WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a pro-growth, pro-job agenda this week that Republicans will run on in the fall to get the U.S. economy moving again. It's an agenda Donald Trump can and should embrace as his governing blueprint if he wins the presidency.
The six-part battle plan calls for a full restructuring of a dysfunctional tax code to boost new business investment and stronger economic growth; replacing Obamacare; enacting strict work requirements for welfare recipients; and repealing President Obama's job-killing environmental and labor regulations.
Among its targets: the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law, which has had a devastating impact on investment. The plan would also repeal "all climate-change regulations under the Clean Air Act."
Its national security plan includes strengthening border security and counterterrorism, and a constitutional section that would strike down Obama's dubious executive orders and reclaim Congress' "power of the purse."
Ryan's agenda calls for repealing Obamacare's health care mandates on businesses and individuals, all of its tax penalties and its sweeping coverage standards. Instead, Republicans would replace it with a range of refundable tax credits to help Americans buy their own health care insurance.
It is unusual for a House speaker to be laying out such a sweeping legislative campaign in a presidential election year when the party's nominee sets forth his own agenda. But Ryan and the rest of the House GOP leadership fear that their party will be hurt in November by Trump's crazy emphasis on building a 2,000-mile wall on the Mexican border, arresting and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, and sharply boosting import tariffs that would significantly raise consumer prices and further weaken our economy.
"The way I see it, if we don't like the direction the country is going -- and we don't -- then we have an obligation, a duty to offer an alternative. It is our duty to offer a better way, and that's what this is," Ryan said in an address to the American Enterprise Institute Wednesday about the GOP's health care reforms.
It was a bold political masterstroke by Ryan, who has endorsed Trump but hasn't hesitated to say where he does not agree with the real estate mogul's proposals. Instead, he has effectively put his party on the political offensive, giving GOP lawmakers a solid reform agenda to campaign on in the fall, separate and apart from some of Trump's most controversial proposals.
This isn't to say Trump won't embrace many, if not most, of Ryan's proposals. Party insiders say he would happily sign the GOP's sweeping tax and financial regulatory reforms in a New York minute, because they would ignite an explosive economic expansion -- after eight years of painfully slow growth under Obama's presidency.
Not only would stronger economic growth accelerate job creation, it would result in higher federal revenues to boot, thereby shrinking the budget deficit.
This is the latest and long-awaited leadership move by Ryan, who earlier this year put six party task forces to work on new proposals to deal with issues voters are concerned about most. Instead of relying on Trump to craft their agenda, which many fear would lead to widespread GOP losses, they will be retailing their own plans to make America prosperous again.
In many ways, Ryan's gambit is right out of the 1980 presidential campaign, when Rep. Jack Kemp sold Ronald Reagan on his across-the-board tax-cut plan that not only won over Democrats but ended a severe recession in Reagan's first term.
The economy took off like a rocket, growing by 5 to 7 percent in the third and fourth quarters of Reagan's third year, and rose even higher in 1984 when he won a second term by carrying 49 states.
Over the course of his presidency, Obama's mediocre, underperforming economy has been stuck in the 2 percent range. It barely grew by less than 1 percent in the first three months of this year. The labor market created only 38,000 jobs in May, and that sent stocks into a swoon on Wall Street.
Many Americans have had their jobs cut to part-time, or have been laid off, and the labor force has shrunk to alarming levels.
"Too many Americans have given up even looking for work and don't get counted, and were the adult labor force participation the same today as prior to the financial crisis, the unemployment rate would be 9.3 percent," says University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici.
This is what Janet Yellen, Obama's handpicked Fed chairman, calls the "new normal."
Over the last seven-plus years, Democratic lawmakers have never uttered a word of complaint about any of this. Republicans, however, are screaming bloody murder, blaming Obama's feckless economic policies and Yellen's impotent Fed policies.
"What is clear and verifiable is that this weak economy doesn't work for millions of working Americans," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee.
Yellen came under withering fire from Republicans, as Democrats defended her, during her testimony before the committee Wednesday. But The Associated Press reported that she admitted the dismal Obama economy was in part the result of "lackluster investment."
That will change next year if the Republicans get their way and send their tax reform bill to the White House. The only question is: Who will be in the Oval Office to decide its fate?