By Judd Gregg - 12/19/11 10:15 AM EST
The country is generally disgusted with its government. The president is seen by many as a person who is in over his head and has abandoned his own goals of hope and change to pursue a divisive campaign based on envy. Americans look at Europe and wonder if that is where we are headed, toward dysfunctional governments that have promised so much to so many that they have given away the future of their children.
Europe will be lucky to come out of this with a lost decade; it is more likely that a generation will suffer from welfare-state excesses. Americans see us slipping ever further into debt to nations such as China and Russia, to whom we have no interest in paying billions of dollars in interest.
And still the president fiddles. And the Republican Party, well, we must be playing the piano. We certainly are not giving the American people any leadership more effective than the president’s nonfeasance.
Instead of grabbing this chance, we have become a party that wants to dance on the head of the pin of absurdities, raising issues that have little or no relevance to most Americans who are trying to make ends meet and look to their government for some logical leadership.
Although Americans would like creative solutions, they would be happy with a party that presents doable ideas. But our party demurs and debates with itself the merits of the irrelevant.
People are obviously concerned about how to deal with the deficits, they are concerned with how to deal with the cost of energy, they are concerned about the cost of healthcare, they want the nation to be able to create more jobs, they want better immigration policies and they would like us to believe in ourselves again.
Every one of these issues could be addressed with policies that work, proposed on conservative principles, if we would just get out of our own way as a party.
Let’s begin with the deficit. Why allow President Obama, who has no interest in reducing the size and rate of growth of the government, to make this a battle over raising taxes on people who earn more than $1 million?
Cut the ground out from underneath his argument. Disclose his fraud by giving him his tax increase on millionaires, who can hire accountants and will avoid it anyway, and show it for what it is, a political move that will have no discernible effect on the deficit or the debt.
In exchange, cut spending with real changes in the entitlement accounts, especially Medicare and Medicaid, that lead to real savings and reduce non-defense discretionary spending. Take away the president and his party’s primary issue of sophistry built on raising taxes on the super-rich, and make them debate what they hate — reducing the size of the government.
On energy policy, Republicans should have a simple creed: Most energy consumed in America should come from North America. Push conservation but also push oil and gas exploration, nuclear energy, fleet conversion and clean coal.
On immigration, we need focus. We need more people who can help our economy to come to the United States. We should search the world for the best and brightest and invite them here or, if they are already here studying, let them stay. The amnesty fight is a politically debilitating sideshow, because as a practical matter most people who are here illegally are not going home.
We need to stop, as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) says, the magnets that attract people here illegally. But that should not be the focus of our effort. Rather, our focus should be on creating jobs here by bringing job creators here.
A better economy that produces more jobs is what Americans really want; it is integral to a better future for their children and the nation. Republicans can offer this by offering leadership on the key issues, including those above.
If the nation had confidence in its financial future, its energy future, its immigration goals and itself through energized, focused and constructive leadership from the Republican Party, then to a large extent Americans would do the rest by investing and taking entrepreneurial risks that lead to a stronger economy and country.
The Republican Party needs to get off the head of the pin and back in the game of giving Americans leadership on issues that they care about and on which they want action.
Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Foreign Operations. He also is an international adviser to Goldman Sachs.