President-elect Barack Obama may not have been the choice of many conservative voters in last month’s election, but he has an obligation to represent them. And despite misgivings among conservatives, there is actually some common ground - tax relief is one example. On significant matters of disagreement - such as health care and immigration - we urge Mr. Obama to at least consider more centrist-to-conservative arguments.
The economy and taxes are issues that moved many moderates, independents and even some conservatives in Mr. Obama’s favor - specifically, his promise to cut taxes for middle-income earners. A less burdensome tax structure is a reasonable position for government to take - but not just for some Americans. As Republican presidential candidate John McCain pointed out during the campaign, “Why raise anyone’s taxes?” Yet, at the same time Mr. Obama is calling for tax cuts, he has said he would increase taxes for those who earn more than $250,000 per year and let the Bush tax cuts expire. Those “rich” income earners Mr. Obama has identified already pay 40 percent of their income to the federal government and pay 48 percent of all federal taxes. How much more does the government intend to take - 60, 70, or 80 percent? We encourage Mr. Obama to reconsider his position on raising taxes.
Mr. Obama has indicated that for the short term he may shelve his proposal to increase taxes on the “rich” while permitting the Bush tax cuts to expire. We urge him to reconsider the expiration idea as well. After all, an expired tax cut is a tax increase. A tax increase can stifle growth; tax cuts increase growth. Perhaps now is the time to revisit a flat-tax plan.
On the issue of health care, affordability and choice rule the day with conservatives. While we are in stark disagreement with Mr. Obama’s plan for “universal” health care, the one word that makes such overreaching plans even remotely palatable is “voluntary.” We oppose the enactment of any new government mandates or health-care entitlement programs. Medicaid and Medicare already have a lock on uncontrollable spending, and health-care costs for veterans are on the rise. The key to health-care reform is choice. Let the people who have health insurance keep it. An estimated 15 percent of the current population are without health insurance. The overwhelming majority of Americans are covered, and for them the number one issue is affordability, with accessibility a close second. Let the marketplace answer both calls. Beyond allowing Americans the option to choose health care, consideration must be given to addressing soaring health-care costs and permitting Americans to keep their insurance when they change jobs. President Obama - and his newly named health czar, Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle - must make these concerns part of the new administration’s agenda to reform health care. The government cannot possibly do for Americans what the marketplace can.
As for immigration reform, during the election neither Mr. McCain nor Mr. Obama took the lead in outlining an aggressive plan to address immigration in a way that would stem the tide of illegals crossing our borders. As president, we expect Mr. Obama to craft substantive policy that places immigration reform among his top priorities within his first 180 days as president.
Atop that list should be border protection and enforcement. Since Mr. Obama agrees that his aunt - reportedly in the country illegally - should immediately be sent back to Ghana, he has laid a great foundation for his immigration policy. A key problem is that his statement contradicts his prior pronouncements that amount to amnesty and support for “sanctuary cities.” Mr. Obama must be consistent. As we pointed out, his position on his aunt’s status laid the foundation for immigration reform that is rooted in security and enforcement.
To be sure, this editorial page is going to challenge the Obama administration on many issues - from federal spending to judicial appointments. But the Democratic president can at least start on points where he and conservatives agree.
By Elaine Donnelly
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