Economic Freedom and Opportunity

CSG promotes policies that advance economic freedom. America’s Founders knew that liberty and prosperity require more than political freedom. They necessitate economic freedom, the ability to profit from our own ideas and labor and to work, produce, consume, own, trade, and invest according to individual choice. George Washington observed that a people “possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see, and who will pursue their advantage, may achieve almost anything.” Economic freedom and opportunity means advancing the following policies.

Excellent jobs environment

An excellent jobs environment starts with a commitment to free markets. It rests in the understanding that a bottom-up approach, in which producers of goods and services compete for consumers, is better than a top-down approach, in which government picks economic winners and losers. “Crony capitalism,” as is commonly witnessed from federal policy-makers, puts politicians in charge. This outdated approach, whereby far-away bureaucrats and Washington elites pick economic winners and losers based on policies of conformity, does not work in our new, modern world. An open economy, grown naturally from the bottom up, offers equal economic opportunity for every American by placing confidence with consumers, making decisions about their own well-being, rather than Washington political power.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of Economic Freedom, “Economies rated ‘free’ or ‘mostly free’ enjoy incomes that are over twice the average in all other countries and more than four times higher than the average incomes of ‘repressed’ economies.” In America, policies pursued and enacted by state legislators and governors also affect the job environment. States’ actions on taxes, labor laws, regulation and other policies have a statistically significant impact on the states’ prosperity. Among these policy choices, data show right-to-work states and states with no or low income tax rates have stronger, faster-growing economies than high income tax, non-right-to-work states. These sound policies, among others, mean greater dollars in the paychecks of hard working Americans, lower rates of unemployment, and stronger wage growth. But this competition occurs not in or as a result of the levers in Washington. Only when government is limited and markets are truly free will our economy grow naturally and organically to its truest potential and become conducive to innovation and freedom of economic choice.

Responsible regulatory policy

Some regulation is not only necessary, it is beneficial. It provides predictability in the marketplace, and ensures basic safety and standards are met. Imagine if governments didn’t enforce traffic laws, for instance. But excessive regulation stifles creativity, raises the cost of doing business, disproportionately hurts small businesses, and kills jobs. America’s regulatory climate has never been so burdensome as it is today. According to the Heritage Foundation, in the first five years of the Obama administration alone, 184 new major regulations were imposed, costing the economy $80 billion per year. To the individual taxpayer, this is a substantial burden at a time when wages are stagnant and good jobs are difficult to find. American Action Forum found that 36 of these new regulations have profound implications for consumers and the broader economy. For instance, the cost of buying a new car has increased by $3,000 due to new regulation — close to $10,000 for a “typical combination truck/tractor.” Annually, mortgages are up $362, energy $135 and healthcare $108. While many of these regulations ostensibly target the production side of the supply chain, such costs are ultimately passed on to American consumers. CSG supports a responsible regulatory policy that is based on sound science and public input, but also weighs costs. CSG encourages lawmakers and regulators to be vigilant about repealing outdated and onerous regulations.

Lower tax rates

The American Revolution started as a rebellion against a far away, out of touch, centralized government. Its battle cry was “taxation without representation”. Today we see a 73,000-page tax code that benefits the few who can afford to hire representation – namely, lawyers, and accountants who understand the code’s complexity and navigate the loopholes and write-offs that exist. Most agree the tax code is in need of reform. Currently, America’s system of taxation discourages working, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship. CSG endorses roadmaps for reform that would reduce tax rates, promote simplicity, and eliminate or reduce the many special interest-driven distortions in the tax code.

Energy exploration and development

America has been blessed by an abundance of natural resources. To this day, we continue to discover new, untapped sources. America should research, explore, and develop her resources in an environmentally sound manner. CSG endorses appropriate conservation policies based in sound science that promote excellent stewardship of our resources, but CSG believes every proposed policy should weigh the costs. We endorse an “all of the above” energy policy that puts all energy sources on an equal footing by avoiding expensive and market-distorting subsidies or tax breaks.

Education reform

Over the last 40 years, America’s spending on education has grown 200 percent, yet our performance scores in reading, math, and science have not significantly improved. To ensure that our children are equipped to compete in today’s global economy, America needs to rethink its approach to education. For too long, Washington, DC has looked at education as a system best driven from the top-down, in which national standards and bureaucrats in a bloated education agency dictate curriculum, funding and resources. This mindset presumes that national policy-makers know best. They do not. Improving education starts from the bottom-up, in an open system, at the local level, where parents and teachers make the decisions and tax dollars follow the child.

Equal opportunity is job one. Every parent, regardless of race, income, or zip code, should have an equal opportunity to choose the school best suited for their child. Education quality should not be contingent upon what neighborhood a child lives in or how much money his or her parents make.

Likewise, we must place more power in educators and local school boards to determine curricula and teaching methods, affording them the liberty to innovate and compete to attract and retain students. Instead of one-size-fits-all policies, states and school boards should pursue policies that reward successful educators and schools and incentivize failing teachers and schools to improve.

Citizens for a Sound Government advocates policies that minimize federal intervention in local schools and promote state- and locally-based reform through policies such as school choice, ending social promotion, limiting teacher tenure, and greater accountability.

Effective and Limited Government

Promote market-based health care reform

Citizens for a Sound Government believes that the Affordable Care Act is bad policy. Just now taking full effect, ACA’s consequences are becoming increasingly transparent: soaring dependence on second-rate Medicaid care; increasing premiums and co-pays, particularly for small businesses; insurance exchanges plagued by inadequate participation and more and more providers opting out; ever-increasing bureaucracy; and deficits as far as the eye can see. CSG promotes the repeal and replacement of ACA through policies designed to enhance consumer-driven (first-party payer) care, such as price transparency and health savings accounts, and minimizing the number of mandates on insurance plans, interstate competition in the insurance market, reform of the tax code, and ending lawsuit abuse.

Entitlement reform

Decades ago, politicians made a promise they could not keep to a generation of Americans, in the form of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Now, a fourth major entitlement in the form of the Affordable Care Act compounds the problem. Citizens for a Sound Government endorses efforts to reform these programs for future generations by increasing the retirement age and affording states and individuals greater flexibility in how to structure aid and benefits. CSG endorses the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, as described above.

Strong, predictable criminal justice system

Until recently, most jurisdictions in American have enjoyed steady decreases in violent crime rates over a period of decades. An effective criminal justice system, better technology (i.e., DNA testing), and strong sentencing have greatly enhanced Americans’ safety. CSG believes a quest for justice should ultimately inform our policy-makers, courts and criminal justice officials. Punishment should fit the crime. While mandatory minimum sentences serve a reasonable role, judges should be afforded discretion to assign punishment, based on circumstances.

Redistricting reform

CSG believes gerrymandering, the process by which politicians and partisans draw districts in order to protect incumbents or the interests of one party at the expense of another, are bad for our republic. We promote efforts to use predictable, neutral criteria (such as keeping cities or counties in tact or measures of compactness) to guide the post-Census redistricting process.