Easy Political Wins

 

shutterstock_24055594Last week, I attended a users’ conference for a software provider. One concept that came up repeatedly was the importance of “easy wins”; i.e., small changes that noticeably move the ball in the right direction without too much effort (switching analogies, you might call them low-hanging fruit). They don’t constitute a full strategy or policy, but they make life marginally better by removing some pain points, while — equally importantly — building trust that useful things can and are being done.

This concept has a lot of political salience. Should the Republicans win the presidency in 2016 while holding Congress, we’re going to have a lot of big projects to set about (repealing Obamacare and reforming middle-class entitlements). While it’s vitally important to our country’s welfare to tackle these sort of issues, these are going to be high-casualty fights whose outcome is uncertain and for which we’ll likely have very little to show for years (I’m being optimistic). Before we tackle those issues, it would be wise to give ourselves some relatively easy tasks as an opportunity to build confidence and — who knows? — celebrate some small victories. Columbus might never have gotten his men to the West Indies if he hadn’t first shown them that he could lead them to the Canary Islands.

All this begs the question: what are some small, achievable policy victories the GOP could have under its belt by, say, the end of 2017? Ideally, these should be simple to implement, non-controversial, and politically feasible. Likely, they’ll be more a matter of stopping the government from doing something bad, rather than reforming something big or complicated. Wedge issues such as a partial-birth abortion ban — which, for the record, I would heartily endorse — aren’t the ideal answer here, as it would quickly turn into a political bloodbath, albeit one Democrats would lose badly. The objective is to get some small-but-subtantive things passed quickly and with minimal controversy in order to create momentum and show that Republicans are serious about governing.

I have two suggestions — both based on suggestions from Ricochet members — but I’m certain there are others out there:

  • Amend the Controlled Substance Act to recognize state-specific drug legalizations (i.e., have the Feds recognize marijuana legalizations in Washington and Colorado).
  • Revise federal asset forfeiture standards along the lines many other states — most recently, New Mexico — have to remove some terrible incentives for law-enforcement.

What say you, Ricochet?

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  1. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    I have two suggestions — both based on suggestions from Ricochet members — but I’m certain there are others out there:

    • Amend the Controlled Substance Act to recognize state-specific drug legalizations (i.e., have the Feds recognize marijuana legalizations in Washington and Colorado).
    • Revise federal asset forfeiture standards along the lines many other states — most recently, New Mexico — have to remove some terrible incentives for law-enforcement.

    What say you, Ricochet?

    You and I have wildly divergent ideas about what the word “Easy” means.  Let’s by all means pick a fight with law enforcement for the benefit of pot-heads and drug dealers.  Yes, I know that’s not the point of the reforms, but neither is the point of social security reforms to throw granny off a cliff.  And I doubt the Fraternal Order of Police will be any less harsh than the Democrats.

    I don’t have any ideas off the top of my head for “easy.”  There’s probably some low hanging fruit in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act we could pick.

    • #1
  2. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    REINS Act maybe?

    • #2
  3. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    I like the tactic. My personal favorite is a repeal of the risk corridor program in Obamacare, which is the kind of heads-I-win/tails-you-lose corporate welfare that’ ripe for attack.

    The quick-win approach is also essential to rebuild a baseline of trust for the GOP. I don’t believe that the GOP has done enough to convince marginal GOP voters that it no longer a “Bushist” party.

    • #3
  4. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    I always like the “moving the ball down the field” analogy. Your immediate goal is to get a first down, rather than to get a touchdown.

    • #4
  5. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Last week, I attended a users’ conference for a software provider. One concept that came up repeatedly was the importance of “easy wins”; i.e., small changes that noticeably move the ball in the right direction without too much effort (switching analogies, you might call them low-hanging fruit).

    Important to move low-hanging balls in the right direction.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Amend the Controlled Substance Act to recognize state-specific drug legalizations (i.e., have the Feds recognize marijuana legalizations in Washington and Colorado).

    Alternative idea: Change the Controlled Substances Act to take into account:

    • The likelihood of harm from unsupervised use. A substance that has no known medical use but for which there is little evidence of harm probably shouldn’t be classified as the worst kind of substance.
    • The ease of manufacture and distribution of the substance. A substance that can safely be manufactured by an individual with little training will be much more expensive to regulate, so it probably should face less regulation than substances that are difficult to manufacture safely.

    .

    The key is to ensure that it’s about modernizing the methodology that the FDA uses to evaluate all substances, rather than simply a move to “legalize” a particular substance. That way, it’s less about law enforcement and more about health policy.

    “Incremental change” is a sound principle for governance and legislation, but it’s rarely a winning campaign slogan.

    A campaign needs to promise big things to get voters’ attention. An “achievable goal” can’t be merely a standalone promise. It needs to be tied to a bigger idea.

    If you make marijuana legalization a key issue, the voter thinks “ok, but then what?” It doesn’t go anywhere.  It needs to be tied to a bigger idea like, oh, how health and medical policies are written in the first place.

    • #6
  7. user_216080 Thatcher
    user_216080
    @DougKimball

    1. Simplify the tax code ala the Reagan reforms.  Make it possible for a person to complete and understand their return.  Eliminate all phase outs and personal credits.  Replace them with larger standard deductions.  Lower rates.  Base corporate tax on GAAP based book income.  Eliminate all corporate credits except bring back ITC.

    2.  Soften Sarbanes-Oxley; subject CEOs and CFO’s to criminal penalty only if they are directly involved in fraud or grossly negligent.

    3.  Repeal Davis-Bacon

    • #7
  8. Mario the Gator Inactive
    Mario the Gator
    @Pelayo

    I disagree with this approach.  I have been a fan of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People for many years.  Dr. Covey emphasized doing the big things first (his metaphor was placing big rocks in a bucket followed by little rocks).  If Republicans win in 2016 they need to go after repealing Obamacare first and worry about the small stuff in the margins.  Otherwise the big stuff will never get done.

    • #8
  9. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Build the fence on the Southern Border

    Prosecute Lois Lerner and any other IRS minions involved in selective harassment of non-profits. Prosecute any State Department employees involved in Hillary Clinton’s e-mail malfeasance (including HRC herself).

    • #9
  10. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    1. Simplify the tax code

    2. Secure the border

    • #10
  11. The Lost Dutchman Member
    The Lost Dutchman
    @TheLostDutchman

    Sabrdance:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    • Amend the Controlled Substance Act to recognize state-specific drug legalizations (i.e., have the Feds recognize marijuana legalizations in Washington and Colorado).
    • Revise federal asset forfeiture standards along the lines many other states — most recently, New Mexico — have to remove some terrible incentives for law-enforcement.

    What say you, Ricochet?

    You and I have wildly divergent ideas about what the word “Easy” means. Let’s by all means pick a fight with law enforcement for the benefit of pot-heads and drug dealers.

    Are you sure law enforcement would be that passionate about keeping drugs illegal at the federal level as opposed to letting the states decide?  I can see why they wouldn’t like asset forfeiture reform, but does anyone know how they reacted to it in New Mexico?

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I don’t like the term “policy wins” one bit.  It smacks of Rovianism.  I’d rather go for wins for the American people.  But here are two that should be doable and would have enormous repercussions:

    1. Get Big Bird off of the welfare rolls.

    2. Kill the Ex-Im bank.

    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Pelayo:I disagree with this approach. I have been a fan of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People for many years. Dr. Covey emphasized doing the big things first (his metaphor was placing big rocks in a bucket followed by little rocks). If Republicans win in 2016 they need to go after repealing Obamacare first and worry about the small stuff in the margins. Otherwise the big stuff will never get done.

    I’m not so sure about that.  We’ve been dissing the small spending reforms for years because they don’t address the big issues, namely entitlement reform.  The problem is that our Congress has 0.00 experience in cutting anything. Our Members of Congress are virgins when it comes to spending cuts. But every bad thing in government has its organized constituency, and Congress need to know how to reassure these constituencies in some cases, and defeat them in others. They need experience in explaining their reforms to the public, and in dealing with the inevitable blowback.

    Also, there is the saying “Watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.”  If we learn how to discuss and evaluate the small issues, we’ll also learn how to discuss the evaluate the big ones.

    On the other hand, I think you are on the right track about thinking in terms of having only so much political capital, which needs to be spent wisely.   Traditionally, when a new Republican Congress has a mandate for reform, it blows it up by proposing a flag burning amendment.  The idea gets shot down, as it deserves to be, and then the Republicans are effectively neutered until a new crop gets back in power again.  This time around it seems they want to go for blowing their capital on reducing the estate tax, which will get shot down and show everyone that Republicans really are the dinosaurs of stereotype.

    But if they start by going against corporate welfare, that will be the forerunner of serious reform, and will be dangerous to the left.  Because how is the left going to oppose that rhetorically without showing themselves to be the hypocrites that they are?

    • #13
  14. Yeah...ok. Inactive
    Yeah...ok.
    @Yeahok

    Eliminate federal (Non-Military) pensions and make all congress and staff enroll in Obamacare.

    • #14
  15. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    The Reticulator:1. Get Big Bird off of the welfare rolls.

    De-funding public broadcasting has never been an easy win.

    When challenged on the issue, funding agency CPB rallies support with talk about “America’s largest classroom” and the needs of local licensees, who are indeed needy because they’re not allowed to sell advertising. So you get the “for the children” argument, and they roll out the puppets.

    Public TV can fairly argue that they’re also providing a service to an audience neglected by demographics-conscious commercial broadcasters: those of us age 55+. This month public broadcasting rolled out Brian Wilson and Friends: A Soundstage Special Event which I strongly recommend.

    Series including Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Live from Lincoln Center, and station acquisitions like New Tricks and Scott & Bailey add to the arguments for public TV, at a time when Hollywood producers and American network distributors are increasingly obsessed with everything young, dark, edgy, and non-traditional.

    Come a new Republican order, I recommend restructuring, rather than abolishing public television. Keep the high culture, and the quality imports. Lose the news and public affairs programming. Clean the politics out of the science programs, and the religion of multiculturalism out of the kiddie shows. Obliterate the special grants to ethnic, racial, and “independent documentary” programmers which fill the airwaves with un-refuted left wing propaganda. Mandate expansion into digital distribution, so that subscribers will get something for their membership contributions beyond more pledge drives.

    Finally, permit all the licensees to sell advertising time without restriction. Many are colleges with business students who could work off their debt with ad sales commissions. It’s fine for non-profit stations to exist, so long as they are training students with for-profit skills.

    • #15
  16. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    A mandatory national E-verify coupled with legalizing the Dream Act, which is a done deal anyway.

    Targeted infrastructure projects – JFK and LAX are our premiere gateway airports to tourists, and they look like pig-sty’s. Start there.

    Reform the top levels of the civil service so managers have the right to fire fraudsters at the VA or drunks at the Secret Service.

    • #16
  17. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Jim Kearney:

    The Reticulator:1. Get Big Bird off of the welfare rolls.

    De-funding public broadcasting has never been an easy win.

    Nothing worth doing is easy.  If it’s easy, it’s not worth the trouble.  But it should be easier than a lot of other things, because it’s welfare for the rich ruling class, and because it has a corrupting effect on the entire MSM.

    They keep telling us that federal funding is only 5 percent of their budget.  Fine, then they’ll find it easy to make up the lost revenue.  (Oops. There’s that word “easy” again.)

    Public broadcasting is an affront to the First Amendment.  If Republicans aren’t willing to go to the trouble to make that point, why should we trust them on the 2nd amendment or any of the others?

    If this isn’t done, then nothing else will be done, either.

    • #17
  18. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Jim Kearney:

    The Reticulator:1. Get Big Bird off of the welfare rolls.

    De-funding public broadcasting has never been an easy win…

    Also, when compared to other countries’ state broadcasters, PBS is a bloody bargain!

    In 2014, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting received US$445.5 million from Congress. In a country of over 300 million people, that works out to about $1.49 per American citizen.

    In 2006, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation received over C$1 billion from Canadian taxpayers.  In a country of 33 million people, that works out to about C$30.48 per Canadian citizen!

    • #18
  19. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    The Freedom From Union Violence Act has always been a favorite of mine. This year’s edition is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be moving out of it.

    • #19
  20. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Misthiocracy:

    Jim Kearney:

    The Reticulator:1. Get Big Bird off of the welfare rolls.

    De-funding public broadcasting has never been an easy win…

    Also, when compared to other countries’ state broadcasters, PBS is a bloody bargain!

    In 2014, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting received US$445.5 million from Congress. In a country of over 300 million people, that works out to about $1.49 per American citizen.

    In 2006, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation received over C$1 billion from Canadian taxpayers. In a country of 33 million people, that works out to about C$30.48 per Canadian citizen!

    Yeah, it always works out more cheaply in the United States. In Russia it took the murder of 100 journalists before Putin’s news media became as compliant as Obama’s.  A sturdier bunch than ours, by far. And if it took $30.48 per Canadian citizen to corrupt the CBC (which at one time was far superior to our NPR) it suggests they were a sturdier bunch than ours, too.

    • #20
  21. user_740328 Inactive
    user_740328
    @SEnkey

    A few ideas:

    1. Quietly begin rolling back as many regulations as possible. Tell each department head/secretary to kill as much regs as is with in their power to do so. Do it quietly so as to avoid the Media hounds telling us how we are going to kill the eagles and poison our children. Wait for the employment boom, then publicize.

    Quick examples: The new restrictions on coal. Restrictions on nuclear power. Off shore drilling. New EPA regs on fireplaces, stoves, and kilns. Kill subsidies to renewable energy and redirect those funds towards infrastructure.

    2. Secure the border: Polling indicates that this is wildly popular among democrats and republicans. It is mostly the ruling class/business interest that oppose it. Again this can be done by undoing the suspension of enforcement. Then add enforcement/fencing/etc to the border. Roll this out as the first step in a solution to the illegal immigrants that are here. Then ensure you follow up in two years with another step or overall solution. Build good faith, we got what most Americans wanted, now we can help  those here illegally (even if it means repatriating many).

    3. Open up oil exports. Let’s enrich ourselves while weakening our adversaries in the world.

    4. Make vouchers available for Veterans, all Veterans. If the VA is the best place – great. And that may be true in some areas or for some vets. But, I think we would save ourselves money, make vets happy, and further expose a defunct department. If the Democrats vote against it, they are voting against our vets.

    5.  Make a clear statement about the freedom of the internet.

    6.  And our pie in the sky statement for today… eliminate loop holes for individuals in the top  ten percent as a starting point. This could win over democrats and low info voters. Simplify from the top down with the goal of getting everyone to a flat tax “that can be done on a napkin.” The idea is to start small and secure some good will, leaving them with no excuse not to cooperate. And we aren’t giving anything away that we aren’t aiming to have in the end.

    7: Pick one idea that the left leads with next round that is palatable or shows promise. Pass it. It shows we are willing to work with both sides. Unfortunately I am blanking on what the other side is offering that I find palatable…that explains a lot.

    • #21
  22. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    Three suggestions:

    1. Close the borders.  We’ll talk about what to do with the current batch of immigrants when we’re safe.
    2. Repeal Common Core.  We’re going to let the states decide their curricula.
    3. Mandate school vouchers.  We’re going to let you send your kid to the school you choose.

    Each of these items is something the vast majority will support.

    Here’s a fourth idea but will be much tougher.  Repeal the Patriot Act.

    • #22
  23. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Surprised Keystone isn’t in here.

    But if you win, and you win with anything like a majority, you start on Obamacare right away.  You’ll take a political hit with whatever you turn out, and you want time to prove your results and have people become used to it before the next election.

    • #23
  24. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Pilli:Three suggestions:

    1. Close the borders. We’ll talk about what to do with the current batch of immigrants when we’re safe.
    2. Repeal Common Core. We’re going to let the states decide their curricula.
    3. Mandate school vouchers. We’re going to let you send your kid to the school you choose.

    Each of these items is something the vast majority will support.

    Here’s a fourth idea but will be much tougher. Repeal the Patriot Act.

    3.  You mean mandate that the states obey the federal government?

    I like your #2 and #4, but I hope people realize that there can be no policy reforms without spending cuts.  (#1 might be an exception to that rule.)  And I notice that conservatives are not talking much about spending cuts.  I wonder if they’re uncomfortable talking about it, because that would mean actually doing something that would bring about policy reforms.

    • #24
  25. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    The Reticulator:

    Pilli:Three suggestions:

    1. Close the borders. We’ll talk about what to do with the current batch of immigrants when we’re safe.
    2. Repeal Common Core. We’re going to let the states decide their curricula.
    3. Mandate school vouchers. We’re going to let you send your kid to the school you choose.

    Each of these items is something the vast majority will support.

    Here’s a fourth idea but will be much tougher. Repeal the Patriot Act.

    3. You mean mandate that the states obey the federal government?

    I like your #2 and #4, but I hope people realize that there can be no policy reforms without spending cuts. (#1 might be an exception to that rule.) And I notice that conservatives are not talking much about spending cuts. I wonder if they’re uncomfortable talking about it, because that would mean actually doing something that would bring about policy reforms.

    #2 involves a federal mandate too, because you can’t actually repeal Common Core at the federal level without it.  You can — and should — remove all the federal incentives/pressure, and you don’t even need Congress to do it.  That will make it much easier for states to dump Common Core if they want to and many will — but not all.

    (And any presidential candidate that simply calls “repeal Common Core” without being upfront about that reality is edging into demagoguery, and it will influence me.)

    • #25
  26. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Pelayo:I disagree with this approach. I have been a fan of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People for many years. Dr. Covey emphasized doing the big things first (his metaphor was placing big rocks in a bucket followed by little rocks). If Republicans win in 2016 they need to go after repealing Obamacare first and worry about the small stuff in the margins. Otherwise the big stuff will never get done.

    That was the secret of Gov. Walkers success in Wisconsin.  He didn’t pussy-foot around  with a few things at the margin that would dissipate his power.  He went for the jugular with act 10.

    • #26
  27. user_88846 Member
    user_88846
    @MikeHubbard

    Simplifying the tax code only sounds easy.  Every tax break in it has a small army of lobbyists who’ll flood the airwaves with claims that Republican are hiking taxes when they attempt to repeal tax breaks.  Making the tax code simpler hasn’t happened since the Reagan years, and it really helped that Reagan had some cover from Dan Rostenkowski (D-Jail).

    My proposal for quick wins:

    • Stop mandating low-flow toilets.  Everybody hates them.  Let the environmentalists try to explain the plumbing bills that happen when sewage systems don’t get enough water to keep the literal $#!+ flowing.
    • Cut the payroll tax and raise the cap on it to keep it revenue neutral.  It’s a tax that disproportionately slams low income earners.  Much as I’d love to abolish capital gains tax, that looks like a giveaway to the rich.  We need to help the poor—and the poor need some concrete results from our help.
    • #27
  28. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The Reticulator:

    And if it took $30.48 per Canadian citizen to corrupt the CBC (which at one time was far superior to our NPR) it suggests they were a sturdier bunch than ours, too.

    The only thing the CBC ever did well was hockey, and it lost the broadcast rights to even that!

    • #28
  29. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    The purpose of the Canadian Broadcasting service is to keep English speaking Canada from being absorbed by the USA. The purpose of PBS is to provide care and feeding to the gentry liberals and MFA majors.

    • #29
  30. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Pilli:Three suggestions:

    1. Close the borders. We’ll talk about what to do with the current batch of immigrants when we’re safe.
    1. Repeal Common Core. We’re going to let the states decide their curricula.
    1. Mandate school vouchers. We’re going to let you send your kid to the school you choose.

    Each of these items is something the vast majority will support.

    Here’s a fourth idea but will be much tougher. Repeal the Patriot Act.

    I would support all of these, but these are also going to politically costly. Securing the border — though both popular and good policy — is going to provoke an enormous fight with the Democrats. Again, these are worthwhile fights to have, but not quite what I had in mind.

    Mike Hubbard:

    Stop mandating low-flow toilets. Everybody hates them. Let the environmentalists try to explain the plumbing bills that happen when sewage systems don’t get enough water to keep the literal $#!+ flowing.

    I like this.

    The Reticulator:2. Kill the Ex-Im bank.

    This too.

    I’m all for taking away PBS’ subsidies, but the benefit-to-backlash ratio will be counterproductive. Again, easy wins.

    • #30

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