Sunday, March 22, 2009

An Olive Branch to Iran, A Really Good Republican Idea (We Need More!)

As Promised, Iranian Outreach
A story that has largely flown under the radar in the wake of the AIG hysteria this week is that President Obama sent a video message to Iranian leader Ayatollah Khameni, an unprecedented direct outreach. The message itself was very soft, avoiding specifics, but only seeking diplomacy with Iranian leaders.

What press coverage that there was of this largely missed the point and focused on the fact that there was no immediate response from the Iranian government. I suspect that this was never the point. The point was a direct outreach to the Iranian people, all of whom had access to the video, of a changed America.

The Iranian people (although not its government) have for many years been more moderate than much of the middle east and, in spite of anti-Iran governmental policies dating back to support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, a surprisingly pro-American and pro-western attitude. This direct outreach is clearly aimed at reinvigorating those pro-American feelings and may well be effective.

We will see if this is followed up with more direct diplomacy from the likes of Secretary of State Clinton. Stay tuned.

The Revenue Neutral Gas Tax -- A Great Idea (We Need More, GOP!)
I was speaking with a friend of mine the other night and noted off-hand that the massive projected deficits in the 10-year White House budget outline were going to turn me into a fiscal conservative. My friend's response was very thought provoking...he said "you've always been a fiscal conservative, you just don't have anyone representing those ideals right now."

On reflection, he is largely right. I have always favored market-based solutions over governmental ones, except when it is clear that the market cannot be guided to the right end. I think back to all the wonderful ideas that have come from the right in the past 20 years:

* Enterprise zones -- crafted by Jack Kemp 25 years ago to create tax incentives to encourage economic investment by private industry in poor neighborhoods
* The Earned Income Tax Credit -- Republicans regrettably are calling this idea, that their predecesors helped to create, welfare now. The EITC was designed as a negative tax rate for the poorest workers to encourage work as an alternative to welfare.
* Cap and Trade -- we forget sometimes in the debate of Cap and Trade for carbon emmissions that the market-based cap and trade concept was actually a Republican idea, inserted into the Clean Air Act of 1991 to encourage market-based competition to reduce sulfur emmissions. It has been very successful -- when was the last time you heard about acid rain?

So where are these brilliant market-based solutions from the Jack Kemp's and William Buckley's of today? There aren't enough of them, but let me highlight one very good idea that noted conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer in the Weekly Standard in January that has been picked up and championed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) -- the net zero gas tax.

The proposal, very simply, is a hike in gasoline taxes of $1-$2 / gallon to encourage reduced consumption and energy conservation, offset by a payroll tax credit of approximately the same dollar amount. This would have the effect of no increased tax burden on the average American while rewarding those who conserve gas and punishing those who do not.

What a great idea! It avoids the regressive problem with gas tax increases, encourages conservation and could reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

If President Obama truly seeks bi-partisanship, he should forcefully embrace this great idea from the right.

We need more of this from the right. A lot of my frustration with Republicans as they have non-stop criticized President Obama's proposal is a lack of credible alternatives.

What are Republicans proposing to reduce carbon emissions? To provide universal healthcare? To rebuild infrastructure? To improve education? To fix the auto industry?

Ideas needed! Stop just being the opposition and bring forward some good, market-based solutions to these problems and you might do a lot better in 2010 than you have the past 2 election cycles.

As my friend so aptly pointed out, I am a natural fiscal conservative -- I just also want to solve our nation's problems and in the absence of solutions coming from the right, I will gravitate towards the imperfect solutions proposed by the left. I believe much of America feels the same.

Next Up
A blog in the next week will be devoted to the site's core purpose -- electoral predictions. This will include:
(1) President Obama Poll Tracking and some historical comparisons to past Presidents
(2) 2012 Electoral Map Discussion based on those polls
(3) A relook at 2010 Senate and House races

We've seen some major shifts since my first pass -- I certainly can't call Connecticut a "Safe Democratic" seat anymore (Chris Dodd may just implode enough to lose.)

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