Expanding Opportunity to Promote Prosperity
America’s free economy has given our country the world’s highest standard of living and allows us to share our prosperity with the rest of humanity. It is an engine of charity, empowering everything from Sabbath collection plate to great endowments. It creates opportunity, rewards self-reliance and hard work, and unleashes productive energies that other societies can only imagine.
Today, our economy faces challenges due to high energy costs. Our task is to strengthen our economy and build a greater degree of security – in availability of jobs, in accessibility of health care, in portability of pensions, and in affordability of energy. That is an urgent task because economic freedom – and the prosperity it makes possible – are not ends in themselves. They are means by which families and individuals can maintain their independence from government, raise their children by their own values, and build communities of self-reliant neighbors.
Economic freedom expands the prosperity pie; government can only divide it up. That is why Republicans advocate lower taxes, reasonable regulation, and smaller, smarter government. That agenda translates to more opportunity for more people. It represents the economics of inclusion, the path by which hopes become achievements. It is the way we will reach our goal of enabling everyone to have a chance to own, invest, and build.
The most important distinction between Republicans and the leadership of today’s Democratic Party concerning taxes is not just that we believe you should keep more of what you earn. That’s true, but there is a more fundamental distinction. It concerns the purpose of taxation. We believe government should tax only to raise money for its essential functions.
Today’s Democratic Party views the tax code as a tool for social engineering. They use it to control our behavior, steer our choices, and change the way we live our lives. The Republican Party will put a stop to both social engineering and corporate handouts by simplifying tax policy, eliminating special deals, and putting those saved dollars back into the taxpayers’ pockets.
The Republican Agenda: Using Tax Relief to Grow the Economy
Sound tax policy alone may not ensure economic success, but terrible tax policy does guarantee economic failure. Along with making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent so American families will not face a large tax hike, Republicans will advance tax policies to support American families, promote savings and innovation, and put us on a path to fundamental tax reform.
Lower Taxes on Families and Individuals
- American families with children are the hardest hit during any economic downturn. Republicans will lower their tax burden by doubling the exemption for dependents.
- New technology should not occasion more taxation. We will permanently ban internet access taxes and stop all new cell phone taxes.
- For the sake of family farms and small businesses, we will continue our fight against the federal death tax.
- The Alternative Minimum Tax, a stealth levy on the middle-class that unduly targets large families, must be repealed.
- Republicans support tax credits for health care and medical expenses.
Keeping Good Jobs in America
America’s producers can compete successfully in the international arena – as long as they have a level playing field. Today’s tax code is tilted against them, with one of the highest corporate tax rates of all developed countries. That not only hurts American investors, managers, and the U.S. balance of trade; it also sends American jobs overseas. We support a major reduction in the corporate tax rate so that American companies stay competitive with their foreign counterparts and American jobs can remain in this country.
Promoting Savings through the Tax Code
We support a tax code that encourages personal savings. High tax rates discourage thrift by penalizing the return on savings and should be replaced with incentives to save. We support a plan to encourage employers to offer automatic enrollment in tax-deferred savings programs. The current limits on tax-free savings accounts should be removed.
Fundamental Tax Reform
Over the long run, the mammoth IRS tax code must be replaced with a system that is simple, transparent, and fair while maximizing economic growth and job creation. As a transition, we support giving all taxpayers the option of filing under current rules or under a two-rate flat tax with generous deductions for families. This gradual approach is the taxpayers’ best hope of overcoming the lobbyist legions that have thwarted past simplification efforts.
As a matter of principle, we oppose retroactive taxation, and we condemn attempts by judges, at any level of government, to seize the power of the purse by ordering higher taxes.
Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering charity and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation.
In any fundamental restructuring of federal taxation, to guard against the possibility of hypertaxation of the American people, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax.
The Democrats Plan to Raise Your Taxes
The last thing Americans need right now is tax hikes. On the federal level, Republicans lowered taxes in 2001 and 2003 in order to encourage economic growth, put more money in the pockets of every taxpayer, and make the system fairer. It worked. If Congress had then controlled its spending, we could have done even more.
Ever since those tax cuts were enacted, the Democratic Party has been clear about its goals: It wants to raise taxes by eliminating those Republican tax reductions. The impact on American families would be disastrous:
- Marginal tax rates would rise. This is in addition to their proposal to target millions of taxpayers with even higher rates.
- The “marriage penalty” would return for two-earner couples.
- The child tax credit would fall to half its current value.
- Small businesses would lose their tax relief.
- The federal death tax would be enormously increased.
- Investment income – the seed money for new jobs – would be eaten away by higher rates for dividend and capital gain income.
All that and more would amount to an annual tax hike upwards of $250 billion – almost $700 per taxpayer every year, for a total of $1.1 trillion in additional taxes over the next decade. That is what today’s Democratic Party calls “tax fairness.” We call it an unconscionable assault on the paychecks and pocketbooks of every hard-working American household. Their promises to aim their tax hikes at families with high incomes is a smokescreen; history shows that when Democrats want more money, they raise taxes on everyone.
We proudly call ourselves the party of small business because small businesses are where national prosperity begins. Small businesses such as Main Street retailers, entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and direct sellers create most of the country’s new jobs and have been the primary means of economic advancement by women and minorities.
Eight years ago, when Democrats controlled the Executive Branch, small business faced a hostile regulatory agenda, from OSHA’s ergonomics standards and attempts to intrude into the homes of telecommuting employees to IRS discrimination against independent contractors. Republicans turned back those threats, along with much of the onerous taxation that limited the growth of small businesses. We reduced their marginal tax rates, quadrupled the limit on their expensing of investments, and phased out the death tax on family owned small businesses and family farms. We enacted Health Savings Accounts to help small business owners secure health insurance for themselves and their employees. All those gains are jeopardized if Democrats gain unfettered power once again.
Republicans will advance a multi-pronged plan to support small business and grow good-paying jobs:
- Through the energy agenda laid out elsewhere in this platform, we will attack the rise in energy costs that is making it so difficult for entrepreneurs to compete.
- Our tax reduction and tax simplification agenda will allow businesses to focus on producing and selling their products and services – not on paying taxes.
- Our plan to return control of health care to patients and providers will benefit small business employers and employees alike.
- Our determination to vigorously open foreign markets to American products is an opportunity for many small businesses to grow larger in the global economy.
- Our approach to regulation – basing it on sound science to achieve goals that are technically feasible – will protect against job-killing intrusions into small businesses.
- Our commitment to legal reform means protecting small businesses from the effects of frivolous lawsuits.
Using history as our guide, we look to innovative entrepreneurs for the ingenuity and daring that can give us the next generation of technological progress. The advances our country needs, in everything from health care to energy to environmental protection, are most likely to come from the men and women of small business.
American innovation has twin engines: technology and small business, employing over half the private-sector work force. The synergy of our technology and small business drove a world-wide economic transformation of the last quarter-century. To maintain our global leadership, we need to encourage innovators by reforming and making permanent the Research and Development Tax Credit as part of the overall agenda outlined in this platform.
Innovation is our future – in our approach to energy, to education, to health care, and especially to government. As a symbol of that commitment, we share the vision of returning Americans to the moon as a step toward a mission to Mars. In advancing our country’s space and aeronautics program, NASA will remain one of the world’s most important pioneers in technology, and from its explorations can come tremendous benefits for mankind.
To master the global economy, our work force must be creative, independent, and able to adapt to rapid change. That challenge calls for better education and training and new approaches to employer-employee relations. It means investing in people, not institutions.
The Failed Model of Employer-Employee Relations
The Democrats’ approach to employment policy is a retreat to failed models of the past: new regulatory burdens on employers that make it more difficult for businesses, big and small, to hire and keep employees. That failed model empowers union bosses at the expense of their members, trial lawyers at the expense of small businesses, and government bureaucrats at the expense of employer-employee partnerships. Its goal is not to create jobs but to control the workplace and the work force.
The Republican Model: Investing in People
Republicans believe that the employer-employee relationship of the future will be built upon employee empowerment and workplace flexibility.
- The Industrial Revolution treated people like machines; today’s economy must treat them as individuals. We recognize that work schedules should be more flexible when employers and employees are not negatively affected such as removing outdated distinctions between full time and part time, clock-punching and overtime. The federal government should set an example in that regard.
- The workplace must catch up with the way Americans live now. For increasing numbers of workers, especially those with children, the choice of working from home will be good for families, profitable for business, and energy efficient.
- All workers should have portability in their pension plans and their health insurance, giving them greater job mobility, financial independence, and security.
- Global competitiveness will increasingly require an entrepreneurial culture of cooperation and team work. Making the best talent part of our team is the rationale for the H-1B visa program, which needs updating to reflect our need for more leaders in science and technology while we take the necessary steps to create more of them in our own school systems. By complementing the U.S. work force with needed specialists from abroad, we can make sure American companies and their jobs remain here at home.
Businesses and employees, working together, are best suited to addressing the challenges ahead. Empowering official Washington and the trial bar, as Democrats prefer, will only lead to more antagonistic relations.
Individual-Based Unemployment Insurance and Training
Government can play an important role in addressing economic dislocations by modernizing its re-training and unemployment assistance programs. We must make these programs actually anticipate dislocations so that affected workers can get new skills quickly and return to the workforce. We advocate a seamless approach to helping employees stay on the job and advance through education. Workers should be able to direct a portion of their unemployment insurance into a tax-free Lost Earnings Buffer Account that could be used for retraining or relocation. With financial incentives to return to work as soon as possible, this approach will also require strengthening community colleges and making them more accessible through Flexible Training Accounts.
We affirm both the right of individuals to voluntarily participate in labor organizations and bargain collectively and the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws. But the nation’s labor laws, to a large extent formed out of conflicts several generations ago, should be modernized to make it easier for employers and employees to plan, execute, and profit together. To protect workers from misuse of their funds, we will conscientiously enforce federal law requiring financial reporting and transparency by labor unions. We advocate paycheck protection laws to guard the integrity of the political process and the security of workers’ earnings.
Stopping the Assault on the Secret Ballot
The recent attempt by congressional Democrats to deny workers a secret ballot in union referenda is an assault, not only against a fundamental principle of labor law, but even more against the dignity and honor of the American work force. We oppose “card check” legislation, which deprives workers of their privacy and their right to vote, because it exposes workers to intimidation by union organizers.
Homeownership remains key to creating an opportunity society. We support timely and carefully targeted aid to those hurt by the housing crisis so that affected individuals can have a chance to trade a burdensome mortgage for a manageable loan that reflects their home’s market value. At the same time, government action must not implicitly encourage anyone to borrow more than they can afford to repay. We support energetic federal investigation and, where appropriate, prosecution of criminal wrongdoing in the mortgage industry and investment sector. We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself. We believe in the free market as the best tool to sustained prosperity and opportunity for all. We encourage potential buyers to work in concert with the lending community to educate themselves about the responsibilities of purchasing a home, condo, or land.
Republican policy aims to make owning a home more accessible through enforcement of open housing laws, voucher programs, urban homesteading and – what is most important – a strong economy with low interest rates. Because affordable housing is in the national interest, any simplified tax system should continue to encourage homeownership, recognizing the tremendous social value that the home mortgage interest deduction has had for decades. In addition, sound housing policy should recognize the needs of renters so that apartments and multi-family homes remain important components of the housing stock.
The rule of law demands that injured parties have access to the forums to vindicate their rights, but the rule of law does not mean the rule of lawyers – especially trial lawyers who manipulate the system to enrich themselves rather than protecting consumers, workers, or taxpayers. While no one should be denied access to the courts, the rule of lawyers threatens our global competitiveness, denies Americans access to the quality of justice they deserve, and puts every small business one lawsuit away from bankruptcy.
The Republican approach to eliminate frivolous lawsuits has advanced in Congress through efforts like the Class Action Fairness Act and in many states through the adoption of medical liability reforms, which we will continue to pursue on the federal and state level. But because their Democratic donees currently control Congress, the trial lawyers are on the offensive. They are trying to undermine federal health and safety regulations by allowing trial lawyers at the state level to preempt the reasoned judgments of independent experts. They seek to weaken lower-cost dispute resolution alternatives such as mediation and arbitration in order to put more cases into court. In bill after bill, their congressional allies insert new private causes of action – trial lawyer earmarks – designed to drag more Americans into court.
Our repeated warnings about the corruption at the heart of the trial bar have been vindicated by high-profile criminal convictions and prison terms for some of the nation’s leading class action and personal injury trial lawyers. All plaintiffs, especially those who must hire personal injury lawyers on a contingency basis, should be protected against abuse by their attorneys, and the attorney-client privilege should be defended as a bulwark in the defense of liberty.
Greater international trade, aggressively advanced on a truly level playing field, will mean more American jobs, higher wages, and a better standard of living. It is also a matter of national security and an instrument to promote democracy and civil society in developing nations.
With 95 percent of the world’s customers outside our borders, we need to be at the table when trade rules are written to make sure that free trade is indeed a two-way street. We encourage multilateral, regional, and bilateral agreements to reduce trade barriers that limit market access for U.S. products, commodities and services. To achieve that goal, Congress should reinstate the trade promotion authority every president should have in dealing with foreign governments. Trade agreements that have already been signed and are pending before Congress should be debated and voted on immediately.
An aggressive trade strategy is especially important with regard to agriculture. Our farm economy produces for the world; its prosperity depends, more than ever before, on open markets. U.S. agricultural exports will top $100 billion this year. We will contest any restrictions upon our farm products within the World Trade Organization and will work to make the WTO’s decision-making process more receptive to the arguments of American producers.
We pledge stronger action to protect intellectual property rights against pirating and will aggressively oppose the direct and indirect subsidies by which some governments tilt the world playing field against American producers. To protect American consumers, we call for greater vigilance and more resources to guard against the importation of tainted food, poisonous products, and dangerous toys.
Additionally, we recognize the need to support our growth in trade through appropriate development and support of our ports in order to ensure safe, efficient and timely handling of all goods.
Farming communities have been hard hit this year by flood and violent weather, as well as the escalation of fuel costs. Especially under those circumstances, federal agricultural aid should go to those who need it most as part of a sensible economic safety-net for farmers. We advocate the creation of Farm Savings Accounts to help growers manage risks brought on by turbulence in global markets and nature itself. Mindful that 98 percent of the 2 million farms in this country are owned by individuals or family farming partnerships, we affirm our fight against the death tax.
Those who live on and work the land are our finest environmental stewards. They understand, better than most, the need for safe water, clean air, and conservation of open space. We oppose attempts to hamper agricultural production with heavy-handed mandates, including any expansion of the Clean Water Act to regulate ditches, culverts, converted cropland, and farm and stock ponds. We reaffirm traditional state supremacy over water allocations and will continue to make available renewable rangeland under sound environmental conditions. We support greater investment in conservation incentive programs to help rural communities improve and sustain environmental quality. Agricultural policy should be formulated by giving careful consideration to the expert opinions of those most knowledgeable on the topic – the farmers and ranchers.
To meet surging global demand for food and biofuel, farmers must have the technology to grow higher yields using fewer inputs. The USDA must remain the international leader in agricultural research to ensure that America and the world will never have to choose between food and fuel. The U.S. government should end mandates for ethanol and let the free market work.