Balance the Budget
With Democrats in power, the debt increases. Republicans take control, and nothing changes. Our debt goes up no matter which party is in charge. We deserve true fiscal responsibility. It's time to live within our means and balance the budget.
Bring back the value of every Montanan dollar sent to D.C., but don't waste anyone's money. No pork barrel spending. No bridges to nowhere. No shiny, new, high-end federal buildings with politicians' names on them. Phrases like "stimulate the economy" and "investments in technology" are code words for irrational, unnecessary spending. Where is the cost-benefit analysis? American taxpayers deserve more than politicians throwing their dollars around on a whim, with no founding in any evidence-based economic realities.
Financial redistribution has unintended consequences and its value is debatable; if we're going to do it, though, we should at least do it intelligently. Direct monetary redistribution to individuals within a choice-based, free market system should displace government monies paid directly to entities, whether for-profit, non-profit, religious, or public in nature, for a variety of reasons:
(a) When politicians have power to choose winners and losers, that unnecessarily invites corruption and creates a high risk, high reward political battlefield.
(b) Taxpayers do not want their taxes to fund what they view as immoral, whether abortions provided by nonprofit Planned Parenthood or adoptions provided by nonprofit religious entities that do not consider LGBTQ adoptive parents; direct redistribution entirely avoids that fight.
(c) One-size-fits-all, monolithic government programs lack diversity, preventing individuals from obtaining the good or service that fits their individual culture, values, and preferences.
(d) Government programs determine and impose subjective workplace values on government employees, and often also on the people using the government-provided good or service, which creates complicated First Amendment issues.
(e) Government salaries and benefits are determined by expensive, often arbitrary political lobbying and jockeying, rather than by the true market value of the labor as determined by what people are actually willing and able to pay.
(f) Bureaucratic programs have no economic incentive to provide high quality or low costs. When such programs provides low quality, trapped taxpayers cannot simply take their business elsewhere, and instead feel obligated to increase funding. Thus, paradoxically, the worse they do, the more funding they demand.
All corporate bailouts are bad for the economy in the long run, because we're teaching corporations that American tax dollars will pay for their poor decisions. That promotes future fiscal irresponsibility. No auto bailouts, no bank bailouts, no corporate bailouts of any kind.
Laws exist to define and prohibit harm, not to give politically-connected businesses a leg up. Unfortunately, due to crony capitalism and regulatory capture, businesses are sometimes able to avoid taking responsibility for the harm that they cause or make it harder for other businesses to fairly compete. We need to eliminate that corruption, and make it easier for honest industry to succeed.
In addition, we should eliminate for-profit jails, prisons, and military corporate partnerships, as that creates perverse incentives to create crimes and wars where none would otherwise exist.
So long as the federal government is taking taxpayer monies and promising infrastructure in return, it needs to actually provide the goods and services it purports to be selling. We wouldn't put up with a private company treating us this way, giving us dirty water, roads full of potholes, or crumbling bridges, and we shouldn't put up with it from our government, either. Infrastructure is an ongoing, nonnegotiable maintenance cost, and Congress needs to either budget for it responsibly, or refund taxpayer funds.
We should all support Constitutional carry. The right to self-defense and defense of others is an individual right recognized by the Second Amendment. No one should intrude into the lives of peaceful, honest citizens in order to disarm them. Gun control does not reduce the amount of overall violent individual or mass crime, it only changes the methodology to knives, blunt objects, bombs, and car rammings, and interferes with innocents' ability to defend themselves. Each business, school, and home has the right to decide whether or not to permit carrying on the premises.
Persons addicted to hard drugs, such as meth, often meet the criteria of mental incompetence, qualifying them for inpatient treatment off the streets. Unless such persons have committed a crime (with a victim), however, they do not belong imprisoned in the same facility as violent criminals. Addiction should be decriminalized and treated, not punished. Meanwhile, there are many other people who choose to consume drugs who are nonetheless mentally competent and not addicted. While it may be harmful to one's health to consume marijuana, peyote, or mushrooms (or alcohol, nicotine, sugar, or raw milk), in a free country people should have the right to do what they wish with their own bodies, so long as they are not unreasonably risking harm to anyone else in the process. Nonviolent, peaceful people have a right to personal safety, which means it is wrong to put such people into cages. All drugs should therefore be either legalized or decriminalized, with addiction treatment replacing criminal repercussions.
Even according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care are not on fiscally sustainable trajectories. We need to either make the money going in match the money coming out, ideally by both decreasing spending and increasing funding in trade for reductions in spending on other programs, or replace them with direct redistribution. Unless and until these programs are financially solvent, the worst thing we could do is make them even bigger and more expensive. Additionally, our Veterans deserve better than the VA. They should be able to select from other health insurance and healthcare options.
There is a Constitutional basis for federal government ownership of lands; however, it should be in reasonable amounts, for reasonable purposes, rather than mismanaged. There are much bigger fish to fry in this country than altering public lands; it should not be a big political priority. That said, we should ensure that each parcel of public lands serves its stated purpose(s), such as preservation of wilderness areas or recognition of historical monuments, with responsible stewardship practices and rational policies adapted as necessary for each purpose. When it comes to hot button, controversial issues like resource development or potential sale of land that truly is not serving its stated purpose, we should take a case-by-case, reasonable approach to each specific portion of land rather than an all-or-nothing approach. Finally, we should commit to maintaining equal public access to taxpayer-funded public lands for fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, and other outdoors activities. While different public lands might have different levels of public access (by horseback versus by car), we should eliminate public land policies that deny public land access to some people while granting it to others, such as the BLM's checkerboard pattern.
Polluters should compensate people for the harm that they cause. Wherever environmental harm can be proven and quantified, damages must be paid to the injured parties.
Contrary to popular perception, the U.S. has substantially and steadily decreased our carbon emissions. In 2017, our carbon emissions were the lowest they have been since 1992. Any attempts to further reduce our carbon emissions or decrease our use of fossil fuels due to world-wide climate change should not merely increase dependence on foreign energy, putting American energy at a disadvantage.
Border security is a separate issue from how many new immigrants or refugees to welcome into our country. Our country needs strong, safe, secure borders so that we know exactly who is coming into our country, whether they have criminal or terrorist backgrounds, and whether they are carrying biochemical weapons or pose any other risk.
Illegal immigration is problematic, because persons entering our country illegally don't pass these important security checks. Whatever the number of new immigrants and refugees we decide to accept into our country, we need to make sure that they only come here legally.
We need to ramp up border personnel so that we can process immigrants and refugees in a timely fashion. We should significantly increase the number of immigrants legally permitted to come to America, especially families and refugees seeking asylum. In addition, we should provide a restricted and limited form of temporary legal immigration status to those persons already illegally present within our borders so that they have an incentive to undergo security vetting and get in line for the legal immigration process.
The best way to lead is by example. America should be the beacon on the hill, a shining exemplar of what we want other countries to become; proof that liberty works, that wildly diverse populations can peaceably coexist.
The ends do not justify the means. If a terrorist holds a young child hostage, our response to that terrorist should not change depending on whether that innocent child is American. That little child's life is just as precious as one of our own. When operating in other countries, we have an obligation to respect each innocent individual's right to be free from violence. There is a practical as well as moral rationale: we must avoid blow back.
There is a human right to defend oneself and others. However, many patriots who sign up for American military service, and taxpayers who pay for it, do so to defend America, not to become entangled in other countries' affairs. Too often, our country uses the carrot of charitable giving and the sticks of economic sanctions and threat of war for purposes unrelated to national defense. Even for valid humanitarian reasons, intervention in foreign affairs should be strictly separated from military intervention intended to defend our country, funded only by voluntary donations, and should not use any American military or other government resources.
America has a growing PR problem worldwide: people in our country and abroad do not believe we intervene in other countries' affairs solely for purposes of self-defense or defense of others. That perception, true or false, is a national security risk. We need to closely and honestly examine the sources of that perception and try to change it. Increased transparency is key, whenever disclosures would not pose a risk to national security. In addition, rather than choosing sides, we should fairly call balls and strikes, and own up to our mistakes if and when we make them.
I am opposed to the death penalty for economic, rather than moral, reasons. No legal system is perfect: sometimes we get it wrong, and convict the wrong person. We then nonetheless sentence that convicted person to the same sentence as any other convicted person, because we prefer imperfect justice to none at all. Justice relies, in part, on practicalities. On a desert island with no method of due process or imprisonment, killing a rapist or murderer would be the only way to definitively prevent future criminality. That is not the world we currently inhabit. In light of expensive judicial procedures, life without parole is cheaper than the death penalty. The Constitution guarantees due process, and flouting that Constitutional guarantee is not the way to cut costs. We should therefore eliminate the death penalty, which would both save money and have the added benefit of avoiding ending the life of any wrongfully convicted persons.
Get Government Out of the Home
The government has no business defining marriage. Marriage is an intensely personal, often religious institution that can combine various fundamental rights, including privacy within the home, faith-based commitment rituals, romantic choices, sharing finances, and child-rearing. People are capable of defining, making, and keeping their own commitments.
A good alternative would be a combination of notarized marriage or family contracts and optional family registration to take advantage of certain legal defaults, separate from default parental and guardianship obligations. That is not something likely to happen in our lifetime, but we should nonetheless reduce government intrusion into the home as much as possible. In the meantime, we must support equal legal treatment.
As a biological, scientific fact, human life begins at conception: there is a genetically unique body of cells that grows and reacts to stimuli, and that depends for survival on continuing to grow within the pregnant woman's body.
Generally speaking, there is no legal obligation to help another person unless (a) your own conduct has unreasonably put that person at risk or (b) you have consented to assist that person and that person has relied on your consent. Regarding (a) - the government should not define what it means to unreasonably risk pregnancy, as that determination is highly subjective and culturally relative. Regarding (b) - if under all the circumstances it would be reasonable to conclude that the pregnant woman consented to the pregnancy - if, for example, she knew she was pregnant for months and did not seek an abortion - then she cannot arbitrarily withdraw that consent. The pregnant mother may in that case withdraw consent and end the pregnancy only if the nature of the pregnancy unexpectedly and substantially changes, such that her health or life is significantly endangered.
That being said, we should work to entirely ban late-term abortions, except in the most extreme medical cases. After the baby reaches viability, induction and delivery rarely, if ever, pose a significantly greater threat to the mother's health or life than ending the baby's life. In addition, in no circumstance should the government directly fund abortion or an abortion-providing entity.