Republican National Convention

ST. PAUL — After two conventions, three cities, 11 days and more than 16 panel discussions, a pretty clear picture emerges on the different directions conservatives and liberals want to take the country.

Conservatives recognize we live in a global economy from which we cannot afford to retreat. It’s a world where an information-based economy enables consumers to expect not only better choices in the products and services they buy, but more accountability from their government as well. They believe the same free market forces that have lifted billions out of poverty around the world now need to be applied to a model of government still stuck in the 20th century.

The left, on the other hand, believes the country has gone wildly off track since Ronald Reagan became president. Liberals want to return to 1930s-style solutions of the New Deal and Great Society. On issue after issue, the left has rejected President Bill Clinton’s 1996 claim that “the era of big government is over.” For them, big government is about to make a huge comeback.

Energy: Listening to the left on energy policy, one would think the only way America ever moved away from the horse and carriage was through a well-thought-out, centrally planned government program to tax buggy whips and subsidize Model Ts. There simply is no acknowledgment that private technological innovation and entrepreneurship were the driving factors that transformed our nation’s transportation sector a century ago. Driven by fears that our planet will end soon unless drastic reductions in carbon emissions happen immediately, the left desperately wants the government to direct and control our nation’s energy infrastructure. Never mind that many on the left don’t even know where we currently get our energy from or how much their plans will hurt American consumers. The nostalgia on the left for big government runs so deep that any analogy to past government programs is marshaled to help make their case. Conservatives, meanwhile, plainly acknowledge that our economic and national security interests are not well served by our dependence on foreign oil. They just believe that millions of individual consumer choices, instead of a few selected government bureaucrats, should shape our energy future.

Health Care: The left desperately wants to inflict a government run, Medicare-like, health care bureaucracy on the American people. But the left’s leaders deftly recognize that the American people would never sign up for government health care knowingly. So instead, they use the language of choice to sell incremental reforms that are designed to strangle private health care and pave the way for a single-payer system. Conservatives are much more honest in their approach, explicitly telling the American people that our 1930s-era employer-delivered health care system is hopelessly out of date, and that consumers need to be given the dollars and the information to make their own decisions. Only when real market forces are introduced, for the first time, into our health care system will skyrocketing costs and uninsured rates come down.

Labor: Still dependent on unions for votes and money, the left has turned its back on free trade, calling for a timeout on new trade deals and renegotiation of current deals with our closest allies. Worse, the left wants to solidify its political power by reversing labor’s continued shrinking share of the private workforce. To do this, they want to end secret ballot elections for union organizing, thus enabling union “lieutenants” to pressure employees at work, in the parking lot, and even at their homes.

Education: Despite decades of poor results, the left still has only one solution for education reform: higher government spending for public schools. Never mind that there is no link between higher spending and results, teacher unions will never allow the left to embrace any reforms that endanger seniority and job security. Conservatives, however, know that 85% of education spending goes to teachers’ salary and benefits, that these salary and benefits are determined by seniority and that seniority has no impact on how well students learn. The only way to bring real reform to our nation’s schools is to empower families to make the decisions on where their education dollars go.

Budget and Spending: The leaders of the left talk a good game on reducing the deficit and lowering taxes, but the fact is that they still want to raise America’s overall tax burden. What little new revenues they raise don’t come close to matching their promised massive new spending increases. But for many on the left, this is not a problem: they want high deficits. Conservatives, meanwhile, know that our looming entitlement crisis threatens our entire economy and that steps must be taken today to ensure our children will have the opportunities for growth that we do.

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