On Thursday night, the bipartisan political group No Labels held its first policy think tank at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Members of the Roosevelt Institute, USC College Republicans, USC College Democrats and Political Student Assembly attended to discuss and formulate solutions regarding broad economic growth and job creation.
Luke Phillips, a junior majoring in international relations and founder of the USC chapter of No Labels began the conversation by addressing students’ views on infrastructure.
“We’re not spending enough on investment in infrastructure,” said Diana Xu, a freshman majoring in business.
Despite the attendees’ differing political views, all agreed that more needs to be spent on infrastructure, which includes anything from broadband connection to disaster preparation. In addition, the attendees agreed that a uniform approach to the corporate tax rate is necessary, so that some corporations aren’t getting taxed at 35 percent and others at 0 percent. They decided that closing the loopholes of the corporate tax rate so that it’s easier to start a business would be a good solution. Though much of the think tank was spent talking about infrastructure and the tax code, No Labels also delved into education.
“I think the more choice, the better when it comes to schooling,” said Alexander Kludjian, the president of USC College Republicans.
No Labels, a national social welfare advocacy organization founded by Republican political adviser Mark McKinnon and Democratic Party fundraiser Nancy Jacobson, encourages bipartisanship in Washington, D.C., by bringing legislators of various parties together at breakfast panels and other types of congressional outings. These outings allow representatives and senators to get to know one another better. In addition, No Labels is crafting a National Strategic Agenda, a policy platform that tackles some of the pressing problems America faces today.
“No Labels is trying to get its National Strategic Agenda looked at by as many big power players in D.C. as possible, so that there will be real chances of the elements of the National Strategic Agenda to be turned into law,” Phillips said.
Phillips first heard about No Labels after attending a conference at Harvard last fall that was centered on bipartisan political solutions. At the conference, Phillips had the opportunity to speak with McKinnon about getting his own No Labels club set up on campus. He created a No Labels chapter at USC after the organization announced that it was launching a campaign to increase university students’ political engagement in advance of the 2016 presidential election.
“I just responded to the call because it looked like a good opportunity to get some good political dialogue here on campus and to bring national politics more closely into USC,” Phillips said.
A self-declared progressive Republican, Phillips enjoys voicing his ideas and participating as much as he can in the bureaucracy.
“I’m too liberal to be a Republic and too conservative to be a Democrat,” Phillips said. “It’s hard for me to talk about policy solutions in either of those parties, so one of the things I like about No Labels is that it is a bipartisan group that opens its door to everybody — from Republicans to Democrats to Libertarians to Socialists and Independents like me.”
Since No Labels was only created this semester, Phillips plans on setting up a table on Trousdale every week with information packets and sign-ups to encourage students to join. He is also planning on having more policy think tanks throughout the semester to provide policy thinkers from various on-campus organizations with an opportunity to discuss and provide solutions to big issues, such as job creation, entitlement reform and a balanced budget. After coming to an agreement on a solution, the participants will write a policy paper together and look for outlets to get it published.
Though Phillips doesn’t mind the fact that No Labels is still a small group, he hopes to expand it with the future policy think tanks he’s planning for the semester.
“We’re not looking to have the masses show up,” Phillips said. “We’re looking for people who are sincerely interested in policy and people who can bring good problem-solving ideas to the table.”