Coburn’s most recent efforts center around a “hold”—a legislative maneuver—he placed on a bill which earmarked $10 million to build an interchange between Coconut Road and I-75 near Fort Meyers, Fla. In its original form, the bill included money for widening I-75, but arrived at the White House in a different form. In plain English, that means that the president received a bill different from the one passed by Congress—presumably because a few legislators sought to pack more pork into the bill. By placing a hold on the bill, Coburn has stopped its progress and forced an investigation. This is not terribly sexy or exciting work, but these are the fights conservatives must pick in order to change the spending culture in Washington.
Flake has joined the battle against earmarks in a different way, most notably by highlighting a different pork barrel project every week on his website. “Congressman Flake Spotlights Egregious Earmark of the Week,” is Flake’s unique way of shining the light on Washington’s spending practices. Flake includes the amount of the project, in addition to an often witty comment about the selection. Regarding the $750,000 for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York found in the “President’s Day Edition,” Flake said, “those are some hefty library fines.”
Whether conservative action transpires at the local, state or federal level, it must revolve around big ideas. After all, when Americans clamor for “change,” what they really want are new ideas to solve problems—not empty platitudes heard from political candidates since time immemorial.
The temptation for every minority party is to become the party of “no.” But that will not be enough in a time when the country needs new public policy solutions. Instead, we have to be the party of “yes, but differently.” Indeed, that should be our answer when discussing healthcare, education and energy, among other issues: Do we want more Americans to have health insurance? Yes, but differently than Democrats. Do we want to protect the environment? Yes, but differently than Democrats.
In this regard, minority status has its advantages, as it frees the GOP to draw stark contrasts between a conservative and liberal vision for America.
Tax policy remains an area ripe for such contrast. Gingrich suggested that Republicans actively advocate for an optional flat tax. According to Gingrich, 84 percent of the American people would like to have a one-page tax form with an optional flat tax. Gingrich said that Republicans could “change the entire tax debate” by sending out mailers with a one-page tax form that said: “Hi. Would you like to just change the whole tax code and have the option, now you can keep the current code if you want. If you like record keeping and you think you need your deductions, and you want to pay your CPA and your tax accountant or attorney, that’s fine. But if you’d like simplicity, clarity, and certainty, you could have this.”
Gingrich believes this sort of approach appeals directly to the center-right instincts of the country. Indeed, every conservative should strive to see those very instincts manifested in actual policy. And no matter what the news may say, change like that begins a whole lot closer to home than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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