Ten Smart GOP Platform Ideas

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 29 2012 11:26 AM

Ten Good Economic Policy Ideas From the GOP Platform

It's fun to criticize but also helpful to praise. Reading through the Republican Platform, these are the 10 economic policy ideas I liked best:

1. "Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be wound down in size and scope, and their officials should be held to account."

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2. "However, to correct for the moral hazard created by deposit insurance, banks should be well capitalized, which is the best insurance against future taxpayer bailouts."

3. "Homeownership is an important goal, but public policy must be balanced to reflect the needs of Americans who choose to rent. A comprehensive housing policy should address the demand for apartments and multi-family housing"

4. "[R]eform of the 42-year old National Environmental Policy Act to create regulatory certainty for infrastructure projects, expedite their timetables, and limit litigation against them."

5. "[C]onsolidation of [federal job training] programs into State block grants so that training can be coordinated with local schools and employers."

6. "[G]ranting more work visas to holders of advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math from other nations ... foreign students who graduate from an American university with an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering or math should be encouraged to remain here and contribute to economic prosperity and job creation."

7. "Our country needs a more proactive approach to managing spent nuclear fuel, including through developing advanced reprocessing technologies."

8. "Congress should reconsider whether parts of the federal government’s enormous landholdings and control of water in the West could be better used for ranching, mining, or forestry through private ownership."

9. "[A]n inventory of federal agency spectrum to determine the surplus that could be auctioned for the taxpayers' benefit."

10. "Breaking the cycle of crime begins with the children of those who are prisoners. Deprived of a parent through no fault of their own, these youngsters should be a special concern of our schools, social services, and religious institutions."

I think this exclusive focus on high-skill immigration—and especially the focus-within-the-focus on STEM skills in particular—is a bit misguided, but I'll take it as an improvement on the status quo.

Two policies that I thought might be in the document but unfortunately weren't are postal privatization and reform of the Federal Railroad Administration's regulation of passenger rail. What they instead propose for USPS is layoffs and contracting-out some of the sorting to private companies, neither of which addresses the real issues at play. On passenger rail, what they say is that we should stop subsidizing Amtrak and encourage more private enterprise in passenger rail. But if you try that, you'll largely be setting the private enterprises up to fail. The current FRA safety regulations are simply incompatible with the use of the kind of rolling stock used in the places with the best passenger rail. They are unduly focused on crash resiliency rather than crash avoidance, which makes the trains much too heavy and therefore slow and expensive. You could cut Northeast Corridor Washington-Boston travel times by 20 minutes for relatively little money by employing the best rolling stock, but it's illegal under the prevailing rules. This is a boring issue, but it's incredibly important if you want any kind of private or public entity to provide decent service.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.