The Party of Bad Ideas
by Charles Lemos, Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 10:15:32 PM EST
They are not just the party of no, today's Republican party is also the party of singularly bad ideas. In Utah, GOP State Senator Chris Buttars is proposing that senior year of high school be made optional as a means of tackling the Beehive state's $700 million budget gap.
In South Carolina, State Rep. Mike Pitts, a four term Republican, introduced a bill earlier this month that would ban what he calls “the unconstitutional substitution of Federal Reserve Notes for silver and gold coin” in South Carolina. Yup, that's right he wants to take the country back to 19th century. From the Palmetto Scoop:
If the bill were to become law, South Carolina would no longer accept or use anything other than silver and gold coins as a form of payment for any debt, meaning paper money would be out in the Palmetto State.
Pitts said the intent of the bill is to give South Carolina the ability to “function through gold and silver coinage” and give the state a “base of currency” in the event of a complete implosion of the U.S. economic system.
“I’m not one to cry ‘chicken little,’ but if our federal government keeps spending at the rate we’re spending I don’t see any other outcome than the collapse of the economic system,” Pitts said.
But one legal expert told The Palmetto Scoop that, even if it were passed, Pitts’ bill would quickly be ruled unconstitutional.
“It violates a perfectly legal and Constitutional federal law, enacted pursuant to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, that federal reserve notes are legal tender for all debts public and private,” the expert said. “We settled this debate in the early 1800s. I appreciate the political sentiment but the law is blatantly unconstitutional.”
Pitts, however, dismissed that claim, saying that “adherence to the Constitution is a two-edged sword. The federal government has consistently violated the Constitution, especially the 10th Amendment and Commerce Clause.”
Constitutional issues aside, Pitts’ bill faces another hurdle. Critics point out that silver and gold coins can’t actually serve as a form of currency.
“You can’t put a set value on a pure silver or gold coin because it’s actual value fluctuates,” one expert said. “You can say a gold coin is worth $50 but it would actually be worth whatever the market says it’s worth, based on supply and demand. In reality, what you have is a bartering good, not a form of currency.”
Still, Pitts said, a system based around bartering is better than a currency-based economy.
A barter economy? That's a sign of systemic failure, not of a healthy economy. It is almost as if conservatives would prefer to turn the country into a Zimbabwe rather than raise taxes. Perhaps we should all revert to growing our own crops and spinning our own yarn.
And then there's Glenn Reynolds, a Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee and who blogs as Instapundit over at Pajamas Media. He wants to push for a default on the national debt on the theory that this would raise the future borrowing costs of the federal government in a way that makes future deficit spending impossible. His vision for the country would entail plunging 90 percent of Americans into a dire and desperate poverty willfully. To be blunt such a measure would ensure the break-up of the country.
Over at the National Review, they just concluded their National Review Institute’s 2010 Challenge, a call for bold conservative ideas (isn't that an oxymoron?). In launching the contest, the never admit the failure of free markets crowd were confident that worthy ideas would flood in from beyond the Beltway. They received over 300. Seems more like a trickle but they are nonetheless pleased.
The winner of this esteemed contest was GOP Arkansas legislator Dan Greenberg who is proposing a Constitutional Convention that would consider new amendments to limit the power of Congress.
Arkansas legislator Dan Greenberg recognizes that Congress is unlikely to propose constitutional amendments to limit its own power. The legislatures of two-thirds of the states can bypass Congress by calling for a convention to propose amendments. Greenberg notes that some people worry about the prospect of a “runaway” convention, but thinks that political and legal constraints could prevent that from happening — and that the first convention should consider an amendment to Article V that would explicitly permit state legislatures to limit a convention to the consideration of a single amendment or eliminate the requirement that the requisite number of states must call a convention in order to propose an amendment. It would be in state legislators’ interest to propose and ratify such an amendment because revitalizing the states’ ability to propose amendments to the Constitution would “enhance their power in dealing with Congress.”
Other entrants in the contest want to repeal the 17th Amendment and the popular election of Senators. Apparently we suffer from too much democracy. Here are other singularly bad ideas:
Re-schedule tax day. Peter Caylor of Virginia proposes moving tax day to September 30, the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. While this shift would allow for a simplification of federal accounting practices, the real benefit of the proposal is that taxpayers would be reminded of the enormous cost of government just a few short weeks before general elections are held. Caylor suggests coupling the proposal with other reforms, including adjusting withholding schedules so that fewer people would receive regular refunds and suffer from the illusion that they get money from the government.
Malpractice reform for federal health-care plans. Keith Paige, a practicing surgeon from Washington State, suggests that commonsense tort reform be applied to federal health-care plans. He proposes that for all episodes of care that are billed primarily to the federal government — including Medicare, Medicaid, and Federal Employee Health Plans — malpractice awards be limited to economic damages plus a capped amount for pain and suffering. This reform would likely lead to a drop in costly tests and treatments driven more by fear of lawsuits than medical judgment. Dr. Paige performs a back-of-the-envelope calculation: Since defensive medicine is estimated to cost $70–100 billion a year and the government purchases approximately 40–45 percent of all health care, the potential savings from even a 50 percent reduction of defensive medicine in patients covered by the federal government would amount to $14–20 billion annually. (This reform would also reduce the coffers of the trial lawyers who lavishly fund liberal candidates and causes.)
Improve college access while reducing the cost to the taxpayer. It is well established that increases in student aid contribute to the rising cost of college. So how do we increase access to higher education while decreasing the burden on the taxpayers? Dan Lips in Washington, D.C., suggests three solutions. First, given the growing popularity of online learning, he proposes that states use online learning to streamline course offerings available at different universities in the same state. Second, he would require state-funded colleges to put their course content online and make it available to the public for free. MIT has already, with great success, made “virtually all” of its course material available online for free, and the Apple iTunes program offers free downloads of lectures given at some of the most respected universities in the world. Third, he proposes that state higher-education institutions expand credit-by-exam options — allowing students to work toward their degrees by demonstrating subject mastery on rigorous examinations. While these reforms are all state-based, Lips suggests that the federal government could consider requiring colleges that choose to receive federal funding to place a percentage of course content online and to offer credit-by-exam options. These reforms hold great promise for students and taxpayers alike.
Support the family. Robert Guenther of New Jersey suggests several policies as part of a “Year of the Middle Class”: “a package of family-centered legal and tax changes to strengthen families and eliminate the need for the outsourcing of parenting to the federal government.” Among his suggestions: Increase the child tax credit. Let parents use their own money to pay for child care, save for education, etc., instead of seeking federal programs to help out.
Put COLAs on a diet. Daniel Corrin from Washington, D.C., notes that “every January the federal government increases retirees’ Social Security payments, federal pensions, and government workers’ salaries by the growth in the Consumer Price Index.” He suggests that the federal government wait until the cost of living has gone up by 5 percent before implementing any of these Cost of Living Adjustments. Assuming a steady 3 percent inflation rate, for example, the federal government would give out a 5 percent COLA every 20 months instead of a 3 percent one every year. Over time, the savings add up (Corrin’s back-of-the-envelope calculation has the federal government cutting spending by more than $250 billion over the first five years).
Reduce the power and perks of public-sector unions. Numerous entries express frustration with the pay, perks, and political clout of public-sector employees. Gregory Erickson of Tennessee recommends a 10 percent reduction in the federal workforce, and Joseph Canouse of Georgia proposes reducing compensation and instating a hiring freeze. Two contestants — Kent Osband from Connecticut and Benjamin Pugh from California — propose a “public parity” reform that would prohibit average wages and benefits in public employment from exceeding the average wages and benefits for comparable private employment. Peter McFadden of New York suggests that government employers should cease making automatic payroll deductions for union dues.
Jay Pittard of Green Mountain, N.C., proposes the boldest reform to address the abuses of public-sector unions. He writes, “The combination of union power with the pre-existing protections of the Civil Service has created a class of overpaid untouchables. Either a union or the Civil Service code is protection enough for anyone. Nobody needs both.” He recommends that Congress prohibit unions for federal employees. Camela Sutton, a homeschooling mother from Washington State, also recommends the elimination of public-sector unions.
Ensure constitutional literacy. Many readers believe that one reason the Founders’ legacy is in jeopardy is that too few Americans are familiar with it. Jerry Hashimoto, a pastry chef from Berkeley, Calif., suggests that high-school students should have to pass an exam demonstrating their familiarity with the Constitution and other founding documents as a prerequisite for graduation.
Tap the power of the states. Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute in Arizona writes that when our nation’s capital is under hostile control, the best course of action is recourse to the states. Because the Constitution reserves most powers to the states or to the people, state constitutions should be among our first lines of defense in the protection of our freedoms. State constitutions provide fertile ground for both offensive and defensive action. For example, he suggests that advocates of limited government could amend state constitutions to require states to decline unfunded mandates. Strong signals from state governments that they take their constitutional role seriously should make Washington more cautious about supporting overly ambitious national legislative agendas.
Apart from perhaps the online learning - which is a singularly bad idea as the purpose of education is collaborative learning - I fail to see how any of these ideas are new. Most of these ideas are, in fact, little more than the same old, same old tired complaints from the tax-phobic.