House Speaker Paul Ryan has come out with yet another one of his plans. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, he oversaw the release of numerous plans to reform the welfare state and strengthen the warfare state. His newest plan, A Better Way: Our Vision for a Competent America, is more of the same. Needless to say, it is not a better way.
A Better Way was issued over the course of last month in six parts. Each part focuses on a particular issue:
- June 7: Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility
- June 9: Achieving U.S. Security Through Leadership & Liberty
- June 14: The Economy
- June 16: The Constitution
- June 22: Health Care
- June 24: Tax Reform
Each component of A Better Way contains a “full task force report” between 22 and 57 pages and an abbreviated “snapshot” or “fact sheet.” Some components also include “by the numbers” or “frequently asked questions” documents. In what follows, I quote from the relevant “fact sheets” or (in the case of planks three and six) the “snapshots.”
The first plank of A Better Way is about poverty. Although “Washington has spent more than $22 trillion to fight poverty,” today “if you are born poor, you are just as likely to stay poor as you were 50 years ago.” There are 46.7 million Americans who live in poverty. The welfare system “is rigged to replace work, not encourage work.” It “traps families in a cycle of poverty, shuffling them from program to program instead of helping them break free altogether.”
The Republicans have a better way, but it is not to end the welfare state. The Republican plan “makes sure that poor kids have more chances to overcome obstacles at every stage, from childhood through college.” It “tailors benefits to people’s needs.” It “expands access to basic banking services.” It “opens up the system to accountability and collaboration.” It requires that those who are capable “work or prepare for work as a condition of assistance.” But the Republican plan “does not cut or increase spending on the poor by a penny.” The money spent now is just redirected “to solutions that are working on the front lines.”
The second plank of A Better Way is about national security. The Obama administration’s foreign policy “has been an unambiguous failure.” It has “allowed radical Islamic groups to gain new momentum.” The enemies of the United States “no longer fear us.” Our allies “no longer trust us.” Terrorists and rogue regimes “are stepping up to fill the void, as evident by the rise of ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and beyond.”
The Republicans have a better way, but it is not to end the warfare state. The Republican plan “contains 67 recommendations for Congress and the president,” including ideas to protect the homeland, take the fight to the terrorists, tackle new threats, and defend freedom. Because “we are at war,” “terrorists are on the march,” and the Obama administration “has allowed radical Islamic groups to gain new momentum,” “we must make it our top national security priority to prevail in the war against radical Islamic extremism.” We must “restore American influence, advance free enterprise, and expand the community of free nations.” Americans “owe everything to the men and women who serve our country at home and abroad — our law enforcement officers, service members, intelligence professionals, and diplomats.”
The third plank of A Better Way is about the economy. Regulations are “important” because they “help protect our health, safety, and well-being, and provide firm rules for us to live by.” But if taken beyond their initial purpose, “regulations can stifle innovation and infringe on liberty.” The current regulatory system in the United States “is costly and closed to innovation.” It costs us “$1.89 trillion in lost productivity and growth.” It is a system that “favors established interests — big government, big labor, and big business — over hardworking Americans and consumers.” Congress has “delegated broad authority to unelected bureaucrats.” “Few old regulations are taken off the books.”
The Republicans have a better way, but it is not for the government to stop intervening in the economy. The Republican plan “puts at least 101 solutions on the table.” We need to “regulate smarter” by cutting down on “needless regulations while making the rules we do need more efficient and effective,” stopping “bad regulations,” publishing the cost of regulations, preventing the federal government from “regulating in areas where states are already fulfilling that duty successfully,” “allocating to each agency a limit on the amount of regulatory costs that it can impose for each fiscal year,” and go back and look at past regulations “to see what has become outdated” and identify “rules that can be weeded out responsibly.” The government should also end bailouts and cronyism while promoting financial independence and competition.
The fourth plank of A Better Way is about the Constitution. Although “the Founders insisted on a separation of powers to protect our constitutional liberties,” in recent decades “the executive branch has collected more power for itself, enabled by a judiciary that defers to the bureaucracy and a Congress that has yielded some of its most fundamental duties.” This concentration of power “weakens the voice of the people and the integrity of the Constitution itself.” Washington “spends money it isn’t authorized to spend.” It “takes power it isn’t given” and “ignores laws it is required to execute.”
The Republicans have a better way, but it is not to actually follow the Constitution. The Republican plan “rewrites old laws so that regulations better reflect the will — and the input — of the people.” It imposes “more limits on runaway spending.” It “makes the government catch up with the times and publish more data about its spending.” It “subjects unelected bureaucrats to more scrutiny.” It makes sure “agencies and bureaucracies adhere to the letter of the law.”
The fifth plank of A Better Way is about health care. Obamacare “is making things worse by the day.” It is “driving up premiums and deductible costs for individuals, families, and businesses.” It is “forcing people off the plans they like.” It is “fueling waste, fraud, and abuse.” It “cannot be fixed.” Its “knot of regulations, taxes, and mandates cannot be untangled.” Obamacare “must be fully repealed so we can start over and take a new approach.”
The Republicans have a better way, but it is not a free market in health care. The Republican health-care plan is a blueprint that “lays out a step-by-step approach to give every American access to quality, affordable health care.” It “makes sure that you never have to worry about being turned away or having your coverage taken away — regardless of age, income, medical conditions, or circumstances.” It “gives you more control and more choices so that you can pick the plan that meets your needs — not Washington’s mandates.” It “protects Medicare for today’s seniors and preserves the program for future generations.”
The sixth plank of A Better Way is about tax reform. With its “multiple brackets,” “high rates,” “special interest breaks everywhere,” and “rules and regulations that are too complicated to understand,” the U.S. tax code “is a mess, and that’s putting it lightly.” Instead of promoting growth, the tax code “is pushing jobs overseas.” “It costs more and more each year just to do your taxes, let alone pay them.” The IRS “has repeatedly violated the trust of the American taxpayer.”
The Republicans have a better way, but it is not to abolish the income tax and dismantle the IRS. Americans “need a new tax code” that is “built for growth” and “makes the tax code simpler, fairer, and flatter.” The system should be consolidated down to three tax brackets, with the top rate at 33 percent. The new system eliminates the estate and alternative minimum taxes, has a larger standard deduction, has larger child and dependent tax credits, and has an improved earned income tax credit. For businesses, corporate taxes will be cut to 20 percent, a “territorial” system instituted, and “full and immediate write-offs” allowed. And all of this reform will be done “without increasing the deficit.” Americans also need “a better IRS.” There should be a new commissioner, “subject to term limits,” who administers the new tax code with “fairness” and keeps “politics out of the IRS.” The IRS should be restructured around three major units: individuals, businesses, and “one that provides an independent ‘small claims court’ approach to resolving routine disputes quickly.” The bureaucracy should be cleared out by “doing away with all the rules, regulations, forms, and instructions that won’t be needed with a simpler, fairer tax code.”
Republicans rightly point out problems with the nation’s welfare system, U.S. foreign policy, government regulations, executive power, Obamacare, and the tax code. But is there a better way to fix them than the Republican plan to reform the welfare state, strengthen the warfare state, manage the economy, and interfere with the free market?
There is a better way. It is called the libertarian way.
Libertarians hold that it is illegitimate for government to tax individuals, regulate businesses, provide welfare, engage in military offense, be involved in the health-care and health-insurance industries, and violate its own Constitution.
On the issue of poverty, libertarians believe that no one is entitled to receive welfare benefits, it is not the job of the government to fight poverty, and it is immoral for the government to take money from those who work and give it to those who don’t. Charity should always be private and voluntary.
On the issue of national security, libertarians believe that the military should be used only for defense, no foreign wars should be fought, all U.S. bases in foreign countries should be closed, and all American troops should be brought home. U.S. foreign policy should be that of Jefferson: Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.
On the issue of the economy, libertarians believe that the government shouldn’t regulate businesses, shouldn’t require occupational licenses, and shouldn’t set a minimum wage or otherwise interfere with the free market. The economic policy of the U.S. government should be one of laissez faire.
On the issue of the Constitution, libertarians believe that all branches of government have too much power and that most departments and agencies are not authorized by the Constitution. The U.S. government should follow its own Constitution.
On the issue of health care, libertarians believe that not only should Obamacare be repealed and replaced with nothing, Medicare and Medicaid should likewise be eliminated. The government should have nothing whatsoever to do with health care or health insurance.
On the issue of tax reform, libertarians believe that the government is not entitled to a portion of every American’s income, progressive taxation is Marxist, Americans are still taxed to death even if the death tax is eliminated, refundable tax credits are a form of welfare, and Americans should pay their taxes the way they hand over their money to an armed robber. Taxation is government theft.
It is apparent that the Republicans put a lot of effort into preparing A Better Way: Our Vision for a Competent America. All told, there are 25 documents — plus a very snazzy website to access them. But, like the rest of the Republican plans, it is not a better way.