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May 5th, 2014

Book Review: Blue Collar Conservative: Recommitting to an America that Works

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Written by: Polly Twocents
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Blue Collar Conservative: Recommitting to an America that Works
Rick Santorum
Regnery Publishing, 216 pages; Amazon $16.79, Kindle $14.99

Books by presidential candidates are one of the harbingers that campaign season is just around the corner. This past Monday, Regnery released Rick Santorum’s newest book, Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America that Works.

Santorum won the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus but was robbed of the victory when Mitt Romney was declared the winner before all the votes were accurately counted some 16 days later. Romney benefited from the media buzz surrounding his presumptive win and went on to become the GOP nominee.

Santorum is poised for another campaign run in 2016 and Blue Collar Conservative lays out his bona fides as the grandson of an immigrant coal miner who comes from blue collar roots to appeal to American working families. His father was seven when his grandparents fled fascism in Italy in the 1930s and he was raised by working-class parents not far from Pittsburgh in an area surrounded by mines and steel factories. “I’ve gone far on the steel-town values of education, working hard, loving your family and living your faith,” he writes.

A committed Republican, Santorum has penned an unvarnished look at how the GOP has failed to connect with the American working class by becoming the party that is more often associated with the business owner than the employee. To be successful and win back the White House, the former Pennsylvania senator argues that the GOP must bridge that gap and be the party that represents the partnership of the owner and the employee.

Santorum writes, “Our party’s ‘you built that’ convention in 2012 didn’t have much to say about the struggles of our working families. We weren’t speaking to them. It hasn’t just been our rhetoric—we have lacked ideas and policies.”

Blue-Collar-Conservatives-Rick-SantorumDuring the 2012 campaign, Santorum often mentioned a flaw to the theory about a rising tide raises all boats. Some boats, he would say, have holes in them – holes like unemployment and underemployment, lack of education or skills or an unstable family situation. In Blue Collar Conservative, Santorum expands his concerns about how the GOP must be the party of everyone, how the GOP must be concerned about the people who have holes in their boats, and how the GOP must have a plan.

While the national media pigeonholed Santorum as the “social conservative” candidate who was only concerned about abortion and traditional marriage, he held forth at some 380 town hall meetings while on the campaign trail in Iowa talking about business and manufacturing, trade and the U.S. economy, income and corporate taxes, and national security. Nevertheless, the national media painted him as a one-trick social conservative pony and they failed to understand his message about how the well-being of the nation is predicated on the well-being of the family.

Santorum links the nation’s success to the stability of the family unit drawing on data from studies on poverty, unemployment, and entitlements. “For America to be strong and free, we must have strong families,” writes Santorum, but the family unit is seriously fractured, with more than 40 percent of children being born outside of marriage to single women today, up from 3 to 5 percent from the 1930s to the 1960s. “A healthy family is necessary for a flourishing society. Family is the foundation, the first economy, not something to be tinkered with or redefined by government” he writes.

Acknowledging the many factors affecting single-parent births—the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, birth control, abortion, and the influences of popular culture—Santorum says, “government policy, however, is at least facilitating the dramatic decline in stable two-parent families through what appears on the surface to be compassionate assistance for families in crisis.”

Recognizing the importance of the social safety net, Santorum examines the demands upon the nation’s economic system, with fewer workers contributing, and poses solutions that should resonate with American working families. “The government’s ‘safety net,” as the metaphor implies, is intended to catch us when we fall and help us bounce back to a position of safety ready to continue life’s climb. It has evolved, unfortunately, into a hunter’s net that ensnares the vulnerable, robbing them of their dignity and trapping them in generational poverty and hopelessness.”

His solution is to reform federal safety net programs by adding work requirements, putting limits on benefits and reintegrating fathers when possible in order to stop the continual slide away from stable two-parent family units.

Santorum takes on our failing public education system and debunks “Common Core” as “just a revised version of mass-produced education.” Our primary, secondary and post-secondary education systems are in need of reform and Santorum’s proposals offer a solid place from which to begin the conversation.

To address a stagnate economy with a rising unemployment rate, Santorum proposes cutting tax rates for manufactures. “Most American businesses have to compete against other American businesses. The government might make life difficult for them with excessive taxation and regulation, but at least the competition is up against the same thing. But manufacturers face foreign competitors that operate under different rules with different costs.”

And one of those costs to American manufacturing is high corporate tax. Santorum proposes reducing the corporate rate to a flat 20 percent net income tax without any additional loopholes or deductions for corporations, and eliminating the corporate tax for manufacturing, claiming this will attract investment which in turn will create jobs and stimulate the economy.

Santorum addresses the problems with the so-called Social Security “trust fund” and proposes a number of reforms. He also examines demographic problems with Medicare and the rise in the number of people on food stamps and an explosion in the number of people on Social Security Disability Insurance.

Quoting from Thomas Jefferson, “What more is necessary to make us a prosperous people? … [A] wise and frugal government … which shall leave [men] free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned,” Blue Collar Conservative is a concise, easy to read treatise on Santorum’s vision for limited government.

Identifying himself as a “blue collar conservative,” Santorum says blue collar conservatives believe in liberty, fairness, justice and equal opportunity for all; that leaders should represent 100 percent of all Americans and not make targets of the wealthy or victims of the poor; that virtue and civil society are pillars of freedom; that we are our brother’s keeper, that compassion is helping others in need, but government largesse and compassion are not the same things; that life begins at conception and that everyone is made with dignity in the image of God.

Blue Collar Conservative will resonate with Santorum supporters and serve as an introduction to those who have only met him through the lens of the liberal media. As the winner of the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus, Santorum has an established network of loyalists. The race, however, will be a different one than four years ago. There will be both seasoned and neophyte presidential candidates in the field, and one seasoned candidate may be Mike Huckabee, winner of the 2008 Iowa Republican Caucus.

Many 2012 Santorum supporters were Huckabee supporters in 2008. The two men both appeal to faith-based fiscal conservative voters and if both are in the race, they will vie for support from voters who have been loyal to both candidates in different election cycles. Both Santorum and Huckabee have been making appearances in Iowa reconnecting with the grass roots. Blue Collar Conservative may be just the vehicle Santorum needs to get a bead on early campaigning here in Iowa.










About the Author

Polly Twocents
Polly Twocents is the pseudonym for the political commentary of Patti Brown, a partner in the Iowa Policy Institute, a research and analysis firm specializing in public policy issues. Patti is an Iowa mother of five who has a masters degree in journalism with a minor in political science from Iowa State University and an masters in social work from the University of Iowa. Patti worked for many years as a social worker in hospital, hospice and mental health settings. In addition she has also been a staff writer and columnist for The Catholic Mirror and a writer for The Des Moines Register. She is unabashedly and consistently pro-life and pro-family. As a bleeding heart conservative, Patti believes in a limited, representative government, personal responsibility, individual opportunity, and free enterprise.

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