While Americans are enduring what many pundits say could be the ugliest presidential election in memory, one group is laying the groundwork for constructing a peace after the war. Their organization, No Labels, is based on the idea that there has always been common ground among Americans of all political persuasions and that Democrats, Republicans and independents can come together to offer solutions to the nation’s problems and make the system work.
With Congress unlikely to accomplish much of anything before the November election, No Labels, led by Republican former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat-turned-independent, is promoting a package of 60 common-sense and constructive ideas that thoughtful Americans should consider as they weigh candidates for public office. Because there is no doubt that elections have consequences, now is a good time to review their recently published prescription — a Policy Playbook for America’s Next President.
Before diving into the details, it’s important to note that No Labels is no Pollyanna-ish Beltway think tank pushing pie-in-the-sky ideas. Its members, particularly the ones I’ve met since its founding in 2010, are former and current politicos, journalists, government officials, wonks and wannabees — experienced hands who want to see our two-century-old compact between citizens and government survive and prosper.
The Policy Playbook for America’s Next President is designed to help America reach four national goals focused on job creation, balancing the budget, securing Social Security and Medicare and achieving energy security. Each of the 60 ideas was subject to national polling, with the vast majority of the ideas polling above 60 percent among Republicans, Democrats and independents. Given the large number of ideas and the limited amount of space I have, I’ve limited my discussion to those ideas that at least 75 percent of those polled approved.
Although many of the ideas have been circulating for some time, I’ve never seen such a comprehensive list in one document. Here are 26 of the 60 ideas that most everyone can rally around. I particularly like Fortune magazine’s graphic treatment of the entire list, which can be seen at http://fortune.com/no-labels-policy-agenda.
Goal No. 1 is to create 25 million new jobs during the next 10 years. This would be accomplished with a mix of tax, education, workforce development and entrepreneurship reforms. Those that topped 75 percent include:
86 percent — Make computer courses available to every middle-school student
84 percent — Incentives to match worker skills with employer needs
83 percent — Make college education credits fully transferable
83 percent — Greater emphasis on K-12 technical education and training
84 percent — No net tax increase on lower- and middle-income families
82 percent — Require the long-term unemployed to participate in vocational training
82 percent — Condition public assistance on active job search
82 percent — Mandatory tracking of expired visas
81 percent — Develop online website so entrepreneurs can see all regulations
81 percent — Give judges more leeway to dismiss unreasonable lawsuits
81 percent — Review federal programs to see whether states could be more effective
79 percent — Make child care more affordable
77 percent — Education and job training for the incarcerated
77 percent — Corporate taxes limited to income earned in the United States
76 percent — Overseas corporate assets returned to the United States at a one-time lower rate
75 percent — Simplify the tax code so that 90 percent of returns are limited to two pages
75 percent — Streamline infrastructure construction regulations
Goal No. 2 is to secure Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years. Although there was less agreement on these issues, three proposals topped the 75 percent threshold:
82 percent — Allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies on price
78 percent — Substantially increase federal funding for chronic disease treatment
77 percent — Allow health insurance purchases across state lines
Goal No. 3 is to balance the federal budget by 2030. With widespread agreement that continued growth in the federal deficit is unsustainable, three measures had broad support:
82 percent — Require the federal government to buy in bulk at lower costs
81 percent — Strengthen no-congressional-budget, no-pay provisions
80 percent — Prohibit congressional budgets that increase the national debt
Goal No. 4 is to make America energy-secure by 2024. Again, three proposals topped the 75 percent threshold:
83 percent — Modernize the U.S. electric grid to protect it from cyberattack
80 percent — Change incentives to facilitate sustainable, less polluting power
75 percent — Use the government’s purchasing power to promote energy efficiency
Many of the additional 34 proposals poll-tested by No Labels that exceeded the 60 percent threshold are worth serious consideration as they are, for the most part, very innovative solutions to some of the most vexing problems that a majority of Americans agree need to be solved. For more information on No Labels, go to https://www.nolabels.org/ideas.
To date, No Labels has had some success. It has persuaded Congress to pass legislation that suspends congressional pay if no annual budget is approved and it proposed legislation that became law that merged the electronic health records system of the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration to ensure veterans get proper care.
The former achievement is particularly notable, as more than 80 members of the U.S. House and Senate belong to the No Labels Congressional Caucus and have literally put their money where their mouth is. These elected representatives, known as “Problem Solvers,” are permitted to display the No Labels “Committed to Fix Not Fight” seal in their campaign literature. For the full list of members or to see whether your representative is a “Problem Solver,” go to https://2o16qp9prbv3jfk0qb3yon1a-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Citizen-Slidedeck.pdf.
That said, some might ask why members of the marine industry should get involved in issues outside the scope of recreational boating. To those, I say no industry is an island. A number of these proposals would address the chronic labor problems this industry suffers. Others aim to revitalize America’s diminished middle class, which is essential to the long-term health of this industry. And a number of proposals could lessen the burden posed by onerous government regulations. I particularly like the proposal to limit tax returns to two pages.
Michael Sciulla established boating’s first federal political action committee and testified more than 30 times on Capitol Hill during a 28-year career at BoatUS, where he managed the organization’s government relations and public affairs operations while also serving as founding editor of BoatU.S. Magazine, its 650,000-circulation flagship publication.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.