What's Missing From the Midterm Election Campaigns

The midterm elections are just three weeks away, yet both the Democrats and the Republicans have failed to articulate clear, coherent policies that address our country’s problems in a sensible and intelligent way.

Thus far, the Democrats have bashed Republicans for failing to come up with new ideas, and warned voters that electing Republicans will simply bring our country back to the failed policies of the Bush administration that were initially responsible for our domestic and international troubles.

Republicans, meanwhile, are attacking President Obama as much as they can and blaming him and his unsuccessful policies for the current state of the economy, while pledging to repeal all of the policies that he has enacted.

Neither side has yet to engage in any reasonable and rational discussion about how to solve the problems we face. The partisanship and finger-pointing in Washington is preventing our country from enacting a plan to create jobs and grow the economy, and implement fiscally sound policies to reign in government spending. The inability of Washington to get anything done further hurts our economy, as confidence continues to decline and businesses hesitate to invest and grow.

Rather than continuing to attack each other, our leaders must engage in serious conversation to put forth realistic solutions that address the need for fiscal prudence, economic growth, and consensus on foreign policy. They must address the immediate need to balance the budget, reduce the debt and the deficit, and cut spending and live within our means, as well as the need to create jobs and reform our health care system.

They must recognize the need to reach an agreement on how to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, and develop a rational strategy to control the spread of nuclear weapons, particularly to Iran and North Korea.

Here are some ideas that should be included in this discourse and made part of an agenda to address these issues:

∙ Promote economic development through fiscal policies that target the private sector and encourage entrepreneurship. Develop incentives for successfully promoting innovative new ideas and new businesses, and invest in innovation, especially in sectors like energy and health.

∙ Spur private sector growth by simplifying the illogical corporate tax code. By lowering corporate taxes while eliminating special interest corporate deductions, businesses will have the confidence to invest in innovation and grow.

∙ Reform entitlements by concentrating resources where they are needed most, sharpening incentives to diminish waste, and promoting individual savings as a means of balancing the budget.

∙ Reduce or eliminate taxes for entrepreneurs during their first six months or a year of business activity. Offer tax credits for high net worth individuals who invest in small or new businesses.

∙ Improve our workforce through better education and training programs in the sciences and engineering.

∙ Discuss ways to reform health care within the context of fiscal discipline and budgetary restraint. Emphasize containing costs, providing high quality care, and taking steps to rein in excesses in the system, while facilitating private sector job creation and developing new technologies and drugs.

∙ Work with insurance companies constructively as part of a public-private sector initiative to reduce insurance costs.

∙ Adequately fund medical research, especially in the areas most needed or the areas where the benefits would matter most, and remove barriers like litigation and red tape.

∙ Develop a focused economic plan and strategic relationship with Iraq beyond 2011 so that it becomes a vibrant, healthy, democratic state.∙ Ascertain and articulate our specific goals, our level of commitment, and the approach we will take in Afghanistan next year and beyond.

∙ Develop a comprehensive strategy to take on Iran and North Korea to better deter them from their quest to develop and spread nuclear weapons.

These major issues facing our country cannot be solved immediately. But we must develop a plan that will put us on the right path to improve our confidence in the direction of our country and to improve our economy.

Douglas Schoen is a political strategist and author of the just-released book, "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" (Harper 2010), co-authored with Scott Rasmussen.

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