Reforming Government to Serve the People
The American people believe Washington is broken … and for good reason. Short-term politics overshadow the long-term interests of the nation. Our national legislature uses a budget process devised long before the Internet and seems unable to deal in realistic ways with the most pressing problems of families, businesses, and communities. Members of Congress have been indicted for violating the public trust. Public disgust with Washington is entirely warranted.
Republicans will uphold and defend our party’s core principles: Constrain the federal government to its legitimate constitutional functions. Let it empower people, while limiting its reach into their lives. Spend only what is necessary, and tax only to raise revenue for essential government functions. Unleash the power of enterprise, innovation, civic energy, and the American spirit – and never pretend that government is a substitute for family or community.
The other party wants more government control over people’s lives and earnings; Republicans do not. The other party wants to continue pork barrel politics; we are disgusted by it, no matter who practices it. The other party wants to ignore fiscal problems while squandering billions on ineffective programs; we are determined to end that waste. The entrenched culture of official Washington – an intrusive tax-and-spend liberalism – remains a formidable foe, but we will confront and ultimately defeat it.
The federal government collects $2.7 trillion a year from American families and businesses. That’s $7.4 billion a day. Even worse, it spends over $3 trillion a year: $8.2 billion a day. Why? Largely because those who created this bloated government will not admit a single mistake or abolish a single program. Here are some staggering examples of the overall problem:
- Recent audits show that 22% of all federal programs are ineffective or incapable of demonstrating results.
- 69 separate programs, administered by 10 different agencies, provide education or care to children under the age of 5.
- Nine separate agencies administer 44 different programs for job training.
- 23 separate programs, each with its own overhead, provide housing assistance to the elderly.
With so many redundant, inefficient, and ineffective federal programs, it is no wonder that the American people have so little confidence in Washington to act effectively when federal action is really needed.
For more than three decades – since enactment of the Budget Act of 1974 by a Democrat-controlled Congress – the federal government has operated within a rigged system notable for its lack of transparency. The earlier approach – annual passage of the appropriation bills, amended and voted up or down, with the numbers there for all to see – had its flaws and generated much red ink. But its replacement, the current budget process, only worsened the money flow and came to rely on monstrous omnibus spending bills. The results are adverse to all seeking to limit government’s growth. For example:
- The budget process assumes every spending project will be on the books forever, even if the law says the spending will expire – but it assumes tax relief will be temporary.
- It treats well-deserved tax cuts as a kind of spending, so that letting Americans keep more of their earnings is considered the same as more spending on pork projects.
- It fails to recognize the positive impact that lowering tax rates has on economic growth.
- In its deceptive and irresponsible accounting, an increase in a program’s funding is actually a decrease if it is less than the rate of inflation.
- Once a budget is produced under that system, the budget law itself limits the time Congress can consider it before voting.
Moreover, the budget’s review process is a sham. Of the $3 trillion spent annually, only one-third is reviewed each year during the budget and appropriations process. The remaining $2 trillion automatically goes to interest on the national debt or entitlements. And because the budget process assumes an automatic increase in spending, the debate on the remaining one-third is only over how much more spending to approve.
Finally, while government requires corporations to budget for future pension and health care costs, our government ignores those requirements. No family or private sector business could keep its books the way Washington keeps ours.
A Plan to Control Spending
Republicans will attack wasteful Washington spending immediately. Current procedures should be replaced with simplicity and transparency. For example:
- We favor adoption of the Balanced Budget Amendment to require a balanced federal budget except in time of war.
- Earmarking must stop. To eliminate wasteful projects and pay-offs to special interests, we will impose an immediate moratorium on the earmarking system and reform the appropriations process through full transparency. Tax dollars must be distributed on the basis of clear national priorities, not a politician’s seniority or party position.
- Government waste must be taken off auto-pilot. We call for a one-year pause in non-defense, non-veterans discretionary spending to force a critical, cost-benefit review of all current programs.
- We call for a constitutionally sound presidential line-item veto.
- If billions are worth spending, they should be spent in the light of day. We will insist that, before either the House or Senate considers a spending bill, every item in it should be presented in advance to the taxpayers on the Internet.
- Because the problem is too much spending, not too few taxes, we support a supermajority requirement in both the House and Senate to guard against tax hikes.
- New authorizations should be offset by reducing another program, and no appropriation should be permitted without a current authorization.
- Congressional ethics rules governing special interests should apply across the board, without the special exemptions now granted to favored institutions.
- We support the Government Shutdown Protection Act to ensure the continuance of essential federal functions when advocates of pork threaten to shut down the government unless their wasteful spending is accepted.
- We will insist that the budget reasonably plan for the long-term costs of pension and health care programs and urge the conversion of such programs to defined contribution programs.
The long term solution for many of Washington’s problems is structural. Congress must respect the limits imposed upon it by the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
We look to the model of Republican welfare reform, which, since its enactment in 1996, has accomplished a major transfer of resources and responsibility from the federal government back to the states – with an accompanying improvement in the program itself. Applying that approach to other programs will steer Congress back into line with the Constitution, reversing both its intrusion into state matters and its neglect of its central duties.
To aid in the fulfillment of those duties, we propose a National Sunset Commission to review all federal programs and recommend which of them should be terminated due to redundancy, waste, or intrusion into the American family. The Congress would then be required by law to schedule one yea or nay vote on the entire sunset list with no amendments.
Additionally, as important as returning power to the states is returning power to the people. As the Declaration of Independence states, our rights are endowed to us by our Creator and are inalienable: rights to life, liberty, and property. Government does not confer these rights but is instituted by men to protect the rights that man already possesses. The Republican Party strongly affirms these rights and demands that government respect them.
Congress has a fundamental duty to conduct meaningful oversight on the effectiveness of government programs, not use every hearing as an opportunity for political grandstanding. To that end:
- We urge every congressional committee to reserve at least one week every month to conduct oversight of the nearly 1,700 separate grant and loan programs of the federal government.
- To prevent conflicts of interest, a Truth in Testimony mandate should require all committee witnesses to detail the amount of federal funding they and their employer currently receive and, in the case of associations, how much federal money their members would receive from the proposed legislation.
- Because official Washington does not even know how much land it owns, we call for a national audit of all federally-owned properties as a first step toward returning unnecessary properties to the American people or to state and local government for public use.
Modern management of the federal government is long overdue. The expected retirement over the next ten years of more than 40 percent of the federal workforce, and 60 percent of its managers, presents a rare opportunity: a chance to gradually shrink the size of government while using technology to increase its effectiveness and reshape the way agencies do business.
Each agency must be able to pass a financial audit and set annual targets for improving efficiency with fewer resources. Civil service managers should be given incentives for more effective leadership, including protection against the current guilty-until-proven-innocent grievance procedures which disgruntled employees use against them to thwart reform. Due process cannot excuse bad behavior.
We will provide Internet transparency in all federal contracting as a necessary step in combating cost overruns. We will draw on the expertise of today’s successful managers and entrepreneurs in the private sector, like the “dollar-a-year” businesspeople who answered their country’s call during the Second World War, to build real-world competence and accountability into government procurement and operations.
Americans hit by disaster must never again feel abandoned by their government. The Katrina disaster taught a painful lesson: The federal government’s system for responding to a natural calamity needs a radical overhaul. We recognize the need for a natural disaster insurance policy.
State and local cooperation is crucial, as are private relief efforts, but Washington must take the lead in forging a partnership with America’s best run businesses to ensure that FEMA’s Emergency Operations Centers run as well as any Fortune 500 Company. We must make it easier for both businesses and non-profits to act as force-multipliers in relief situations. We believe it is critical to support those impacted by natural disasters and to complete the rebuilding of devastated areas, including the Gulf Coast.
The American people can have safer roads and bridges, better airports and more efficient harbors, as long as we straighten out the government’s spending priorities. The politics of pork distorts the allocation of resources for modernizing the nation’s infrastructure. That can leave entire communities vulnerable to natural disasters and deprive others of the improvements necessary for economic growth and job creation. We pledge a business-like, cost-effective approach for infrastructure spending, always mindful of the special needs of both rural and urban communities.
We support a level of investment in the nation’s transportation system that will promote a healthy economy, sustain jobs, and keep America globally competitive. We need to improve the system’s performance and capacity to deal with congestion, move a massive amount of freight, reduce traffic fatalities, and ensure mobility across both rural and urban areas. We urgently need to preserve the highway, transit, and air facilities built over the last century so they can serve generations to come. At the same time, we are committed to minimizing transportation’s impact on climate change, our local environments, and the nation’s energy use. Careful reforms of environmental reviews and the permitting process should speed projects to completion.
Safeguarding our transportation infrastructure is critical to our homeland security. An integrated, flexible system – developed and sustained in partnership between state and local governments and the federal government – must also share responsibilities with the private sector. We call for more prudent stewardship of the nation’s Highway Trust Fund to restore the program’s purchasing power and ensure that it will meet the changing needs of a mobile nation.
The job of modernizing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid calls for bipartisanship, not political posturing. Through the last four presidential terms, we have sought that cooperation, but it has not been forthcoming. The public demands constructive action, and we will provide it.
We are committed to putting Social Security on a sound fiscal basis. Our society faces a profound demographic shift over the next twenty-five years, from today’s ratio of 3.3 workers for every retiree to only 2.1 workers by 2034. Under the current system, younger workers will not be able to depend on Social Security as part of their retirement plan. We believe the solution should give workers control over, and a fair return on, their contributions. No changes in the system should adversely affect any current or near-retiree. Comprehensive reform should include the opportunity to freely choose to create your own personal investment accounts which are distinct from and supplemental to the overall Social Security system.
Medicare and Medicaid
As discussed in the health care section of this document, we commit to revive Medicare by rewarding quality care, promoting competition, eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse, and giving patients and providers control over treatment options. We envision a new Medicaid partnership with the states, improving public health through flexibility and innovation.
Judicial activism is a grave threat to the rule of law because unaccountable federal judges are usurping democracy, ignoring the Constitution and its separation of powers, and imposing their personal opinions upon the public. This must stop.
We condemn the Supreme Court’s disregard of homeowners’ property rights in its Kelo decision and deplore the Court’s arbitrary extension of Americans’ habeas corpus rights to enemy combatants held abroad. We object to the Court’s unwarranted interference in the administration of the death penalty in this country for the benefit of savage criminals whose guilt is not at issue. We lament that judges have denied the people their right to set abortion policies in the states and are undermining traditional marriage laws from coast to coast. We are astounded that four justices of the Supreme Court believe that individual Americans have no individual right to bear arms to protect themselves and their families.
Republicans will insist on the appointment of constitutionalist judges, men and women who will not distort our founding documents to deny the people’s right to self-government, sanction federal powers that violate our liberties, or inject foreign law into American jurisprudence.
We oppose stealth nominations to the federal bench, and especially to the Supreme Court, whose lack of a clear and distinguished record leaves doubt about their respect for the Constitution or their intellectual fortitude. Nominees must have a record of fidelity to the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.
We reject the Democrats’ view that judicial nominees should guarantee particular results even before the case is filed. Judges should not be politicians. Jurists nominated by a Republican president will be thoughtful and open-minded, always prepared to view past error in light of stare decisis, including judicial fiats that disenfranchised the American people.
No qualified person should be denied the opportunity to serve on the federal bench due to race, ethnicity, religion or sex. In affirming Article VI of the Constitution – that no religious test shall ever be required for any office – we insist that the Senate should never inquire into a nominee’s religious convictions and we condemn the opposition, by some members of the Democratic Party, to recent judicial nominees because of their ethnicity or religion.
Many members of the Armed Services will find it difficult to participate in this year’s elections because of the government’s reliance on outdated and inadequate voting, notification, and ballot delivery systems. The mishandling and delaying of registration forms and absentee ballots disenfranchises thousands of our servicemen and servicewomen. The Commander-in-Chief, the Department of Defense, and state and local election officials must do more to protect the voting rights of those on the front lines of freedom. That means using expedited mail delivery to bring ballots to and from our troops abroad, including those serving in areas of conflict, while completing work on an electronic ballot delivery system that will enable our military personnel to receive and cast their ballots in a secure and convenient manner.
We oppose attempts to distort the electoral process by wholesale restoration of the franchise to convicted felons, by makeshift or hurried naturalization procedures, or by discretionary ballot-reading by election boards.
Preventing voting fraud is a civil rights issue. We support the right of states to require an official government-issued photo identification for voting and call upon the Department of Justice to deploy its resources to prevent ballot tampering in the November elections. We support efforts by state and local election officials to ensure integrity in the voting process and to prevent voter fraud and abuse, particularly as it relates to voter registration and absentee ballots.
The rights of citizenship do not stop at the ballot box. They include the free-speech right to devote one’s resources to whatever cause or candidate one supports. We oppose any restrictions or conditions upon those activities that would discourage Americans from exercising their constitutional right to enter the political fray or limit their commitment to their ideals.
The integrity of the 2010 census, proportioning congressional representation among the states, must be preserved. The census should count every person legally abiding in the United States in an actual enumeration. We urge all who are legally eligible to participate in the census count to do so; at the same time, we urge Congress to specify – and to constitutionally justify – which census questions require a response.
We appreciate the extraordinary sacrifices the men and women of the territories are making to protect our freedom through their service in the U.S. Armed Forces. We welcome greater participation in all aspects of the political process by Americans residing in Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, and Puerto Rico. We affirm their right to seek the full extension of the Constitution, with all the political rights and responsibilities it entails.
We recognize the valuable contributions made by the people of the United States Virgin Islands to the common welfare of the nation, including national defense, and their contributions to the federal treasury in the form of federal excise taxes paid on products produced in the territory.
We support the Native American Samoans’ efforts to protect their right to self-government and to preserve their culture and land-tenure system, which fosters self-reliance and strong extended-family values. We support increased local self-government for the United States citizens of the Virgin Islands, and closer cooperation between the local and federal governments to promote private sector-led development and self-sufficiency. We recognize that Guam is a strategically vital U.S. territory, an American fortress in the western Pacific. We affirm our support for the patriotic U.S. citizens of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to achieve greater self-government, an improved federal territorial relationship, new economic development strategies, a strong health care system that meets their needs, and continued political self-determination. We support a review to determine the appropriate eligibility of territories as well as states for Supplemental Security Income and other federal programs.
We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the U.S. government.
The nation’s capital is a special responsibility of the federal government. Yet some of the worst performing schools in the country are mere blocks from the Department of Education, and some of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in the country are blocks from the Department of Justice. Washington should be made a model city. Two major Republican initiatives – a first-time D.C. homebuyers credit and a landmark school choice initiative – have pointed the way toward a civic resurgence, and a third piece of GOP legislation now guarantees young D.C. residents significant assistance in affording higher education. Because Washington’s buildings and monuments may be top targets of terrorist groups, the federal government must work closely with local officials to improve security without burdening local residents. We call on the District of Columbia city council to pass laws consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller case. We honor the contributions of the residents of the District of Columbia, especially those who are serving honorably, or have served, in our Armed Forces.