Discuss the Issues

David is running for U.S. Congress on a full policy agenda. The four themes of his campaign are:

  • Congress is broke.
  • Social Security is almost broke.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is beyond broke.
  • Federal tax policy is breaking us all.

Each of these is summarized below. David is frustrated by all of these failures, but the first one is his real passion. Like you, David recognizes that Congress has been broken for a long time.

David’s views concerning some of the other issues you care about most can be found at the bottom of this page.


1

CONGRESS IS BROKE


Two things must be done to fix Congress. The two problems are that Congress does too much of that which it should not do, and too little of what it is supposed to do. The two solutions are federalism, taking power out of Washington and returning it to the states, and a return to normal order, taking power out of the hands of a few congressional leaders and returning it to the members of Congress.

Problem 1
Congress does too much when it acts outside of legitimate Constitutional power. Members should always be asking, “Is this Constitutional?” The reason we have a limited federal government is to protect the sovereignty of the states. Our Founders knew that a large nation can only agree on so much. They also knew that America can be a great nation in spite of the many different opinions of its people. In fact, as explained in Federalist 10, our diversity is our strength. Today, Washington controls too much. Over 300 million people cannot possibly agree on everything. The solution is simple, and has been with us since our Founding.

Solution 1
The solution to congressional overreach is a return to federalism. America’s federal government was intended to be one of enumerated powers. This is clearly stated in the Tenth Amendment, and was understood by everyone in the room when our Constitution was written in 1787. Californians suddenly want federalism now that Republicans control Washington—but before that Texans wanted federalism because Democrats controlled Washington. The permanent solution to all of this nonsense is to return power to the people and to the states. Federalism is good for liberty, and it’s good for Congress because it frees them to do what they are supposed to do.

Problem 2
Congress is sometimes like a teen who won’t do the chores. The budget process is a clear example of Congress shirking its responsibilities. Congress has only passed an on-time budget four times since 1974. Instead, it passes Continuing Resolutions that keep the federal government running a few months at a time. Furthermore, about half the budget is nondiscretionary, meaning Congress never votes on it, and the president never signs it. Most of the other half is subject to baseline budgeting, meaning spending increases are cooked in from the beginning. Because of this ridiculous accounting scheme, Congress actually claims to cut spending even when it increases.

Solution 2
The solution to Congress’s inability to work is to reinvigorate the committee system. American legislatures have always divided work via committees. The tradition is as old as the 1787 Constitutional Convention itself. Committees are how members work together. They allow individuals to suggest policy solutions that are then worked through committee before being brought before the entire body. Since 1994 especially, power has shifted to a few leaders while members do little of substance. A Congress that does its job protects us from presidential edicts, bureaucratic injustices, and judicial overreach because, when Congress fails to do its job, someone else does it for them.
2

SOCIAL SECURITY IS ALMOST BROKE


Congress can save Social Security without affecting benefits for anyone 50 years old and up. Since the system is stable until 2034, we only need to consider changes for those age 50 and younger. Today’s 50-year-olds will face the coming crisis head on, when they become eligible for full benefits in 2034. Small adjustments can maintain the current system for all of us. Congress needs to muster the strength to discuss the problem, and seniors need to allow them to do so. The problem is obvious, and the solution is actually quite simple. With a little effort, the children and grandchildren of current seniors can enjoy the same benefits seniors receive today.

The Problem
Congress must act to prevent Social Security’s failure, which begins in 2034, and leads to an additional $20 trillion in debt over the following generation. If you retire this year at age 65, you will be 82 when the system begins to collapse. Does that sound old? My 83-year-old father-in-law doesn’t think so. Current law increases the retirement age to 67 for those born in 1960. Thus, if you are age 57 today, you will be eligible for full benefits in 10 years. Social Security will begin its collapse just 7 years later. If you are age 50, the system will be collapsing as you are enrolling. I am looking at a plan to save Social Security that only affects those under age 50. It does not raise payroll taxes. It has two primary features. First, it gradually increases the retirement age by two years. Second, it provides full initial benefits for the super wealthy, but limits their COLA.

The Solution, Part 1
Those born before 1960 will continue to retire at age 65. Those born between 1960 and 1968 will continue to retire at age 67. This is current law, and it remains unchanged. Beginning with those currently age 49, the retirement age will increase 3 months per year. Thus, a 49-year-old can retire at 67 years and 3 months, a 48-year-old can retire at 67 years and 6 months, a 47-year-old can retire at 67 years and 9 months, and a 46-year-old can retire at 68. Follow the same progression for 4 more years, adding 3 months at a time, to arrive at the final changes. If today you are age 42 or younger, you can retire at 69. If you live to be 83 like my father-in-law, that’s 15 years of fully funded retirement—with the hope of more.

The Solution, Part 2
Also beginning with those currently age 49, the COLA will be means-tested. COLA stands for “cost of living adjustment.” It follows inflation so retirees can maintain a consistent lifestyle. As costs rise, Social Security benefits rise. We only need to means-test the extremely wealthy. They will receive their much higher initial benefits that they have earned, they just won’t see a COLA increase. High-wage earners receive nearly double the benefits of their low-wage earning peers. Even so, most high-wage earners will still receive their COLA. Only the absolute wealthiest—meaning multi-millionaires—will be effected.
3

THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS IS BEYOND BROKE


The blame for the failure of the V.A. rests entirely with Congress. There are 102 veterans that currently serve in Congress—yet, none of these otherwise brave men and women have committed themselves to the success of the V.A. We can no longer excuse our nation’s mistreatment of our veterans. Congress must restructure the V.A. to make it the envy of the world in those specialized things that it does better than anyone else. Besides a debt we can never repay, we owe our veterans at least two things. First, every veteran deserves world-class healthcare, and second, every veteran deserves our support when acclimating to civilian life.

Problem 1
America’s veterans deserve world-class healthcare. Instead, they are too often ignored, misdiagnosed, disrespected, and denied the services we promised them. The V.A. tries to do too much, and ends up doing few things well. In today’s world of specialized medicine, the V.A. simply cannot keep up with the ever-advancing science and methods of all aspects of healthcare.

Solution 1
Instead of providing head-to-toe healthcare, the V.A. needs to focus on warrior-specific injuries and health issues. Common healthcare needs can be treated by private providers and hospitals. The V.A. does not need to treat the flu. It should help veterans find providers near them, then fund their healthcare with public money. Our veterans will receive better treatment sooner, and the V.A. will be free to do what it should be doing best. Congress must enable the V.A. to become a world-wide leader in research and innovation. It should partner with universities to develop solutions such as better prosthetics for amputees, robotics to assist the immobile, and effective psychological helps for victims of PTSD. The V.A. needs a canine division to specialize in breeding and training dogs to be companions for victims of PTSD and helps for the severely handicapped. These are just a few examples of the V.A.’s potential when it focuses on warrior-specific injuries and health issues.

Problem 2
America’s military personnel receive some of the best training available in a broad range of a fields. Yet, they too often find civilian life overwhelming. Especially those who have experienced the trauma of war. Here are highly-skilled individuals who functioned at the highest levels in the most trying of circumstances—who can’t acclimate to the world in which you and I live every day. This is not weakness on their part. Rather, this is our failure to fulfill our debt to the bravest among us. If we’re willing to send them away—then we need to help them find their way back home.

Solution 2
Congress must equip the V.A. to run a first-class career services center that puts the best universities to shame. The V.A. needs to work with the military to determine how veterans’ skills can be transformed and adapted to the modern workforce. How can leadership skills be turned into corporate management skills? How can mechanical skills be turned into needed trade skills? How can computer skills be honed to be made commercially viable? No one deserves to live a free, independent, and self-supporting life more than a veteran.
4

FEDERAL TAX POLICY IS BREAKING US ALL


The recent tax cuts will benefit the economy, but Congress did not reform the tax code. It remains a 75,000-page disaster. The doubling of the standard deduction will help some people, but not many. Few if any economists think the highest corporate rate should be lower than the highest personal rate. The tax code itself continues to restrict liberty. Two specific problems are that it encourages lobbying, and that it discourages economic diversification. The two solutions are to simplify the tax code, and to incentivize dividends.

Problem 1
Congress has not given serious attention to federal tax policy since 1986. Cuts to rates are not the reforms many Republicans campaigned on. Americans spend nearly 2 billion hours and $55 billion to file their tax returns. For the one-third of us who will continue to itemize, the process remains tedious. There is however a bigger problem. Approximately half of all Washington lobbying involves the tax code. (The other half mostly involves regulation.) Federal tax policy encourages lobbying by special interest groups who want deductions that favor their activities. Since lobbyists donate to incumbent members of Congress almost exclusively, many are suspicious of the arrangement.

Solution 1
Congress needs to simplify the federal tax code. Better than more deductions that further complicate our taxes would be a lower tax rate across the board that benefits everyone. Imagine a person who makes $90,000, deducts $30,000, and is taxed at an effective rate of 28%. Her tax liability is $16,800. What if she had zero deductions but was taxed at 19%? She then owes $17,100. Then, Speaker Ryan, everyone can file their taxes on a postcard—with no software expenditures, no expensive accounts—and most importantly, with no Washington lobbyists mucking up our federal tax code. Don’t worry, sir, I’m sure someone else will fund your reelection campaign.

Problem 2
Congressional manipulation of the economy through the tax code affects all of us. Individuals and corporations respond to tax incentives. Our current tax policy encourages publically traded companies to stockpile cash instead of paying dividends to investors. Let’s imagine you are CEO of the Acme Corporation, and I am a stockholder. You must determine what to do with the $100 billion in Acme’s account. Under current policy, the best thing you can do for both of us is to sit on that pile of money, thereby increasing the value of Acme’s stock. If you instead paid a dividend, we would both be taxed—you at the corporate rate and me at the capital gains rate—and we would both be poorer. In the long run, this leads to a less diverse market and endless megamergers.

Solution 2
Congress needs to rewrite tax policy so publicly traded companies can expense dividend payments. On the corporate side, a business should be able to expense dividend payments to its stockholders just as it expenses payroll payments to its employees. On the individual side, individuals should then pay income taxes on dividend payments just as they do on payroll payments. The few economists who have considered this agree that the economy will benefit from the greater circulation of money into more hands. Then, instead of Acme buying out its competitor with all those billions of dollars, which stifles competition, individuals will buy a greater diversity of stocks, which increases competition. Or, individuals will spend their dividends, which increases consumption and jobs. Or, maybe they’ll save the money, which increases stability. The benefits are many and the details to be worked out are few.

Other Issues

1

U.S. Military


A strong and ready military is the most obvious responsibility Congress bears. Our current capacity is insufficient. We are not prepared to succeed on multiple fronts. Our military must be retooled and refocused for the future. We need to move away from an occupation force capacity, toward a rapid-strike capacity. This will cost money. Congress certainly must hold the Department of Defense accountable for its current spending, and it just as certainly must invest in the modernization of our military.
2

Homeland Security


The greatest threat to the American homeland is our gross ineptitude in the realm of cybersecurity. The problems here are several. First, recent breaches of both federal and corporate data bases make it obvious to all that our defenses are inadequate. Second, the nation that took a week to realize the potential of sending the USNS Comfort to hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico—and then had little notion of how to use the most advanced medical ship on the planet upon its arrival, is no better prepared to aid its mainland citizens in the event of an infrastructure failure caused by cyber terrorists. Third, an act of cyber terrorism will be an act of war, meaning our response will be an act of war requiring approval by a Congress that is not prepared to respond quickly and effectively. Even our best security experts have yet to determine what military action will be considered a just response to a cyber-attack. We are a reactionary people who do not plan well, but since experts agree that an act of cyber terrorism is inevitable, we should be bettering our defenses and preparing our responses.
3

Bill of Rights


Our focus on the Second Amendment must continue, while we learn to focus on the entire Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment makes clear the people’s intention never to allow the federal government to interfere with their right to bear arms. Each of the other nine Amendments make clear other limitations upon the federal government. Congress must full-heartedly support the entire Bill of Rights as guidance for a truly limited government that respects the rights of all fifty states to govern themselves.
4

Trade Policy


The benefit of global trade is obvious and easily measured. America is wealthier as a result of increased trade—as is the rest of the world. The crux of Adam Smith’s analysis was to credit the wealth of nations to the division of labor. America—and every other nation—benefits by importing that which can be manufactured more efficiently elsewhere.

The best trade policies allow goods to move freely from their most favorable point of production to their most favorable point of consumption. It follows that the best trade policies are minimal, thereby allowing trade to be truly free. Our next generation of trade agreements do not need to be thousands of pages long, thereby allowing corporate lobbyists to secure carve-outs that benefit a few elites while ignoring the negative ramifications of their crony capitalism.

None of our trade agreements are current. The world’s largest economy is governed by two-decade-old compromises. NAFTA was ratified in 1994. Can you imagine driving a car built in 1994? All our trade policies should be open to audit, and subsequently open to renegotiation. Ratification of new and renewed deals should not be fast-tracked, but should be presented to Congress to be ratified by the Senate under the constitutional guidelines of an international treaty.
5

National Debt


Admiral Mike Mullen, former Joint Chief of Staff, on his way out in 2015, said that the national debt is “the single biggest threat to our national security.” Not only does no one seem to have a solution in mind—no one in Washington seems even to be conscious of the looming crisis. A Republican Congress just passed the largest planned budget deficit in American history. We Republicans lament Mr. Obama’s doubling of the debt—all the while ignoring Mr. Bush’s previous doubling of the debt. I’m all for tax cuts in theory—and clearly some of our taxes were problematic prior to the recent reform, but someone needs to tell the country that we must cut spending while maintaining revenues to facilitate payments on our debt.
6

Immigration


Our immigration problem is not our openness to those who wish to become Americans. Rather, our immigration problem is our inability to modernize the process by which one becomes a legal citizen. People who want to make America their home should know what to expect from the legal immigration process. In today’s world of global terrorism, however, we cannot guarantee legal immigration to all who seek it. Congress must therefore restrict chain immigration and eliminate the immigration lottery.

Immigration has been overly politicized by the extremes of both sides. On one side, the Marxist George Soros wants an open-border world. On the other side, the Neocons wants a New World Order in which corporations seem to be our masters. Fortunately, we are not limited to these two extremes. We can live in a secure America that welcomes immigrants. Congress must continue to secure our borders while creating a new immigration system.
7

Affordable Care Act


The ACA is extremely problematic. It is so large that no one person can read the entire thing—let alone understand it. It is so encompassing that it is impossible for it to be coherent. It is full of generalities that must be worked out by unelected bureaucrats. The ACA, like most omnibus legislation, would be unworkable—except for the fact that Congress has acquiesced such extreme power to the bureaucracies to do whatever is necessary to make their ambiguous laws workable. It is unreasonable, therefore, to pile on further legislation in a futile effort to save this disastrous bill from its inevitable fate.

The health insurance industry also should be recognized for what it is—a relatively new enterprise that was forced upon us in the 1970s as the direct result of federal wage freezes. In an era when—for economic reasons that made little sense then or now—large employers were prohibited from increasing salaries, they instead began to offer benefits. Today, our tax policy incentivizes businesses to continue these benefits. A simple adjustment of the tax code would begin to make health insurance look a lot like home, auto, life, and all other kinds of insurance that the free market makes available at competitive rates.

The ACA is also unconstitutional and impractical. Congress does not have the authority to control our health insurance, nor are over 300 million people going to agree on what health insurance is best. Americans—like most people—want options. A big step forward would be to separate routine situations from emergencies. Most families can budget for the occasional, expected medical need—especially if consumers were offered upfront pricing that is not subject to the administrative costs of a third-party payer. No health insurance policy will please everyone, nor should it be nationalized. Congress must liberate both the patient and his or her medical provider.
8

Education


Under President Jimmy Carter, The Health, Welfare, and Education Department—which was one department!—became three different departments. When our many federal programs are evaluated for effectiveness, we find few success stories. Where federal dollars fund effective educational solutions, the programs are managed by local entities. It does not make sense, then, for individuals to pay federal taxes, only to have that same money come back, either to the state or to a local municipality, with federal mandates attached. Get the federal government out of it, and watch local people find local solutions. We have multiple failures in education, from our youngest children to our poorest adults in need of vocational training. But I am not convinced that Washington can provide universal solutions that will be effective in every corner of the country.
9

Infrastructure


It is better to invest money in rebuilding our own country, rather than in rebuilding another country. But it is a fallacy to think that government spending grows the economy. Bastiat demonstrated this through his famous “broken window fallacy.” Bastiat argued that if a business owner having to spend money to replace a broken storefront window is good for the economy, then we should go break every window in town so we can be rich. The reality here, of course, is that the window companies will be richer while everyone else will be poorer.

Government should spend money on infrastructure for one reason: for the sake of the needed infrastructure and no more. Some infrastructure problems require immediate responses that need to be managed by the federal government and therefore funded by Congress. Most, however, are state and local problems to be solved at those levels.
10

Poverty


Our emphasis on the wealth gap, today, as an alternative to an emphasis on overall poverty, reveals the potential for more Americans to leave poverty behind. We are experiencing a wealth gap because the rich are getting richer and many middle-class people are joining the rich in the upper class. Meanwhile, the poor remain more or less stagnant. The solution is not to condemn those who are succeeding in a growing American economy. The solution is to educate the poor. Rather than condemning the financially successful, we should be condemning the breakdown of the American education system that fails to prepare the children of the poor, and the failure of our federal aid programs to educate the unemployed and the underemployed.

The way out of poverty, now and always, is education. The best paying jobs go to those who have the necessary skills. The immediate question for Congress concerning our multitude of federal programs, then, is not, “Should we do more?” Rather, the question to ask first is, “Are our current efforts successful?” Programs that keep people from starving seem necessary, but only programs that educate will eradicate anyone’s poverty.
11

Marriage


I am pro-family. The definition of marriage has been understood for millennia. We are making a huge mistake by expanding this definition. Karl Marx—the father of communism—demanded two things: The repudiation of God and the destruction of the family. I, however, recognize the family as ordained by God to be the cornerstone of a thriving society. Thus, while I don’t want the federal government in our bedrooms telling us right from wrong, I also don’t want Washington redefining our language to redefine marriage.

The definitive solution to the revival of the family will not come from government, but we must understand that the progressive enemies of the family have used Washington to further their agenda. I do not want more government action because the less government does the better off we all will be. However, we must act to reverse current policies that oppose the flourishing of the family, since many current programs incentivize the dissolution of the family.
12

Abortion


I am pro-life. The knowledge that life begins at conception was discovered through human reason by Aristotle, who found the doctrine necessary to explain not just the essence of each human being, but also each individual’s physical existence. More importantly—and more plainly, Scripture tells us that life begins at conception. The pro-life position is so obvious that it is difficult to comprehend how we have come so far—to the point that one of our two major political parties holds the barbaric practice of abortion to be a virtue.

The question is, Why do Democrats hold so strongly to this position? The answer goes back to the early progressive movement, that was a precursor to the eugenics movement of the 1920s, and later the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s. Democrats want sexual freedom that is in reality anything but freedom. They fight so hard for abortion because they want a consequence- free society—the result of which is the destruction of the family.

The pro-life agenda and the pro-family agenda are then obviously one and the same. Because of the nature of the opposition, government alone cannot restore our nation. Congress absolutely must pass laws to protect the unborn—but, to be ultimately successful, we must cultivate a society that embraces life.
13

Climate Change


Greenhouse gases are not our friend. I have lived long enough, however, to know that today’s climate change was yesterday’s global warming—and before that it was global cooling. No one disputes slight changes in earth’s surface temperatures, but proponents of climate change keep playing the same game by different rules. When the movement began, the first thing it wanted was a massive redistribution of wealth from developed nations to undeveloped nations—which would not have solved the problem they claimed to be solving.

A climate change advocate that might be taken seriously is one that pursues three things: Better monitoring, better batteries, and more trees and plants. First, instead of pushing us into crisis mode—especially since past predictions have not come to fruition, advocates should invest in better instruments to monitor conditions. Second, the real problem with green energy is battery storage. We have been able to generate energy for a long time, but the capacity to store that energy remains elusive. And third, as I understand botany—and I am a certified horticulturist—trees and plants need carbon dioxide. The argument that more carbon dioxide is good for existent plants is of course nonsense, since each has limited capacity. The argument that an increased quantity of plant life reduces greenhouse gases is however a long-established fact.

All of these activities can be pursued with private money. Al Gore has a bunch. Instead of investing money in political change—Why don’t climate advocates invest in actual change? Today, Tesla Motors and T. Boone Pickens’ wind farms are subsidized by federal tax policy. Yet, many electric cars are actually powered by coal-burning energy plants, and giant windmills and birds aren’t exactly getting along nicely. This is what solutions look like when Congress gets involved. We suffer enormous unforeseen consequences that cost tax payers billions of dollars and offer little to no return. Advocates should turn to foundations for funding instead of to the government, and to solutions instead of placebos.