Feature:Opinion

Partisan tricks and economic treats

Alex Schriver Chairman, College Republican National Committee

Trick or treat?

It’s a question typically reserved for the hordes of costumed kids that fill the streets each Halloween, but recently it’s been at the back of every American’s mind. Namely, are the jobs plans coming out of Washington nothing more than partisan tricks designed to boost politicians’ reelection chances, or are they real treats aimed at improving our ailing economy?

President Obama was the first to knock on America’s door. He began by saying all the right things. In a speech meant to introduce his jobs plan, he said it was time to stop the “political circus” and get down to the business of job creation. He said that the millions of unemployed Americans couldn’t wait until the election for Washington to act. And he said he would work with Republicans to get it done.

But when we peeled away the costume, it became clear that Obama’s plan was nothing more than repackaged and reheated ideas from the 2009 stimulus. It seems no matter how deeply Obama’s Keynesian tax-and-spend agenda is buried by fact and history, it continues to rise from the grave — the zombie that just won’t die.

As it turns out, Obama’s plan wasn’t about laying a foundation for job creation; it was about building a campaign platform. It wasn’t about helping unemployed Americans; it was about helping himself stay employed as president of the United States. In short, it was a trick.

The political nature of Obama’s plan came further into focus after it received a cool reception from his own party. After the plan was released, House Democrats reportedly wondered how proposals that couldn’t pass in the 111th Congress — when Democrats held both chambers — had any chance of passing now. Senate Democrats also balked, first by refusing Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) call for a vote on the plan, then by taking the unprecedented step of changing the Senate’s rules, all to prevent Republicans from bringing Obama’s plans to a vote.

And so, while business-as-usual politics reigned in Washington and Obama campaigned in swing states, Americans searched for a solution to their economic horror story.

Republicans recently heeded their call by announcing their own jobs initiative — a combination of tax reform, spending cuts and regulatory changes designed to provide the private sector with a much-needed dose of certainty and confidence.

The plan would fundamentally reform the tax code, employing principles that have been espoused by both parties in the past. It would eliminate loopholes and lower rates without adding to the deficit — and in the process, it would make the U.S. economy more competitive globally.

The Republicans’ plan would also remove the regulatory shackles that are binding the hands of America’s entrepreneurs and businesses. It would accomplish this by not only cutting away the red tape that is already in place, but by ensuring that the impacts of newly proposed regulations are carefully studied and voted on by Congress — not merely passed by unaccountable bureaucrats.

Reducing the nightmarish pile of regulation should be a bipartisan endeavor. A recent poll found that 74 percent of Americans believe businesses and consumers are overregulated — a position that cuts across party lines. Indeed, 58 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents agree that government red tape is holding our economy back.

Finally, the Republican bill would enact fundamental spending reform, through a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, to ensure that investors remain confident in America and businesses can act without fear of future tax hikes.

Although critics will no doubt point to the inclusion of a balanced-budget amendment as a sign that the Republican plan is a political gimmick, it’s worth noting that until recently the idea of balancing the budget through a constitutional amendment enjoyed bipartisan support. Twenty-three Senate Democrats are on record as having favored the idea, as are countless House Democrats, and the idea is enormously popular with voters across the political spectrum.

This October, many Americans are frightened by the grim reality of another recession and haunted by the thought that Washington doesn’t care. But while Obama’s plan is little more than a partisan trick, Republicans have put forth substantive solutions that could serve as a real treat to our economy. So this Halloween, which will you choose, trick or treat?

Alex Schriver is the national chairman of the College Republican National Committee.