Friday, June 5, 2009

The New Ideas the Republicans Need

It's widely agreed that to avoid becoming irrelevant, the Republican Party needs new ideas, better ones than the Democrats'.

If I were drafting the Republican Party's platform, these would be its central planks:

Schools and colleges must issue a report card on themselves. Today, schools and especially colleges get away with terrible-quality teaching and have essentially no accountability to students. Every school and college should be required to prominently issue a report card on itself (spot-checked by government) to prospective students and their parents. The School Report Card would report (on an A to F scale):
  • How much growth in reading, math, thinking, etc. its students make--broken out by initial achievement level.
  • Graduation rate. The report released two days ago by the American Enterprise Institute shows the shockingly low percentage of college freshmen who graduate if even given six(!) years--it averages only 53% across so-called four-year colleges, but even that is misleadingly high because the most selective 100 of the nation's 1600 "four-year" colleges have extraordinarily high graduation rates--because they accept mainly superstar students.
  • The results of a customer satisfaction survey, in which students (and in the case of K-12 students, parents) rate the quality of the school's teachers, curriculum, campus climate, and extracurricular activities.
That Report Card would end up doing more to improve American education's quality than all the blue-ribbon panels and massive spending we currently force onto the taxpayer. For example, a school or college knowing that its poor results will be prominently posted on its website, will feel greater pressure to improve. Another example: The government continues increasing the amount of taxpayer-paid grants and loans to college students. That merely allows colleges to raise tuition more. They colleges correctly calculate, "Now the students have more money. We can raise tuition." We give the colleges all of that taxpayer money while requiring less accountability from them than we require of tire manufacturers, which must mold into each tire's sidewall, its tread life, traction, and temperature rating.

The New Republicans will create a nation of entrepreneurs. If we're being honest, American manufacturing and even most services will never be able to compete with low-cost countries such as China and India. And businesses need ever fewer and fewer locally based knowledge workers, creatives, and leaders, in part because ever more work product can be transmitted over the Internet and because services such as GotoMeeting, WebEx, and Skype are making worldwide virtual corporations ever more viable. Sure, short-term, our tax dollars can create government jobs for such workers but with other countries successfully competing with us, there will be fewer tax dollars to pay those government workers.

The only way to create sustainable, good jobs is to create new, important products and services. And key to that is entrepreneurship: a nation of people trained to keep their antennae out for unmet needs and with the skills to convert those unmet needs into viable businesses, those that can make money without cutting ethical corners and which can afford to pay their workers a decent wage

The plan to create a nation of entrepreneurs has two components: 1. Make entrepreneurship a required subject in school and college. It's far more important that every high school graduate have entrepreneurial skills than that they know the use of the doppelganger, quadratic equations, stoichiometry, and the causes of the Peloponnesian Wars. 2. Increase the quantity and quality of Small Business Administration- and private-sector-offerings: business-plan and business-operations courses, and the use of current and retired successful entrepreneurs as mentors for aspiring and ongoing entrepreneurs.

True Freedom. Republicans like to paint their party as the party of freedom yet many want to restrict women's rights to choose if and when to have a baby and whether gay people have the right to marry. Internationally, the Republicans (as well as many Democrats) tend to meddle in countries that choose to have a government it doesn't like--whether Latin American countries on the left or right-wing regimes in the Middle East. The New Republicans must respect that it is not their way or the highway. They need to honor the libertarian wing of its party so that it is not hypocritical when it calls itself the party of freedom.

Health care is a right but the same level of health care is not a right. I believe that, by virtue of being human, everyone is entitled to basic health care: preventive and routine diagnosis and treatment by a nurse or nurse practitioner not of one's choice, expensive specialist-physicians and treatments only when clearly cost-effective, etc. If you pay--whether fee-for-service or into a new single-payer government-run system--you're entitled to choose a physician, more readily get to see specialists, and have access to a fuller range of treatments, even those which, from a population-wide perspective, may not be cost-effective.

The New Republicans will treat taxpayer money as carefully as their personal money. The government, Republicans and Democrats alike, spend taxpayer dollars as though it can always print more. (Whoops, it can.) The problem is that when you print more money, each of our dollars are worth less, so we have less buying power, our savings are worth less, and our children's future is mortgaged. And if we keep diving deeper into debt, America's credit-worthiness withers, which means that the mammoth cost of servicing our debt will continue to grow and eventually no one (read, China) will lend to us.

The New Republican Party must treat taxpayer money as if it were its personal money. That means fewer and more tightly-budgeted projects, and importantly, requiring good evidence of cost-benefit before spending. For example, the Democrats are massively funding efforts to control global climate with little regard to cost-effectiveness. So many respected climate scientists remain uncertain that even the unimaginably expensive efforts and painful restrictions being enacted and contemplated will make much difference. Too little attention is being paid to cost-benefit and risk-reward. You and I don't go into great debt on wildly expensive, risky schemes. Neither should the government with our tax dollars.

What do you think? If you were drafting the planks of a new Republican platform, would you include the aforementioned? What changes would you make in them?


Anonymous said...

I would suggest an apology for the culture wars.

Jeff S. said...

So basically you're saying that the new Republican ideas should be Libertarian, yes? ; )

I find it incredible that the only thing that could save the Republican party - now in complete disarray - is unity of purpose and strategy. But the Republican party is internally stalemated on whether to move more to the center or more to the right. If they can't get that correct (and they won't) I believe the party is destined to fail.

I've been a Republican for decades, but I'm embarrassed as to how, when in control, the party spent money with reckless abandon and now has no credible voice when it comes to presenting an argument against rampant government spending/takeover.

Alas, there is no one left in the federal government practicing anything remotely akin to fiscal restraint.

Marty Nemko said...

Yes, fiscal restraint is key.

All the ideas presented here are not libertarian. For example, I do suggest that a single-payer public health care OPTION should be available. But yes, generally, small government is good government. Government, almost inevitably, is a terrible steward of our hard-earned dollars.

Anonymous said...

To the 1st anonymous poster: I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that apology. Nor do I think it's necessary or relevant. But that's just what I think.

I believe the Republican party (as well as the Democrat party) needs to be more inclusive, have new ideas to succeed as Mr. Nemko stated (not just for their parties to succeed, but for this country to succeed), and need to show they can follow through on what they promise. Politicians on both sides make promises they can't or won't keep just to get into office. People are sick of that. They don't want empty promises anymore.

By the way, when I say "more inclusive," I do NOT mean "politically correct." They need ideas, strong ideas, that can be understood and make sense to the average person, no matter their background. Good ideas will attract people. So will honest actions to prove they mean what they say.

They cannot just pander to people solely because they are of a certain race or gender. That will not improve their public image. And most people know the difference between pandering and reaching out.

Anonymous said...

The study is an interesting one.

I just looked quickly at the PDF and didn't scan for the endnotes and data sources. I certainly don't have time to do it myself, but in glancing at the tables my thought was this:

- drop all the publically funded schools into their own category
- rank all the private schools by tuition cost into three or four large groupings (inexpensive to silly-spendy)

Compare graduation rates against price tag.

It looked as if there was a relationship between higher price tag and graduation rate, but that that there was a lot of "scatter" in price tag for the underperforming schools - a "you get what you pay for" effect conflated by a "clever sales pitch" effect.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that if you are a low wage citizen worker, can't afford to pay for life saving treatment, say for an organ transplant, you should be denied access to a specialist and a transplant? I'd like to see your definition of what "cost effective" means. Frankly, the majority of Americans realize the fact that libertarianism is an ideology where only those affluent enough to purchase protection under the law. The entire concept is against everything the constitution was in aid of, and the sort of government such an ideology would bring about is exactly the corrupt kind we have now, under corrupt dem controlled congress and Obama administration. In fact, it was the sort of corruption that the founders sought to ensure would not be allowed to oppress the American people.

I'm an independent, and am in fact ready to vote republican, after a lifetime of being a democrat. I disagree with your opinion on what the republicans need to do to change.

Brad said...

You have at least two big flaws:

- Abortion is not merely a "women's right" except if you are willing to discard the right to a life. While many could debate early term abortions, later term abortions can happen in places after viability outside the womb.

Do you really think a government that doesn't value the innocent (how much more innocent can you get) will really be worth supporting? Hardly.

- Government should not force a definition of marriage either way. I could argue the issue, but that would be rather pointless, since you likely see it as a "human right" rather than overturning millennia of tradition. Nevertheless, why must "freedom" involve forcing others to sanction something like this?

Sure, they can continue to be "Democrats light" and go for all those causes. Then people will continue to go for the party that at least is the "real thing," or they will continue to bail on the whole process, realizing that it remains a bit of a sham.

Isn't it kind of funny that people are told that we have to accept the ones shoved on us. How about instead getting government out of most things, though the first remains a point of protecting the innocent and I will always have to come down in favor of innocent life, whatever the personal penalty.

I could probably word this better, but hopefully the point gets across.

Brad said...

BTW, I should have noted that I agree with Jeff that most Republicans have little place to stand since they were all in favor of the nationalization of so much of society in the first place.

The rot problem is that government is used to spending other peoples' money very freely. Things will not change until it stops doing that.

Stop letting government force right and wrong. I would bet you are against government forcing some right and wrong Marty, but you seem to be fine with it in other areas. If you do that, you had better hope someone who disagrees with your views doesn't get a hold of the reigns of power!


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Anonymous said...

Rein in spending, less government. We have to get away from distracting people with pet issues such as abortion. Let that be fought over at the state level and see where it goes.