Get it together, Congress

The Washington PostNovember 14, 2012 

There will be plenty of fights between Republicans and Democrats in the next Congress, but here are five areas where there could be genuine collaboration:

•  K-12 education reform. After many years of falling test scores, it should be agreed that what we are doing isn’t working. Compromise on refashioning No Child Left Behind should allow for block-granting, greater state control, charter schools and school-choice experimentation (some of which Mitt Romney cited on the trail). If Democrats want to subsidize the hiring of more teachers, trade-offs can be made.

•  Privacy. All it takes to interest Republicans in cyberprivacy is the FBI snooping on military leaders. Conservatives, who have in the past been enamored of prosecutorial power, should be concerned about drone spying. And civil libertarians of all stripes should start thinking about reasonable limits on federal power.

•  The medical device tax. Few taxes are as counterproductive as this Obamacare tax, which is regressive (hitting rich and poor users of medical devices), anti-business and anti-innovation. Surely lawmakers can come up with something better than taxing wheelchairs and innovative insulin-testing equipment.

•  College tuition and school loan reform. Students today are encouraged to load up on debt, regardless of their likely future income; universities have little reason to curb costs or to deliver education efficiently; and too few people work in skilled technical positions. Rather than perpetuating this system by insisting that everyone go to a four-year college and taxpayers must subsidize uneconomical choices, lawmakers should rethink the student loan system, trying to encourage alternative educational avenues (two-year colleges, technical certification programs, etc.) and make taxpayer-subsidized universities deliver a meaningful education at a reasonable cost.

•  Energy policy. The Wall Street Journal reports that a shale-oil boom “will thrust the U.S. ahead of Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2020,” citing the International Energy Agency. Surely there is a bipartisan group of lawmakers to push a real energy strategy. President Barack Obama may be ideologically joined at the hip with radical environmentalists, but the promise of energy independence and new jobs is alluring.

The Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin is a blogger for The Washington Post.

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