2004 US Republican Party Platform/3
USHERING IN AN OWNERSHIP ERA
"The role of government is not to control or dominate the lives of our citizens. The role of government is to help our citizens gain the time and the tools to make their own choices and improve their own lives. That's why I will continue to work to usher in a new era of ownership and opportunity in America."
- — President George W. Bush
Ownership gives citizens a vital stake in their communities and their country. By expanding ownership, we will help turn economic growth into lasting prosperity. As Republicans, we trust people to make decisions about how to spend, save, and invest their own money. We want individuals to own and control their income. We want people to have a tangible asset that they can build and rely on, making their own choices and directing their own future. Ownership should not be the preserve of the wealthy or the privileged. As Republicans who believe in the power of ownership to create better lives, we want more people to own a home. We want more people to own and build small businesses. We want more people to own and control their health care. We want more people to own personal retirement accounts. With President Bush's leadership we have taken great strides in making the dream of ownership available to millions of Americans, and in the next four years the President and Republicans in Congress will unlock the door to ownership for many more.
Tax Relief: Making it Happen, Making it Permanent
George W. Bush ran for President on a promise of lower taxes, so that people could keep more of the income they earn. He fulfilled that pledge. The fundamental premise of tax relief is that everyone who pays income taxes should see their income taxes reduced. The President offered a plan to lower all tax rates. Republicans in Congress strongly supported the President's plan. In 2001, President Bush signed historic tax relief into law. This year, 43 million families with children are receiving an average tax cut of over $2,000. The 2001 law:
- Created a new, low 10 percent income tax bracket;
- Lowered individual income tax rates for all Americans who pay income taxes;
- Doubled the child tax credit to $1,000;
- Reduced the marriage penalty for 33 million married couples;
- Expanded education IRAs, made pre-paid tuition plans tax-free, and created a deduction for higher education expenses;
- Phased-out the death tax that penalizes family-owned small businesses and farms;
- Simplified and expanded IRAs and 401(k)s so workers can save more for their retirement; and
- Increased the adoption tax credit and the child care tax credit.
President Bush and the Republican Congress built on the reforms of 2001 by passing the Jobs and Growth Act of 2003. This legislation assisted our economic recovery by accelerating the 2001 tax relief and encouraging investment. The tax rates on capital gains and dividend income were reduced to the same, lower rate of 15 percent to encourage saving and investment. Seven million senior citizens who rely on dividend income are benefiting from this tax relief. The law also quadrupled small business expensing so entrepreneurs can deduct from their taxes the first $100,000 of investment. Because of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, 111 million families are receiving an average tax cut of over $1,500 and the overall tax burden on working Americans is the lowest it has been in 37 years.
We believe that good government is based on a system of limited taxes and spending. Furthermore, we believe that the federal government should be limited and restricted to the functions mandated by the United States Constitution. The taxation system should not be used to redistribute wealth or fund ever-increasing entitlements and social programs.
Many Democrats, however, believe the government has a right to claim the money earned by working Americans. They fight any attempt to return the balance of power from Washington to individual families and businesses. Furthermore, the slim majority held by Republicans in the Senate and the rules of the Senate make it difficult to pass permanent tax relief. All of the tax relief provided over the last four years will be eliminated in the next six years if Congress does not take action to make the relief permanent. Our Party endorses the President's proposals to make tax relief permanent, so that families and businesses can plan for the future with confidence. Anything less will result in a significant tax increase on Americans. Making the tax cuts permanent is a crucial first step toward expanding ownership and ensuring that America turns economic growth into lasting prosperity. The only way to accomplish this goal is to elect a solid Republican majority to both houses of Congress. We look forward to a new Congress with larger Republican majorities working with President Bush to ensure that taxes do not go back up on American families.
More than half of all Americans save and invest in private markets. We want even more people to build assets that they own and can use to meet a variety of needs over the course of their lives. In the past few years President Bush and Congressional Republicans have passed into law a variety of measures to improve, simplify, expand, and protect retirement savings in IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement plans. Their actions:
- Increased the amount you can save each year tax-free.
- Made it easier to take your retirement plan from one job to the next.
- Allowed women who take time off from work to start a family to catch up on their missed retirement plan contributions.
- Required more disclosure for employer sponsored retirement plans and required that rules apply to both executives and rank-and-file employees.
Republicans will not rest on this success. We will build upon it by promoting policies that encourage workers to save. We support the President's proposal to create a new Lifetime Savings Account (LSA) so workers can save for a variety of needs, to consolidate the three types of current law IRAs into a single Retirement Savings Account (RSA), and to consolidate numerous employer-based retirement plans into a single Employer Retirement Savings Account (ERSA). These account options will promote personal saving, which opens up more opportunities for the saver and increases private capital that is available to entrepreneurs for investing, growing the economy, and creating jobs.
Strengthening Social Security with Ownership
Social Security needs to be strengthened and enhanced for our children and grandchildren. Republicans remain committed to the principles the President outlined:
- Anyone now receiving Social Security, or close to being eligible for it, is guaranteed that their benefits will not be cut and their taxes will not be raised. Social Security is a promise made by this country to its citizens and Republicans will keep that promise.
- Key changes to Social Security should merit bipartisan agreement so all improvements are a win for the American people rather than a political victory for any one party.
- Personal retirement accounts must be the cornerstone of strengthening and enhancing Social Security. Each of today's workers should be free to direct a portion of their payroll taxes to personal investments for their retirement. It is crucial that individuals be offered a variety of investment alternatives and that detailed information be provided to each participant to help them judge the risks and benefits of each plan. Today's financial markets offer a variety of investment options, including some that guarantee a rate of return higher than the current Social Security system with no risk to the investor.
- Young people deserve to know their Social Security will in fact be there when they retire, just as we have guaranteed it to their grandparents and parents today. This new generation of American workers deserves to have ownership of their future. They must have choices.
- Assets in personal accounts should belong to each individual. Every American should have the opportunity to build a nest egg for the future and pass along that money to their children or grandchildren, who could use the funds to pay for college, buy a home, start a small business, or begin saving for their own retirement.
- Choice is the key. Any new options for retirement security should be voluntary, so workers can choose to remain in the current system or opt for something different.
This is a challenge that demands leadership. President Bush has shown this leadership by proposing a bold alternative to the collapse of Social Security. Along with Americans everywhere, we pledge to join him in this endeavor of a lifetime.
Individual ownership of voluntary personal retirement accounts for today's workers will make Social Security more equitable, but, just as importantly, will put the system on sure financial footing. Fifty years ago there were 16 workers to support every one beneficiary of Social Security. Today there are just 3.3 workers for each beneficiary. By the time young men and women who are entering the workforce today turn 65, there will be only two workers for each beneficiary. Doing nothing is not an option. We must keep faith with both the past and the future by strengthening and enhancing Social Security. We believe that everyone who participates in the Social Security program should use legal and accurate identification.
President Bush formed a bipartisan commission that recommended three models for reform and many Republicans in Congress have exhibited leadership in sponsoring six different bills. Non-partisan analysis of these proposals shows that each strengthens Social Security and that each shares a common characteristic: giving workers the option of supplementing Social Security with personal retirement accounts that they own. Our Party supports the efforts of President Bush and Congressional Republicans to enact legislation during the next term.
Homeownership is central to the American dream, and Republicans want to make it a reality for everyone. That starts with access to capital for entrepreneurs and access to credit for consumers. Both have improved immensely in the past four years, resulting in record levels of homeownership. For the first time, more than half of all minorities own their home.
We support the President's goal of increasing the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families by the end of the decade. Since President Bush announced his initiative in 2002, an additional 1.6 million minorities have become homeowners. The Self-Help Homeownership Opportunities Program helps low-income families purchase a home. The most significant barrier to homeownership is the down payment. We support efforts to reduce that barrier, like the American Dream Downpayment Act and Zero Downpayment Mortgages. The President and Congress have taken action to provide counseling and education to help first-time homebuyers navigate the process of buying a home. The Administration has also taken steps to alert people to the dangers of predatory lending, in an effort to help Americans maintain a positive credit history.
Affordable housing is in the national interest. That is why the mortgage interest deduction for primary residences was put into the federal tax code and why tax reform of any kind should continue to encourage homeownership. We support efforts to enact the Single-Family Affordable Housing Tax Credit. At the same time, a balanced national housing policy must recognize that decent housing includes apartments, and addresses the needs of all citizens, including renters.
In many areas, housing prices are higher than they need to be because of regulations that drive up building costs. Some regulation is of course necessary, and so is sensible zoning. We urge states and localities to work with local builders and lenders to eliminate unnecessary burdens that price many families out of the market. We see no role for any federal regulation of homebuilding. We do foresee a larger role for state and local governments in controlling the federally assisted housing that has been so poorly managed from Washington. We also encourage the modification of restrictions that inhibit the rehabilitation of existing distressed properties.
Small businesses are the most potent force of economic growth and job creation in America. They generate more than half of our nation's gross domestic product and create seven out of ten new private-sector jobs in America. Small businesses have been the primary vehicles of economic advance for American women.
Republicans pledged in 2000 to lower tax rates for small business owners and entrepreneurs, end the death tax, cut red tape, reform our liability system, and aggressively expand overseas markets for our goods and services. Though more work remains to be done, including reauthorizing the Small Business Administration, President Bush and Congressional Republicans have made good on each of those commitments. They have:
- Reduced taxes on 25 million small business owners and entrepreneurs. Much of the tax relief came from reductions in individual income tax rates. Ninety percent of businesses pay income taxes at individual rates, not corporate rates. This includes hundreds of thousands of successful small business owners and entrepreneurs who pay taxes in the top tax rates and whose taxes would increase considerably under John Kerry's economic plan.
- Lowered the tax burden on investment in new equipment by quadrupling the limit on small business expensing from $25,000 to $100,000 and allowing additional first-year depreciation of that equipment.
- Phased-out the death tax that punishes family-owned small businesses and family farms.
- Increased federal contracts to small businesses. In 2003, small businesses received the largest percentage ever of all federal contracts. In addition, President Bush developed a strategy to reverse the trend toward bundling of contracts, a practice that has denied small businesses the ability to compete for billions of procurement dollars.
- Reduced paperwork. For example, 22.4 million small business taxpayers now have fewer lines to fill out on tax forms, freeing up an estimated 9.5 million hours previously used for paperwork every year.
- Enacted Health Savings Accounts, which allow individuals to save and pay for their health care tax-free. Combined with a catastrophic health plan, they are an easier and less costly way for small businesses to provide health insurance for their employees.
- Enacted common sense liability protections in the Terrorism Risk Insurance and SAFETY Acts.
- Negotiated agreements to reduce trade barriers and expand access to foreign markets.
An area in special need of more work is liability reform. Frivolous lawsuits put more money in the pockets of trial lawyers and leave businesses with less money to create jobs. They raise health care costs on small businesses, often preventing them from offering health insurance to their employees. We support efforts by President Bush, Congressional Republicans, and Republican governors to curb the burden of frivolous lawsuits. We recognize that the Democrats' nominees, one of whom made his fortune as a trial lawyer, are beholden to the interests of the trial lawyer lobby and offer no hope for reform of this badly broken system. ====Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) Health Savings Accounts allow people to own and control their health care. They are an important step toward creating a system of consumer-driven health care that puts patients and doctors at the center of decision-making – not government bureaucrats. When consumers make decisions about health care, individuals control their health care dollars and health care decisions. Health Savings Accounts allow people to save, earn interest, and spend tax free on their health care needs. HSAs are combined with a low-premium, high-deductible health insurance plan to offer flexible, affordable insurance options for small businesses and individuals. Health Savings Accounts are now available to all Americans thanks to the efforts of President Bush and the Republican Congress. The next step, which our Party endorses, is to extend tax deductibility to the insurance premiums associated with HSAs. We also support efforts to expand the use of Health Savings Accounts to help control health care costs and give individuals more power in making important medical decisions.
Private Property Rights
The core of ownership in America has always been ownership of private property that a citizen can call his or her own. Republicans respect this tradition. For reasons both Constitutional and environmental, therefore, President Bush and the Republican Congress will safeguard private property rights by enforcing the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and by providing just compensation whenever private property is needed to achieve a compelling public purpose. We oppose efforts to diminish the rights of private citizens to the land they own.