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The Road to Compromise (Part 4 of 4)

In the summer of 2017, the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship College Student Congress attendees were tasked with finding bipartisan solutions to some of the most complex issues facing the nation – healthcare, foreign intervention, national debt, and transportation. Students first developed policy proposals along partisan lines, and then came together in a series of negotiations during which the partisan plans were merged into a single policy compromise amenable to both groups.

These negotiations among talented college students produced new and creative solutions to major national issues, proving along the way that partisan values need not be abandoned to reach compromise, and that mutually beneficial compromise is in fact achievable.

This spring we will be highlighting a different policy solution developed by our 2017 College Student Congress attendees. It should be noted that the policy solutions presented in this series are mere summaries of the proposals that resulted from hard work by dedicated groups of students who were constrained by both time and resources, and do not fully capture the level of detail and commitment each group invested in their solutions. Our last topic is the national debt and deficit.

 

National Debt and Deficit

At the time of the 2017 College Student Congress, the level of US national debt was at nearly $20 trillion dollars and rising. While both the liberal and conservative groups entered negotiations agreeing that the debt should be reduced to 60% of GDP by 2028, they each had different proposals informed by their partisan beliefs on how to create solutions to lower the national debt.

 

Below are key components that the liberal student group wanted to emphasize during their attempt to develop a policy solution to lower the national debt:

  • Protect vulnerable communities and increase education funding
  • Promote greater healthcare access for all
  • Sustain and increase “safety net” programs
  • Impose higher taxes on the nation’s wealthiest citizens

The conservative student group adopted the following goals in their initial policy proposal for lowering the national debt:

  • Focusing on lowering the debt level to keep interest expense in check
  • Reforming the Affordable Care Act
  • Promoting sustainable entitlement spending
  • Increasing defense spending
  • Minimizing tax increases

Once each group had determined their initial starting points, the students came together to negotiate a bipartisan policy that would meet objectives from each of their partisan proposals. The areas where the students had the greatest levels of divergence and thus the greatest need to compromise were revenues, healthcare and defense.

On revenues, both groups were able to come to an eventual solution that included several initial partisan objectives. The liberal group was able to restore the 2009 estate tax parameters, impose a 5.4% surtax on income above $1 million, enact the Buffet Rule and reduce the mortgage interest deduction. The conservatives earned the reduction of the corporate tax rate to 30%, repealed the excise tax on high cost health insurance plans, did not allow an increase in Medicare premiums for high-income beneficiaries and implemented a sunset clause for the 5.4% surtax and Buffet Rule.

The compromise between the groups on healthcare resulted in an agreement to maintain the individual mandate, block grant Medicaid, and not enact malpractice reform. The groups also came to a compromise on entitlement issues, including repealing the Davis-Bacon Act, raising the retirement age to 70, implementing chained CPI to determine benefits, and developing mechanisms to help those impacted by chained CPI.

Finally, the two groups worked out a defense spending compromise wherein there were increases in veterans benefits, funding for homeland security and international assistance, as well as a reduction of the Navy fleet and sequester repeal.

The groups determined that if their detailed budget were enacted and able to be implemented as envisioned, then the national debt would reach 60% of GDP in 2026, two years earlier than their original target date.

The Road to Compromise (Part 2 of 4)

In the summer of 2017, the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship College Student Congress attendees were tasked with finding bipartisan solutions to some of the most complex issues facing the nation – healthcare, foreign intervention, national debt, and transportation. Students first developed policy proposals along partisan lines, and then came together in a series of negotiations during which the partisan plans were merged into a single policy compromise amenable to both groups.

These negotiations among talented college students produced new and creative solutions to major national issues, proving along the way that partisan values need not be abandoned to reach compromise, and that mutually beneficial compromise is in fact achievable.

This spring we will be highlighting a different policy solution developed by our 2017 College Student Congress attendees. It should be noted that the policy solutions presented in this series are mere summaries of the proposals that resulted from hard work by dedicated groups of students who were constrained by both time and resources, and do not fully capture the level of detail and commitment each group invested in their solutions. Up next, foreign intervention.

Foreign Intervention

The summer of 2017 saw a diplomatic stalemate erupt in the Middle East. In early June, a bloc of Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with the small Gulf state of Qatar for a variety of alleged activities, plunging the region into political turmoil. The diplomatic crisis put the United States in an unenviable position between two regional allies.

While coming up with a solution for the situation in Qatar did not fall squarely along partisan lines, traditional liberal and conservative stances on the military, humanitarian aid, and economic policy emerged during the student negotiations.

Highlights of the initial liberal policy proposal involving counter-terrorism operations, economics, and humanitarian aid included the following:

  • Maintaining the integrity of the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
  • Suspending US airstrike operations in the region for a minimum of three months, pending revaluation of the region’s stability.
  • The US not adding association name to the US terror list.
  • The US becoming a third party claimant in the dispute and siding with Qatar.
  • Allocation of USAID funds to the Qatari branch of the Red Crescent and Food Security Program.

There were overlaps between the two policy proposals, though differences with the conservative proposal were highlighted in the following objectives:

  • Ensuring that regional operations against ISIS are unaffected by the diplomatic crisis.
  • Evaluating the use of the terrorist label.
  • The US serving as a mediator in the dispute, thereby embracing its international leadership role.
  • Understanding that the current humanitarian efforts of regional neighbors are sufficient and that there would be complications if the US sent additional aid.

During the negotiation sessions it was determined by the students that the singular compromise objective should be ensuring the Saudi-led bloc nations reinstate relations with Qatar while still maintaining US alliances on both sides of the dispute, given US economic and security interests in the region.

On counter-terrorism, the liberal and conservative groups agreed that the US would maintain current anti-terrorism operations from its base in Qatar, but that the US would not involve the military in additional conflict in the Gulf Region. It was also agreed upon that the US would not add organizations or entities named in the conflict to the terrorist list. Further, the US would not engage in the sanctions against Qatar related to alleged terrorism activities.

Economic policy compromises centered around encouraging Qatar to bring suit against Saudi Arabia in the WTO. While the students eventually agreed that the US would become a third party claimant in the dispute, it was also determined that the US should continue to highlight the importance of Saudi economic relations with the US.

Finally, the two groups agreed that no immediate humanitarian action would be taken by the US. Instead, the US would monitor the situation via the reporting of Amnesty International and the United Nations, and any allocated aid funds would come from the UN regular budget in the State Department’s Contributions to International Organizations (CIO).

Both the liberal and conservative groups made departures from their initial policy proposals. The liberal group approved military involvement in the region under the circumstance of a  Saudi Arabian territorial advance in the region, changed the stipulations of airstrike cessation to include only GCC countries, and agreed that funds would be allocated from the CIO account instead of USAID. The conservative group accepted a WTO proposal, agreed to send in additional humanitarian aid in the event of famine, and restricted potential airstrikes against groups in nations that are part of the Saudi-led bloc.

The Road to Compromise (Part 1 of 4)

In the summer of 2017, the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship College Student Congress attendees were tasked with finding bipartisan solutions to some of the most complex issues facing the nation – healthcare, foreign intervention, national debt, and transportation. Students first developed policy proposals along partisan lines, and then came together in a series of negotiations during which the partisan plans were merged into a single policy compromise amenable to both groups.

These negotiations among talented college students produced new and creative solutions to major national issues, proving along the way that partisan values need not be abandoned to reach compromise, and that mutually beneficial compromise is in fact achievable.

As the 2018 College Student Congress approaches, we will be highlighting a different policy solution developed by our 2017 College Student Congress attendees. It should be noted that the policy solutions presented in this series are mere summaries of the proposals that resulted from hard work by dedicated groups of students who were constrained by both time and resources, and do not fully capture the level of detail and commitment each group invested in their solutions. Up first, transportation.

Transportation

The major issues identified by students in the political debate on transportation were infrastructure, congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions. While transportation is of universal importance to Americans, there are differing approaches regarding the funding and implementation of transportation policy.

The initial conservative student proposal focused on the following principles:

  • Lowest qualified bidder stipulation to federal funds.
  • Require recipients of federal funds to match every dollar received.
  • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to create goals for how each individual state can increase efficiencies, invest in new technology, and create new jobs. States that achieve these unfunded objectives will earn a performance bonus that can be allocated for infrastructure projects.
  • Designate additional grant money to states for construction of farm-to-market roads and school roads.

Meanwhile, the initial liberal student proposal centered on the following objectives:

  • A one dollar increase is imposed on the national gas/diesel excise tax for an indefinite period.
  • A projected 129 billion raised per year is allocated for a federal grant program.
  • Funds are split evenly between proposals for rural infrastructure and urban public transportation projects.

 

Due to the unique geographic make-up of states represented in the transportation groups, issues pertaining to rural versus urban infrastructure development quickly came to the fore throughout the negotiations, as did traditional political stances on taxes and emissions.

In the end, the liberal and conservative groups created a policy proposal that compromised on four major areas: a federal motor fuel tax, a green-for-green rebate program, grant funded infrastructure programs, and a task force monitoring grant implementation.

While the liberal group favored an immediate $1 increase for a gas tax compared to the conservative group’s preference for a $0 increase, the groups compromised on an incremental increase of $0.25 of the tax every six months over two years, divided evenly between the fuel tax and the diesel tax. It was determined by the groups that an earned income tax credit (EITC) would negate the effects of the higher gas tax. The distribution of revenues from the increased tax were settled at 25% for rural applicant priority for roads and bridges, 25% for urban applicant priority, 49.806% for anything infrastructure, and 0.194% for a Green for Green Program.

Under the student plan, only energy efficient EPA-certified Green vehicles are eligible for the Green for Green Rebate Program, in which consumers receive a rebate of 2% for every used “green” car purchased and 4% for every new American GDP contributing “green” car purchased. Appropriation for this program was capped at $250 million.

The students also created a so-called Fill-a-bus-ter Program to increase community residents’ access to reliable public transportation through both routes and hours of operation, particularly for low-income residents. Requirements of the program included giving priority to community projects that incorporate green technology and presenting reports on how project implementation will reduce the carbon footprint of a community as well as affect traffic congestion, transportation-related fuel emissions, and availability of public transportation.

Finally, the liberal and conservative student groups agreed to create fifty state-led task forces to include local governments, NGOs, education leaders, and other relevant stakeholders to determine ways to reduce congestion and carbon emissions within their communities.