Read Excerpts of Rick Santorum's 'Blue Collar Conservatives'
Excerpted from Blue Collar Conservatives: Committing to an America that Works by Rick Santorum by arrangement with Regnery Publishing, Inc., Copyright © Rick Santorum 2014
2012 Election Disaster
The critial swing voters-middle and lower-middle- income Americans from industrial and rural communities with generally conservative values-swung for Obama or stayed home. Ironically, they were the ones who were being hurt the most by Obama's failed economic policies. They generally don't look to the government for help. But our party didn't seem to care about them. (p. 4)
Republicans need to remember the old adage that "people don't care what you know until they know that you care." After losing the election, Mitt Romney acknowledged the party's problem. Talking to a reporter while volunteering at a homeless shelter, he remarked that the men and women there "are used to being ignored, I guess. Mostly by people like me." (p. 45)
Why does the GOP have the reputation as the party of Scrooge? It might be because we spend so much time talking to and about the "job creator" and business owner. Economic growth and the role of the job creator should continue to be at the heart of our economic policy, but we need to think about, listen to, and talk about the jobholder as well. If conservatives got the vote of every job creator in the country, we'd still lose. We must earn a large portion of the votes of jobholders, because there are far more of them. (pp. 46-47)
A GOP Game Plan
If we really become the party of opportunity for working Americans, we'll go a long way toward solving the problem of minority voters' estrangement from us. The elites of the Democratic Party, I'm sorry to say, have raised the politics of racial and ethnic division to an art form. The way for Republicans to win the votes of minorities is not to out-pander the Democrats but simply to appeal to them as working Americans who want to take part in the American Dream-a dream that shouldn't be the exclusive property of Ivy Leaguers and investment bankers. (p. 10)
Do Republicans really care less about the person at the bottom of the ladder than Democrats do? To be painfully honest, I would have to say in some ways "yes." There are some in my party who have taken the ideal of individualism to such an extreme that they have forgotten the obligation to look out for our fellow man. (p. 42)
Savvy Tax Reform
Growth is anemic today not primarily because of high individual tax rates but because of excessive government regulation of businesses. Our focus on tax cuts for individuals not only leaves us open to the "tax breaks for the rich" sloganeering of the Left but seems irrelevant to the nearly 50 percent of the population who don't pay federal income taxes today. (p. 43)
Our single largest disadvantage is our corporate tax rate, the highest in the industrialized world. It's so high that even President Obama has considered trimming it. So let's reduce the corporate tax to a flat rate of 20 percent with no fancy deductions, no loopholes-just a 20 percent net income tax. But reducing taxes isn't enough; to create a boom in manufacturing jobs in the United States, we should eliminate the corporate tax for manufacturers. That will attract investment capital to American manufacturing plants, and capital creates jobs. If we could do only one thing to make our manufacturers more competitive, eliminating the corporate tax would be it. (pp. 151 - 152)
Obamacare Alternatives That Work
I support changing the current Medicaid program to more of a block-grant system that would provide states much more flexibility than they have today to design innovative programs to address the problems of the uninsured.
We can also help out fellow citizens burdened with preexisting conditions without disrupting the insurance market for the vast majority of those who are happy with their current plan. "High-risk pools" are programs that provide a mechanism for extending coverage to those facing these chronic health conditions. (p. 111)
Family: The Education Solution
If our education system is going to give children the tools to be good, then there will have to be major changes. But it would be foolish to expect the system to fix itself. The good news is that we don't have to wait for politicians and stubborn teachers' unions. We can start the reforms ourselves-family by family
The Common Core State Standards, which are sweeping the country-is just a revised version of mass-produced education. The Common Core is an attempt to impose on the entire country a single vision of "what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them." And who determines "what students are expected to learn"? The same bureaucrats and ideologues who have already debased public education. Parents who believe their children should be taught to love the good, the true, and the beautiful should be very skeptical of the promises of Common Core. Government is the problem here. Bureaucracies don't are about the customer; they are focused on making and following rules. Success is determined by whether the process was strictly followed, not by the result. (pp. 130)
We have allowed the education establishment to convince us that we parents are simply not capable of overseeing our own children's education-that we need trained professionals to decide what is best for your children. But who knows your children better, you or the superintendent? Who was your child's first teacher, you or the superintendent? Whose singular concern is the best interest of your child, yours or the superintendent's? Who loves your child the most, you or the superintendent? (p. 133)
Unleashing Domestic Energy
In the small cities and towns of the Rust Belt, people had started to accept the inevitability of decline, but something has happened to change that. Now many rural areas are witnessing growth, and it is spreading to the cities. What happened? That boom is coming from oil and gas development, made possible by hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), which releases oil and natural gas from shale rock formations. It turns out that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of shale rock. Fracking has filled North Dakota with good-paying jobs and reduced the state's unemployment rate to 2.6 percent. (p. 144)
If restoring the American Dream is our goal, restoring our manufacturing industry must be an essential piece of the plan. Most American businesses have to compete against other American businesses. The government might make life difficult for them with excessive taxation and regulation, but at least the competition is up against the same thing. But manufacturers face foreign competitors that operate under different rules and with different costs. Many foreign manufacturers enjoy government subsidies and weak environmental and labor laws….High wages are not costing us jobs. We're losing jobs because of high corporate tax rates, excessive regulatory burdens, and other anti-business policies coming from Washington.
Our single largest disadvantage is our corporate tax rate, the highest in the industrialized world. It's so high that even President Obama considered trimming it. So lets reduce the corporate tax to a flat rate of 20 percent with no fancy deductions, no loopholes-just a 20 percent net income tax. (p. 149)
Holes In Our Boats
Since Ronald Reagan came to Washington and launched the supply-side revolution, Republican economic policy could be expressed in one word-growth. "A rising tide lifts all boats," as we like to say, quoting that earlier tax cutter John F. Kennedy. The theory is that by helping those at the top-the people who start businesses and create jobs- we help those at the bottom. (p. 51)
The tide is rising, but many boats have holes of various sizes-for example, a lack of skills or experience, an unstable family, or no high school degree. They are sinking or are stuck on a sand bar. Lower-wage workers see the rich getting richer, but they feel poorer. Democrats are fond of saying that all the Republican talk about a "rising tide" really amounts to "trickle-down economics." That accusation may be shortsighted and not entirely fair, but we have to admit that for the people at the bottom, that's what it feels like these days-just a trickle. (p. 53)
How [do government handouts] put more holes in the boats of people who are already sinking? The government programs that have expanded most under this stagnant economy are benefits to able-bodied people. These benefits carry no expectation of work, service, or repayment, and they create a disincentive to climb the ladder of success and happiness. When the Congressional Budget Office forecast that the most recent entitlement aimed at working Americans, Obamacare, would result in 2.5 million Americans choosing not to work, President Obama responded with a "mission-accomplished" thumbs up. (pp. 54 - 55)
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