American voters better understand what’s wrong than our politicians and chattering classes. Public opinion polling shows voters have three basic insights about government that support the Republicans:
Second, government is run by crooked politicians for special interests.
Third, government is more likely to make things worse rather than better. Two thirds believe that “big government” is the biggest threat to America and a majority believes government action will make the economy worse.
Any Republican candidate who speaks to these three core American concerns can easily defeat Obama’s attacks on free enterprise and arguments for a redistributive regulatory state.
Accordingly, the Republican platform should state two core principles:
First, oppose to all special interests as creating massive waste when government is large and interventionist. This waste leads to generally lower living standards and less prosperity. With small government and minimum intervention, special interests have little to gain from government, and the problem disappears.
Second, recognize that politicians and bureaucrats do not remotely have the knowledge to intervene successfully in the economy. Instead, interventions produce negative unanticipated consequences, to the perennial surprise and shock of Washington pros.
These two core principles suggest specific policies, which include:
1. Cap federal spending at a low percent of GDP and balance the federal budget over the course of the business cycle.
2. Limit government to creating stable legal and fiscal rules of the game that encourage the private sector to do its job efficiently. These rules must protect private property from seizure “in the public interest” or de facto confiscation by excessive regulation.
3. Reject all subsidies and bailouts of business, no matter how big. The private enterprise system functions well only if those making economic decisions bear their consequences, positive or negative. Reject government-private partnerships and industrial policy that let the state pick winners and losers. Taxes, bailouts and subsidies favor special interests, do not serve the general welfare, and divert resources from their highest and best use.
4. Forego counter-cyclical fiscal policy. Instead, create a tax system that promotes growth and efficiency and entitlement programs that we can afford.
5. Review all existing and new regulations using meaningful cost-benefit analysis that does not overstate benefits. Special interests disguise regulations that favor them using false public interest arguments that overstate benefits.
6. Lower marginal tax rates across the board in conjunction with the removal of all subsidies and tax preferences.
7. Require that all government decisions on taxation, spending, and subsidization be perfectly transparent, exposing anyone seeking or receiving preferential treatment to public scrutiny.
8. Support free trade so as to raise living standards, competition, and efficiency. Resist the onslaught of special interests that stand to lose markets through free trade.
9. Insure that health care is provided by markets based on private insurance and co-payments with limits on malpractice damage claims.
10. Continue social security as a payroll tax based system but increasingly give participants ownership of their accounts.
11. Transfer political decision-making to the state and local level and reduce the influence of Washington. Decisions made closer to voters better reflect their preferences.
For a longer version of this piece, see Public Opinion Says a Conservative Message Wins In 2012.