Debating the New Normal

Dan Holler

10/1/2012 12:01:00 AM - Dan Holler
Driving through the battleground of Virginia on my way south provided a moment of clarity not usually found when surrounded by the Washington Establishment. It is abundantly clear that for all the handwringing about the state of the presidential race, the fate of our nation is far from being decided.

On Wednesday, when President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney share the stage in Denver, we will learn whether the debates will play the same outsized role in the presidential campaign as they did in the primary.

Although foreign policy – until recently viewed as a strength for President Obama – drove the news cycle last month, the first debate will focus exclusively on domestic policy. On this front, there is a huge opening for conservative policies. Not only could those policies fix the problems created by decades of big government but they could also appeal to voters who are frustrated with what has become a dreadful and un-American new normal.

Regulations

Rather than defend his administration’s regulatory overreach, President Obama has often accused his detractors of wanting dirty air and unsafe water. The insincere implication is that any attempt to rollback Obama-era regulations will result in pollution-induced deaths at the pandemic rates we saw during the previous decade. While President Obama’s alternate reality requires a sharp rebuke, a thorough explanation of the damage caused by his regulations is also essential.

Regulations increase cost and create uncertainty. Manufacturing jobs are leaving the country for a variety of reasons, but one is the increase in electricity costs, as coal plants are being forced to close thanks to crippling EPA regulations. Businesses are sitting on piles of cash for numerous reasons too, but one is the uncertainty over what their health insurance costs and liabilities will be come 2014.

Equally as important is explaining the truly insidious aspects of regulations that frequently go unnoticed. Those harmed the most by the regulations are the little guys, who have neither the time to lobby Washington’s regulatory czars nor the means to hire the accountants and compliance officers. Remember, the big guys already have armies of lawyers, lobbyists, accountants and strategists who are either influencing the regulations or finding the next loophole.

Medicare

While President Obama and his allies continue to distort Obamacare’s impact on Medicare and the nature of conservative reform efforts, there is a compelling case to be made that real reform will save taxpayers money, produce better results for seniors and create a system that endures for our children and grandchildren.

Often lost in the Medicare debate is that the existing system requires seniors to purchase wrap around insurance policies that cover the cost of catastrophic care. Ninety percent of Medicare enrollees purchase this private insurance option; and ironically, AARP sells many of those plans. Seniors are also forced to navigate Medicare’s numerous programmatic parts, which is no small task.

Under a premium support system, the plethora of programs would be consolidated and there would be no need for an add-on insurance policy. Equally as important is that seniors could choose from a variety of insurance plans, including plans that cost less than the premium support provided to them.

The choice is clear: an antiquated and convoluted system designed by Lyndon Johnson or a modern system that allows seniors to choose the plan that works best for them.

Energy

From the failure of Solyndra to the obstruction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, no single issue captures President Obama’s policy failures more clearly than that of energy. The challenge for conservatives is to explain how their policies would make things better because the American people have become accustom to government boondoggles and high gas prices. Job creation in western Pennsylvania and places like North Dakota show the economic potential associated with domestic energy production (something folks in Texas have known for a long time).

America is not destined to suffer through a painful slow decline, but to reverse the trend, conservative solutions have to be explained in a way that resonates with the American people and make them understand a new normal is not inevitable.