Those of us hoping to see a "wave election" in November that will start to rein in Washington's wretched excesses have to count on Republicans having specific plans and the will to work for them. Watching some of the GOP leaders stumble and fumble on TV in recent days, unable to detail a single thing they would cut despite repeated inquiries, was not comforting.
But there are plenty of ideas out there, and voters should be encouraging demanding that GOP candidates discusss them and embrace the ones they find most palatable. A good place to start would be Paul Ryan's fiscal roadmap (pdf file), a modest little plan to "provide for the reform of health care, the Social Security system, the tax code for individuals and business, and the budget process." Nothing this comprehensive is likely to pass, leading many conservatives to call for a more incremental approach. But:
When I asked Ryan about this problem, he raised the possibility that our looming fiscal armageddon will concentrate the minds of lawmakers, and make sweeping solutions more imaginable. “I think [comprehensive reform] is going to become possible,” he told me, “because the status quo is just so unsustainable. We will have a debt crisis in this country that will require emergency actions if we don't fix this fast.” But then he also added that “if I can get an inch in the right direction, versus the mile, then I'd take the inch.”
And here are 10 ideas from Ramesh Ponnuru that can be debated individually. I'd move his No. 2 -- repeal of Obamacare -- to No. 1 and throw in the financial reform package, too. If we're going to start pulling government back, having all these 2,000-page bills with unknown consequences makes it that much harder. And his No. 1 is tax code reform that involves "considerable simplification" but in a way that doesn't sacrifice revenue; not sure about that -- what's wrong with sacrificing a little revenue? But his list is a good starting point.
Ross Douthat suggests there are "real political benefits to be reaped from a sustained engagement with policy ideas."
Yet with some exceptions (Ryan in the House, of course, and to some extent figures like Tom Coburn and Bob Corker in the Senate) most Republican seem content to follow their leadership on policy, rather than trying to push their leaders in one direction or another by floating agendas of their own.
I'd also start eliminating entire federal departments, starting with Education. And if we're really serious about all this, we should also give at least some consideration to proposals such as this one from Cato, which would reduce federal spending by 10 percent by killing a whole bunch of susidies, including ones for homeowners and agriculture.