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March 31, 2017

Constructive Compromises for a New Center Coalition

Until recently, a center coalition ruled Washington civilly. Trouble is that the coalition agreed mainly on mutual back scratching and became the creature of lobbyists and interest groups. It tried to appear to do something for everyone but we ended up with crumbling infrastructure, feckless foreign wars, increasingly expensive college tuition and health care costs, bank bailouts, and burgeoning wealthfare and welfare rolls. We elected whomever seemed to offer the most prospective for “change” – without being very fussy about what is going to be changed. Many Americans lost the hope of improvement which has been our distinguishing force. The wrath of both the Tea Parties and The Occupy Movements was kindled.

 Suddenly both parties have become captives of their radical wings, neither of which I think offers much hope. The radical wings can be left flapping in the breeze if there’s a new center coalition and Republicans and Democrats vote for the same bills after some reasonable compromise. Here’s my suggestion for constructive compromises which IMO address the legitimate grievances of voters.

“I’ll vote to end the subsidies and tax loopholes for my contributors (oil and gas drillers , for example) if you’ll vote to end the subsidies and tax loopholes for your contributors (‘renewable energy’, for example).”

Upside: Much less burden to taxpayers. The market rather than government determines business winners and losers.

Downside: Campaign contributors don’t contribute. Congress people have less chance to claim bacon brought back to their districts. The market won’t take into account hidden costs (like pollution) so it is necessary that these are accurately assessed on producers.  

“I’ll vote authorization for US troops in combat if their mission is defined and they are given 150% of what they need to accomplish it in six months.”

Upside: We defend ourselves effectively when we need to; we go less often to places where lives (and money) will be squandered.

Downside: We might be penny-wise and pound foolish and leave ourselves vulnerable. Presidents would need to specify costs and objectives (which we might not want to tell the enemy). Congresspeople would have to take responsibility for the costs of what they approve

“I’ll vote for massive public works if the regulations are changed so all new projects – public or private - must be approved or disapproved within two years, preparing for approval takes no more than six months after design is complete, and those seeking to halt a project after approval need to post a bond for the cost of delay to be refunded only if they prevail in their appeal.” (more here)

Upside: Infrastructure gets built and upgraded as it didn’t under the last stimulus bill. Private dollars pour into projects like pipelines with speedy and firm approval possible. As pipelines are built, gas will displace more coal and oil (lower CO2 AND virtual elimination of SOx and NOx and other bad stuff). Oil will travel by pipeline rather than by train which is not only cheaper but much safer. Better infrastructure helps the regrowth of American manufacturing.

Downside: A project might get built in your backyard and, although you’ll be able to testify against its approval, if it is approved you won’t be able to stop it for 20 years with after- approval litigation. Doesn’t bring back coal miner jobs. Hurts the railroads who lose coal and oil transport business (tough on Warren Buffet).

“I’ll vote for deregulation so banks can lend to new and small business again so long as we also assure that no bank (or other institution) will be bailed out if it fails. This means assuring that no institution can grow to the size that it poses a systemic threat and can blackmail the government for a bailout.” (more here)

Upside: Making loans available to small and new businesses means that the best job-creators are back in business in force. Tired old companies which don’t innovate lose the protection they have now because they get can get credit and nimbler would-be competitors can’t. Local and regional banks grow at the expense of money center banks.

Downside: More banks will fail. Regulating bank size is not easy and could be abused.

“I’ll vote for strict work requirements for all public assistance programs including Medicare if you’ll vote for a higher minimum wage.” (more here)

Upside: It’s bad for both donors and recipients if needed public assistance becomes a disincentive to work. More resources can be focused on those who can’t work if those who can work do and if pay for work covers necessities.

Downside: Determining who can and can’t work and who really needs assistance for how long is difficult and intrusive. Increasing the minimum wage will eliminate some entry level jobs entirely.

“Let’s write legislation which is so clear and concise that regulators don’t make important policy decisions and endless court cases aren’t needed to figure out what we meant.”

Upside: Policy control is in Congress where we can see it rather than in vast bureaucracies where we can’t. We won’t need endless court cases to know what a law means.

Downside: Compromise is more difficult when vague language doesn’t leave it possible for both sides to claim victory. Hard to strike a balance between precision and too much detail in legislation.

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