My advice to the Levesque '28 campaign

Daniel@RavingConservative offers a lengthy conservative platform. I offer my response:
1- Balance the budget at 90% of tax revenue and pay off the national debt using the remaining 10%.
An excellent principle -- you could even go further, perhaps 15-20%. Unfortunately, the holders of that debt would undoubtedly throw their financial support behind your opponent, who would solemnly promise to "win at all costs" and aver that mounting debt was not a threat to our economy or security. Every dollar the federal government borrows is a dollar which would otherwise be loaned to a homeowner, business, or consumer -- and the creditor would much rather be owed money by the federal government, and collect perpetually-mounting interest on it, than risk businesses failing or individuals going bankrupt. So you've already got one powerful interest working against your election.
2- Install a flat income tax of 10% across the board. This is equal taxation for all with no write-offs. This will allow the near dissolution of the IRS, which will save money.
I'd much rather abolish the federal income tax, and leave it to the states to decide how best to raise the funds the federal government requires to operate. States' rights, don'cha know. Failing that, I'd prefer to return the tax to its origins -- it was initially a wealth tax, imposed on the very top stratum of earners, who generally made their fortunes through government war contracts -- or at the very least make it more progressive, not less so.

This would be a very popular measure, but any flat tax would necessarily either increase the tax burden of the middle and lower classes or be accompanied by drastic spending cuts, which would inevitably anger some portion of the electorate -- as I'll go into under the next point.
3- Find and eradicate wasteful government programs. Be aware that this will cost some government employees their jobs.
Everybody wants to eradicate waste -- but everybody also has a different opinion on what qualifies. At the end of the day, the programs that wind up being cut are generally the ones that benefit the neediest, because they're the least-equipped to fight back. Try to cut the programs that subsidize foreign investment -- including outsourcing -- or go after defense profiteering, and you'll find some very well-financed voices coming after you for it. Any attempt to reform a bureaucracy -- especially if it includes layoffs -- will turn a union against you. But cutting welfare? Sure, those people need to get jobs. But between defense contractors and welfare recipients, where do you suppose more waste can be found?
4- Invest heavily in clean, renewable energy and energy transmission research.
Two thumbs up. Pushing the technological envelope should be a core mission of the federal government, since the required capital and the length of time required to see a significant RoI can discourage private-sector investment. Weaning ourselves off petroleum is definitely a government project, since our energy industry makes more money by not coming up with alternatives as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce.
5- Put a $10,000,000,000 bounty on a cure for AIDS.
I do think the NIH can get'er done for a lot less than this. Pure research is furthered by front-end rewards, not incentives for later payoffs -- when someone comes up with an idea, and his peers agree it has merit, he is given the funding to test and expand upon it.

While many companies would undoubtedly invest more money into finding a cure with this sort of incentive, they would also be competing, not cooperating, and keeping their findings to themselves so as not to help the competition get there first. Science -- knowledge -- needs interaction and peer review, not secrecy and rivalry.
6- Consolidate every government agency that does the exact same thing into a single, more efficient agency. Who needs 20+ intelligence agencies anyway?
I understand and support the principle, but should point out that there's only one government agency -- the government. The government has departments, and those departments have divisions. To an outside observer it may often appear that two divisions "do exactly the same thing" -- but an employee of either agency will be able to go into great detail as to how the duties and practices of one occupy an entirely different niche than those of another.

Do we really need twenty different intelligence agencies? Couldn't we just have one? Well, yeah, we could do that, but you'd find we'd wind up with a single intelligence agency with twenty distinct components, because this is the nature of specialization and division of labor. The Director of Central Intelligence was already the head of all of these agencies, so this is effectively how they already operate. We can reform the interactions of the various components, but consolidation and restructuring often amounts to "moving boxes around" -- which was exactly what we were promised the Department of Parties Homeland Security wouldn't be.

At the same time, it's an excellent line for the campaign trail.
7- Banish the estate tax.
Again, I think the best solution would be to leave the taxation of individuals to the states, but the estate tax seems like an overblown issue. Few people are actually subject to it -- and, again, people who get that rich generally make a lot of money in the form of government contracts, so having the government reclaim some of that money as it's being passed on to trust fund babies doesn't seem too unfair to me. But it is an issue people seem to get behind, so it will undoubtedly win you some votes.
8- Make laws to make frivolous lawsuits nearly impossible or impossible to file while protecting valid ones.
Tough to do. At the end of the day, somebody -- or some body -- will need to determine whether a lawsuit meets whatever qualification you set to make a lawsuit "valid." At the moment this is the role of the judge, and I can't think of anyone better-qualified to do the job. Other measures can be enforced, such as sanctions for lawyers and abuse-of-process charges for people who are found to be repeat offenders, but I don't know how you can make it impossible to file a frivolous lawsuit.
9- Protect the Defense of Marriage Act.
Meh. People who want to defend marriage should spend more time encouraging people they know not to rush into the decision and less time worrying about what total strangers are doing. I don't see how it's the state's job to tell two consenting adults that they can or can't get married. It's a contract between two people and God.
10- Bring the Iraq war to a swift close by concentrating massive military force in Iraq, sealing the borders to prevent new terrorists from getting in, wiping out the insurgency with extreme prejudice, then bringing our brave servicemen and women back home with full honors.
Undoubtedly a popular position, but I have to wonder if "wiping out the insurgency" is even possible at this point, short of turning the country to glass.

No matter when we leave, the Iraqis are going to have to figure out for themselves how they want to run their own country -- whether to follow the secularists or the Islamists. Our overwheming force and deep involvement in the constitutional process are working to radicalize Iraqis who might otherwise have been on the fence -- moving them away from the secular moderates who are working with us, and toward the radical theocrats who are violently opposing us. The more we kill the insurgents, and back the government, the more ammunition we give to the insurgency, who will question the legitimacy of what will be called our "puppet government" once we are gone.

What we are doing now has the effect of swelling the ranks of the insurgency, even as the government becomes more and more dependent on our presence to survive. When the overwhelming force of our military is gone, a struggle to fill the power vacuum is inevitable. When that day comes, all Hell will break loose.
11- Pull all support of any kind from Palestine and give Israel our full backing in their national defense against terrorists.
If you do this, make sure you require complete transparency to journalists, so that the events that ensue will be completely documented. I promise you, you will be horrified. And this will feed into the same phenomenon that I discusss under the previous item.
12- The UN will shape up or we will abandon it and kick it out of our country.
I'd need more information on what you'd want to fix.

We didn't have much of a problem with the UN when it was dominated by a few imperial powers, but as empires have dissolved, colonies and protectorates have become nations and gained voting rights, and we've seen our dominance in the body wane -- and now we don't seem to think the organization we founded is such a good idea any more.

The idea in the first place was that the great powers could use it as a venue to negotiate diplomatic or legalistic solutions rather than resorting to war. Perhaps now that we're the only country that retains the power to project overwhelming force on a global scale, settling things by force has come back into vogue?
13- Seek the reunification of Korea under democratic rule. In other words get the North integrated into the South. This may take buying off North Korea’s leaders, or possibly imposing a trade embargo while cutting off foreign aid until they capitulate. They have been a split nation for too long.
Sanctions empower dictators. Better to flood the country with supplies. Random airdrops of pamphlets, food, radios, et cetera, and encourage the emergence of opposition groups.
14- I believe it is possible to remove Castro and his cronies from the country with a huge cash payout and relocation for them. We can then either consider the country bought and make it a territory or new state in the Union if the people are willing (and I think they are) or we can help them rebuild and set up a friendly democracy. This is a bloodless way to get rid of an enemy in our own hemisphere.
We often forget that it was a "friendly democracy" in Cuba that made Castro seem like a good idea in the first place, but they certainly haven't. Like all fascist states, Castro's government is defined by its opposition to its enemies, and in their case the enemy is American imperialism. If we want to encourage the emergence of democracy there, we can demonstrate that we really want them to have self-determination, by opening up trade and giving them more options, not trying to contain them and reinforcing the notion that we're out to get them.
15- Seal off the southern border so none may cross except at manned checkpoints. Then either find and deport every illegal immigrant in our country, or follow the plan I have outlined in my previous posting "A Solution to the Border Problem".
Another immensely popular proposition, which would gain you some very well-financed enemies. Those who benefit from illegal immigration -- those who employ illegal immigrants -- are everywhere, and will not gladly part with the cheap labor.
16- Set only two possible sentences for murderers, rapists, and child molesters: Death, or banishment to any country that will have them under the condition that they lose their American citizenship and that they will be executed without trial or appeal if they ever set foot on American soil again.
The burden of proof would have to be set very high. If guilt can be conclusively established -- very difficult to do -- I'm all for it.
17- I will only appoint strict Constitutional Constructionists to any US court. No liberal activist judges.
Nobody self-identifies as a "liberal activist judge." (Well, okay, I know one person who might, but she works a traffic court.) I'm not sure on what the principle is that defines an "activist" -- the only consistent standard seems to be that if somebody doesn't agree with a decision, it might be activism. Is a conservative activist judge acceptable?
18- As much as I hate regulation I hate exploiting needy children even more. That is why I propose caps on the cost of adoption. It should be easy, fair, and affordable.
An interesting proposition. I'd have to research it to know whether or not I think it's a good idea, but you could definitely construct an emotionally-resonant campaign plank out of it.
19- Minimum gas mileage standards on all new vehicles.
Good. Some sort of progress timetable on fuel-conserving hybridization systems might also be a good idea, perhaps tied to a research program as alluded to under (4).
20- Ensure that all revenue raised through gas taxes are used for road construction and maintenance only. Use no other source of tax revenue to pay for them. Adjust gas taxes accordingly, hopefully down.
Tying taxes to related expenditures is a great idea, and should also be a popular campaign promise. People want to see where their money is going.
21- Since PETA supports terrorists who are busy teaching people how to become terrorists right here on American soil, I will declare PETA to be a terrorist group. They should not be paying arsonists and bombers to spread their foul message.
If you can establish that a group is supporting terrorism, the group should absolutely be disbanded, and those responsible prosecuted. Unfortunately, the process of rooting out such support is difficult, as the groups that are actually doing this don't tend to have offices or keep records. I'm not familiar with the case against PETA, though, and I have a feeling that going after them on the campaign trail as "terrorists" won't gain you very much support from moderates.
22- Exempt the EPA from lawsuits. Currently a gigantic portion of EPA funding is being wasted fighting lawsuits from environmental activist groups. That money would be better spent protecting the environment.
If the Environmental Protection Agency is being sued left and right by environmental activists, it might be doing something wrong. Certainly, an agency given permission to operate with impunity has little incentive to behave itself.
23- The second amendment should not be abridged.
While I basically agree with you on this point, I don't think we have total agreement on what "the right to keep and bear arms" entails.
24- Exempt farms from taxes on revenue raised due to farming activities.
Set an income threshold so as to prevent large agribusinesses from calling themselves "farms."
25- Offer incentives and assistance to farmers for switching from traditional farming techniques to conservation farming. It’s good for everyone.
I like it.
26- Privatize all schools K-12 and switch to a voucher program so that even children from poor families and bad neighborhoods can compete with wealthier students for admission to the best schools at no cost to them, thereby leveling the playing field based on individual merit rather than financial status. I have outlined a plan for this in my previous posting "Down with Public Schools". See also "Big Government for Public Schools".
In all honesty, I'd rather scrap public funding altogether than move to vouchers. The problems that exist within our public school system -- the deterioration of standards, pandering to students, social promotion -- will be amplified, not reduced, in a federal voucher system as chains of "McSchools" spring up across the country to rake in those government checks. Such chains would be committed to getting and keeping the butts in the seats -- by giving the kids exactly what they want. Not healthy.
27- 26 makes a huge Department of Education Unnecessary. Reduce it to just the personnel needed to handle the standardized tests that will be used to rate schools and release annual performance reports on the schools.
A huge Department of Education is already unnecessary. Release the purse strings and give the responsibility to the states.
So, would you vote for me?
At the very least, you're willing to state what you believe in. I don't agree with all your positions, but I believe you'd be open to changing them if presented with a persuasive argument.

So yes, I'd vote for you. But I don't think you'd win. You're too honest. ;)

2 comments:

Daniel Levesque said...

Wow, that was quite an in depth analysis, and you do make some excellent points. Thank you for the constuctive criticism.

www.ravingconservative.com

Daniel Levesque said...

By the way. I've been trying to figure out which part of my links section a libertarian (you strike me as a libertarian) belongs in. In your case at least I have figured it out. You're linked.

www.ravingconservative.com