt limit. While those are not included in these listed priorities per se, the listed items do contribute to addressing fiscal problems of spending and revenue.
#1 Reduce Regulations
While spending and taxing are given high priority in partisan rhetoric, federal regulation of business has led to Obama’s retarded economy; although in fairness, this is a problem created by Congress over decades.
The stacks of federal regulations infringing upon our freedom to contract, trade, and associate plus the locust of lawyers associated with them need to be removed from the backs of American businessmen. Job flight overseas is more a consequence of regulatory compliance costs than high wages.
Cutting regulations will reduce spending on enforcement, reduce private waste on compliance, increase revenue by freeing trade within our country, and increase employment opportunities for Americans.
#2 Block Grant Funds to States
The Congress has infringed upon the states’ police powers by giving the states federal money with strings attached. This is the method by which Congress has exceeded the limits of its constitutional authority. To restore the federalist principle, the Congress should change all funding of state and local programs into block grants to the states without any strings attached.
As an example of the arbitrary power the executive wields as a result of the current process, see the efforts of states to get waivers from the Obama Administration related to the failed No Child Left Behind law.
This change will reduce federal spending by eliminating oversight and compliance expenses; however, federal civil rights enforcement should continue. Over time, five to ten years, the value of block grants to states should be regularly diminished to zero as the states transition from these federal mandated programs. These programs include Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and education funding.
#3 Eliminate Small Programs
The federal government funds many small programs unrelated to its core function as a federal government. While it has been argued such programs are too small to worry about, candidate Romney had a good point, “Should the government be borrowing money to fund these programs?”
These programs should be eliminated, not just cut. It is essential that, as a means to establish the principle, the federal government eliminate such programs. Further, these should be examined for opportunities to transition such efforts to private entities in civil society as a proof of concept for larger programs that should no longer be within the domain of the federal government.
Such small programs would include funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and funding to support racial segregation in higher education (a.k.a. HBCUs through the Higher Education Act).
#4 Sell Federal Assets
The federal government should increase its sale of federal assets, such as land. Such revenue should be directed to paying federal bonds held in the Social Security Trust fund, which will reduce the size of the federal debt by paying off old bonds without borrowing new funds for those obligations.
To get fair value for these assets, the federal government will need to repeal statutes and regulations that diminish the value of such assets. For example, consider the sale of Amtrak and the train car full of government interventions that devalue that asset.
#5 Tax Reform
I recall Rep. Frank Wolf saying that tax reform is an issue that requires presidential leadership. While the zero in the White House lacks the gravitas, there are two principles that the Congress can follow to start reform of our current tax system.
First, taxes should not be punitive. Under Obamacare, the Supreme Court approved of using the tax code to punish citizens; Congress should reject that power. When Laffer’s curve is discussed related to the diminish revenue from higher tax rates, the cause is missed…those higher rates were punitive, punishing the successful for the crime of being successful. Related to the power of this principle, see how the lowering of punitive capital gains tax rates led to eliminating the budget deficit in the 1990s.
Second, tax provisions should be exclusively for revenue and not an end around to exceed limits on congressional powers. Over time, Congress as elected to use tax breaks and deductions to control citizens’ behavior in ways that are not permitted otherwise. Imagine a law that ordered you to have a new child; yet the government actually punishes you with higher taxes for not creating that child.
If you see a person or company doing something stupid or wasteful, the likely cause is a federal tax incentive.
The elimination of punitive taxes and taxation as regulation is known by the euphemism tax simplification.
Congress has utterly failed in its oversight of the executive branch.
Often this is because of partisan blindness to the maladministration of a President from the majority’s party.
However, to a substantial degree, legislators have been co-opted into becoming blind cheerleaders for the federal programs they are charged with overseeing. This is not a particularly new phenomenon; see discussions of the Iron Triangle in Hedrick Smith’s The Power Game.
The result is failed programs that do not get eliminated.
Perhaps, Senators with presidential ambitions should take note of the role legislative oversight played in the political rise of Truman and LBJ.
#7 Defund ObamaCare
With a Democratic Senate and President, ObamaCare will not be repealed soon. Unfortunately, its taxes will start hurts the pockets of Americans in 2013, which has resulted in remorse from lazy Democratic legislators who failed to be attentive to the negative consequences of that disastrous legislation. Meanwhile, individual states are refusing to participate in the law.
An alternative strategy to repeal is defunding. Congress has a history of passing laws that it refuses to fund after the fact. Through the haggling over FY 2013 and FY 2014 appropriations, the House should be able to singlehandedly block funding for executive efforts to implement the legislation.
This does not solve the destructive influence that ObamaCare will have over our private medical system. Given that the current Congress will not repeal as it should, this at least is a half measure that follows the congressional history of hiding from the consequences it has created with bad legislation.
In summary, Congress needs to take the lead in fixing the problems created by prior Congresses. All of these man-made problems were the predictable consequence of choices made in the Congress. Now is the time for Congress to choose differently and these seven New Year’s Resolutions for Congress are a solid start.