Upholding the dignity of work
The government owes no able-bodied adult a living
Donald Trump is off to the rockiest start of any president in memory. His executive orders to limit immigration from six Middle East states, midnight tweets and controversial appointees have surely eroded confidence in his ability to govern, but the failure of the Republican majority in Congress to adhere to conservative principles have added to his woes.
Most fundamentally, conservatives should champion the dignity of work — the government owes no able-bodied adult a living — and the efficacy of competition in commerce and politics — markets are better than bureaucrats at guiding the economy and the rules of the game should be made by majorities of elected representatives.
These principles propelled American prosperity and secured our liberty in the 19th and 20th centuries, and their gradual
disregard in recent decades is at the core of waning American affluence at home and influence in the world.
President Obama’s policies on taxes, entitlements and many other issues and abuse of executive discretion exhibited the hard-left hubris that these are antiquated ideas. For example, on climate change, he could not win a Congressional majority to limit CO2 emissions, so he imposed those by executive order with the happy assistance of a judiciary that too often prefers to legislate rather than apply laws as written by Congress and the plain language of the constitution.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, usurped individual choice and replaced private markets with a government planning apparatus — all private insurance policies must include a government prescribed set of benefits and individuals must obtain insurance, either through direct purchase or an employer, or pay a fine. Policies not provided by employers must be purchased through a government run store — just like vodka and bologna in the old Soviet Union.
Obamacare along with other changes implemented by Mr. Obama permit millions of healthy working age men and women — who are not employed, seeking employment or caring for small children — to obtain virtually free health care through Medicaid and Food Stamps. Lax enforcement of federal guidelines now award many undeserved social security disability pensions.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated Speaker Ryan’s proposed amendment to Obamacare, the American Health Care Act (ACHA), would have added about 24 million to the ranks of the uninsured.
Republican governors in states that have adopted Obamacare’s extended Medicaid benefits were taken aghast that the ACHA would require them to gradually wean indolent adults from free health care. Similar shock and horror was apparent to the idea that some hard working Americans might exercise the freedom to choose to self-insure rather purchase a policy with a government mandated list of benefits.
Consequently, several moderate Republican senators and representatives were prepared to withhold support for the ACHA. That position had as much to do with Speaker Ryan’s failure to craft a compromise that could pass Congress as the unyielding opposition of the House Freedom Caucus and its allies in the Senate to continuing some government assistance to purchase insurance for low and moderate income Americans.
The hard reality is no one faction — the Democrats, moderate Republicans or the Freedom Caucus and conservatives in the Senate — possess a workable majority in either chamber. The Democrats’ opposition to whatever Republicans propose, despite the fact the Obamacare exchanges will collapse as early as 2018, may be repugnant but the Republicans have the nominal majorities and hence the responsibility to compromise among themselves. The efficacy of democracy requires it and by refusing, Republican lawmakers make themselves unfit to govern.
Next up on Mr. Trump’s agenda is tax reform, and that is likely to reveal equally profound fissures in the GOP. A good number of moderate Republicans like using the tax code to redistribute income and undermine markets by providing special benefits through exemptions and deductions, and many conservative cling to the peculiar notion that cutting tax rates will miraculously boost growth enough to actually increase revenues and reduce the federal deficit.
Mr. Trump got elected by speaking to voter frustrations that Washington could not get much that is useful done, but so far he has not proven himself a great deal maker with Congress or particularly effective overall.
If the great compromiser and legendary tactician of the early republic, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, could be resurrected and installed as president and House speaker, they would not be able to forge consensus and govern effectively with this unruly Congress.