WASHINGTON – Democrats and their “amen chorus” in the establishment media often claim Republicans offer only complaints and criticisms, and no ideas and no solutions.
- President Obama said if Republicans “had some better ideas,” he would be “happy to hear them. But I haven’t heard any so far.”
- Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called the GOP the “party of no new ideas.”
- Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs advised the GOP “just can’t be the party of no or the party of no new ideas.”
- Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., insisted Republicans have “no solutions to any problems. They just want to whine.”
- New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a piece about the GOP called “They Have No Idea.”
- And Time Magazine ran a cover story anointing the GOP as “The Party of No.”
Actually, the GOP is offering a steady stream of ideas that just don’t appear in the mainstream media.
As far back as last August, Forbes listed five comprehensive market-based health reform proposals introduced by Republicans in Congress, plus three comprehensive alternatives to Obamacare, and that was before three senators introduced the GOP’s latest replacement plan, just last month.
And Republicans are not fixated solely on fixing the Obamacare disaster.
GOP plans have been introduced to:
- Strengthen border security
- Protect women from abusive, unsanitary and illegal abortion practices
- Keep the U.S. military better-funded than China’s forces
- Stop the erosion of Second Amendment rights
- Protect religious liberties
- Protect the right of states to define marriage
- Amend the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget
- Expand access to college for low-income and middle-class families
- Modernize the Federal Reserve Bank
- Remove the “parent-tax” penalty to save families an average of $5,000 a year
- Reduce traffic gridlock to shorten commute times and increase quality time for families
- Provide employees the option to use “comp-time” to increase quality time for families
- Reduce catastrophic wildfires
- Increase the percentage of high-skilled immigrants seeking to become Americans
- Provide for an accounting of total U.S. contributions to the United Nations
Lee is one of the Three Musketeers of the new conservative movement in Washington, along with Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky.
If Cruz and Paul are the faces of the new conservatives, particularly after each conducted memorable filibusters last year, Lee may be the behind-the-scenes architect who is particularly active away from the cameras, trying to spark a Reagan revolution for our times and a flowering of new creative energy in the GOP.
He might be called the GOP’s renaissance man because he so obviously relishes ideas on an impressive variety of issues, and is constantly working to come up with innovative and new conservative solutions for modern times.
WND sat down recently with Sen. Lee to learn more about his ideas to restore the bright promise for America’s future that conservatives felt when President Ronald Reagan was in office.
A renaissance of conservative ideas
Lee may be a man of new ideas but he looks to history as a guide, noting that in 2016, the U.S. will be as far away from Reagan's election in 1980 as his election was from D-Day in 1944.
"We can't keep looking back to the same solutions we relied on 30 years ago," Lee told WND. "We've got to adapt our message to changing times and changing circumstances. We've got new challenges today that need new solutions."
He explained that conservatism needs constant retooling, based on the same principles conservatives have always followed, but adapting those principles to meet changing needs.
For instance, while the U.S. had a specific set of challenges in the 1970s including the Cold War and inflation, Lee sees today's most pressing challenge as a lack of economic opportunities for Americans because of obstacles facing the poor, insecurity in the middle class and cronyist privilege among the most wealthy.
Lee is looking for ways to use conservative principles to lift barriers to economic opportunities in America.
"This was the idea that really was at the heart of what Abraham Lincoln really thought was the purpose of government: To lift these barriers, starting with those imposed by the government itself," Lee observed.
The senator described his method as looking for the things the government is doing wrong at each stage, such as regulatory barriers that are contributing to what he calls an opportunity crisis.
WND asked Lee why he has said, "The conservative vision for America is not an Ayn Rand novel. It’s a Norman Rockwell painting, or a Frank Capra movie."
The senator described freedom as more than just an idea, but the key to the good life and economic growth.
"When (people) are free, they form communities, and those communities have two hallmark characteristics: Free markets and voluntary institutions of civil society," which include such groups as youth soccer leagues, charities, community theater companies, soup kitchens, Rotary Clubs and even political think tanks.
"When those twin pillars of a strong civilization are in place the human condition flourishes and prospers. Individuals and families find they have economic opportunities, and opportunities for learning and for growth. That's what we're after – that's what we're about."
New conservative solutions for our times
Of the wide variety of topics for which Lee has proposed solutions, two issues appear to animate him the most: Improving the quality of life for middle-class families and finding ways to help lift low-income Americans out of poverty.
Lee called the family the fundamental unit of society and said one of the biggest government-created obstacles for families is what he calls the "parent-tax penalty."
"Today's working parents are forced to contribute to our senior-entitlement programs not just once, but twice. They are essentially taxed twice, once when they pay their taxes, and a second time as they incur the substantial costs associated with rearing children," Lee told WND.
He has introduced legislation to simultaneously offset the parent-tax penalty and eliminate the marriage-tax penalty.
Most people may never have thought of traffic gridlock as a conservative issue, but Lee looks at problems that contribute to the diminishing quality of life for the middle class as serious challenges.
Lee explained, "A lot of today's working parents face a real burden when it comes to figuring out where to live. They can choose to live in a place that is close to work, but they're going to pay a lot more money for it. Or they can choose a place that is farther away from their work site that's more affordable, but is going to force them to remain stuck in gridlocked traffic for hours and hours each week."
The solution? Better infrastructure and more roads. How to pay for it? Stop sending so much money to Washington.
"Too many of our infrastructure dollars are being routed through Washington and run through the government's filter and given back to the states with a huge pile of regulations attached to them."
Lee said that makes it far more difficult, time consuming and expensive to build the roads and other basic transportation infrastructure components that we need.
How to keep that money from going to Washington?
"If we reduced the federal tax on gasoline and allowed states to increase their tax on gasoline to a corresponding degree, you would allow that infrastructure money to remain where it's ultimately going to be spent anyway."
Lee has outlined his own conservative anti-poverty agenda.
Referring to President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," Lee has said 1964 wasn’t the year Americans started fighting poverty; it was the year we started losing that fight.
"The United States did not formally launch our War on Poverty in 1964, but in 1776: When we declared our independence, and the self-evident and equal rights of all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Lee said in a speech last year outlining his agenda.
WND asked Lee why conservatives have a reputation for not caring about the poor.
"We've been unfairly branded by the left as being simply about getting government out of the way so big corporations can become bigger and more wealthy," the senator said. "We have not done as a good a job as we perhaps should have refuting it and pointing out that quite the opposite is true: We are conservatives, not in spite of our compassion for the poor and the middle class, but, because of it."
Lee told WND so many of his proposals to improve the economy, help the middle class and help pull people out of poverty are aimed at strengthening families (lowering taxes, providing more education opportunities, giving employees the option of comp time rather than overtime) because when the family breaks down "people find themselves more and more at the mercy of the state."
"The family is the fundamental unit of society, not only socially but economically. It is within the family, within the home, that the most important education takes place. Children do their homework and are taught by their parents to follow up on assignments they've been given in school. It's within the home that children are encouraged to set and achieve goals," Lee explained.
Top priority to help middle class: Repeal and replace Obamacare
What should be the GOP's top priority right now?
Lee did not hesitate to call for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
When WND asked what made Obamacare so particularly insidious, Lee described how it affects so many parts of the economy.
First of all, Lee called this "a particularly bad time" to be adding to the nation's $17 trillion in debt.
"We shouldn't be adding to the largesse of a federal government that has mismanaged program after program and the scarce resources of the American people, especially in health care, where so many decisions are so personal and important."
The senator called Obamacare fatally flawed from the outset, as a 2,700-page bill that no one read before it became a law.
Lee observed the law has been rewritten not just once, but twice, by the U.S. Supreme Court, a point he details in an e-book he recently wrote called "Why John Roberts Was Wrong About Health Care."
Lee notes that after that, the law was "rewritten by the president himself, three, four or five times, depending on which count you follow."
The senator said the bottom line is the law is just not going to work because it has been "shoe-horned into the trappings of constitutionality by a Supreme Court bent on saving it regardless of the costs, regardless of how disingenuous its reasoning had to be in order to get there, and it is destined to fail."
Listing the damage it's already caused, Lee noted it's causing millions of Americans to lose access to health coverage and to lose access to doctors they've trusted for years. He said it also threatens many other Americans with losing their jobs or having their wages cut or their hours slashed.
"As the American people suffer under the burden of this law, they will continue to call out to Congress to protect them from the harm caused by this law -- and we need to respond to them."
So, is the No. 1 job in the conservative reform agenda to get rid of Obamacare?
"Absolutely," he said.
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCgarth