Can the GOP recover, or is it doomed?

| March 7 2013
Christopher Cook

The problems—both endogenous and exogenous—facing the GOP are enormous. How can they recover? How can they find a new path? Two interesting pieces from major players recently gave fascinating and incisive takes on that very question.

The first is from Newt Gingrich (via Powerline); it covers a wide array of strategic mission objectives that Gingrich argues (somewhat convincingly) that the GOP needs to adopt.

The second is from Arthur Brooks, and it is—at least in the stating—a lot simpler. Brooks’ contention is that the GOP needs to shift its arguments to address the moral implications of policy rather than the fiscal or practical.

Both of these pieces are essential reading, in full. I will, thus, simply link to both and expect that you will read them both in full. Neither is particularly long. Then, please continue below.

Newt Gingrich: What Is To Be Done?

Republicans and Their Faulty Moral Arithmetic

I would argue that both are right. Gingrich covers a lot of the structural ground, and Brooks’ covers the core shift in messaging that is necessary. Brooks’ is right both in terms of marketing and on the merits. Not only do people respond to arguments about feeling and caring more than numbers and facts, but compassion and caring are positive things from a human standpoint.

Brooks’ argument that free markets are better for human beings, and thus we should explain it that way, is solid. But I think the GOP has to go even further. I believe that they, joined by conservatives and libertarians, need to launch a massive push towards invigorating private charity. Not just an action on the margins, but a movement.

American private charity is already incredibly robust, leveraging several billion dollars a year in the cause of helping the needy. And American individuals are among the most charitable on the planet. But the American government sucks a couple of trillion dollars out of the private economy each year. Imagine what would happen if a sizable portion of that money remained in the private economy. More for investment and economic activity. More income generation resulting in more disposable income. More disposable income plus lower losses due to taxes means more available for charitable giving. If even a fraction of what the government takes each year were left in the private economy, the private charity sector could grow by orders of magnitude. And it, being more efficient (in so many ways) than the government at delivering support to the needy, could get the job done at a fraction of the current outlay.

A massive movement could be started to redesign how we think of government and support of the needy.

There are a lot of elements that could be applied to such a project. For example, instead of tax deductions that pull the dollar amount of a charitable donation out of one’s taxable income, perhaps we could have a one-to-one reduction in one’s tax bill. Every dollar donated to a charity—a charity that is, in the process, relieving the government of an unsustainable welfare obligation—is a dollar taken off of one’s tax bill. This would be a massive, coordinated effort to spin up charitable support for those who truly need it while, at the same time and at relatively the same pace, the government begins spinning down the welfare state. Devote the kind of urgency to the project that we devoted to the Apollo Program. Call it the Caritas Project, or something along those lines.

This would be in keeping with Brooks’ sage advice, but it would go a stage further. Brooks’ is primarily talking about changing the rhetorical approach—this would be a proactive step, a way to say, “We are going to find ways to help people that actually work—that discern the truly needy; that reward work and initiative; that get people through difficult times without addicting them to support; all the while creating huge economic activity and jobs in a private charity sector that already employs millions, and will employ so many more as it grows. And all the while, decommissioning a welfare state that any honest observer knows is unsustainable and will soon fail to provide support to those it is designed to help.

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