[This is an abbreviated summary of the invited talk -‘Requirements for a Winning Republican Strategy’ - I gave to the Nevada County Republican Central Committee last night (13may09) at the Rood Center.]
Fourth graders Sammy and Suzie were running for class president. Each asked their parents for advice on their speech to the class. Sammy’s conservative parents advised him to emphasize solid conservative principles and the rewards that may derive from their practice. Suzie’s liberal parents similarly gave their advice on a strategy that would better her chances for winning the office.
On election day the teacher asked Sammy to give his speech first. This he did, outlining in detail the elements of personal responsibility and industry which if practiced by the class would enable Sammy to propose a list of class rewards to the teacher and principal, most of which would surely be granted. It was a reasonable and detailed case, well made and, seemingly well received by his classmates. When it was Suzie’s turn to speak, she walked quickly to the front of the class and said, ‘Everyone who votes for me gets a free ice cream cone.’ and as quickly went back to her seat and sat down. Suzie won by a landslide.
Today most American workers can no longer sell their labor competitively to maintain the quality of life (QoL) that they consider as their birthright. The Democrats know this and have a well-oiled strategy for taking advantage of the situation to sell their socialistic nostrums to an eager and inviting electorate. But the Republicans deny this reality, and continue to push the idea that all success needs is a good work ethic, its determined application, and perseverance.
Some background. The Department of Education has been measuring the intellectual underpinnings of the American workforce over the last thirty plus years with what today is called the ‘National Assessment of Adult Literacy’. It used to be called the 'National Assessment of Workforce Literacy' , but that title became an embarrassment because of its contents and conclusions about our continuing capacity to innovate and produce, hence the more vanilla and less specific title.
America’s current population of about 305 million contains 140 million workers and 150 million registered voters. The overwhelming majority of us are products of a broken state-run educational system that has long benefitted teachers and staff over students and parents. The cited survey tells us that about 40% of our adults range from illiterate to barely literate, and 95% of us have trouble identifying the subject or intent of a written paragraph. (Note that most writing for broad audiences today ties to solve this with one sentence paragraphs.)
More grim are our statistics in numeracy – the layman’s ability to do arithmetic, deal with big and small numbers, understand the graphic display of data, follow simple logic, … . At best, only one person out of twenty adults can be considered numerate. In our society, ‘I don’t do numbers.’ is acceptable with no shame whatsoever in polite company. On the contrary, such an admission draws conciliation and sympathetic concurrence from those in earshot. As authors Bryan Caplan (The Myth of the Rational Voter - Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies) and John Allen Paulos’ classic (Innumeracy – Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences) explain, we are an innumerate nation incapable of rational examination of social issues since they ALL start and end with numbers. We mostly emote, then vote.
Forty years ago we produced half of the world’s PhD’s. Today we produce about one out of seven, all which are not in fields that enable wealth generation, since wealth generation is almost totally based on some form of technology, its innovation, and application. And we, along with the rest of the world, are caught up in a whirlwind of accelerating technology that daily displaces workers at all skill levels, and increases the productivity of those who can manage the advanced work environments that produce the products and services which maintain our quality of life.
The final salt in the labor competition wound is that we all arrive on earth with unequal abilities. For example, consider that half of us have two-digit IQs in a world where now high three digits is the competitive norm. No matter how equally we allocate opportunity on the starting line at the edge of a level playing field, the smarter and more risk tolerant will quickly pull ahead – way ahead. Our habit of politically equating ‘egalitarian outcome’ with ‘equal opportunity’ has done nothing but punish society’s best and brightest, and has wound up harming everyone but the state’s power elite.
On top of all this, in the last 25 years the world’s workforce – the number of workers who now compete in a worldwide economy – has doubled from about 1.5 billion to three billion. In economics and sociology this phenomenon, enabled by USSR’s collapse, is called the Great Doubling. In a comprehensive paper, Thomas Richard Freeman (2006) concludes that today “(t)he assumption that only advanced countries have the educated work force necessary for innovation and production of high tech products is no longer true.”
Despite this reality, Republicans continue to plan and plunge blindly forward, giving little evidence that they recognize any of this. The Democrats, however, seem to understand exactly the state of our electorate, and have fashioned their winning campaign strategy around the tried and tested socialist prescriptions. They simply promise everyone who votes for them a ‘free ice cream cone’. As we have seen, this works like gangbusters, with every new undereducated generation entering the workforce. And more so today, because deep in their hearts most American workers know they can no longer compete, and need the strong arm of the state to grab for them that which as individuals they no longer can.
And a continuing series of polls confirms this assessment. A recent Gallup poll reports that 47% of American workers believe that our government is not too big, and could even be bigger. IRS data shows that today 53% of Americans pay no income tax at all. With these attitudes and practices in place, why would anyone from these segments of the electorate vote for a politician or party that promises hard work, self-reliance, and risk taking as prerequisites for personal success. The easier way, offered by the Democrats and summarized by the Peter/Paul Principle, is a no brainer.
Peter/Paul Principle - Whenever you promise to rob Peter to pay Paul, you can count on the full support of Paul.
From the above data on the electorate, we see that the tipping point has already been passed – the Pauls already outnumber the Peters. In a democracy this is a political headwind that no party can ignore, let alone surmount. The Republicans have to also promise AND DELIVER a ‘free ice cream cone’.
This is strong medicine indeed for a party that has always approached elections with only the stalwart Republican principles and prescriptions – Lower Taxes, Fewer Laws and Regulations, Personal Responsibility, Private Property, Individual Liberty, National Security, Free Trade, … . While these will still be a necessary component of the Republican platform, they will no longer be sufficient for victory at the polls. Success at the polls will now require both principles and an ice cream cone (wealth transfer).
But the Republican ice cream cone must be more than the empty and unsustainable promises of the socialists. It must involve the earned transfer of wealth through fulfilling, meaningful jobs in the private sector. And delivering the Republican ice cream cone cannot kill the geese that lay the golden eggs.
So the bottom line is that a new Republican strategy must henceforth contain BOTH principled governance based on conservative values, but also include a sustainable means of earned wealth transfer that benefits society while recognizing the realistic limitations of our workforce in an environment of accelerating technology.
To give a concrete (with no claims of its being the best) example of how such an earned wealth transfer program is carried out, we conclude by briefly introducing the Non-Profit Service Corporation (NPSC). The NPSCs would be made possible under appropriate legislation, and the long-awaited, revised tax code. Its major attributes are –
• The purpose of the NPSCs is to gradually assume the over-reaching and inefficient functions performed today by the government through its employment of the non-wealth producing and/or non-competitive segment of the workforce;
• NPSCs can only be owned by for-profit private corporations paying US taxes;
• The NPSCs would be wealth-consuming activities that will provide the various social services - schools, universities, prisons, eldercare, youth services, infrastructure maintenance, land and forest management, park services, … .
• For-profits will set up, (jointly) own, and fund the various NPSCs, and get favorable tax treatment as a result;
• The NPSCs charter is to benefit both the servers (their employees) and service-receivers (‘customers’);
• Government will charter NPSCs, and retain important NPSC auditing and rating functions.
Since the NPSCs would be established, owned, funded, and operated by functioning, for-profit corporations, we would expect a much more efficient use of monies expended to deliver an equivalent level and quality of services. These services are already inefficiently funded out of the country’s tax base. Under this more efficient and decentralized scheme, the funding and operation of NPSCs under a revised tax code would also result in an overall reduction of taxes paid by corporations and individuals.