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National Review

Mar 13 2014

Becoming the Party of Work

How the GOP can help struggling Americans, and itself.

According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, seven in ten voters believe that the Republican party is “out of touch with the concerns of most people in the United States today.”

What follows is a plan for how the GOP can win back their trust — and a build a conservative majority in the process.

But first, a little history.

When Americans went to the polls in 2012, the following was true: Work-force participation had sunk to its lowest level in 35 years, wages had fallen below 1999 levels, and 47 million Americans were on food stamps. Yet Mitt Romney, the challenger to the incumbent president, lost lower- and middle-income voters by an astonishing margin. Among voters earning $30,000 to $50,000, he trailed by 15 points, and among voters earning under $30,000 he trailed by 28 points.

And what did the GOP’s brilliant consultant class conclude from this resounding defeat? They declared that the GOP must embrace amnesty. The Republican National Committee dutifully issued a report calling for a “comprehensive immigration reform” that would inevitably increase the flow of low-skilled immigration, reducing the wages and living standards of the very voters whose trust the GOP had lost.

Over the past four decades, as factories were shuttered and blue-collar jobs were outsourced or automated, net immigration quadrupled. Yet the corporate-consultant class has pronounced that an insufficient level of immigration is the problem. A more colossal misreading of the political moment has rarely occurred.

Perhaps the most important political development now unfolding in the U.S. is the public’s growing loss of faith in our political and financial elites of both parties. To open the ears of disaffected voters, the GOP must break publicly from the elite immigration consensus of Wall Street and Davos. Republicans have a clear path to building a conservative majority if they free themselves from the corporate consultants and demonstrate to the American public that the GOP is the only party aligned with the core interests, concerns, and beliefs of everyday hardworking citizens.

But the immigration “principles” offered by House GOP leaders imply that record immigration levels must be increased further to meet “the needs of employers.” One such GOP proposal — to provide the food industry with half a million low-skilled workers each year — was polled by Rasmussen. Nearly 70 percent of independent voters opposed it.

“Most business leaders have long favored more open immigration. Different businesses want different kinds of people,” a prominent GOP fundraiser declared on TV. “A restaurant may want waiters and cooks; a hospital wants nurses and doctors; a university wants physicists; a business like Exelon needs more engineers.” Asked by the interviewer about hiring U.S. workers for open jobs, he replied that many of those now unemployed are “unable to compete for them.”

Is that the message of a winning party? It might win a majority of votes at a dinner party in a gated community in Bel Air, but it is an act of profound delusion to think that plan can form the basis of a nationwide Republican resurgence.

Democrats in Washington have already cast their lot. A recent report from the Center for Immigration Studies shows that all net employment gains from 2000 to 2013 — a period of record legal immigration — went to immigrant workers, and yet the immigration plan championed by the White House and congressional Democrats would triple the number of immigrants given permanent legal status over the next decade, and it would double the annual flow of guest workers to compete for jobs in every sector of the U.S. economy. The Democrats’ plan delivers for international corporations, open-borders groups, and even workers now living in other countries — all at the expense of American workers.

So Republicans have a choice. They can either join the Democrats as the second political party in Washington advocating uncontrolled immigration, or they can offer the public a principled alternative and represent the American workers Democrats have jettisoned. Republicans can either help the White House enact an immigration plan that will hollow out the American middle class, or they can finally expose the truth about the White House plan and detail the enormous harm it will inflict.

Republicans could then illustrate how, on every policy front, the Left embraces an agenda that benefits only the fortunate few. Their agenda includes: energy restrictions that destroy jobs and drive up costs; maze-like administrative rules that only the largest companies can navigate; nationalized health care that shrinks the work force; Federal Reserve stimulus, which helps big firms at the expense of small savers; taxes and regulation that close plants and send work overseas; massive spending that makes Washington a boomtown while impoverishing the nation; bureaucratic interference in schools and homes; intrusive government; a surging welfare state; endless deficits; and an increasingly open-borders immigration plan. Each of these policies directly harms working Americans. Each of these policies serves the political interests of Democrats while entailing lower pay, fewer hours, and higher unemployment for dedicated American workers.

Wherever the policies of the Left have been faithfully implemented, as in Detroit, human tragedy has followed. The future offered by the Left — a shrinking work force struggling to fund a growing welfare state — is not only unsustainable but uncompassionate. Compassion demands that we spare no effort in helping millions now jobless to realize the dream of financial independence. This is the urgent economic task of the 21st century.

Too often, Republicans have offered a passive reply to the Left’s refrain that the GOP does not care for those in need. The usual GOP responses — that the Left is engaged in “class warfare,” or is not presenting “credible solutions,” or is “kicking the can down the road” — fail to rebut the underlying slander. Instead, Republicans should hold the Left accountable for the social and moral harm its policies have inflicted on every community that has suffered for decades under its disastrous policy regime.

The GOP cannot win a bidding war with Democrats, carried from election cycle to election cycle in perpetuity, about who is willing to embrace the most generous amnesty and the most expansive immigration policy. Moreover, polling shows that by a margin of two to one Americans wish to see immigration curbed, and that by a margin of three to one those earning under $30,000 — the very group the GOP is hemorrhaging — favor a reduction over an increase.

Is it not time for the GOP to make a clean public break from the special-interest immigration lobby and let Democrats own — solely, completely, and exclusively — the unwise and unpopular policies they are pushing on these groups’ behalf? Isn’t it time we made President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and each of their rank-and-file members defend their near-unanimous embrace of an immigration plan that is so contrary to the wishes and interests of the American people?

Republicans should then outline a detailed agenda animated by the moral goal of easing the burden on workers while helping millions now unemployed transition from joblessness and dependency to work and rising wages.

The last 40 years have been a period of uninterrupted large-scale immigration into the U.S., coinciding with increased joblessness, falling wages, failing schools, and a growing welfare state. Would not the sensible, conservative thing to do be to slow down for a bit, allow wages to rise and assimilation to occur, and help the millions struggling here today — immigrant and native-born alike — transition from dependency to self-sufficiency? Indeed, the heart of the GOP’s pro-worker, pro-middle-class agenda should be a bold reforming of our welfare system. The current welfare structure is unfair both to the taxpayers who fund it and to the struggling Americans it has failed to rescue from poverty.

Currently, the federal government administers roughly 80 means-tested poverty-assistance and welfare programs, on which it spends $750 billion a year — that’s a larger cost than defense, Medicare, or Social Security. It is a sprawling, growing bureaucracy with almost no meaningful oversight or guiding vision. Federal agencies seek higher enrollment to swell their budgets (the USDA, for instance, trains food-stamp recruiters on how to “overcome the word ‘No’”), while states have an incentive to overlook fraud so they can get a larger slice of the tax dollars flowing from Washington.

If these myriad programs were combined into a single manageable credit, with clear job-training and work requirements, not only would it cut down drastically on fraud but it would help struggling Americans rise out of poverty and into good-paying jobs — uplifting the worker while reducing costs for the taxpayer.

What if, instead of applying for guest workers, companies applied to hire workers receiving job training at a local welfare office? Able-bodied adults, in turn, would be required to accept employment or lose benefits. In other words: instead of a guest-worker program, a welfare-to-work program.

Would that not be in the national interest? Would that not improve the quality of life in struggling families, schools, and communities. 

Such a plan should be combined with a series of conservative policies all united by that common theme: shrinking the welfare rolls and growing the employment rolls. This pro-worker conservative agenda would create millions of good-paying jobs without adding a dime to our dangerous debt:

Producing more American energy to create good-paying jobs right here in the U.S.

Streamlining the tax code to allow our businesses to grow and our workers to compete on a more level global playing field.

Cracking down on illicit foreign trading practices that close our plants and send our manufacturing jobs overseas.

Eliminating every unnecessary regulation that destroys jobs and reduces productivity.

Repealing Obamacare to save American jobs and wages.

Enforcing an immigration plan that serves the national interest, not the special interests.

Converting the welfare office into a job-training center.

Balancing the federal budget to make the government more efficient and the future more confident and secure.

Each of these policies would help struggling workers transition from joblessness and dependency to work and rising wages. Each of these policies would grow the middle class — not the government class in Washington, D.C. And each of these policies would provide Americans with a clear answer to the following question: Which party in Washington represents you.

— Jeff Sessions is the junior U.S. senator from Alabama and the ranking Republican member of the Senate Budget Committee. A version of this article first appeared in the March 24, 2014, issue of National Review.

“In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama is expected to discuss the plight of American workers…[yet] with three job seekers for every open job, he proposes doubling the number of guest workers entering every year, granting immediate work permits to millions of illegal immigrants, and tripling the number of new immigrants granted permanent residency over the next decade… Polling shows that the public opposes these increases…"
National Review

Jan 06 2014

Crowding Out U.S. Workers

The GOP needs to oppose the White House’s immigration plan and expose its flaws.

"We are in the midst of an unprecedented period of uninterrupted levels of high immigration, coinciding with falling wages, declining work-force participation, and expanding welfare rolls. Yet “immigration reform” somehow remains a euphemism for the tired formula of combining an indiscriminate amnesty with a massive surge in new workers from abroad. Shouldn’t we allow wages to rise and give time for those more recently arrived to rise into the middle class?"
“In the current immigration debate, the American citizenry is the one group that has been almost entirely forgotten… While the Gang of Eight legislation provided special interest groups — from La Raza to the Chamber of Commerce — with their desired provisions, the core interests of the American people were sacrificed completely…

We cannot place more and more Americans on welfare while employing an ever-expanding pool of workers from abroad in their place. Instead, we must focus on getting Americans off of welfare and into well-paying jobs that can support a family…

We have heard repeatedly from House leadership that the Senate bill is ‘dead on arrival’ and that, instead, the House will pursue a comprehensive proposal in smaller chunks. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), certain business groups, and anti-enforcement advocates have all expressed optimism about the House’s approach. Presumably, this is because they believe the House’s individual bills will be melded into the Gang of Eight’s proposal (either in conference or closed-door negotiations) to form a new comprehensive bill.”
USA Today

Sep 04 2013

Sessions: Immigration plan bad for U.S. workers

Business groups want cheap labor, but what about loyalty to our own people.


“Business groups financing the push for comprehensive immigration reform believe they have the right to demand from Congress as many workers as they want from abroad at the wages they prefer… Drafters of the Senate immigration plan delivered spectacularly for these business groups’ priorities: the Senate bill adds four times more guest workers than the rejected 2007 immigration proposal and, based on Congressional Budget Office data, adds 46 million mostly lower-skill legal immigrants and their relatives to the country by 2033… Rather than face the reality that more than 40% of U.S. adults are not working, the president and many congressional lawmakers are determined to provide businesses with an easy avenue to avoid hiring these citizens -- especially those who have been chronically unemployed…"
“[Mr. Lew] launched a nationwide PR campaign designed to mislead the public about the budget that included false statements in congressional testimony…

No man serving in the White House has done more to scuttle the hopes of a meaningful long-term debt agreement than Jack Lew.”
Wall Street Journal

Dec 12 2012

We Can't Fix the Budget in Secret

'The world's greatest deliberative body' now is like the Russian Duma, with secret meetings and preordained votes.

“Washington has become possessed by the idea that a small group of negotiators, meeting in secret, can solve the deep, painful and systemic problems plaguing this country… No one denies that good people have been trying hard, but what have all these secret talks produced? Temporary fixes, stopgap measures and another set of emergency deadlines…

Members of the Senate must reassert their chamber’s historic role as the national institution where the great challenges of our time are debated, clarified and ultimately resolved in public view… What we need is more distinction, not less. On these great issues of the economy and debt, the voters have sent Washington mixed signals and a divided Congress. It is thus all the more critical that the facts and choices be clarified. The Senate is the perfect institution—created for just such a time as this—to provide that clarity and consensus… Every senator, whose one vote is equal to that of every other, must stand up and call a halt to government by secret committee.”
“The sequestration process was passed last August as part of the Budget Control Act, a last-resort measure to avert a fiscal crisis due in part to the Senate’s failure to pass a budget. Though defense spending makes up less than 20 percent of our budget, 50 percent of the cuts required under the act fall on programs and personnel charged with providing for our nation’s defense…

Despite this looming crisis, President Barack Obama and his administration have so far refused to level with the American people about the full impact of these defense cuts… Given the seriousness of the situation, the Senate should immediately join the House in calling on the president to enter the discussion; release a plan detailing the effects of sequestration, and begin a debate with Congress on the need to replace this sequester with deficit reduction through sensible reforms — not arbitrary cuts.”
By refusing to do a budget for three straight years - during a time of financial danger - the Senate’s Democratic majority has proved itself unworthy to lead.
“Under [the president’s] plan, the government is projected to borrow $11.2 trillion over the next 10 years. This is roughly the same amount of debt we are expected to incur under realistic projections of current policy. The budget does not change our debt trajectory. Instead, the president has used a series of gimmicks to create the illusion of fiscal responsibility…

“We see serious danger in shrugging off the president’s dereliction of duty — a danger compounded by Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate, who have refused to offer any budget at all for more than 1,000 days. The unsustainable growth of government spending is pushing the nation ever closer to a debt-fueled economic crisis… The good news, of course, is that citizens are noticing, and they will have the final say. The American people demand leaders who take seriously their legal and moral obligations to put forward credible budget plans.”