We shouldn’t just dismiss what Republican politicians are thinking and saying.
Florida Senator Rick Scott surprised both Democrats and Republicans when he proposed his 11-Point Plan for America. For Democrats, it is the first time in recent memory that Republicans have assembled a platform of their positions that could be considered and debated. For Republicans, it could be a rallying position akin to Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract with America.
Scott made over 120 individual promises in his plan. Most are nonstarters for Democrats. Many are impractical. Some are even unconstitutional. But, there may be a few ideas that both parties could support, at least in concept if not in specifics. Consider these initiatives:
Make America Number One in Math and Science
This should be a no-brainer. Many Americans probably already believe we are number one in the world in science and math. We’re not; we’re currently third behind China and Russia. Scott thinks we can do it by 2030. That may be optimistic. Still, it’s an initiative both parties should be able to support even if it’s not the most pressing issue in the country. The problem, though, is that the parties have very different approaches to accomplishing the goal.
Republicans wants to close the Federal Department of Education and give all control of education to States, local school districts, and parents. They want to let parents pick the schools their children go to, decide what is taught, and judge who is teaching it. Democrats would establish a Federal Institute of Technology, fund STEM courses for teachers and students from K-12 through advanced degrees, and create incentives to diversify the talent pool.
Making America number one in math and science is a clear goal with a definitive end point. Everyone should be able to agree on it. However, the parties couldn’t be farther apart on how to get there. Republicans envision a bottom-up approach while Democrats have a top-down plan. The two extremes will probably never meet.
Eliminate No-Knock Warrants in Non-Violent Cases
Crime is a hot-button topic for the political parties. Both criticize the other as being soft on crime, though neither really is. In general, Republicans favor strict, authoritarian control of criminals while Democrats want to mitigate underlying societal causes of crime, like poverty. Republicans want more legal, tactical, and technological advantages provided to law enforcement. Democrats want law enforcement to have better support for non-criminal, community activities and more accountability for excessive use of force. Republicans defend gun rights “always, at all costs,” while Democrats fight for controls on gun ownership and use.
Scott made 11 promises regarding safety and crime. Most involve harsher penalties for criminals and more support for police. One strikingly ironic statement in Scott’s plan is “We have zero-tolerance for mostly peaceful protests that attack police officers, loot businesses, and burn down our cities.” He is of course referring to the many protests that occurred during 2010s-2020s that devolved into violence, but makes no mention of the 1/6/2021 insurrection.
One incongruous proposal from the rest of Scott’s plan, therefore, is “to eliminate no-knock warrants in any case that does not involve violent crime.” Perhaps the proposal is in response to the increasing number of search warrants being carried out in response to investigations of former President Trump and the events of 1/6/2021. Even so, Democrats should be able to support this initiative considering the number of civilian casualties that have occurred during law enforcement activities.
Enact Term Limits for Congress and Government Bureaucrats
This sounds great. Everybody on social media seem to be crying for term limits, mainly for Congress and the SCOTUS. Everybody who might be involved in enacting that legislation, however, is against it. So why does Scott propose it?
Scott really doesn’t want to limit his time in office or the time of his colleagues in Congress. That part of his proposal would fall by the wayside. What Scott really wants is to go after government bureaucrats, specifically Anthony Fauci and other medical leaders. This is clear from another promise in Scott’s plan to limit government salaries to less than about $400,000 (i.e., 5 times the national median individual income, currently $79,900). The only government employees who make more than $400,000 are medical professionals, mostly in the Veterans Health Administration and the National Institutes of Health. Scott may be seeking retribution for the upheaval caused by government interventions taken to control Covid, especially after he tested positive in 2020. He may also still be infuriated that he was fired as CEO of Columbia/HCA, the nation’s largest private for-profit health care company in 1997, after the company was fined $1.7 billion for defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs.
Whatever the truth, this proposal is unlikely to go anywhere no matter how much most Americans might want term limits. Likewise with another promise in Scott’s plan, forbidding politicians from becoming lobbyists. Neither party even wants to talk about limiting their own power.
Simplify the Tax Code
There’s not a person in America who doesn’t want the Federal tax code to be simplified. The issue is how it would be done. Scott’s plan calls to “eliminate the advantages of those who can afford tax lawyers and lobbyists.” This sounds great … but is it?
Scott provides no specifics to his tax proposal except that Republicans “will immediately cut the IRS funding and workforce by 50%.” He also proposes that “all Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount” because “over half of Americans pay no income tax.” This representation is misleading.
In the 1980s, only about one-fifth of Americans paid no income tax. The percentage gradually rose to about two-fifths by 2010 largely because of changes in child tax credits. In 2020, however, the percentage jumped to three-fifths because of the effects of Covid — unemployment, stimulus checks, and tax credits — which will dissipate in the coming months and years. And while these Americans don’t pay Federal income taxes, they do pay state and local sales, excise, property, and income taxes.
While Democrats could be convinced to simplified the Federal tax code, they’ll never even listen to Scott’s proposals. They want to increase taxes not on the bottom brackets, as Scott proposes, but rather, on the upper brackets. Their tax increases would begin at annual incomes over $400,000 (i.e., about 5 times the national median annual income of $79,900, sound familiar?). The only time the tax code is ever changed is when one party dominates Congress. Consequently, Americans hopes for lower taxes that would offer some improvement in our miserable lives are again dashed.
Fight for Maximum Voter Participation without Fraud
Americans would agree that every citizen has the right to vote as provided for in the Constitution. Thus, to promise to “fight for maximum voter participation and zero percent voter fraud” is something that everyone should agree to. Of course, it isn’t so simple. The problem is akin to the dispute over the Second Amendment — Democrats focus on the first part of the sentence while Republicans focus on the last.
In Rick Scott’s proposal, Republicans would require voters to validate their identity and submit their ballots to either a polling location or the post office. There could be no middleman to facilitate the process. Ballot counting would have to be done “in full public view, expeditiously, and continue without pause until completed.” Republicans would prohibit automatic and same-day registration, unmonitored ballot boxes, and counting mail-in ballots arriving after election day. All of these actions would be taken to minimize any possibility of voter fraud, which has been shown to be less than 0.0001% of the national vote.
Democrats see voter fraud as an important yet not catastrophic problem. In 2020, for example, voter fraud might have affected 16 of the 158,407,854 votes cast for President (based on historical fraud rates). But for comparison, in 2020 there were 53,541,855 eligible voters who did not cast a vote, resulting in only a 66% turnout rate. That was actually pretty good compared to previous years. Democrats believe that non-voting is a far more important issue than voter fraud. They believe that all the actions Republicans want to take to reduce the inconsequential 0.00001% voter fraud rate will instead increase the 34% rate of non-voting. Moreover, the restrictions Republicans promise would fall primarily on the poor, who are more likely to vote Democratic.
Americans want and deserve to be able to cast their votes efficiently in fair elections. They don’t want to take off time from work, travel to a remote polling place, and wait in long lines just to vote for candidates who will ultimately disappoint them. Unfortunately, elections determine power and neither party wants to compromise just to benefit their constituents.
Make America Energy Independent
Rick Scott promises that his plan will make America energy-independent. This has been a dream for every American since the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. Scott provides no specifics about how this promise will happen. It’s not even clear what he means by energy independence. That’s not surprising. The initiative is unimaginably complex. It’s not just an issue of resources and technology. There are issues with infrastructure, economics, environmental protection, climate, and the list goes on and on. Address one key concern and a different one becomes critical.
We can pump more oil and gas and reduce imports as a short-term strategy, as they represent two-thirds of our energy usage. We’re done that since 2005. By 2019, we did become energy “independent” for the first time since 1957. However, fossil fuels won’t last forever. As we run out of fossil fuels, there will be all sorts of new challenges. We need a viable long-term strategy. We need an organized, science-based energy revolution on a scale that will make NASA’s moon landing program of the 1960s look modest. It’ll never happen that way, of course. Capitalism is too dominant.
An energy revolution isn’t just a U.S. problem, it is a dilemma that the world needs to deal with. We need to turn to alternative energy sources long before there is no more gas to run our cars and lawnmowers. The Green New Deal was proposed in the 2000s to address this issue but only the Green Party advocated for it. It wasn’t until 2018 that Democrats joined the movement.
It is sad and revealing that Rick Scott and the Republicans devote only one sentence in their 31-page plan to energy independence. Further, they confound climate change with weather and refuse to address that crisis because it might harm our economy and way of life. Perhaps a generation from now Americans will remember that they had an opportunity to do something about these issues but their leaders chose not to.
The Rest of the Plan
Rick Scott’s plan for America is chocked full is political drivel, provocative language, misrepresentations, disinformation, and outright lies. Still it affords a glimpse into the thinking of typically opaque Republican politicians so it shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand. Scott’s ignorance of government, especially the Federal government, is disturbing considering he is one of only 100 individuals currently serving in the U.S. Senate. He promises actions that are infeasible at best and unconstitutional, as judged by the Courts, at worst. He is at his most reprehensible, however, in all the many overt and ineptly camouflaged attacks on minorities.
For all its faults, no … because of all of its faults, Scott’s 11-Point Plan to Rescue America is a document every American should read and think critically about. It is a blatant roadmap to what half of our political leadership wants to do to America. Scott didn’t develop the plan in a vacuum. It’s what the Republican leadership is thinking but not saying out loud.
Don’t be caught unawares.