With the New Year arriving in only a few days, Washington has turned to its favorite game: handicapping the next presidential race. Like many voters at this stage, I don’t have a candidate. I have requirements. My guess is they are the same as those of more than a few voters.
Here they are.
Spending: When you include the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, our government is – or is close to being – technically bankrupt. It owes more than it owns. Meanwhile, domestic spending that isn’t on autopilot — discretionary spending – has soared to unheard of heights.
Like a large number of Americans, I see this as a problem of many parts including national security. The financial strength of our government has allowed us to successfully prosecute wars when we had to. It has also allowed us to strengthen our security without fighting. But now we hear that the global credit markets may be doubting our ability to carry the kinds of debts we are running up. Financial markets are asking themselves, should they lend to us?
Getting this crisis under control will require great political skill and will and financial understanding. I believe this is a deeply urgent need, but who among the current crop fits that bill? Convince me you do and I will follow.
Taxes: For me tax rates are not about the benefits to this or that group but about the character and vitality of our economy.
At least since the 1970s, net new job growth in the U.S. has been driven by the expansion of companies that began any period with five or fewer employees. Normally in downturns, when unemployment has risen, the decline in jobs has not been because more jobs were lost. In general job destruction has been nearly a constant, good times and bad. Rather, rising unemployment has come when fewer new jobs were created.
Entrepreneurial job creation is extremely sensitive to tax rates, particularly on the upper end of the income scale. Some say only 2-3 percent of taxpayers have incomes over the $250k threshold that the Obama Administration wanted to impose in determining who kept the 2003 tax rates and who got an increase. But most net new jobs in the entrepreneurial sector are created by two to three percent of businesses.
So fights over tax rates are about such questions as: Do we still honor earned achievement? Do we still value experimentation, taking chances, building from nothing, imagining and pursuing a better way? Or are we ready for the false security of the subsidized life?
I want a candidate who understands the stakes and what they mean to the nation’s future.
Constitution: These last two years we have seen a vast increase in the size and reach of arbitrary government. The health care and financial reform bills have been exhibits A and B. Each has called for hundreds of new regulations. Even regulators have been heard to complain that the new laws give only the scantiest Congressional guidance.
Nancy Pelosi said last year, “Since virtually every aspect of the heath care system has an effect on interstate commerce, the power of Congress to regulate health care is essentially unlimited.” (see: http://tiny.cc/uhrf3 )
I want someone who has the clarity and strength to argue that the regulatory power of the United States government over our commerce and our lives is strictly limited and to put through reforms that follow suit.
Foreign Challenges: Across the globe, dangers are gathering. Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, China, Russia, vicious drug cartels, aggressive terrorist organizations, an unstable global financial system, the weakening of our traditional allies: Our next president will need great steadiness, a deep strategic grasp, prodigious diplomatic skills, and courage. Which candidates fit?
As I say, I have embraced no presidential contender as yet. I have not shut off any either. But to my mind, our collective challenge for the next election is to identify and put forward someone equal to the crisis of the moment.
We are citizens of a republic. Our fate is in our hands. For my part, looking for the kind of candidate who can do all of the above and explain his or her actions with clarity to the American people is the essential responsibility of all advocates of freedom in the year and a half ahead.