Big Policy Reforms Republican Candidates Should Embrace in 2016

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January 1, 2016

Big Policy Reforms Republican Candidates Should Embrace in 2016

With the possible exception of tax reform, very few conservatives will accuse the GOP presidential candidates of bold policy proposals. So maybe the candidates could use some suggestions.

Privatize the Veterans Administration’s health care system. Two years into the VA health care scandal, and we still see stories of long waiting times, rationing, deceit, fraud, mismanagement—and no one held accountable.

After congressional grandstanding and denunciations, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislationessentially rewarding the VA with an extra $16 billion. That’ll teach ‘em!

It’s time to end this sham and give vets access to subsidized private health insurance so they can go where and to which doctors they want—just like other Americans with health insurance. Vets could be allowed to join the federal employees’ health insurance program, or they could go into the health insurance exchanges, or they could be given a Medicare Advantage plan—with the government subsidizing their premiums.

Since its inception in the 1930s, the VA health care system has been an expensive political pork barrel filled with fraud and abuse. It’s time to put the vets’ health care needs, not politicians’ interests, first.

Pass Education Savings Accounts. Congress just passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, an education reform law meant to replace the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. Republicans boasted the law returned power to the states, but teachers’ unions liked it because it made them less accountable. And Michael Gerson of the Washington Post writes, “States and localities are pleased that they can declare all their schools successful, or at least make accountability a fuzzy, gentle, toothless friend.”

Nevada has a better idea. It recently passed legislation to provide every student with an Education Savings Account (ESA). The state contributes $5,100 to every student’s ESA, a little more for low-income kids. Parents can take that money and apply it to whichever school they want, including homeschool. Money not spent grows and can be used to fund college expenses.

ESAs are the most pro-school choice option in the country and every conservative candidate should be promoting them.

Allow state opt-out of federal grants. The Congressional Budget Office says that in 2011 the federal government provided state and local governments with $607 billion in grants and aid, with 48 percent of that figure going to health programs.

The federal government often uses these funds to get the states to submit to Washington’s will: “You want highway money? You have to set your speed limits at what we in Washington think is right.”

Many states would like to tell Washington where it can stick those regulations, but they would lose that portion of the money its citizens paid in federal taxes.

The solution is to allow states to opt out of Washington’s grants and aid.

The federal government took in about $1 trillion in individual income tax revenue in 2011. About 60 percent of that ($607 billion) went back to the states. So if a state were to opt out of federal grants and aid, its citizens should be allowed to reduce their federal income tax obligation by a similar amount.

Of course, states may have to raise taxes to offset some of that money they would lose in federal grants, but individuals’ total tax bill would likely go down.

It makes no sense for Americans to send $1 trillion every year to Washington only to have the government hand most of that money back, less Washington’s handling fee, and only if we do what Washington demands. Give states the option of opting out, and let that income tax money stay in the state—and with the people.

End federal government unions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 27.5 percent of the 3.4 million federal government employees are union members. These aren’t firefighters or police putting their lives on the line; the vast majority have white-collar desk jobs. They are more educated than the average American and they make more money—78 percent more, according to one study.

And the unions have instituted provisions that make it almost impossible to punish or fire a federal employee, even if they spend their whole days looking at porn (SEC), illegally target Americans (IRS), commit massive fraud (VA), and waste billions of dollars (Pentagon).

Ending federal unions would be a good first step in retaking control of our government.

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