“Speak softly and carry a big stick” President Theodore Roosevelt, 1900
There are many foreign policy issues facing the U.S. at the present time:
Russia is stirring up unrest in Eastern Europe by threatening the independence of Moldova and the Ukraine as well as several NATO countries.
The Middle East is in turmoil stirred up by ISIS and the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
China is working hard to assert dominance in East Asia.
The world is more stable when there is a single dominant power such as the U.S.. If the U.S. retreats from this role, it is inevitable that regional powers such as Russia, China and Iran will assert themselves to take up the slack. We don’t need to act as the world’s policeman every time a problem flares up around the world. But democracies are better actors on the world stage than are autocracies. Therefore the whole world benefits when the U.S. projects power and interest. A column in today’s Wall Street Journal by Michele Flournoy and Richard Fontaine makes a very important point, namely that “Economic Growth Is a National Security Issue.” In other words, the stronger is our economy, the more influence and respect we will enjoy in our relations with other countries. Especially they recommend emphasizing:
Trade and Investment. It looks like Congress will give the President trade-promotion authority for negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement. Indian, African and European trade agreements could then follow.
Energy. The ban on the export of crude oil and natural gas should be lifted.
International Institutions. A Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will be much less of a threat to the U.S. one a TPP trade agreement goes into effect.
Ms. Flournoy and Mr. Fontaine are focused here on international economic growth. But all economic growth, domestic as well as international, will make the U.S. stronger and therefore better able to project power.
Conclusion: we need to focus more strongly on economic growth in all of its guises!
The American Enterprise Institute is one of my favorite Washington think tanks. It defines its mission as “research and education on issues of government, politics, economics and social welfare.” I especially like its interest in social welfare which translates for me as being fiscally conservative with a heart. The AEI’s Timothy Carney has just proposed “An anti-corporate welfare, anti-cronyism agenda for the 114th Congress.” Most candidates for Congress condemn crony capitalism and corporate welfare. This generally means any policies which tilt the playing field, picking winners and losers and rewarding well-connected insiders. Such actions contribute to the public perception that the “game” is rigged and harm economic growth and innovation. Here are some prime examples discussed by Mr. Carney:
Health Care: repeal Obamacare’s insurer bailout (the “risk corridors”) so that health insurers compete totally on price.
Health Care: end the individual mandate which forces people to buy a product from a private industry. An alternative incentive for individuals to remain covered would be limiting enrollment periods, for example, to a brief six-week sign-up period every two years.
Energy: end tax breaks and subsidies for both renewable energy (including ethanol) and oil and gas. Make all forms of energy compete in the market.
Taxes: make corporate taxes simpler, lower and more neutral. Besides being fairer, such changes will boost the economy.
Finance: Rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by treating them the same as all big banks. This means the same capital requirements, the same tax treatment and the same consumer protection regulation.
Finance: Kill Dodd-Frank’s too-big-to-fail designation. It acts as a moat, protecting the big guys from competition.
Trade: Kill the Export-Import Bank.
Trade: Repeal the Jones Act. It requires all shipping between U.S. ports be done on U.S. flagged vessels.
Agriculture: End the Sugar Program which costs consumers $3 billion per year.
Agriculture: Reform the Federal Crop Insurance Program by making it self-supporting.
These mostly well-known examples of corporate welfare represent just the tip-of-the-iceberg. Nevertheless they provide a good place to start in cleaning things up!