Since its electoral defeat last November, the Republican party has struggled to find its footing. It should be clear by now that merely waging guerrilla warfare against the Obama administration on a miscellaneous set of peripheral issues won’t do. Rather, what is needed is an independent agenda organized around a central theme that is readily comprehensible to the American people and designed to deal with the critical problems facing the nation. That agenda can only be economic growth.
Economic growth must be the central issue because it is only through growth that the devastating threat of national bankruptcy can be averted. Furthermore, it is only by reviving American economic growth that the West’s global predominance can be sustained, and peace and freedom kept secure around the world. Finally, it is only through economic growth that we can provide the millions of jobs for which Americans are crying out.
The choice that must be set before the body politic is between a set of policies that offer the prospect of real economic growth and a set that is inimical to that end. These can be laid out in a number of areas.
1. Stop red-tape strangulation. The proliferation of bureaucracy, regulations, and red tape at every level of government has been a problem for some time. But it has become especially onerous during President Obama’s tenure, to the extent that it has crippled the administration’s own efforts to build anything through its stimulus bill’s public-works projects. For companies and individuals, the impositions have been even worse, with the worst culprit being the EPA. It has denied or delayed millions of construction permits, on pretexts ranging from preserving imaginary rest-stops for migratory wildlife to halting suburban sprawl. It has prevented innumerable individuals from improving their own property, even when improvements — such as draining disease-spreading swamps — are necessary for public health and safety. It has created mountains of unjustifiable, indecipherable, and fundamentally unknowable regulations and imposed trillions of dollars in cumulative compliance and litigation costs on businesses of every description, thereby preventing their expansion or even driving them into bankruptcy.
2. Make energy plentiful and cheap. Energy powers our economy, both literally and figuratively. The more that energy costs, the less economic activity there can be. This is shown dramatically in the figure below, which compares U.S. unemployment rates with oil prices over the past four decades. Notice that every time the price of oil rises, American unemployment rates shoot up shortly thereafter.
Figure 1. Oil prices vs. U.S. unemployment rates, 1970 to 2010