Building the Future
There’s not much controversial here. The key here seems to be private-public partnerships, which are fine–if they work. Unfortunately, when it comes to broadband internet, the private players, pardon my language, suck. EPB here want to expand to the rural areas around Chattanooga, but Republican state legislators are blocking the move while Comcast and AT&T do nothing. Similarly, I agree that we are improving private launch capabilities for space research, but NASA needs adequate funding, which the GOP is unwilling to give.
America’s Electric Grid
“We support expedited siting processes and the thoughtful expansion of the grid so that consumers and businesses continue to have access to affordable and reliable electricity.”
I am pretty sure “expedited siting processes” is doublespeak for “weakened environmental regulations.” I don’t have a problem with streamlining the approval processes, as long as appropriate safeguards are in place. But the party of Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon–our two best environmental presidents–doesn’t particularly care about the environment.
Small Business and Entrepreneurship: Toward a Start-up Century
Once again we see talk of reducing regulatory burden when what we really need is to reduce the paperwork burden. The GOP wants to “consider the effect of capital gains rates,” but we all know that the GOP ideal would be to eliminate capital gains taxes.
What gets me here though is the mention of “National Labs, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and elements of the Defense Department” as “incubators of unconventional thinking.” So fund them. Democrats won’t argue.
The Federal Reserve
More transparency in the Federal Reserve System is probably a good thing. I’m not sure that annual audits are necessary, but some regular audits would not be horrible. I cannot help but get a little twitchy when someone talks about going back to the gold standard, as this is typically conspiracy theorist fodder.
Workplace Freedom for a Twenty-First Century Workforce
Often, “workplace freedom” is doublespeak for “giving employers the freedom to treat employees like commodities instead of like people.” Having said that, there are things in U.S. labor law that need reform. The Project Labor Agreements the GOP opposes often require union workers on government construction contracts–but minority construction workers tend to be non-union, leaving them out in the cold.
I have notice a disturbing trend in U.S. business regarding employees, and it is filled with irony. The group responsible for employees within organizations was rebranded from “Personnel” to “Human Resources” and is currently undergoing a second rebranding from “Human Resources” to “Workforce Management.” In the literature, HR-types justify the change by saying personnel departments treated employees like tools and HR treats employees as assets, but I disagree. I think personnel departments treated employees like people. (I think workforce management is a shift from assets to commodities, reflecting the disposable nature of employees.)
Transparency in unions is important, but I can’t help thinking that the objective here is to further weaken unions. Donald Trump is anti-union in his own businesses, and the party platform reflects that. I think many technology workers, for example, need union protection, as often their working conditions are borderline abusive, and they are under the constant threat of being replaced by imported H-1B workers.
If Republicans wanted true workplace freedom, they would move away from employer-provided health care and toward a single-payer system. One immediate benefit of this is that it would give parents to work part-time schedules while raising their children without fear of losing benefits or seniority–which should help reduce the wage gap. For many families, a forty-hour work week doesn’t make sense, and there is evidence that shorter work weeks make employees healthier, happier, and more productive. As pro-family as the Republicans claim to be, giving people the freedom to spend more time with their children would go a long way.
Having said all this, the actual policy recommendations in this section are pretty reasonable. As with anything, the devil is in the details.
The Federal Workforce
(There’s that word!)
“Federal employees receive extraordinary pension benefits and vacation time wildly out of line with those of the private sector.”
The United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday. The average U.S. private sector worker gets 16 paid days off–vacation days and holidays–per year. Every EU country has a legal minimum of four weeks paid vacation, not including holidays, which is what full-time federal employees get after three years of service. So, on vacation time, the federal government is in line with the rest of the world. To me, that indicates that we should pass legislation to bring the private sector into line with the federal government, and not the other way around.
As far as pension benefits go, I wouldn’t have any problem with transitioning federal pension plans toward 401(k)-type retirement plans, provided they included matching similar to what good private employers offer.
The big picture, though, is that I think much of this section is just spiteful. Most federal employees tend to vote Democratic, so slapping them around would make Republicans feel good.
We The People: A Restoration of Constitutional Government
This is largely a propaganda section. I’m sure I’ll address most of the problems with this as the specific issues arise further in the document.
The GOP wants a Supreme Court that will overturn decisions like Roe v. Wade (abortion), Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage), and the various decisions that kept Obamacare in place. Of course they do.
The platform sees a problem with executive branch workers creating rules instead of Congress. Raise your hand if you think Donald Trump wouldn’t rule by decree. George W. Bush wrote more executive orders than Obama has (Obama will probably end with slightly fewer at the end of his term), but Republicans weren’t complaining then.
The First Amendment
This section is mostly baseless fear mongering and a twisted interpretation of Amendment I’s religious liberty clause:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
The Supreme Court has, on numerous occasions, interpreted this as meaning that government and government employees cannot endorse one set of religious beliefs over another. A religious school can require a teacher to belong to that school’s religion and to live according to its tenets, but it can’t require the same from the custodian, as teaching religion has nothing to do with the custodian’s job and thus would violate anti-discrimination laws. Public school teachers, coaches, and administrators cannot lead public prayers or allow school equipment, such as amplifiers, to be used for that purpose, but there is nothing that prevents students from doing this on their own–and there is no danger of any law passing that would prohibit this, and even if it did, it would be unconstitutional.
I have no desire to restrict anyone’s ability to practice their religion, but I do think many people–like certain megachurch leaders–abuse the tax-free status of their institutions. Likewise, when a business like the new Ark Encounter discriminates in their hiring practices, they should not receive government tax credits.
The platform also condemns those who would boycott businesses that “support traditional marriage.” I strongly oppose anyone who threatens violence against said businesses, but a for-profit business is not a church, and as such is subject to state and federal civil rights legislation. Even if the business is not violating the law, there is no reason to compel someone to support business owners who disagree with their views or lifestyle. Frankly, if you’re going to conduct your business according to your perceived Christian values, post those values so people don’t waste their time and yours.
The platform supports the display of the Ten Commandments–which version?–in public places. There is nothing wrong with that, provided that members of all religions are allowed to equally display texts from their religions. The Constitution does not give Christianity a privileged place in American society.
The bottom line is this: You are free to practice your religion in any way that you want, but you are not allowed to do this while representing the government or with the use of government resources. The Constitution was written to guarantee equal treatment of beliefs, without interference from the government. The Republicans believe that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, despite John Adams’ explicit words to the contrary, and want to make it into one.
A Personal Note
As you may have guessed from the above, I am not a Christian. Depending on your definition, I am agnostic or atheist, based on where you choose to draw the line. I was baptized Catholic, but for various reasons–mostly my inability to believe in miracles–I don’t think I ever believed in the Christian God. I believe that Christianity can make some people much better, but I have seen warped versions of Christianity turn people into monsters. Most of my friends are Christian, including one preacher, and I respect–and sometimes envy–their faith. It would be better for me politically to either hide my lack of religion or pretend to be Christian, but I would rather be honest and true to myself than dishonest and loved.
The candidate in this race who emphasizes his Christianity the most is Rick Tyler. If you think that all Christians are better than all atheists, you really need to take a long look in the mirror.
Constitutionally Protected Speech
“Limits on political speech serve only to protect the powerful and insulate incumbent officeholders.”
The GOP is opposed to overturning Citizens United because they benefit tremendously from it. Likewise, they would like churches to be able to engage in political activities, currently prohibited by their status as 501(c)(3) non-profits. Congress has repeatedly passed legislation–which courts have upheld–that prohibits campaigning by organizations that operate on a tax-free basis. If this restriction were not in place, it would certainly be abused by candidates and political parties.
That brings me to page 13 of the 58-page platform.
Tomorrow night I will be speaking to the Roane County Tea Party. I hope this meeting is better than the last one I attended.