The Common Sense Charter – Draft #1 – Declaration of principles

I’m open to ideas on how to improve this…I’ve posted it in three parts for your consideration.  In all cases, try to remember that I’m looking for a compromise we can live with that is basically true to conservative principles and that has a prayer of convincing anyone beyond the GOP base for backing.

Common Sense Charter:
Renewing the Spirit of Pragmatism and Cooperation in Our Republic

Declaration of Principles

            We, the American people, in an effort to restore a closer connection between our elected officials and their constituents, do hereby affirm the following guiding principles:
  • ·        We reaffirm our belief that, while not every detail within our founding documents is necessarily perfect, this nation thrives because at its inception, a set of core beliefs evolved and took the form of a Constitutional Republic.  We hold that our unique system of governance is what has made us great and that it is worth preserving.
  • ·         We believe that our individual liberties must be defended, and that those rights are not granted by governments or leaders among men, but by our very nature.
  • ·         We believe that life is infinitely valuable and that our first duty as a nation is to safeguard life.
  • ·         We believe that civil society (the institutions occupying the space between the people, their large corporations and their government – the family, religious and charitable organizations, and the community) is far better equipped to deal with the problems of everyday life than the government or the private sector, and that the government should not cater to either the market or the public sector, but to civil society.
  • ·         We believe that government serves at the request of the people, and that the people deserve a government that works for them all, not for favored groups or industries.
  • ·         We believe that when a government becomes so large that it consumes nearly 30% of the nation’s net income annually and laws become so numerous and complex that the majority of the electorate is in violation of many of those rules at one time or another – when it is literally impossible to teach the functions of that government to our college students, let alone our children – that government must be simplified and streamlined.
  • ·         Our best research and the experience of human history has shown us that people are only able to maintain close collaborative associations with a relative few others – larger groups become chaotic and unstable.  We therefore affirm that the founders were correct – all politics is, and should be, local.  The Federal government should oversee as little as possible while upholding the rest of our commitments above.
  • ·         And finally, though we aspire to be a role model for the rest of the world, we believe that America has more than just the right – in fact the responsibility – to aggressively defend the interests of its citizens and that this requires a robust and well-funded national defense.

Common Sense Charter – Draft #1 – Declaration of Grievances

Declaration of Grievances

            Although we abhor the behavior of extremists such as could be found in Zucotti Park (New York City) at the start of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, and feel that extreme demands from both sides of the political spectrum in Washington have been counterproductive in recent years, we nonetheless believe that the combined outrage of the American Tea Parties and the National Occupy movement is neither irrational, nor unjustified.  As was made abundantly clear at both political conventions during the most recent presidential campaign season, neither political party can claim to represent even half of the American populace.  Republicans and Democrats alike are more interested in political gamesmanship and petty personal issues than in tackling the serious issues we now face.  What follows is a list of grievances that we feel affects every American, not just one party or one religion.
  • ·         In the last 40 years, the country has amassed a debt that now exceeds our projected net worth – $16 trillion (and counting), compared to annual earnings that typically amount to $13-15 trillion.  The debt has many sources – military conflicts, bloated spending on means-tested entitlements, an illogical tax code filled with loopholes that cost America billions of dollars each year, untraceable, massive waste in almost every Federal department and an economic collapse with a complex cause that can be summarized as joint incompetence.  Government interference in the mortgage lending market forced banks to accumulate large debts, and those banks compounded the situation by making unwise bets with their debt, in essence playing stock roulette at 30 to 1 odds.  And the response of both parties has been criminally negligent.  The debt amounts to a $50,000 tax on every American, but the Democrats persist in spreading the illusion that debts do not matter while Republicans insist on pointing fingers and promising spending cuts that never materialize, rather than accepting joint responsibility and pledging real reforms.  And, when forced to the negotiating table to talk about the debt, neither party was willing to give one iota that the other side wanted to fix this problem.
  • ·         Over the same time, our civil liberties – from religious freedom to the right to bear arms, from privacy protections to the freedom of speech – have been under attack from all sides.  Under the George W. Bush administration, the Patriot Act gave Federal investigators the power to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely without charge, to monitor communications and financial records of any American, and to seize property without a warrant if national security interests were involved.  Meanwhile, the Obama Administration thinks nothing of constructing enemy “kill lists” and murdering people using aerial drones, ordering all employers, including religious institutions and charities, to provide health insurance that covers drugs that some find morally offensive, forcing every American to buy a service many of them cannot afford, and allowing felons to patrol our polling places and engage in voter intimidation and fraud.  College campuses around the country have enacted speech codes (and even call them such!), and Federal Agents have handed illegal weapons to drug cartels in a hopeless and largely ineffective war on drugs – an act that has resulted in hundreds of innocent deaths – all while paradoxically calling for tightening of gun control laws in the US.  The founding fathers rebelled against the British for infringements on the rights of colonists that weren’t much worse.
  • ·         Our representative (democratic) republic began under the battle cry “no taxation without representation” – but today, most of the governing that gets done and most of the power granted to interpret and enforce the laws of the land falls to unelected, unaccountable groups or executive orders, rather than to the normal legislative process about which most Americans are at least somewhat aware.  Nothing checks the unyielding power of the Supreme Court – a formerly proud institution that now serves as a free lottery draw for both parties in their quest to extend Constitutional privileges granted the Federal government.  Neither liberals – who feel that the “Citizen’s United” ruling was political theater that threatens to give big business the ultimate power over our electoral process – nor conservatives – who believe that the great moral dilemma of our time (whether a child in-utero constitutes a human life and is thus guaranteed the same rights as any born person) was settled not by the people but by the Supreme Court acting against the will of the people, should feel comfortable with handing nine people so much power.  Particularly not when they have begun essentially crafting new legislation in their rulings as occurred in the split decision over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  At the same time, powers granted to groups like the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Federal Reserve (among others) now far outstrip anything that Congress can pass and those agencies have become abusive to the people on many occasions.  The EPA marches under a battle cry “crucify them!” when talking about coal fired power plants.  The NLRB presumed to tell the pride of American aviation (Boeing) that they could not move to a new industrial plant that had already been built simply because the plant resided in a state that allows non-union workers.  And in an unprecedented move, the Federal Reserve authorized the printing of forty billion dollars per month with no firm end date – and our elected officials have no power to affect their decision.  The Obama administration has presided over the creation of over 40 new “czar” positions and more than 25 new unelected boards of bureaucrats to oversee matters of policy that can no longer be tackled by a divided congress – this should alarm people of all political persuasions.  And finally, there is the executive order.  A form of power so rarely exercised prior to the most recent two administrations that it was front page news when it was invoked; the executive order has generally been limited to appointments, matters of cabinet business and internal White House policy.  However, George W. Bush invoked the executive order eight times during his eight years in office, and, thus far, Barack Obama has made use of it 49 times, the last three of which gutted preexisting laws duly passed by the legislative branch and signed by earlier presidents.  The ongoing subversion of the power of the legislature in favor of the executive branch and unelected officials defies the will of the framers and must be halted.
  • ·         And speaking of taxation, did you know that General Electric – a company which made over 13 billion in profits in 2011 – paid no taxes in 2011?  I mentioned our illogical tax code before, but this is demands its own discussion.  The bizarre patchwork nature of our tax code – which now stands at over 25,000 pages of law so that even the best tax lawyers no longer understand it – is the direct result of a pernicious disease that threatens our freedom, our economy and our way of life.  I’m talking, of course, about cronyism.  Occupy protesters were right to be furious that government money meant to revitalize the economy went into the pockets of wealthy Wall Street banks (supposedly to stabilize debt and allow banks to lend again).  But they placed the blame on the wrong people.  They attacked all of Wall Street – and capitalism in general – rather than attacking cronyism.  The 2009 “stimulus” bill sent over 800 billion dollars in new spending to countless organizations – but if you look carefully at who got the money, there is a strong correlation with those who were hefty campaign contributors for Obama in 2008.  Obama is not the first President to play this sort of game – conservatives are mistaken if they believe their party is blameless.  The effects of cronyism can easily be seen if you take a trip from Richmond, VA to Baltimore, MD.  Traveling along the roads of Northern Virginia, you will see industries ravaged by the recent economic downturn, urban areas struggling to keep everyone off the streets and alive…and then it all stops.  You arrive in Fairfax County and are surrounded by pure opulence.  Our capital has not even noticed how much the rest of us are struggling.  And as you exit Prince Georges County in Maryland and continue north, the weak economy resurfaces.  They are getting rich in Washington by looting from all of us (to the tune of 30% of our annual earnings each year in government budgeting and debts worth more than we make in a year).  Cronyism and corporate favoritism must end.  The fault does not sit with capitalism – in fact, government intrusions into the free market are antithetical to capitalism.  We must force Washington out of the business of picking winners and losers in the marketplace and rewarding political allies to the detriment of the rest of us.
  • ·         The first duty of the government is to defend its citizenry and preserve life.  Other than an authorization to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan following the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, our government has not officially declared war (with a vote of approval from Congress) since Vietnam, yet our military has seen more than its fair share of action.  While we do not share the unrealistic expectations of some that America has the capacity to recede from the world without inviting our enemies to bolder actions against us or imperiling our economy, we recognize that the framers intended war to be a move that is politically scrutinized and answerable to the will of the people through their elected officials, and thus should require a formal declaration of war passed by both houses of Congress.  Unfortunately, through use of expanded powers from the executive branch, we have waged undeclared wars costing the country trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives without the consent of the people.  This practice must be curtailed and the powers granted the President as commander in chief must be more strictly defined.
  • ·         At the same time, the defense budget – traditionally a lifeline for our brave men and women in combat – has been systematically and arbitrarily attacked.  The Navy reports that we need a fleet fully 40% larger than the fleet projected to be in service in 2016 to carry out the mission of defending US interests overseas.  The Marines who stormed Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom routinely did so without the equipment they needed because, in the absence of a formal declaration of war, the resources simply weren’t there.  We recognize that the military is not immune from wasteful spending, and we call for our leaders in Washington to make cuts to the defense budget that address this wasteful spending, rather than slashing the bottom line, and we call for cuts to be reinvested in military assets – ships, gear and research and development – not to be cast aside for other non-defense spending.
  • ·         At the same time, we must learn from the mistakes of past administrations.  Nation building cannot be accomplished in parts of the world that lack the basic infrastructure, education and economic potential to see it through when we’re gone.  We failed in Vietnam, we failed in Iran (1970s/1980s), we failed in North Africa and the Balkans, and we are failing in Iraq and Afghanistan today.  We cannot build nations in parts of the world where regional conflicts are nonstop and the culture does not respect individual liberty.  Too many lives and too many resources have been squandered in parts of the world that we never had any hope of helping in a lasting way.  This too must end.
  • ·         The decadence, decline and in some cases abject failure of the modern public education system is not just an abdication of our responsibilities, but also a guarantee that children in struggling communities – those who are most in need of a quality education – begin their adult lives with enormous disadvantages that cannot be solved through racial or economic preference systems, government means-tested entitlements or job training programs.  Teachers, by in large, do the best they can in a bad situation, but teachers unions and the government officials whose candidacy they support claim the problem is funding when that cannot possibly be the case.  We spend almost 250% as much per child on education as we did as little as a decade ago, and the results just keep getting worse.  Being a tenured teacher in our public schools (in most states) is one of the few jobs you can have where your performance doesn’t matter one iota for the security of your career and where parents have no say in where their children go to school.  This is an intolerable state of affairs for the parents of children being raised in inner-city and very rural schools, and even children in opulent suburbs aren’t getting the education they once did unless they get into a charter or magnet school.  Readers should consider what would happen to them if they were merely 12% proficient at their jobs for twenty years.  That is the current reading proficiency rate nationwide – and we’re doing worse still in math and science.  And that is outrageous.
  • ·         The rational course for any nation hoping to become less dependent on unfriendly trade with partners who are opposed to your way of life would be to everything in your power to become independent in those areas – become an exporter, not an importer.  In general, the trade deficit has been a growing problem for the US since the early 1990s, but nowhere is that shortfall more apparent than in the world of energy production.  Not only is the regulatory state crippling energy production on public lands while politicians speak of “all of the above” energy policies, but the tax code, the EPA, and the diversion of public monies to competitors to traditional energy sources in an attempt to force a change in the market have all conspired to delay the exploration, acquisition and refining of countless billions of barrels of oil and natural gas, and the implementation of clean coal technology by thirty years.  Meanwhile, unproductive and inefficient energies like bio-diesel  wind and solar consume American tax dollars and the cost of gasoline skyrockets.  If Americans are tired of paying an unsustainable, high price for gas but do not wish to move to the inhospitable urban centers and give up their freedom to drive – if we’re tired of fighting unwinnable ground wars for Middle Eastern oil and having to kiss up to murderers like Hugo Chavez to appease the South American portion of OPEC, then we must ask – why are we not using all of our natural resources?  Every other country in the world does.  We recognize that environmental stewardship is crucial to our long term viability as a nation (just ask Russia about its poisoned water supplies and drastically shortened life span), but a proper balance must be struck between environmental stewardship and the millions of jobs and billions of dollars we’re missing each year that could help our at risk and poor citizens aspire to the American dream of upward mobility, security and the happiness that they are guaranteed the right to pursue.

Each American may have a list of grievances great and small that could be added to this accounting, but we believe that this document should speak to the larger issues of our time.  We will, however, now turn out attention to a “Common Sense” platform that we believe represents a balanced, fair-minded approach to government that we hope will encourage cooperation and political progress.

Common Sense Charter – Draft #1 – Declaration of Platform

Declaration of Common Sense Policy Objectives
  • 1.      Voter Fraud Prevention Act – The most important part of civic life in a representative democracy is the act of voting.  Both parties accuse the other of rigging the system, but who’s to blame does not matter – voter fraud is a crime that threatens our way of life and is therefore as serious as treason.  Congress should act now to enforce a national standard for voting procedure that includes freely accessible mandatory voter identification and the supervision of the ballots at each polling place by a member of the U.S. Census Bureau or state board of elections, not by party activists from within the precinct.
  • 2.      Mandatory Annual Performance Audit – Across the Federal agencies and departments, untold billions of dollars have been squandered or simply misappropriated.  All Federal departments and bureaus should submit to a once-yearly financial audit by the Internal Revenue Service requiring all such agencies to document all expenditures (except in cases where national security could be compromised from the release of classified information, which shall be presented only to those with the clearance to see and review such information).  Each department shall be required to make the case for their expenses based on tangible returns on investment and the fulfillment of the program’s stated mandate.  This information should be publicly available to foster accountability and transparency, and the IRS shall make recommendations for program closures or further review by Congress based on this information.  Congress shall determine whether those programs should be continued.
  • 3.      Reexamine the Mandate of the Federal Reserve – Since its inception, the Federal Reserve has been tasked with two often conflicting mandates.  They must control inflation and limit unemployment.  We are dubious that a government financial institution can truly control employment, and thus recommend that the Federal Reserve be required only to focus on inflation and the stability of our currency.
  • 4.      Electoral College Reform – We believe that all politics begins locally.  We therefore recommend that the President be chosen by electors – one from each congressional district and two at large electors from each state – by the popular vote in each congressional district (rather than each state), and by the state popular vote for the at large electors.  This eases the problem of local voter disenfranchisement (for those living in liberal parts of conservative states or conservative parts of liberal states), encourages a greater level of knowledge about local and state politics, and forces Presidential candidates to build truly national coalitions, rather than focusing on a handful of swing states and ignoring the rest of the country.
  • 5.      Readable Bill Act – Congress routinely passes multi-thousand-page bills that no one has read in their entirety, and many in Congress express frustration with the notion that they’re being asked to vote on something that they have not read or properly understood.  We find it inexcusable when our political leaders say that we need to pass a piece of legislation before we can find out what’s in it.  We also realize that a huge part of the waste in government spending is written into so called “riders” and in the fine print of omnibus spending bills that never even get read before being approved by Congress.  We therefore insist that all bills must be read in full before coming to a vote in either house of Congress.
  • 6.      State Veto Amendment to the Constitution – The Federal Government consists of a bicameral legislature and three branches in order to promote a system of checks and balances that ensures that the will of the people everywhere is being heeded.  However, increasing numbers of Americans (now over 70% according to both Gallup and Rasmussen) feel that the Federal Government does not represent them.  We therefore propose one additional check on the authority of the Federal government.  We hold that a supermajority of 60% of the states (by either the vote of the state legislature or a popular referendum) should have the right to veto any bill passed by Congress.
  • 7.      American Energy Reinvestment Act – We hold that America has the right to responsibly harvest its own natural resources to provide for the common wealth and security of its citizens.  Environmental stewardship is of crucial importance to our long term survival, but such stewardship must be placed in the context of the real-world costs of forestalling American energy production.  This act would approve construction and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline, open Federal lands to exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas, invest in clean coal technology and small-reactor nuclear technology, relax regulations on the implementation of nuclear power plants and end subsidies to green corporations in favor of research and development investments through the proper channels (government think tanks, the university system and scientific foundations).  Our politicians always talk about investing in future sustainable energy sources.  We agree that this is important, but we understand that public investment should be limited to developing the ideas of tomorrow as was done with Arpanet (the predecessor to the modern world wide web), nuclear fission (Manhattan Project) and computing technology (WWII era automated code-cracking).
  • 8.      Repeal and Replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – apart from our objection to the formation of a board of unelected bureaucrats who will decide what care a senior citizen can get, as well as the mandate that all of us must purchase health insurance whether we can afford it or not, and our general frustration for the byzantine nightmare of legalese that fills this 2700 page bill, we believe that healthcare reform shouldn’t be done in one sweeping law, but in a series of smaller ones.  There are many things to like about Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, but no one in the government, let alone the rest of the country, fully understands this law or can fully predict its impacts on the state of healthcare in America.  We agree that public exchanges should be offered for people who slip through the cracks in the private market.  Group buying power does in fact reduce healthcare costs for many.  We also believe that America’s college graduates should have some protection when they get out of college as most of today’s young people do not establish a steady career right away.  We even approve of the ACA’s efforts to curb excessive billing practices, but we believe there are better ways to achieve that goal than arbitrary cuts to Medicare payouts (starting with transparency in health care billing, tort reform on medical malpractice cases, and competition between public healthcare markets and private ones.  We therefore support, in principle, the Ryan/Wyden Medicare reform package, though we would go issue by issue, rather than passing a single large and difficult to read bill.
  • 9.      Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank – If you have ever worked for a large or moderate sized corporation, you are probably aware of the enormous cost of complying with Sarbanes-Oxley.  This legislation was passed shortly after thousands of people lost everything during the collapse of Enron and it came out that Enron had been falsifying records for years.  As commonly happens when America responds to something that offensive, the bill was a horrific overreaction, requiring an overbearing and rigorously standardized set of accounting practices that cost American businesses billions of dollars each year.  If you run a small business looking to expand, you have no doubt been warned not to do so rashly because the cost of becoming a larger corporation could destroy you.  And if you are currently looking for a job, there is a good chance that you are one of hundreds of thousands who can’t find work because Sarbanes-Oxley discourages small businesses from growing and bigger businesses from expanding their workforce.  There simply has to be a better way to oversee the accounting practices of companies.  Meanwhile, if you’re looking to get a new mortgage or sell your house or get a new line of credit to start a business or buy a car, there’s a good chance that you have encountered the burden placed on small lenders by Dodd-Frank.  Ironically, small lenders did not cause the fiscal crisis.  The big banks falling under the protection of this legislation (which recognizes that its own demands are unfeasible if applied on a larger scale and thus exempts the six largest lenders from the new rules) are the ones who let us down.  When your response to failure is to reward the subject who failed, you have lost your way.
  • 10.  Repeal the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act – Ever since McCain-Feingold, the manner in which campaigns have been run has become decentralized to the point where the actual candidates have little to no control over what is being said in their name.  This legislation and the aforementioned “Citizen’s United” ruling have led to elections heavy on advertising paid for by independent super-PACs.  Members of both parties have expressed frustration with this arrangement.  We believe that elections should be centrally managed and that the candidates should be free to raise money however they can, so long as the donors are American citizens.  We agree with the many who have expressed concerns about multinational corporations contributing heavily to campaigns with money at least partially obtained overseas and we therefore recommend that individuals within a corporation be allowed to contribute as much as they wish, but that the corporation itself not be allowed to finance a campaign, and hold that the same standard should apply to unions (both public and private).  A collective of people is not the same as an individual, and should not be granted the same legal standing.
  • 11.  School Choice Voucher Program – Require that all parents who cannot afford private education (as determined by means-testing) be allowed a voucher worth the amount of money, per child, that would normally be given to the public school district in which each child would be enrolled to be used to enroll that child in the school of their choice.  Require all private/parochial schools who wish to participate in the voucher program to guarantee admission to all students in need at the price of the voucher (wealthier students can be charged at any rate), and pay for the vouchers by subtracting the amount from the district’s budget.  Require all participating schools to meet basic educational standards and evaluate the qualified institutions on a regular basis.
  • 12.  Modern Military Act – Our first duty is to our national defense, and in this regard we are failing due to military wastefulness and arbitrary budget cuts that weaken our standing fleets.  Restore the defense budget to pre-sequestration levels subject to a full audit requiring all programs to find ways to intelligently cut costs by 15%.  Use the savings to invest in military infrastructure and modern equipment.
  • 13.  Central and South American Trade Agreements – America has not forged a significant new trade partnership since the creation of NAFTA.  That is contributing to our continued economic decline and to our declining influence in global geopolitics.  We must expand our free trade agreements to include the developing economies of Central and South America.  Such new arrangements would create economic opportunities here at home and stabilize parts of the western hemisphere that have been in flux even as their economies grow.  This is essential to our long term security.
  • 14.  Tax Reform and Simplification – In keeping with our desire to make government work for the people and allow the people some hope of understanding the law, we propose that the nightmarishly complicated tax code be streamlined as recommended by a panel of economists and tax law experts appointed by the Congressional Budget Office.  Recommendations for simplification of the tax code should follow a rubric of revenue neutrality (for now), bill readability (the simplest tax code possible that is revenue neutral, economically viable, and fair enough to gain bipartisan support), and the dramatic reduction in tax loopholes for corporations and investors, as well as competitiveness with international corporate and investment tax rates.
  • 15.  Balanced Budget Amendment – The second most important duty of a Federal government (besides defending life and the needs of its citizens) is maintaining a fiscally responsible and solvent budget.  Both political parties have demonstrated an unwillingness to do even this basic duty.  When we fail to balance our own budgets, creditors come calling and we lose our property and even our home.  Why shouldn’t the same standards apply to the Federal Government?  We therefore recommend the drafting of a full balanced budget amendment and will support candidates who aggressively campaign for its passage.  This amendment should allow for temporary overages for natural disasters and wartime expenses (only in the case of a formally declared war) which must be paid back promptly, and should require a budget to be passed every year by both houses of Congress with the previous budget repeating if a new one is not ratified.
  • 16.  Congressional Veto of Executive Orders – Much as the Congress is endowed with the authority to override a Presidential veto of a bill passed by the legislature if a 2/3 majority in either house can be found in favor of the override order, a similar check must be placed on Presidential recess appointments and executive orders.  As such, if a 2/3 majority of either house of Congress votes to veto an executive order or appointment; the executive order shall be null and void.  Placing some firm limit on the power of the executive branch goes a long way toward restoring our common faith in the office of the Presidency and is in keeping with the founders’ ideal of a government restrained by checks and balances.
  • 17.  Formal Definition of Life – As a part of our government’s duty to defend life, we must agree on a common definition of human life.  The Supreme Court decided this without a proper debate but we feel that such a debate is necessary to heal this long-festering divide in our electorate.  We propose an amendment to the Constitution formally defining life as beginning at conception and ending at death.  The framers did not place this definition into their Constitution because they could not conceive of a man who would believe otherwise.  We recognize that this part of our charter may be controversial to some, but on this issue, we believe it is only common sense that a line be drawn defining life that is philosophically and morally defensible.  Legislation regulating abortion could then proceed without involving the Supreme Court – said legislation should make exceptions to abortion limits for similar reasons that exceptions are made in criminal murder cases.  For example, when the life of a mother is in danger, abortion would be considered self-defense.  When a woman raped, though we would prefer she choose to spare a would-be innocent life, she is justified in making her body whole and fending off the results of her attack.
  • 18.  End the War on Drug Users – While the recreational use of certain drugs is dangerous and threatens the individual liberties of others, we do not believe that jailing junkies produces a positive outcome in this war.  In fact, we see little benefit in expending as much money and time on the drug crusade as we currently do, and even less to be gained by jailing small time users at taxpayer expense.  Offer users amnesty from prosecution in exchange for assistance tracking down distributors.  Decriminalize the use of lesser recreational drugs like ecstasy and cannabis (issue fines and community service requirements, rather than hefty jail time), but treat minors caught with such drugs the same way we treat minors drinking under age.  Throw the book at distributors only.
  • 19.  Defend Freedom of Speech and Commerce on the Internet – The web has been a safe haven of freedom for new entrepreneurs, the free press and political movements since it became widely used in the 90s.  However, this new medium is now attracting attention from governmental agencies and particularly from the United Nations.  The UN wishes to levy a global sales tax on internet transactions, for example.  We find this concept abhorrent in that in violates our national sovereignty and our individual rights.  We also resist initiatives like the recently derailed “Stop Online Piracy Act.”  Regulations, once they are introduced, are nearly impossible to restrain, and the web must remain a place for the free exchange of ideas and goods, lest we fall down a slippery slope of ever tightening international controls on what is said and done online.
  • 20.  Declare China a Currency Manipulator, Levy Tariffs – China has long held the value of their currency down and kept regulatory costs extremely low (lower than most developed nations) for certain key segments of its economy in order to make their exports globally competitive – often at great risk to human safety both for Chinese workers in sweat shops and for American citizens (see: Jiffy Peanut Butter contamination, for example).  Declare them in violation of international currency agreements and begin levying painful tariffs on Chinese goods.  Force them to be advantageous trading allies or take our money and invest it in other growing economies.
  • 21.  Legalize Gay Civil Unions, Draw Distinction between Civil Union and Marriage – The Federal government has long held that encouraging marriage is beneficial for the economy and for the upward mobility of all people.  As a result, many special privileges extend to married couples through Federal legislation.  We have, however, in recent years come to the realization that for many, marriage is a religious vocation or at least a spiritual bonding between man and woman.  The rise in homosexuality and monogamous homosexual relationships, however, is another expression of love and intimacy not recognized by many religious institutions, and the religious connotation, alongside the legal statuses attached to marriage have led to an unnecessary conflict between advocates for gay rights and religious institutions that we feel can be best resolved by recognizing gay civil unions with all legal rights conferred to marriage while drawing a distinction between legal union and marriage, now defined as a relationship consecrated by a religious institution.  Should gay couples wish to obtain a marriage, rather than a civil union, they will surely find a faith that believes such practices are licit.
  • 22. Open Our Borders to Streamlined, Monitored Legal Immigration, Offer One-Time Amnesty to Current Illegal Immigrants, Enforce Immigration Laws – Last but not least, we come to immigration.  We hold that a country has the right to know who is residing within its borders, who is coming and going, and what is the legal status of all residents.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this position.  We also believe that starting your life in a new country by not respecting the laws of that country is an act of lawlessness that should not be encouraged – the goal for new arrivals should be to fully participate in the American way of life.  And we are aware that creating an illegal immigration “magnet” – an incentive to emigrate here illegally – only encourages further lawlessness.  We therefore propose a one-time offer of amnesty to current residents who are illegal with a clear expiration date, followed by the strict enforcement of existing immigration laws (and the necessary border patrol resources and infrastructure to make that task manageable).  This avoids the ongoing magnet problem, the problem of needlessly rounding up illegal immigrants for deportation, AND the problem of ongoing illegal immigration we’re trying to solve in the first place.  At the same time, we propose to offer far fewer restrictions for legal immigration and multiple easy paths to permanent citizenship, including professional skills, full time employment for those here on temporary visas originally, college degrees or acceptance into an American university, and the passing of a basic citizenship exam.  Open the gates to anyone wishing to be an American – patrol the border to keep out anyone trying to get here illegally.

It is our fond hope that even if you don’t agree with every single item on this list, you will consider our overall arguing position as coming from a genuine desire to see progress made in solving America’s greatest challenges in a manner that allows most Americans to feel like they got a fair deal.  If you are a candidate for office, we hope you will agree to promote most or all of our positions and publicly adopt our spirit of fair-mindedness and dedication to American exceptionalism in times of crisis.

NRO On Fire

So far, I’ve seen three very good posts at NRO today. We have, for example, Jonah Goldberg making the following observation:

For reasons, good and bad, voters don’t treat tax dollars the way they do their own dollars. They don’t demand quality. They don’t demand accountability. They don’t push for efficiency. Many people think the government should spend money as if it comes from someplace other than the wallets of citizens and that what we get for it should be graded on some spiritual, emotional, philanthropic or metaphysical curve. How we spend for X so often seems to matter more than how much X is actually delivered.

And that, dear friends, is why we’re trillions of dollars in debt. In reality, we should be clamoring for a full-blown audit of the federal government. Billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted every year on things that don’t benefit the American people — yet every time this demonstrable fact is mentioned, the message-bearer is portrayed as someone who hates Granny, the poor, teachers, etc. It’s absolutely ridiculous and completely irrational. (And hopefully Matt will address it in his conservative charter.)

Meanwhile, Katrina Trinko accurately describes what we as conservatives really support:

We are all takers sometimes. (And we try to be makers to the best of our abilities.) The question is whom we are taking from: from the government, which forces our fellow citizens to give up their money, or from our fellow citizens directly, when they give to us of their own volition?

Paul Ryan, to his credit, did directly bring up this idea in a speech on poverty in October. “Most times,” he said, “the real debate is about whether [people’s needs] are best met by private groups, or by the government; by voluntary action, or by more taxes and coercive mandates from Washington. The short of it is that there has to be a balance — allowing government to act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do. There’s a vast middle ground between the government and the individual.”

The GOP vision isn’t about ruthless individuals, striking out on their own and thriving or failing as their luck and innate abilities permit. Instead, it’s about a society where merit and hard work are rewarded, where neighbors help each other in tough times, and where everyone works together to build a thriving nation. It’s about a country where religious organizations are allowed to follow their spiritual convictions, where capital flows from the rich to the start-up businesses, and where no one is as alone and friendless as faceless Julia unless she chooses to be.

But of course, as Trinko notes, we can only achieve that vision if we put some serious thought into how we can restore our civil society. When I was in college, I was a member of an a cappella group. To sustain our group’s expenses and raise money to record an album, we would often perform for the local Knights of Columbus or the Elks. And do you know what I noticed? These groups were dominated by senior citizens. This anecdotal evidence supports what Robert Putnam observed years ago about our society: We are no longer joiners. And yes — this trend is very destructive and very useful for the left.

Finally, Jim Geraghty makes good points about the uselessness of being nasty:

There’s a word that accurately summarizes the perspective of Republicans who believe that Latinos voted for Obama because they want amnesty for criminals and endless welfare, that young people voted for Obama because they’re ignorant and want free birth control, and that blacks voted for Obama because they wanted free cell phones: contempt. And it’s hard to persuade people to adopt your perspective, join your movement, or vote for your candidate when you speak of them with contempt.

I felt personally convicted in the Christian sense when I read that because I have been guilty of making those judgments. We all have to be careful, I think, not to let our contempt for the idea of leftism devolve into contempt for the people who vote for leftist candidates. Geraghty is right: We won’t successfully convince anyone if we put on an angry face. Let the leftists be bitter, arrogant, and small — and let us embrace optimism and compassion in response.

Coming Soon – A New Conservative Charter

A friend of mine has recently decided that he’d like to have some impact on the thought process within the GOP and especially the tea parties, because, as he has said numerous times, ours is the “stupid party” in that they seem completely inept at forming a strategy that appeals to anyone but white married people and entrepreneurs (which we have just demonstrated cannot consistently win elections), and thus, our best hope is to organize and re-brand the tea party under a new heading.

Whittle’s Common Sense Party concept makes sense – it hearkens back to the revolutionary pamphlet that persuaded the American populace to side with independence from Great Britain, while at the same time taking the public relationships high road – we are the people of common sense.  We are the ones who can look reality in the face and tackle it while others flea into an imaginary world of bottomless government spending and top down solutions.  Most independent voters like to think of themselves as rational.  We will therefore spend our time arguing that the other side is completely and totally irrational and that our side deals only in reason.

My friend has inspired me to attempt to draft a new Common Sense charter.  I’ll post a first draft here in the coming days and I’ll be open to suggestions for amendments and clarifications…but I would like to make an effort to spread the word once we have something we can use…I intend to forward it along to every major conservative network, newspaper and blog I can reach and see how many of them are interested.  I intend to go to tea party websites and pass it along there as well.  And I am hoping that it will evolve like a snowball rolling down a ski slope.

So stay tuned for the draft…I’m working on it.

I, Pencil

“I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.” – Leonard E. Read.

Cede Ground on Social Issues? For the Most Part, No.

The only thing I would recommend changing slightly is the opposition to gay marriage. We should absolutely hold the line on protecting religious liberty — and we should continue the conversation on marriage and its true purpose on a cultural level (more on that below). But surely there is some clever way we can tweak the rules for hospital visitation and the like and thereby publicly acknowledge that our LGBT fellow citizens are people with feelings that deserve our respect. Right now, many in the Obama camp – especially the folks who are my age and younger – are convinced we hate gays and wish them ill. Is this a grossly unfair characterization? For the vast majority of us, yes. But if we keep ignoring that attitude, the left will continue to hang it like an albatross around our neck. Reality is what it is, and complaining about Obama’s opportunistic flip-flop on the issue isn’t going to change that.

That being said, I believe it would be a huge mistake to abandon our identity by completely giving up the beachhead on social issues. We have a moral duty to uphold the truth, no matter how unpalatable it may sound to ears that have been stuffed with pop-cultural trash. And what is that truth, pray tell? Simply this: The promotion of radical libertinism has been an unmitigated disaster for our society. Even the academics are with us on this one; social science has illustrated time and time again that women and children in particular are struggling in our current cultural milieu. And here’s the key for those who fear the Leviathan: High divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates not only wound millions spiritually, emotionally, and economically, but they also breed a population that looks to the state for comfort. We conservatives all thought Obama’s “Julia” info-graphic was bizarre and creepy because the eponymous character apparently had no one in her life to lean on besides the government — but to a second generation single mother, that info-graphic was comforting because she genuinely feels she has no alternative. Exit polls reveal that Obama overwhelmingly won over those voters who were looking for a leader who “understood my problems.” Were these voters wrong-headed? Hell to the yes! If you’re worried about putting gas in your car and food on your table, Obama is the last candidate you should’ve picked. More generally, a distant politician in Washington is too busy to genuinely give a rat’s butt about you personally. Still, we ignore what such an exit poll result indicates at our own peril.

Again, if we wish to maintain our honor and build a society conducive to liberty, we can’t set aside the social issues for the sake of political convenience. However, I do think we need to change our approach to the debate. Number one, I think we should hold a mandatory boot camp for all pro-life politicians in which they will be aggressively trained – with electronic dog collars if necessary – on what they should and shouldn’t say. Because really — we should never again allow the mainstream media to tarnish our brand because some well-meaning but clueless Akin put his foot – no, his whole leg – in it. Blah, blah, media bias and all that, but let me reemphasize: Reality is what it is. We should work to take down the media, yes, but in the meantime, we have to adapt. Number two, as Andrew Klavan and others have observed, we can’t be afraid to go after the culture. I saw somebody suggest in the comments of one blog that we spend our money on ads that present our pro-life, pro-family views in ways that are logical, appealing and non-threatening, and I think that’s a good idea. Personally, I nominate the young folks at 1Flesh for that task. We also need to break out of the Christian ghetto and send our kids to the viper’s den that is Hollywood to make movies and TV shows that, at the very least, won’t automatically endorse the idea that we social conservatives are imbecilic bigots who want to beat up gays and send women back to the kitchen. The arguments on our side are sound, but they’re not reaching the masses because our cultural gate keepers are blocking the transmission. I say we storm those gates.

Politically Incorrect Lyrics – American Idiot

As I’m feeling particularly ungenerous to the low-information voters who once again saddled us with Obama and a democrat controlled senate…it’s time for some more Green Day (he owns the original song…but he can’t stop me from parodying it under “fair use”.  This time…

American Idiot

Don’t wanna be an American idiot!
Don’t want a nation ruled by the media!
And can you hear the sound of cult mania?
Soaring rhetoric mind-fucks America!

Welcome to a new kind of government –
All across this alien continent –
Where they tell us everything’s OK –
As long as we dream of tomorrow –
And don’t see the torment and sorrow –
There’s no need to argue.

Well maybe I’m the last man, America
I’m not a part of a soulless agenda.
Now everybody bow to propaganda,
And sing along, the age of intolerance.

Welcome to a new kind of government –
All across this alien continent –
Where they tell us everything’s OK –
As long as we dream of tomorrow –
And don’t see the torment and sorrow –
There’s no need to argue.

Don’t wanna be an American idiot.
Don’t want to look for the easiest answers.
Not gonna pretend that I’m Robin Hood.
That’s all that’s left for idiot America!

Welcome to a new kind of government –
All across this alien continent –
Where they tell us everything’s OK –
As long as we dream of tomorrow –
And don’t see the torment and sorrow –
There’s no need to argue.

Demographics Should Not Determine Our Destiny

The left is absolutely certain that the changing “color” of our electorate will assure a permanent majority for them — and at the moment, many conservatives are jumping onto that bandwagon in the wake of Romney’s catastrophic loss. But personally, I think this is all BS; actually, come to think of it, I find it vaguely racist. The fact that 90%+ of the African American electorate and 70%+ of the Hispanic and Asian electorate supported Barack Obama does not indicate some inborn genetic propensity to vote Democrat. What it indicates is the following dangerous political reality: The Democrats engage minority voters, and the Republicans are still, for the most part, avoiding them.

If the world were a just place, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians would be in our column. The ground swell of support for school choice, for example, indicates that African Americans and Hispanics have sincere aspirations for success in the traditional American mold. There are also currents of social conservatism in both populations that can and should be tapped. And as for Asians? Quite frankly, the fact that the Asian electorate supported Obama boggles my mind. After years of working with Asian entrepreneurs and Asian students, I can absolutely confirm that they believe in the American Dream and are practically killing themselves to achieve it. (My Asian boss, for example, is working at least 80 hours a week running two different businesses.)

We conservatives, sadly, continue to fall down on the job when it comes to reaching out to minority groups. We do have something to offer them, and it has nothing to do with growing government or handing out freebies. What we have is a philosophy of governance that, if put into practice, will lift all boats. Being a permanent client of the state – i.e., what the left ultimately wants for minorities, women, etc. – is deeply, deeply dehumanizing. On the other hand, getting a world-class education and an opportunity to, say, start your own hair braiding business without government regulators breathing down your neck is empowering. Unfortunately, the Democrats are playing a steady drumbeat – “The Republicans are racist! The Republicans are racist!” – and the response on the Republican side, as far as the average minority voter is concerned, is a damning silence. I’m not trying to downplay the valiant efforts of folks like Alfonzo Rachel or Star Parker, but at the moment, that’s still not enough. We need to be bolder. We need to push back with greater force. I said the other day that my Facebook acquaintances – who are part of the white creative class, by and large – are unteachable. But that is not true of people in general. We need to devote more of our resources to countering the “narrative.”

More Wisdom from Andrew Klavan

While Bill Whittle urges us (correctly, in my view) to ignore the government and pour our time and treasure into forming horizontal, decentralized institutions that conform to our values, Andrew Klavan reminds us (also correctly) to devote more time to reforming the culture:

The Long Game

Read the whole thing — because when you get right down to it, the unholy trio that is academia, the legacy news media, and Hollywood is hugely responsible for the break down of our civil society, and we need to be more aggressive in combating that rot.