Examining the Republican Platform Part IV: “Expanding Opportunity to Promote Prosperity”

This is continued from Parts I-III of my examination of the Republican Platform. You may notice a change in my formatting scheme for the Republican platform only starting with this part.

Before we move on to Part III, “Expanding Opportunity to Promote Prosperity”, we need to take a look back at the Republican government-reform plan. I think the Republicans can be trusted to take some of the steps they propose to reform Washington, but I’m not sure they’re entirely willing to control the size of government. And they never did address the “members of Congress” that “have been indicted for violating the public trust”, a good many of them Republicans. Now then, on to the Republicans’ economic policy, and it is possible that for the first time the Republican review is catching up to something already covered by the Democrats.

America’s free economy has given our country the world’s highest standard of living and allows us to share our prosperity with the rest of humanity. It is an engine of charity, empowering everything from Sabbath collection plate to great endowments. It creates opportunity, rewards self-reliance and hard work, and unleashes productive energies that other societies can only imagine.

Today, our economy faces challenges due to high energy costs. Our task is to strengthen our economy and build a greater degree of security – in availability of jobs, in accessibility of health care, in portability of pensions, and in affordability of energy. That is an urgent task because economic freedom – and the prosperity it makes possible – are not ends in themselves. They are means by which families and individuals can maintain their independence from government, raise their children by their own values, and build communities of self-reliant neighbors.

Economic freedom expands the prosperity pie; government can only divide it up. That is why Republicans advocate lower taxes, reasonable regulation, and smaller, smarter government. That agenda translates to more opportunity for more people. It represents the economics of inclusion, the path by which hopes become achievements. It is the way we will reach our goal of enabling everyone to have a chance to own, invest, and build.

Even when talking about the economy, the Republicans still talk about “security”. The Republicans entirely attribute the economy’s “challenges” to “high energy costs” and want to pursue “affordability of energy”, but there’s nothing yet about climate change. They do want to increase “accessibility of health care” and “portability of pensions” as well. The Republicans, tellingly, see one of the real “ends” that “economic freedom” is a “means” to as “independence from government”, which should tell you what some of their strategies will be: as little government interference as possible.

“Republican Tax Policy: Protecting Hardworking Americans”:

The most important distinction between Republicans and the leadership of today’s Democratic Party concerning taxes is not just that we believe you should keep more of what you earn. That’s true, but there is a more fundamental distinction. It concerns the purpose of taxation. We believe government should tax only to raise money for its essential functions.

Today’s Democratic Party views the tax code as a tool for social engineering. They use it to control our behavior, steer our choices, and change the way we live our lives. The Republican Party will put a stop to both social engineering and corporate handouts by simplifying tax policy, eliminating special deals, and putting those saved dollars back into the taxpayers’ pockets.

So why didn’t you do so when you were in power for six years? As described, it sounds all well and good that the Republicans would want us to live our lives the way we see fit and not let government micromanage us, but it seemingly rings hollow when that path is self-destructive, especially where the environment is concerned. When a Hummer is seen as a status symbol, you know “the people” and “the market” can’t always be trusted to do the right thing. And look at the other extreme, explicitly espoused by the Republicans: “tax only to raise money for [the government’]s essential functions.” That way lies, in all likelihood, chaos and unchecked corporate greed. The Republicans did back “reasonable regulation” in the introductory section, but still.

“The Republican Agenda: Using Tax Relief to Grow the Economy”:

Sound tax policy alone may not ensure economic success, but terrible tax policy does guarantee economic failure. Along with making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent so American families will not face a large tax hike, Republicans will advance tax policies to support American families, promote savings and innovation, and put us on a path to fundamental tax reform.

Lower Taxes on Families and Individuals

  • “American families with children are the hardest hit during any economic downturn. Republicans will lower their tax burden by doubling the exemption for dependents.” Sounds like a good idea.
  • “New technology should not occasion more taxation. We will permanently ban internet access taxes and stop all new cell phone taxes.” Do those taxes exist, or are the Republicans just trying to preemptively stop them?
  • “For the sake of family farms and small businesses, we will continue our fight against the federal death tax.” I know the Democrats disagree, but “estate tax appears nowhere in their platform. Tax issues are rather missing from the whole thing, other than a general tax plan, which makes it scary that I keep wondering if they think money grows on trees.
  • “The Alternative Minimum Tax, a stealth levy on the middle-class that unduly targets large families, must be repealed.” I think everyone agrees on that.
  • “Republicans support tax credits for health care and medical expenses.” Am I going to have to call the Republicans out for trying to use taxes as a tool for “social engineering” as well?

Keeping Good Jobs in America
America’s producers can compete successfully in the international arena – as long as they have a level playing field. Today’s tax code is tilted against them, with one of the highest corporate tax rates of all developed countries. That not only hurts American investors, managers, and the U.S. balance of trade; it also sends American jobs overseas. We support a major reduction in the corporate tax rate so that American companies stay competitive with their foreign counterparts and American jobs can remain in this country.

The Democrats think jobs go overseas because of tax breaks, and want to provide specific incentives for companies to stay here – one reason the Republicans accuse Democrats of “social engineering”. (And remember my mention of “the Democrats’ attempts to mandate community service” in Part I?) I hope you get rid of those same “tax breaks” the Democrats are concerned about, though.

Promoting Savings through the Tax Code
We support a tax code that encourages personal savings. High tax rates discourage thrift by penalizing the return on savings and should be replaced with incentives to save. We support a plan to encourage employers to offer automatic enrollment in tax-deferred savings programs. The current limits on tax-free savings accounts should be removed.

The Democrats said they would “encourage personal savings” but didn’t say how; they did say they would create “automatic workplace pensions”. You don’t like “penalizing the return on savings” but you want to replace them with “incentives to save”? Social engineering alert! The penultimate sentence sounds good, if a bit social-engineering-y, and the last sentence sounds good but could be a minefield.

Fundamental Tax Reform
Over the long run, the mammoth IRS tax code must be replaced with a system that is simple, transparent, and fair while maximizing economic growth and job creation. As a transition, we support giving all taxpayers the option of filing under current rules or under a two-rate flat tax with generous deductions for families. This gradual approach is the taxpayers’ best hope of overcoming the lobbyist legions that have thwarted past simplification efforts.

Why does that smell like trying to screw poor people? What about the original and current purpose of the income tax? Rich and poor should benefit equally from the “generous deductions for families” unless the deduction is a flat dollar amount and the “flat tax” is a flat percentage, and I doubt a “flat tax” would get rid of income taxes for the poor, which (in my opinion) is the tax we really need to get rid of. How about a simple tax on a logarithmic or polynomial scale, with a formula available to anyone, and if you don’t know that sort of algebra you can plug in your income on an IRS web site and get your tax burden? The Democrats just wanted to close loopholes and end “tax havens”.

“As a matter of principle, we oppose retroactive taxation, and we condemn attempts by judges, at any level of government, to seize the power of the purse by ordering higher taxes.” Why would anyone do that? “Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering charity and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation.” Sounds reasonable, but “fraternal benevolent societies”?

“In any fundamental restructuring of federal taxation, to guard against the possibility of hypertaxation of the American people, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax.” Or in other words, “if a value added tax or sales tax is in, the income tax is out!” A value added tax is basically a sales tax that avoids double-taxation incurred during the making of a product (so in other words, a sales tax would tax a sandwich maker for the peanut butter, jelly, and bread they bought, and then tax you for the full price of the product, whereas a VAT would only tax the “value added” by the sandwich maker). Regardless, I don’t think the Democrats are pulling for either. There is something to be said for the idea that you’re taxed once when you get money, and then taxed again when you spend that same money, so I can see the Republicans’ point here. The next section takes a startlingly direct shot at the Democrats:

“The Democrats Plan to Raise Your Taxes”: This section is a startlingly direct shot at the Democrats.

The last thing Americans need right now is tax hikes. On the federal level, Republicans lowered taxes in 2001 and 2003 in order to encourage economic growth, put more money in the pockets of every taxpayer, and make the system fairer. It worked. If Congress had then controlled its spending, we could have done even more.

Ever since those tax cuts were enacted, the Democratic Party has been clear about its goals: It wants to raise taxes by eliminating those Republican tax reductions.

Before I get to the bulleted list, I want to remind you of what the Democratic platform actually said: “families making more than $250,000” would be asked to “give back a portion of the Bush tax cuts” (emphasis added). And those tax cuts have worked re-e-e-e-eally well right now, have they? And the poor and middle class really got a lot “more money in the[ir] pockets”, didn’t they?

  • “Marginal tax rates would rise. This is in addition to their proposal to target millions of taxpayers with even higher rates.” 2% of 300 million is about 6 million, so technically, “millions” of people would indeed get “even higher rates”. And the “marginal” tax rate is the rate on the next dollar you make, or the rate on the money that carries you into another tax bracket. If you’re raising the curve beyond a certain point, while keeping the curve on the other side the same or lowering it, the slope of the line has to increase somewhere. But the Republicans imply by their “in addition” phrasing that these two things would happen in two separate increases, separately.
  • “The “marriage penalty” would return for two-earner couples.” Not sure what that is or if it’s a real “penalty” or just separate assessments on each earner that don’t get reduced for marriage or cohabitation.
  • “The child tax credit would fall to half its current value.” A valid point.
  • “Small businesses would lose their tax relief.” However, the Democrats also proposed “exempt[ing] all start-up companies from capital gains taxes and provid[ing] them a tax credit for health insurance”. Of course, the latter might be that “social engineering” the Republicans complain about.
  • “The federal death tax would be enormously increased.” Again, “estate tax” doesn’t appear in the Democratic platform.
  • “Investment income – the seed money for new jobs – would be eaten away by higher rates for dividend and capital gain income.” Again, the Democrats would “exempt all start-up companies from capital gains taxes”. Otherwise, however, this seems to be a fair point.

    All that and more would amount to an annual tax hike upwards of $250 billion – almost $700 per taxpayer every year, for a total of $1.1 trillion in additional taxes over the next decade. That is what today’s Democratic Party calls “tax fairness.” We call it an unconscionable assault on the paychecks and pocketbooks of every hard-working American household. Their promises to aim their tax hikes at families with high incomes is a smokescreen; history shows that when Democrats want more money, they raise taxes on everyone.

So the Republicans think the Democrats are just playing politics and will raise everyone’s taxes regardless of what their platform may say. On the one hand that’s obviously a concern, on the other I’m actually a little bit less concerned about the funding sources of their social programs, but on the other other hand, the GOP is making them really look like traditional tax-and-spenders.

“Small Business: the Engine of Job Growth”: In addition to the above, the Democrats also pledged to “help small businesses facing high energy costs”, “remove bureaucratic barriers for small and start-up businesses” including reforming the patent process, and “create a national network of public-private business incubators and technical support.”

We proudly call ourselves the party of small business because small businesses are where national prosperity begins. Small businesses such as Main Street retailers, entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and direct sellers create most of the country’s new jobs and have been the primary means of economic advancement by women and minorities.

Eight years ago, when Democrats controlled the Executive Branch, small business faced a hostile regulatory agenda, from OSHA’s ergonomics standards and attempts to intrude into the homes of telecommuting employees to IRS discrimination against independent contractors. Republicans turned back those threats, along with much of the onerous taxation that limited the growth of small businesses. We reduced their marginal tax rates, quadrupled the limit on their expensing of investments, and phased out the death tax on family owned small businesses and family farms. We enacted Health Savings Accounts to help small business owners secure health insurance for themselves and their employees. All those gains are jeopardized if Democrats gain unfettered power once again.

What were “OSHA’s ergonomics standards” under Clinton? Were they unreasonable and/or unnecessary, or are you intimating that small businesses shouldn’t have to help their employees avoid carpal tunnel syndrome? The only other points I would wonder about are the “death tax” and the “Health Savings Accounts”. And the fact that the Democrats have only had “unfettered power” for two years, at the beginning of the Clinton presidency, since Carter’s presidency ended. On to the Republican plan:

  • “Through the energy agenda laid out elsewhere in this platform, we will attack the rise in energy costs that is making it so difficult for entrepreneurs to compete.” So the Republicans wouldn’t do anything to specifically help small business, only take on energy in general. The Democrats are so vague that for all I know, they may have the same thing in mind.
  • “Our tax reduction and tax simplification agenda will allow businesses to focus on producing and selling their products and services – not on paying taxes.” Another reference to another part of the platform. The Democrats indicated they would do similar things for small business.
  • “Our plan to return control of health care to patients and providers will benefit small business employers and employees alike.” Wait until I see it. I should remember the Democrats’ tax credit for small businesses at that point, in addition to their general health care plan.
  • “Our determination to vigorously open foreign markets to American products is an opportunity for many small businesses to grow larger in the global economy.” Once again, wait until I see it and compare it to the Democrats’ own plan to increase exports.
  • “Our approach to regulation – basing it on sound science to achieve goals that are technically feasible – will protect against job-killing intrusions into small businesses.” Sounds good; would you engage in the bureaucratic simplification the Democrats promise? What regulation is based on unsound science?
  • “Our commitment to legal reform means protecting small businesses from the effects of frivolous lawsuits.” Sounds good, but what about protecting their right to legitimate lawsuits?

The section ends with empty praise for small businesses as the source for “technological progress” and the solutions to our most pressing problems, including the environment.

“Technology and Innovation”:

American innovation has twin engines: technology and small business, employing over half the private-sector work force. The synergy of our technology and small business drove a world-wide economic transformation of the last quarter-century. To maintain our global leadership, we need to encourage innovators by reforming and making permanent the Research and Development Tax Credit as part of the overall agenda outlined in this platform.

The Democrats also vowed to make the R&D Tax Credit permanent, but did not vow to “reform” it.

Innovation is our future – in our approach to energy, to education, to health care, and especially to government. As a symbol of that commitment, we share the vision of returning Americans to the moon as a step toward a mission to Mars. In advancing our country’s space and aeronautics program, NASA will remain one of the world’s most important pioneers in technology, and from its explorations can come tremendous benefits for mankind.

Sending Americans to the moon may seem like a waste of money, but in fact the future of the human race may well lie on the moon and Mars if the environment keeps going to hell in a handbasket… and the moon is only mentioned in the Democratic platform in reference to the expeditions of the 1960s and 70s.

“Developing a Flexible and Innovative Workforce”: “To master the global economy, our work force must be creative, independent, and able to adapt to rapid change. That challenge calls for better education and training and new approaches to employer-employee relations. It means investing in people, not institutions.” The first sentence is certainly agreeable, but doesn’t “investing in people”, in the sense the Republicans are getting at here, require “investing in institutions”? The only way to directly “invest in people” without “investing in institutions” is to give them tax cuts, which you can’t control how they’re spent unless you use specific tax credits, which smack of “social engineering”. But I digress.

“The Failed Model of Employer-Employee Relations”:

The Democrats’ approach to employment policy is a retreat to failed models of the past: new regulatory burdens on employers that make it more difficult for businesses, big and small, to hire and keep employees. That failed model empowers union bosses at the expense of their members, trial lawyers at the expense of small businesses, and government bureaucrats at the expense of employer-employee partnerships. Its goal is not to create jobs but to control the workplace and the work force.

Are the “failed models of the past” referring to Democrats’ support of the right to organize? The empowerment of “union bosses at the expense of their members” suggests it may well do so, which means the “regulatory burdens” are referring to the need to report to labor boards about treatment of workers. “Trial lawyers at the expense of small businesses” refer to what Republicans see as frivolous lawsuits. “Government bureaucrats at the expense of employer-employee partnerships” of course refers to those same labor boards, but how are we to know the “partnership” won’t be a way for employers to take advantage of their employees? I do agree with the idea that unions shouldn’t be the cure that’s worse than, or at least just another iteration of, the disease – and that’s an issue that hasn’t appeared in the Democratic platform at all thus far.

“The Republican Model: Investing in People”: “Republicans believe that the employer-employee relationship of the future will be built upon employee empowerment and workplace flexibility.

  • The Industrial Revolution treated people like machines; today’s economy must treat them as individuals. We recognize that work schedules should be more flexible when employers and employees are not negatively affected such as removing outdated distinctions between full time and part time, clock-punching and overtime. The federal government should set an example in that regard.” Wha… what? That almost sounds like an Orwellian way of giving employers a blank check to force workers to work as long as they (the employers) want. I’m not sure what to expect if this were to happen.
  • “The workplace must catch up with the way Americans live now. For increasing numbers of workers, especially those with children, the choice of working from home will be good for families, profitable for business, and energy efficient.” Sounds good, but how will you encourage it, especially without instituting “social engineering”?
  • “All workers should have portability in their pension plans and their health insurance, giving them greater job mobility, financial independence, and security.” I’m fairly sure the Democrats agree.
  • “Global competitiveness will increasingly require an entrepreneurial culture of cooperation and team work. Making the best talent part of our team is the rationale for the H-1B visa program, which needs updating to reflect our need for more leaders in science and technology while we take the necessary steps to create more of them in our own school systems. By complementing the U.S. work force with needed specialists from abroad, we can make sure American companies and their jobs remain here at home.” Sounds like good ideas all around, but I mentioned how sad it was that even in fields that are remaining here at home, we’re importing the best and the brightest, at the end of the Democrats’ Part I. Importing “specialists from abroad” take up jobs that could be going to Americans (which is one reason blue-collar workers are concerned about illegal immigration). Fortunately, you also pledge to “create more of them in our own school systems”.

“Businesses and employees, working together, are best suited to addressing the challenges ahead. Empowering official Washington and the trial bar, as Democrats prefer, will only lead to more antagonistic relations.” Unfortunately, you didn’t really stipulate how, specifically, you would change the “employer-employee relationship”, only the paths you would open up for how people could work.

“Individual-Based Unemployment Insurance and Training”:

Government can play an important role in addressing economic dislocations by modernizing its re-training and unemployment assistance programs. We must make these programs actually anticipate dislocations so that affected workers can get new skills quickly and return to the workforce.  We advocate a seamless approach to helping employees stay on the job and advance through education. Workers should be able to direct a portion of their unemployment insurance into a tax-free Lost Earnings Buffer Account that could be used for retraining or relocation. With financial incentives to return to work as soon as possible, this approach will also require strengthening community colleges and making them more accessible through Flexible Training Accounts.

This sounds good but kind of skirts the details, especially: How will unemployment programs “actually anticipate dislocations”? What are “Flexible Training Accounts”, aside from Yet Another Overly-Capitalized Gimmick?

“Protecting Union Workers”: Hmm, will the Republicans address here some of the questions they brought up but then avoided earlier? “We affirm both the right of individuals to voluntarily participate in labor organizations and bargain collectively and the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws.” I still don’t know what those are, but I know the Democrats hate them – and I’m about to find out! Wikipedia says they’re basically laws forcing employers to allow the existence of non-union employees. Before you think Democratic opposition is simply pandering to union bosses, know that such laws can effectively kill unions by allowing people to benefit from union negotiations without paying union dues, which might make it insane to join a union.

But the nation’s labor laws, to a large extent formed out of conflicts several generations ago, should be modernized to make it easier for employers and employees to plan, execute, and profit together.  To protect workers from misuse of their funds, we will conscientiously enforce federal law requiring financial reporting and transparency by labor unions.  We advocate paycheck protection laws to guard the integrity of the political process and the security of workers’ earnings.

Sounds appropriate, but the Democrats hate “paycheck protection” laws too, and Wikipedia doesn’t really have an article on them – although it does have an article on California’s Proposition 75, which would have barred union dues from going to political campaigns. The Republicans probably see Democratic opposition to that as protecting their union money, the Democrats probably see it as protecting workers’ voices – but if those voices are being presented as one monolithic voice from union bosses, it probably gets distorted, especially in this post-Dean era of Internet microdonations.

“Stopping the Assault on the Secret Ballot”: “The recent attempt by congressional Democrats to deny workers a secret ballot in union referenda is an assault, not only against a fundamental principle of labor law, but even more against the dignity and honor of the American work force. We oppose “card check” legislation, which deprives workers of their privacy and their right to vote, because it exposes workers to intimidation by union organizers.” I already gave away my agreement with this statement when the Democrats brought up the EFCA.

“Rebuilding Homeownership”: “We support timely and carefully targeted aid to those hurt by the housing crisis so that affected individuals can have a chance to trade a burdensome mortgage for a manageable loan that reflects their home’s market value.” Since no one wants to enter the housing market, how is that possible? “At the same time, government action must not implicitly encourage anyone to borrow more than they can afford to repay. We support energetic federal investigation and, where appropriate, prosecution of criminal wrongdoing in the mortgage industry and investment sector.” Agreed. “We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself.” (stifles guffaws of laughter, since maybe a month later they passed just such a bailout) “We encourage potential buyers to work in concert with the lending community to educate themselves about the responsibilities of purchasing a home, condo, or land.” See also: the Democrats’ call to “invest in financial literacy”.

“Republican policy aims to make owning a home more accessible through enforcement of open housing laws, voucher programs, urban homesteading and – what is most important – a strong economy with low interest rates.” It certainly all sounds good. “Because affordable housing is in the national interest, any simplified tax system should continue to encourage homeownership, recognizing the tremendous social value that the home mortgage interest deduction has had for decades.” “You see, this is an example of social engineering that works and is good for America.” “In addition, sound housing policy should recognize the needs of renters so that apartments and multi-family homes remain important components of the housing stock.” But no Democratic call that “affordable rental housing…is now more critical than ever.”

“Reforming the Civil Justice System to Improve Competitiveness“: You’re probably thinking “Shouldn’t this belong on the section on government reform?” But this is talking about tort reform and what the Republicans call “the rule of lawyers”, as opposed to “the rule of law”. “The Republican approach to eliminate frivolous lawsuits has advanced in Congress through efforts like the Class Action Fairness Act and in many states through the adoption of medical liability reforms, which we will continue to pursue on the federal and state level.” Not sure what those are and what their impacts have been.

“But because their Democratic donees currently control Congress, the trial lawyers are on the offensive. They are trying to undermine federal health and safety regulations by allowing trial lawyers at the state level to preempt the reasoned judgments of independent experts.” Sounds bad and needing reform, but how have they done so? “They seek to weaken lower-cost dispute resolution alternatives such as mediation and arbitration in order to put more cases into court.” Again, sounds bad, but what are the positives and negatives of mediation and arbitration? “In bill after bill, their congressional allies insert new private causes of action – trial lawyer earmarks – designed to drag more Americans into court.” Again, sounds bad and needs reform – I can’t wait for the Democratic section on this, if there is one. “All plaintiffs, especially those who must hire personal injury lawyers on a contingency basis, should be protected against abuse by their attorneys, and the attorney-client privilege should be defended as a bulwark in the defense of liberty.” Sounds good.

“Free and Fair Trade”: For a while I was concerned that I was going to go a significant distance over 6,000 words and be tempted to break this into two parts, but I’ll only now hit 5,000. Basically, trade is great and means more jobs and a higher standard of living.

With 95 percent of the world’s customers outside our borders, we need to be at the table when trade rules are written to make sure that free trade is indeed a two-way street. We encourage multilateral, regional, and bilateral agreements to reduce trade barriers that limit market access for U.S. products, commodities and services. To achieve that goal, Congress should reinstate the trade promotion authority every president should have in dealing with foreign governments. Trade agreements that have already been signed and are pending before Congress should be debated and voted on immediately.

Hmm. Short on details. Basically, we need free trade agreements; I’m not sure what “trade promotion authority” is. “We will contest any restrictions upon our farm products within the World Trade Organization and will work to make the WTO’s decision-making process more receptive to the arguments of American producers.” Hmm, could this be because the US government throws out farm subsidies left and right? “We pledge stronger action to protect intellectual property rights against pirating” – sounds good but I know there are a LOT of people on the Internet that hate this stance – “and will aggressively oppose the direct and indirect subsidies by which some governments tilt the world playing field against American producers” – also mentioned by the Democrats. “To protect American consumers, we call for greater vigilance and more resources to guard against the importation of tainted food, poisonous products, and dangerous toys.” Compare with the Democrats, which expressed a very similar sentiment in another section. “Additionally, we recognize the need to support our growth in trade through appropriate development and support of our ports in order to ensure safe, efficient and timely handling of all goods.” Sounds good but could be expensive.

“Supporting our Agricultural Communities”: “We advocate the creation of Farm Savings Accounts to help growers manage risks brought on by turbulence in global markets and nature itself.” The GOP loves “savings account” gimmicks, don’t they? Another shot against the “death tax” as well. “Those who live on and work the land are our finest environmental stewards. They understand, better than most, the need for safe water, clean air, and conservation of open space. We oppose attempts to hamper agricultural production with heavy-handed mandates, including any expansion of the Clean Water Act to regulate ditches, culverts, converted cropland, and farm and stock ponds.” Wait, the people who work on the land “understand…the need for safe water” so you want to pull back regulation of safe water? Or are you saying regulation of safe water isn’t needed? Somehow I get the feeling it quite probably is.

“We reaffirm traditional state supremacy over water allocations and will continue to make available renewable rangeland under sound environmental conditions.” Don’t know what this is but it sounds good. “We support greater investment in conservation incentive programs to help rural communities improve and sustain environmental quality.” Sounds excellent, and right in my wheelhouse, but aren’t “conservation incentive programs” “social engineering”? (Since I could fill an entire part with pointing out GOP examples of “social engineering” I’ll stop after this part.) “Agricultural policy should be formulated by giving careful consideration to the expert opinions of those most knowledgeable on the topic – the farmers and ranchers.” Sounds reasonable.

To meet surging global demand for food and biofuel, farmers must have the technology to grow higher yields using fewer inputs. The USDA must remain the international leader in agricultural research to ensure that America and the world will never have to choose between food and fuel. The U.S. government should end mandates for ethanol and let the free market work.

The best way to “never have to choose between food and fuel” is to take fuel off the table entirely, especially when you consider the unpredictability and possible consequences of technology. I also support ending mandates for ethanol, for entirely different reasons – I don’t think it’s the best way to address climate change.

The Democrats, in their discussions of farming so far, focused on supporting rural Americans, including a “strong safety net” and “funding for soil and water conservation programs.” So the Republicans want to reduce the need for a safety net with their “farm savings accounts”, which follows the old adage about prevention and cure, and the Democrats have fewer comments on farm production itself. Don’t we need support for rural Americans in both their business and their way of life? Or maybe that’s spending too much money, but you’d think both approaches would be backed by the same party.

I promise, I’ll pick up the pace in the near future! For real!

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