America is made stronger by the fact that we all have different starting points in viewing the challenges that confront America and how best to make more real the American dream for each one of us and those we love. What follows is a sampling of my own starting points on a number of issues. The list below is not a conclusive list, but it's a starting point to give you and idea of how I approach things.
All legislative questions for me begin with a look through the prism of conservative philosophy, but given how convoluted this term has gotten lately let me define what it means to me.
I believe conservative philosophy is designed to maximize our individual aspirations in achieving what we believe makes the American dream. Maximizing individual freedom, personal autonomy and allowing discretion in one’s own pursuit of happiness are building blocks to getting there. Sustaining it rests on a political system that should afford all of us rising levels of opportunity based on our own talents and work ethic – and equity and fairness in getting there. These two things are vital to sustaining any political or economic system across generations.
The founding fathers knew that the pursuit of happiness was inherently individualistic in nature given our unique design by God. Collective pursuits of happiness could never work because what was heavenly for one person might be hell for the next. Accordingly I believe in individual liberty, private property, the rule of law, competitive free enterprise, limited and frugal government, strong local communities, fiscal and personal responsibility and civility in public life because they are all building blocks to keeping the American Dream. These things are vital to rewarding work and initiative and maximizing individual discretion in pursuing one's own definition of “the pursuit of happiness.” Finally these things are key to sustaining a government that can protect these liberties and a commercial sector that can sustain both individual and government needs for money.
I believe the guidebook to keeping all of these moving parts in their proper order is the United States Constitution, and in as much as we adhere to its limitations there will be expanded opportunities for each one of us.
I have said much here, but one final point is that deficit spending in times of peace and prosperity ultimately runs counter to the founding father’s mighty belief that there should be no taxation without representation. This makes whats occuring here a social equity and moral question on whether we really believe it's acceptable to enjoy government services now and hand the bill to the next generation for their payment.
I believe government spends too much. America was founded on the notion of liberty, and we were indeed promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Through the ages, there has always been a tension between government’s growth and freedom itself. Jefferson considered it a battle line wherein as one grew, the other declined, and vice versa – and he warned that the normal course of things was for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield. Holding governments growth back is not about the spending ultimately, but rather about preserving our incredibly fragile gift of liberty.
For the last fifty years, Americans have sent in about 18% of GDP (the whole of all that is spent and consumed in our country) in taxes each year to the federal government. I do not believe this number should go up, but I do believe we could move to a fairer and simpler tax system along the lines of a fair tax or flat tax. Presently, more than a trillion dollars a year is carved out in the form of tax exemptions, and I believe a flatter and broader tax system would be helpful to individual liberty, job creation, and American competitiveness.
There will always be unlimited demand for a product that someone else pays for, and this well describes much of the current construct around healthcare. People feel as if they are spending someone else's money – whether that comes from the government or an insurance company. Furthermore, they don’t know the price, and differences in outcomes are not transparent. In short, there is no healthcare marketplace, and I believe bettering the system relies on creating one.
It’s for these reasons that Senator Rand Paul and I introduced the Obamacare Replacement Act in 2017. Among other things, it would legalize people buying the health insurance they needed, rather than the health insurance the government prescribed. It would allow people to deduct the cost of their insurance the way employers can with employees. It would bolster Health Savings Accounts, create competition across state lines and even incorporate some of the good ideas found in Obamacare – such as allowing children to stay on their parents plan until the age of 26 and protecting those with preexisting conditions.
I also think a good healthcare system should be built around incentivizing good healthcare decisions. We spend more than all other industrialized nations and yet have poorer health care outcomes. There is something wrong in a system that will not differentiate between the smoker and nonsmoker, or the person who watches what they eat and drink and those that don't. Similarly, working to make certain that healthcare decisions are between a doctor and a patient – not a patient and a government or insurance bureaucrat, I believe vital.
I view the immigration issue primarily through the principle of fairness and the rule of law. To have a thousand people a day illegally crossing our border, or for that matter, overstaying their visa, is to make a mockery of the rule of law. It's also not fair to the millions who are either waiting for their chance to come to our country, or have already gone through the legal immigration process. My votes and stands in Congress and the Governorship have been consistent with this view.
I believe in a secure border. I have voted for wall funding, and also believe we need to update the amnesty laws in our country. I believe furthermore that we should increase the number of work permits to our country, end chain migration, and move from a family reunification system to a merit based system that attracts the skill sets we need to make America more competitive.
I have long believed that the notion of conservatism should apply to more than just financial resources. It should apply to natural resources as well.
This fits with the biblical concept of stewardship, that we should do our part to leave the world better than we found it. It fits with the historic leadership that many great Republicans have offered over the years on the environment and conservation. It also fits with common sense because the open space around us, the air we breath and the water we drink very much impacts our ability to be productive and enjoy life.
People oftentimes forget that it was Teddy Roosevelt that founded our national park system. He recognized that there were special places in our country that should be preserved, not only as monuments to honor America’s past – but as monuments in the way that open space was vital to how we live today. It’s for that reason that when I was Governor I set aside more land than during any other governorship in South Carolina history. For these efforts and others, I was even recognized and endorsed by the Sierra Club and a variety of other conservation-minded organizations. In short, I don't think that being conservative or Republican should be viewed as being against conservation or the environment.
There are only two ways to raise individual productivity and the wages that come with added levels of production – in investment that leverages our ability and through education that enhances our abilities. Education is key, and to compete effectively in the 21st Century its vital everyone of us recognize how lifelong learning is important. It must start early, and it's never finished. In this I believe in as many choices as possible that reflect the different ways we learn.
I’ve seen first hand rising sea levels over the course of my life at our family farm in the low country of South Carolina. In areas where pine trees once stood, there are now salt flats. On this issue, the scientific consensus fits with what I’ve seen firsthand, and that is that it's real. I think it's important to listen to what the scientific community has said here. After all, It makes no sense to say that one believes in the modern advances of science and the way they can cure and heal the human body, but then discount what science says in other areas of our lives.
The problem in my view has not been in whether or not it may be real, but in how we do something about it. I do not believe in things like the Kyoto Protocol, that would tie America and Western Europe to one standard, but hold China and India to a completely different standard, even though the overwhelming growth of new emissions will come these two places.
I believe in Teddy Roosevelt's notion of speaking softly, but carrying a big stick. To do this, we must maintain a strong economy, because economic supremacy has always been the precursor to military supremacy. Among other things, this once again ties back to our own debt as a threat to our ability to protect power and maintain our place in the world.
I also believe that the international trading system, created after World War Two, vital to America’s foreign policy. In this light, stability and predictability are important. Friends and foes alike need to have a sense of what America will do next. Alliances and investments are not made without predictability. We are not getting this from the White House and I believe the increasing talks of tariffs, and the seemingly daily changes of presidential perspective are undermining our standing in the world.
I believe that the dual mandate on FED policy will prove untenable and that there are real limits to the FED’s ability to drive jobs and wages on a sustained basis. I believe bettering the economy is best done through legislative change, not financial engineering by unelected members of the Federal reserve. Bettering the economy is the role of Congress, and it comes in improving tax, regulatory, legal, and spending policies so that we create better playing fields for job creation and wage growth.