Remember the days when the press ooohed and aaaahed every time Barack Obama and Michelle went out to dinner? The President's jump shot ... the First Lady's arms ... the adorable kids ... the dog search ... the vegetable garden ... it was Operation Razzle Dazzle run by an image machine working overtime. Team Obama believed that if people saw the First Family as cool and fun, they would be more likely to think Obama's "remaking of America" was cool and fun, too. Of course, it didn't work out this way.
Americans, it turns out, are sophisticated enough to separate their personal appreciation for the Obamas from their views on the President's policies. At this point, the entire White House operation is starting to have the look and feel of a tired Vegas lounge act. The economic forecast looks grim to most of us, who wonder why Washington can't cut back on spending in the same way our own families have. Everything Obama proposes carries a hefty price tag -- which ends up further burdening already beleaguered taxpayers and small businesses, who sooner or later pick up the tab for this profligate spending. The health-care debate has turned out to be a referendum on how well Washington manages big programs. The answer? Not well.
Clearly, there is a genuine opportunity today for any politician who is willing to stand with these Americans who feel Washington just doesn't give a damn about them. These people are looking for a voice of reason amidst the chaos and insanity of a world where numbers like $10 trillion are casually tossed around.
This feels like 1993, the last time I recall such widespread, intense anger with Washington. Back then, Gingrich's Contract with America tacked its sail to these prevailing winds, helping a demoralized GOP coast to a stunning 54-seat congressional coup. We need a new blueprint for a new age that our fellow Americans can read and think about. I suppose we could just sit back and hope to beat Democrats by default, but that would be foolhardy. Obama is a master campaigner and loves competition. The GOP needs to outline a coherent platform of specific ideas that every Republican candidate can run on in 2010 -- that way there's a clear post-election agenda that, assuming big GOP pick-ups, brings its own mandate. Call it "10 for 2010."
1) Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR). Limit federal spending growth to the percentage in population growth plus the rate of inflation; provide taxpayers the option of filing a post-card sized return using a low, flat tax rate of 15%
2) End Tax-funded abortions. Stop federal payments to Planned Parenthood and prohibit any taxpayer-subsidized health insurance plan from covering abortion
3) Defend American Borders. Complete America's border-protection initiatives using remaining funds from the so-called stimulus bill
4) King Dollar. Preserve a strong dollar so that Americans' savings aren't wiped out by inflation and the U.S. dollar remains the world's reserve currency
5) Empower American Business. Immediately slash corporate tax rates to 15% and scrap the capital-gains tax altogether
6) Defend America. Strengthen America to defend our homeland and fully fund an operational, layered missile-defense system
7) Statism Exit Plan. De-fund czars; immediately cease bailout payments to failed companies; ban future bailouts
8) End Generational Theft. As few believe America's entitlement programs will be able to pay benefits to future generations, provide younger workers the choice of diverting payroll/Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts
9) Restore America's System of Justice. Introduce penalties for frivolous lawsuits, where those who launch unsuccessful lawsuits are liable for the defendants' legal bills
10) American Energy Independence. All-of-the-Above strategy that embraces alternatives, expands and accelerates exploration and production of oil and natural gas, and jumpstarts dramatic increases in nuclear power