2004 US Republican Party Platform/4
BUILDING AN INNOVATIVE, GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE ECONOMY
"By leading the world when it comes to innovation and change, we'll make America a hopeful place for those who want to work, and those who want to dream, and those who want to start their own business."
- — President George W. Bush
America's economy is the strongest in the world, and it is getting stronger thanks to lower taxes, fewer burdensome regulations, and a focus on encouraging investment. Our goal is to make sure America remains the strongest economy in a dynamic world and to make it possible for every American who wants a job to find one. We must ensure that workers are equipped with the education and training to succeed in the best jobs of the 21st century, and we must encourage the strong spirit of innovation that has put America at the forefront of new technology industries. Future prosperity demands that we have affordable, cleaner, more independent energy supplies and affordable, high-quality health care. We must maintain our commitment to free and fair trade, lower taxes, limited regulation, and a limited, efficient government that keeps up with the new realities of a changing world. By keeping the costs of running a business low and ensuring that our workers have the skills to compete in a dynamic global economy, President Bush and the Republican Congress will continue to ensure that America is the best nation in the world in which to create jobs.
Lower Taxes and Economic Growth
In 2001, President Bush and the Republican Congress worked together to pass the most sweeping tax relief in a generation. By letting families, workers, and small business owners keep more of the money they earn, they helped bring America from recession to a steadily expanding economy. Despite enduring the after-effects of the stock market's irrational exuberance in the late 1990s, terrorist attacks on our nation, and corporate scandals that bubbled to the surface after years of inattention, the U.S. economy has now grown for 33 straight months. And unlike four years ago, there are no signs of an end to the current economic growth.
The proof is in the numbers, and the numbers prove our economy is strong and growing stronger.
- Over the past year, gross domestic product (GDP) grew at one of the fastest rates in two decades.
- Without the President's tax relief, real GDP would have been more than 3 percent lower and 2 million fewer Americans would have been working at the end of last year.
- Since last August, 1.5 million new jobs have been created.
- The unemployment rate has fallen from 6.3 to 5.5 percent, which is below the average of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
- Employment over the last year is up in 46 of the 50 states, and the unemployment rate is down in 49 of the 50 states. In addition to the official figures, household surveys show that hundreds of thousands of new jobs have been created, unreported, through self-employment and by small businesses.
- Real after-tax incomes are up by 9.6 percent since December 2000.
- Homeownership rates are at record levels – seven out of ten American families own their own home today.
- Consumer confidence is up from the levels seen at this time last year.
- Inflation remains low by historical standards, as do mortgage rates.
We know what brought us this success – the hard work of the American people and the Republican commitment to low taxes. Now we must keep our economy on the right path by preventing taxes on families from going up next year, making the tax relief of the last four years permanent, and reforming the tax code to make it simpler, fairer, and more growth-oriented.
In 2000 we rightly declared: "The federal tax code is dysfunctional. It penalizes hard work, marriage, thrift, and success – the very factors that are the foundations for lasting prosperity." As noted earlier, from reducing marginal income tax rates to phasing out the death tax, President Bush and the Republican Congress have made great strides in addressing each of these problems. However, it is equally obvious that much more remains to be done to reform the federal tax code. Instead of being simple, the current tax system is needlessly complex, making it susceptible to abusive tax avoidance schemes. Instead of being efficient, it punishes hard work, discourages savings and investment, and hinders the international competitiveness of U.S. firms. Instead of being fair, it is out of line with our basic values and undermines our sense of fairness. Instead of being predictable, it is highly unpredictable and uncertain. Tax reform is necessary to achieve the simplicity, efficiency, fairness, and predictability that the American people deserve, and to give all Americans the freedom to determine their own spending priorities.
In particular, we must:
- Make the tax relief of 2001 and 2003 permanent. The various expiring tax relief provisions, ranging from 2005 to 2011, make the tax code confusing for everybody and limits the ability of workers, families, and businesses to plan for the future with confidence. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the death tax, which is reduced now, disappears in 2010, and then comes fully back to life in 2011.
- Build on efforts to develop a tax code that does not punish taxpayers for saving.
- Replace the tax code with a system that is simpler, provides more freedom to our citizens, is pro-growth, boosts the economy, and encourages savings and investment. A code that provides several definitions of a child is a code that needs to be reformed.
We support legislation requiring a super-majority vote in both houses of Congress to raise taxes. We will prohibit retroactive taxation and will not tolerate attempts by federal judges to impose taxes. We oppose all attempts by the United Nations to impose a global tax and reject any claims of authority by United Nations to do so. Because of the vital role of religious and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering charity and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation.
Alternative Minimum Tax
The alternative minimum tax (AMT) represents a second tax system for individuals. Its stated goal is to insure that high-income taxpayers pay some amount of income tax. But due to the lack of indexing, the broad base and reach of the current AMT will make it apply increasingly to middle-income taxpayers. Millions of additional taxpayers must complete AMT forms just to determine that they are not subject to the tax. As we look at the broader issue of tax reform, we call upon Congress to address this increasingly unfair second tax system on hardworking Americans.
Fiscal Discipline and Government Reform
To make sure the private sector has the capital it needs to invest, grow the economy, and expand prosperity, our leaders must make sure that the growth of the federal government remains in check. The challenges America has faced over the last four years have created an unwelcome but manageable budget deficit. These deficits are due to a number of factors: the stock market downturn that began in 2000 and the subsequent recession that President Bush inherited when he took office; the terrorist attacks on America and the necessary spending for homeland security and the War on Terror those attacks precipitated; and the crisis in confidence produced by corporate scandals that were years in the making.
It is important to view the size of the deficit in relation to the size of the nation's economy. By that measure, today's deficit, although unwelcome, is well within historical ranges. A deficit that is 3.8 percent of GDP, as is now projected for this year, would be smaller than the deficits in nine of the last 25 years, and far below the peak deficit figure of 6 percent of GDP reached in 1983. This deficit is also in line with what other industrialized nations are facing today. The U.S. deficit matches the average deficit within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and is below the levels of France, Germany, and Japan.
Much more importantly, because the President and Congress enacted pro-growth economic policies, the deficit is headed strongly in the right direction. Next year's projected deficit, at 2.7 percent of GDP, would be smaller than those in 14 of the last 25 years. As Republicans in Congress work with the President to restrain spending and strengthen economic growth, the federal deficit will fall to 1.5 percent of the nation's economic output in 2009 – well below the 2.2 percent average of the last 40 years.
The events that brought us into deficit are not completely behind us. The War on Terror goes on. The recession has passed, but some industries and workers are still feeling its effects. Republicans are committed to winning the War on Terror and will continue to implement policies that promote jobs, investment, and growth in every region of the country and every sector of our economy.
Let us be clear: If government is to meet the most pressing needs of our time and still maintain fiscal discipline, government leaders must set priorities and stick with them. President Bush has shown genuine leadership in doing just that. Time and again, he has made difficult decisions and followed through with clear determination. He has made it plain that his top budgetary priority is to protect America and win the War on Terror. He also remains committed to the education reforms he spearheaded in 2001. All discretionary spending must be kept in check and taxes must remain low to stimulate economic growth.
We endorse the President's pro-growth economic policies and his disciplined approach to spending taxpayers' dollars. And we applaud the efforts of President Bush and Republicans in Congress to meet our nation's priorities and cut the deficit by more than half within five years.
Tax cuts and spending are not the same. They do not have the same effect on the economy or on the federal budget. Tax cuts allow American workers, families, business owners, and investors to keep more of their own money. New spending requires the government to take control of a bigger slice of the economy. We recognize that the problem is not that the American people are taxed too little but that the federal government spends too much. To ensure that the federal government respects the burdens on taxpayers and spends only as much as is necessary to accomplish our common goals, we support extending the pay-as-you-go requirement for mandatory spending only.
Limiting Spending Growth
Spending limits will help Congress restrain the growth of government. We support a cap on discretionary spending that will limit the growth of overall spending while ensuring that priorities such as our nation's security will continue to be met. We applaud President Bush for submitting a budget for 2005 that provides significant increases in funding to win the War on Terror and protect the homeland, while limiting the growth in all other non-security related discretionary spending to less than one percent.
To further the goal of respecting taxpayers' dollars and restraining spending, we endorse the creation of a line-item veto, which the President could use consistent with the Constitution to reject new appropriations, new mandatory spending, or limited grants of tax benefits (to 100 or fewer beneficiaries) whenever he determines the spending or tax benefits are not essential priorities. Under this approach, all savings from the line-item veto would be used for deficit reduction, and could not be applied to other spending. Governors across the nation already have and use this tool to reduce unnecessary spending. The President should have the same option.
It is often said that a government program is the closest man has come to achieving immortality. Government programs are designed with specific purposes, and they ought to be assessed to determine whether they are meeting their goals. We endorse creating a commission to evaluate discretionary spending on federal agencies and programs to ensure that taxpayer funds are being used for the best, most efficient purposes. Such a commission would determine whether certain programs are duplicative, wasteful or inefficient, outdated or irrelevant, or failed. It would recommend to Congress programs that could be terminated, moved, or restructured to make the government more efficient.
New government programs are frequently created with little review of programs that already exist to address the same perceived problem. Over time, numerous programs with overlapping missions and competing agendas grow up alongside one another – wasting money and baffling citizens. We support President Bush's vision for government reform, which is guided by three principles. Government should be: citizen-centered, not bureaucracy-centered; results-oriented; and market-based, actively promoting rather than stifling innovation through competition. The President's management agenda is an effective tool for making sure government is active but limited, focusing on results and obtaining them efficiently.
The Republican Party respects and appreciates the private sector as the primary creator of jobs, economic growth, opportunity, and prosperity in our society. The private sector functions most effectively when laws are transparent and people respect them – this includes people in positions of power. When corporate leaders break the law, they should be punished.
After fraudulent corporate practices rooted in the irrational exuberance of the late 1990s began to surface in the closing months of 2001, President Bush worked with the Congress to take decisive action to restore honesty and integrity to America's corporate boardrooms. In July 2002, President Bush signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the most far-reaching reform of American business practices since the 1940s. Under this new law, CEOs and Chief Financial Officers are required to personally vouch for the truth and fairness of their companies' disclosures; for the first time, an independent board has been established to oversee the accounting profession; investigators have been given new tools to root out corporate fraud; and enhanced penalties are ensuring that dishonest corporate officials do hard time.
We applaud President Bush for vigorously enforcing the law to deter and punish further corporate abuses. He established an interagency Corporate Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute financial crimes; to recover the proceeds of those crimes; and to hold corporate criminals to account. Since the Task Force was established two years ago, over 700 violators have been charged and over 300 convictions or guilty pleas secured, including more than 25 former CEOs. More than $1 billion in forfeited funds has also been recovered from corporate wrongdoers for return to defrauded creditors and investors. Separately, the enforcement budget of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has more than doubled, and the SEC has issued new rules to ban late-trading and other fraudulent practices engaged in by certain mutual funds.
Thanks to swift and decisive action by President Bush and the Congress, Americans can trust that corporate executives who operate outside the law will be prosecuted.
Enforcing Trade Agreements and Opening New Markets
International trade has become the world's most powerful economic force, and Americans are seeing great benefits from free and fair trade. Exports accounted for about 25 percent of the economic growth in the 1990s and supported about 12 million jobs. An additional 6 million jobs are made possible by companies based in foreign countries investing here in the United States. Consumers have benefited – recent trade agreements save the average family of four $2000 per year by lowering regulatory barriers, eliminating tariffs, and providing more consumer choices.
Free trade must be fair trade that advances America's economic goals and protects American jobs. To achieve this goal, we must act globally, regionally, and bilaterally to negotiate new trade agreements and enforce existing trade commitments. We must be at the table when trade agreements are negotiated, make the interests of American workers and farmers paramount, and ensure that the drive to open new markets is successful. We reject moves toward economic isolationism. America is the best place in the world to do business, and our workers and products are the best in the world. On a level playing field we can outmatch any other nation. We applaud the President's actions to open foreign markets to American manufacturing products, agricultural goods, services, and intellectual property, while ensuring enforcement of trade agreements so that other nations live up to their promises.
In 2000 we resolved to renew Trade Promotion Authority so the President could more easily negotiate trade agreements. In 2002 President Bush and Republicans in Congress did exactly that. After lapsing for eight years, the law now allows President Bush to work with other countries to reduce barriers to our products and services. And he is using the new authority:
- The Bush Administration has negotiated trade agreements with 12 countries.
- They have made progress on agreements with another 10 countries.
- These free trade partners represent $2.5 trillion in purchasing power – the equivalent of America's third-largest export market.
- The agreements include high levels of protection and strong enforcement measures for intellectual property.
- The Administration has also made significant progress in negotiating multi-lateral trade agreements, having just last month revived World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations for the final phase of the Doha round.
- The revival of these negotiations opens the door to lower tariffs on consumer and industrial goods, reductions in tariffs and trade-distorting export subsidies on agricultural products, and market access and lower regulatory barriers for services.
The vitality of the U.S. trade agenda depends upon the vigorous enforcement of U.S. trade laws against unfair competition. We will not tolerate foreign practices, rules, and subsidization that put our exports and manufacturers on an unequal footing. It is not enough to secure signatures on a piece of paper; our trading partners must follow through on the promises they make.
As part of its trade enforcement efforts, the Bush Administration has imposed more anti-dumping orders on average each year than the previous Administration. The United States was the first country in the world to impose a safeguard action against Chinese textile and apparel imports and to file a case against China in the WTO. China settled that case, agreeing to repeal its subsidy of semiconductors that was penalizing U.S. manufacturers. Also this year, through bilateral consultations with China, the United States resolved seven other potential trade disputes over high technology products, agriculture, and intellectual property protection.
We strongly endorse the Bush Administration's unprecedented effort to persuade and encourage China to desist in its policy of manipulating its currency to give Chinese manufacturers an artificial advantage in global markets.
Reforming the Litigation System
America's litigation system is broken. Junk and frivolous lawsuits are driving up the cost of doing business in America by forcing companies to pay excessive legal expenses to fight off or settle often baseless lawsuits. Those costs are being paid by small business owners, manufacturers, their employees, and consumers. A typical small business with $10 million in annual revenue pays about $150,000 a year in tort liability costs. That is money that could be used to invest and hire new employees. Inefficiency and waste in the legal system is costing the average American family of four $1,800 every year, equivalent to an extra 3 percent tax on wages. And the bulk of jury awards to plaintiffs don't even go to the people who deserve it. Injured persons on average collect less than 50 cents of every dollar that the legal system costs. Trial lawyers get rich from the misfortune of others. If small business is America's economic engine, trial lawyers are the brakes: They cost hundreds of thousands of good jobs, drive honest employers out of business, deprive women of critical medical care – then skip out with fat wallets and nary a thought for the economic havoc and human misery they leave in their wake.
We praise President Bush and Republicans in Congress for their efforts to reform the legal system by passing meaningful class action reform, asbestos reform, and medical liability reform. And we call to account Senate Democrats and the powerful trial lawyer lobby, who have shown no shame in utilizing obstructionist tactics to thwart the efforts of majorities in Congress to provide meaningful relief to all Americans. The Republican Party reaffirms its support for meaningful reform of the legal system, and will continue its fight to guarantee the rights of all plaintiffs to swift and speedy justice.
A safe and efficient transportation system is essential to keeping people and goods moving and cities and communities prosperous. Congestion and delay not only waste our time as individuals, they also burden businesses and our entire economy with inefficiency and higher costs. Republicans strongly support a comprehensive transportation policy agenda that enhances safety, reduces congestion, modernizes infrastructure, and promotes economic growth.
Our national railroad network is a crucial component of our public transportation system. Railroads helped build our country, and our national passenger railroad network plays a key role in transportation and economic growth. Republicans support, where economically viable, the development of a high-speed passenger railroad system as an instrument of economic development and enhanced mobility.
Republicans support a healthy intercity passenger rail system. Amtrak provides a valuable service to passengers, especially in the Northeast corridor. But we recognize that the goal of establishing a national passenger rail system with modest federal support has failed to materialize. Clearly the financial problems plaguing Amtrak cannot be solved simply by continued infusions of taxpayer dollars. Fundamental reforms should be enacted to transition Amtrak into operational self-sufficiency.
Ensuring an Affordable, Reliable, More Independent Energy Supply
A stable, affordable, more independent energy supply is vital to fueling America's economic growth, increasing prosperity, helping families afford prices at the pump, and making America more secure. President Bush and Republicans in Congress recognize the need for a balanced energy policy that increases both energy production and conservation. We need a comprehensive energy policy so that we will no longer lurch from one energy crisis to the next. Recent electricity blackouts, the California energy crisis, natural gas and oil price spikes, and high gasoline prices remind us that only a comprehensive energy policy will produce energy stability for America's families and businesses.
As one of his first acts in office, President Bush released the National Energy Policy (NEP) report, a comprehensive plan to reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of energy by increasing domestic energy production and supporting conservation and alternative and renewable energy. The President's proposal would make America more energy independent while creating jobs and promoting economic growth. It includes over 100 recommendations, nearly half of which addressed renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation. President Bush has implemented nearly every non-legislative recommendation outlined in the NEP report. Republicans in the House and Senate have stood solidly with the President. We endorse the President's policy, appreciate the hard work of Congressional Republicans in the face of intractable partisan opposition, and urge final passage of a bill to secure America's energy future.
- Republicans support developing new technologies for more efficient generation and use of power. New technologies will allow us to create new job-producing industries and save jobs in industries that have long been staples of America's economy. For instance, working with Congressional Republicans, the President has already committed $2 billion over 10 years for clean coal research and development – which helps keep America's coal industry strong and reduces the emissions associated with coal use. As part of that commitment, we support FutureGen, an international, public-private initiative to build the world's first integrated sequestration and hydrogen research power plant that would burn coal more cleanly. President Bush's Clear Skies Initiative would create a $50 billion private market to deploy these clean coal technologies.
- The Republican Party supports research and investment designed to realize the enormous benefits of a hydrogen economy and put the United States on the cutting edge of energy technology. The FreedomCar Partnership and Hydrogen Fuel Initiative include $1.7 billion over five years to begin building hydrogen cars and the infrastructure to support them.
- Using the most sophisticated technologies, we can explore and develop oil resources here at home with minimal environmental impact. Our Party continues to support energy development in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, holds as much as 16 billion barrels of oil – enough to replace oil imports from Saudi Arabia for nearly 20 years. The drilling footprint can be confined to just 2,000 acres (the entire refuge contains 19 million acres), about the size of Washington's Dulles Airport, on ice roads that melt away in the summer, leaving little trace of human intervention. We have already wasted precious time. If the previous Administration had not vetoed the ANWR proposal passed by the Republican Congress in 1995, at this moment ANWR would be producing up to one million barrels of oil a day.
- Republicans strongly support removing unnecessary barriers to domestic natural gas production and expanding environmentally sound production in new areas, such as Alaska and the Rocky Mountains. Increasing supply, including the construction of a new natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower 48, will bring needed relief to consumers and make America's businesses more competitive in the global marketplace.
- Last summer, the largest blackout in North American history affected 8 states, leaving more than 50 million Americans without power. Republicans support measures to modernize the nation's electricity grid to prevent future blackouts and provide American consumers and businesses with more affordable, reliable power. We will work to unleash innovation so entrepreneurs can develop technologies for a more advanced and robust transmission system that meets our growing energy demands. We also support the establishment of mandatory, enforceable reliability rules for electric utilities to reduce the likelihood of future blackouts.
- Republicans will continue to support renewable energy through extension of the production tax credit for wind and biomass, as well as efforts to expand the use of biodiesel and ethanol, which can reduce America's dependence on foreign oil while increasing revenues to farmers.
- Nuclear power provides America with affordable, emissions-free energy. We believe nuclear power can help reduce our dependence on foreign energy and play an invaluable role in addressing global climate change. President Bush supports construction of new nuclear power plants through the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative, and continues to move forward on creating an environmentally sound nuclear waste repository.
Education: No Child Left Behind
Public education, access for every child to an excellent education, is a foundation of a free, civil society. The children who enter schools today will leave as young adults, full of dreams for the future. They will soon become the scientists and researchers who make great discoveries, the engineers and mathematicians who build our communities, the doctors and nurses who heal and comfort the sick, the teachers who will educate the next generation, the leaders who transform government, the poets, artists, and writers who entertain and inspire. Every child deserves a first-rate education, because every child holds infinite potential, and we should give them every opportunity to reach it.
We believe there is an inseparable link between a vibrant economy and a high-quality education system. It takes a vibrant economy to provide the tax base necessary to fund a high-quality education system. Equally, it takes a quality education system to provide the highly skilled labor force necessary to meet the demands of a growing, vibrant economy.
Strong schools will also produce a workforce with the skills to compete in the 21st century economy. We must have citizens capable of conceiving the next generation of new technologies and innovations, mastering the art of analyzing problems and crafting their solutions. Education is the key to prosperity and fulfillment – the foundation on which all other success is built.
On just his fourth day in office, President Bush presented the No Child Left Behind initiative to Congress. Less than a year later, he secured an overwhelming bipartisan majority to pass the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It was the most significant overhaul of federal education policy since 1965. And it became a promise kept to parents, students, teachers, and every American.
The law is based on four fundamental pillars:
- Ensuring stronger accountability for student achievement, for all children
- Encouraging education methods that work
- Providing flexibility and control to states and local communities
- Giving parents more information about the quality of their children's schools and offering them choices and resources for their children's education
Results are now measured on the basis of student achievement rather than simply dollars spent. Students are benefiting from education reforms that set high academic standards, encourage strong parental involvement, recognize the role of excellent teachers, foster safe and orderly classrooms, and establish a commitment to teaching the basics of reading and math.
With this success, Republicans have transformed the debate on education. We are the Party parents can trust to improve schools and provide opportunity for all children, in every neighborhood, regardless of background or income. We are the party willing to embrace new ideas and put them to the test. Americans agree that the status quo in education is no longer acceptable. We have challenged low expectations and poor achievement, and we are seeing results.
Now is the time to extend the progress we've made. The No Child Left Behind Act is already showing gains in elementary school, as student achievement scores for fourth- and eighth-graders have increased in classrooms across America. Our next mission is to take the reforms that we know are working in elementary schools and apply them up and down the education ladder – starting in early childhood education, so that children enter school ready to learn, and finishing in high school, so that every young adult who graduates has the skills he or she needs to succeed in the 21st century economy. For too long, the value of a high school diploma has declined as students leave school without even basic skills like reading and math, let alone the advanced math and science skills the modern workforce demands. We pledge to bring real reform to high schools. Thanks to President Bush's vision and the success of the No Child Left Behind Act, we have a track record worthy of Americans' trust.
We recognize that under the American Constitutional system, education is a state, local, and family responsibility, not a federal obligation. Since over 90 percent of public school funding is state and local, not federal, it is obvious that state and local governments must assume most of the responsibility to improve the schools, and the role of the federal government must be limited as we return control to parents, teachers, and local school boards.
Historic Levels of Funding
President Bush and Congressional Republicans have provided the largest increase in federal education funding in history and the highest percentage gain since the 1960s. Support for elementary and secondary education has had the largest increase in any single Presidential term since the 1960s – an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2001. The President and Congress are particularly focused on programs for America's neediest students, including minorities and children with special needs. With this increased funding comes a new focus on achievement and results.
High Standards and Accountability
The President and Republicans in Congress recognize that states and local communities are most directly responsible for the quality of education in their schools. That is why the No Child Left Behind Act stipulates that the states, not the federal government, develop an accountability plan that will work best for them. Since President Bush signed NCLB into law, all states have developed an accountability plan of assessments, graduation rates, and other key indicators of student achievement for all individual students and groups of students. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, every child counts. No child will be hidden in a maze of numbers. If some children are struggling while others succeed, we will praise success and deliver help to students who need it.
Our Party believes, as does the President, that reading is the new civil right. Every child must be able to read by the end of the third grade. The President and Congressional Republicans have taken important steps to help every student achieve that goal. The Reading First initiative brings scientifically based reading instruction, including phonics, to children in the early grades. Over $1.4 billion in funding for reading programs provides training for teachers and materials for children. In addition, since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, states have received additional funds for early childhood reading efforts.
Options for Parents
The Republican Party strongly supports school choice, because choice creates competition and competition puts the focus on quality. President Bush, Republican governors, and members of Congress have worked to expand parental choice and encourage competition by providing parents with information on their child's school, increasing the number of charter schools, and expanding education savings accounts for use from kindergarten through college.
Under NCLB, states and school districts publish report cards showing how well students are achieving so communities and parents can know how well their schools are doing. Parents of children in schools identified as needing improvement can choose another public school or get tutoring or other help for their child. President Bush and the Republican Congress enacted the D.C. School Choice initiative – the first federally funded school choice demonstration program. We commend the President and Congress for making DC's schoolchildren the most important special interest in education improvement. And we support state efforts to expand school choice, as well as the President's call to provide funding for new and existing charter schools, including assistance for school facilities. We believe that competition between schools is an effective option to improve the educational benefits for our children. The Republican Party supports the efforts of parents who choose faith-based and other nonpublic school options for their children.
High School Education
We are beginning to see success as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act at the elementary level, and now we must improve our high schools so that every graduate is prepared for the rigors of college, for the best jobs of the 21st century economy, or for military service. President Bush has proposed a number of initiatives to improve math and science education, help striving readers, and raise standards for high schools.
Research confirms what every parent knows to be true through commonsense and experience – a good teacher makes all the difference in a child's education. The No Child Left Behind Act set the goal of having a highly qualified teacher in every classroom by the 2005-2006 school year. States have been provided flexibility and resources to make sure teachers have the skills and tools to be successful with all children. These needed reforms are backed by historic levels of funding for teacher quality initiatives and support for teachers, including training, recruitment incentives, loan forgiveness, and tax relief.
We must also work to reduce the barriers that are keeping qualified professionals from entering the classroom by expanding alternative pathways to teacher certification – programs like Troops to Teachers, which helps former military personnel become classroom teachers; and Transition to Teaching, which provides training for people who want to become teachers and encourages states to develop and expand alternative routes to teacher licensure and certification.
Every teacher and every student deserves a safe classroom in which to work and learn. The No Child Left Behind Act ensures that teachers and other school professionals can undertake reasonable actions to maintain order and discipline in the classroom without the fear of litigation. The law provides civil immunity in any state court and limits the financial liability of teachers, instructors, principals, administrators, and other education professionals for actions taken to maintain discipline, order, or control in the school or classroom.
Head Start and Early Childhood Education
We support the President's "Good Start, Grow Smart" initiative, which strengthens Head Start by increasing accountability in the program so that students start kindergarten with the early skills they need. It also includes the Early Reading First initiative, designed to improve existing early education programs to prepare young children to succeed in school, especially those from low-income families. States should be able to coordinate preschool programs with Head Start programs in exchange for meeting certain accountability requirements.
Community colleges play a vital role in not only cultivating citizens for the 21st century, but also equipping them with the essential skills and training needed for jobs in the new economy. Because they are so adaptable and accessible, community colleges are increasingly critical providers of job training, both for degree-seekers and for workers seeking to retool, refine, and broaden their skills. We support the President's High-Growth Job Training Initiative, which has provided seed money to fund job training partnerships between community colleges and local high-growth industries.
Higher Education Affordability
Republicans are working to ensure that college is affordable and accessible for America's low- and middle-income families through increased funding of grants, low-interest student loans, and tax breaks for working families. As a result of Republican leadership, total student aid for higher education has increased to a historic $73 billion proposed for 2005. Next year, almost 10 million students and parents will receive one or more grants, loans, or work-study awards.
The President has requested record levels of Pell Grant funding. These grants will help an estimated 5.3 million low-income students pay for higher education – one million more students than when President Bush and Vice President Cheney came to office. Under a new Enhanced Pell Grant proposal, low-income students who take a rigorous high school curriculum – the kind of curriculum that will best prepare them for success in college – will be eligible to receive an additional $1,000 per year.
To ensure that America remains the world leader in the innovation economy – and to ensure that America's graduates have the training they need to compete for the best jobs of the 21st century – President Bush proposes to expand opportunities for math and science education in colleges and universities. Needy students studying math and science will be eligible to receive additional college aid.
Republicans have made Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) a priority. For more than a century, HBCUs and HSIs have played a vital role in providing opportunities for excellence in higher education to millions of African American and Hispanic students. Today, their mission continues, and it deserves our support. We applaud President Bush for fulfilling his pledge to increase funding for HBCUs and HSIs by 30 percent since 2001.
Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support legislation prohibiting gambling over the Internet or in student athletics by student athletes who are participating in competitive sports.
Training Our 21st Century Workforce
As the dynamic global economy forces many workers to consider changing fields or adding new skills, the President and Republican Congress want to make training for new jobs easier to come by and more flexible in providing individualized assistance. Ensuring that workers have the tools they need to succeed in the 21st Century Economy is a critical step in helping Americans be self-sufficient and successful. It is also critical to maintaining our position as the most productive and strongest economy in the world.
We support effective and enhanced job training programs that offer states additional flexibility and individuals more choice to design their own workforce training programs. The President's Personal Reemployment Accounts would provide unemployed workers flexible support and incentives in finding a job. And President Bush and Congressional Republicans are also providing unprecedented assistance for workers adversely affected by foreign trade – including additional training, income support, and health care assistance.
With English as our nation's common language, people from every corner of the world have come together to build this great nation. English empowers. For newcomers, it is the fastest route to mainstream American life, better paying jobs, and owning a piece of the American Dream. Furthermore, fluency in English should be the goal of bilingual education. At the same time, mastery of other languages is important for America's competitiveness in the world market. We advocate foreign language training in our schools and fostering respect for other languages and cultures throughout society.
Protecting the Rights of Workers
We affirm the time-honored right of individuals to voluntarily participate in labor organizations and to bargain collectively. We also believe that no American should be coerced into an association they do not wish to join. And no one should be kept out of a job for which they are qualified simply because they choose to remain independent of labor unions. We therefore support the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws.
Republicans respect the enormous sacrifices and commitment of the workers, including building tradesmen, who responded to the attacks of September 11th. Thanks to their skill, courage, and patriotism, the very dangerous work at the World Trade Center and Pentagon was done remarkably quickly and without a single fatality. We will always remember and honor the efforts of the rescue and recovery workers who dedicated countless hours to helping America recover.
All American workers deserve workplaces that are safe, healthy, and fair. The President and Republican Congress have supported efforts to improve workplace safety without burdening businesses with costly and unnecessary regulations. And these efforts are showing results – overall workplace fatalities and injuries are at record low levels.
American workers deserve fair wages for hours spent working overtime. We are proud of the fact that 1.3 million additional workers now have guaranteed overtime protections as a result of Republican efforts to modernize labor laws left untouched since 1949. For the first time ever, the regulations explicitly guarantee overtime protection to blue collar workers, police, firefighters, EMTs, factory workers, construction workers, and licensed practical nurses, among others. With clearly defined overtime rules that recognize the realities of the modern workforce, employees and employers will have a greater understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Workers who pay dues through their workplace deserve to know how their dues are being used – especially when the money is being used to support political activity. Republicans have enhanced financial disclosure requirements for political campaigns, corporations, and pension funds in order to bring about more transparency and accountability in the political system. And the Bush Administration improved union financial disclosure forms to offer union members more information about how their dues money is spent. We encourage management and unions to find common ground thereby ensuring economic viability for both. Men and women who retire after decades spent in the workforce are entitled to the pensions they and their employers have contributed to throughout their careers. As part of the 2001 economic growth and tax relief bill, workers' pension payments are now calculated on the basis of their best three years of earnings rather than their last three. This protects workers whose earnings decline with their age. In addition, criminal prosecutions against employers and plan trustees who abuse pension and health plans have increased by more than 50 percent since 2001. More than $3 billion has been secured through court judgments, settlements, and fines covering 150 million workers and their dependents by holding those who manage benefit plans accountable for their legal obligations to protect plan participants. Thanks to Republican efforts to enforce the law, the word is getting out that benefits managers should invest and manage employees' retirement funds as carefully as they would handle their own. Republicans recognize the historical federal health care promise made to coal industry retirees. The Party will seek to ensure that health care needs of "orphan retirees" in the coal industry will be covered and will seek to ensure the continuation of those benefits.
True Solutions for Affordable, High-Quality Health Care
The cost of providing health care for employees is a major burden for American businesses. Health insurance costs for employers have been rising every year since 1996, causing businesses to hire fewer new employees and too many families to go without insurance. Studies show that 60 percent of uninsured Americans either work for a small business or are dependent upon someone who does. The way to alleviate that burden is to bring down the cost of health care in America. Shifting the cost-burden onto the federal or state governments – costs that will ultimately be borne by the taxpayers – is not an effective solution to the problem. We must attack the root causes of high health care costs by: aiding small businesses in offering health care to their employees; empowering the self-employed through access to affordable coverage; putting patients and doctors in charge of medical decisions; reducing junk lawsuits and limiting punitive damage awards that raise the cost of health care; and seizing the cost-saving and quality-enhancing potential of emerging health technologies. It is also important that we reaffirm our Party's firm rejection of any measure aimed at making health care a government-run enterprise.
Association Health Plans (AHPs)
We support legislation to enable small employers to pool together to offer health insurance options to their employees. The legislation, already passed by the House, gives small businesses the same purchasing power currently enjoyed by large employers and labor unions. This will go a long way toward providing health care coverage for America's uninsured, 60 percent of whom are estimated to work for or be dependent on someone who works for a small business.
Medical Liability Reform
The medical liability system is harming our medical delivery system. Doctors are afraid to practice medicine. Frequent, unwarranted, lawsuits force doctors out of certain specialty areas and geographic regions. The most dangerous result of this is the declining availability of emergency trauma care and women's health services. In many cases, costs are so prohibitive that many obstetrics/gynecology practices are scaling back service or choosing not to practice altogether. Junk lawsuits add at least $60 billion to health care costs in America because doctors are forced to practice defensive medicine, ordering extensive, unnecessary, and expensive tests and procedures to keep trial lawyers at bay.
The President has proposed, and the Republican House of Representatives has passed, reforms that would speed compensation to injured patients, reduce health care costs, and improve Americans' access to quality health care. Shamefully driven by the powerful trial lawyer lobby, Democrat Senators have repeatedly thwarted the efforts of the Republican majority to deliver meaningful medical liability reform. They have employed their obstructionist tactics three times in the current Congress alone. The Republican Party reaffirms its commitment to putting patients and doctors ahead of trial lawyers. We will continue to battle for litigation reforms that help keep doctors in practice, adopt reasonable caps on non-economic awards in medical malpractice suits, and ensure that Americans have access to quality affordable health care. Health Information Technology
Estimates indicate that between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors, while as much as $300 billion is spent each year on health care that does not help patients – unnecessary, inappropriate, inefficient, or ineffective treatments. This is absolutely unacceptable. High costs, medical errors, administrative inefficiencies, and poor coordination are all closely connected to our failure to use health information technology as an integral part of medical care. Republicans support President Bush's goal of ensuring that most Americans have electronic health records within the next 10 years. He has requested funding for demonstration projects for broader adoption of health IT systems in communities and states. Already, the use of health IT in the Veterans Administration has shown improvements in the quality of care and reductions in the cost. The Administration is working with private sector innovators to develop reliable, secure methods of storing personal medical information that will broaden the benefits of health IT. Privacy is paramount, and participation by patients will be voluntary. These electronic health records will be designed to share information among and between health care providers only when authorized by a patient. Advances at the nexus of science and technology raise serious moral and legal questions. For example, although medical conditions have been linked to certain genetic markers, there is no certainty that many of these diseases will actually develop. There is growing concern that employers and insurance companies will use genetic information to discriminate by denying jobs or insurance coverage to individuals who have predictive genetic markers for certain diseases. We support efforts to enact genetic discrimination legislation that is fair, reasonable, and consistent with existing laws to prevent discrimination. In addition, we must take action to allow doctors and hospitals to review best practices without fear of litigation. By sharing information, health professionals can determine ways to avoid errors and complications. These efforts are blocked, however, because good-faith efforts to improve quality and safety are targets for lawsuits based on new information that is made public in the review process. We support the work of the President and Republicans in Congress on legislation to make it possible for health professionals to work together more effectively to provide the best possible care for all patients.
Investing in Science, Technology, and Telecommunications
Republicans recognize that the role of government in the 21st century economy is to foster an environment in which innovation can flourish. The Information Revolution is the product of the creative efforts and hard work of men and women in the private sector who have had the freedom to innovate. At the same time, we recognize the magnitude and pace of change require vigilance by government to make the most of the opportunities, mitigate the possible downsides of rapid technological advancement, and protect the technology industry from modern day pirates at home and abroad – both those who violate copyrights and those who loot by litigation. The technological innovation we have experienced thus far is surely only the beginning of almost unimaginable growth and change. We will seize this historic opportunity.
The United States remains the largest producer and exporter of manufactured goods in the world, despite enduring significant challenges during the economic downturn. The U.S. needs a national minerals strategy to supply the country with minerals and metals vital to national and economic security and to the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing. The continued primacy of U.S. manufacturing is due in large part to the Administration's manufacturing initiative, which represents the first time in modern history that an Administration has made U.S. manufacturing a top priority. We support the Administration's efforts in this regard as a recognition of the critical role of manufacturing to job creation, national security, and the economy.
Research and Development
America's economy is undergoing a fundamental transition from one based primarily on manufacturing to one based on innovation, services, and ideas. Two-thirds of America's economic growth in the 1990s resulted from the introduction of new technology and 60 percent of the new jobs of the 21st century require post-secondary education, yet only one-third of America's workforce has achieved that level.
In order to maintain America's global leadership, Republicans have provided unprecedented support for federal research and development to help spur innovation. Federal R&D funding is up 44 percent from 2001 to $132 billion in 2005, which includes a 26 percent increase in support for basic research. The President has doubled the budget for the National Institutes of Health and increased the National Science Foundation budget by 30 percent. President Bush and the Republican Party also support making the R&D tax credit permanent.
The rapid pace of technological development demands that we remain on the leading edge of innovation and science. Republicans are committed to providing the investment and incentives needed to foster next generation technologies. The 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bush, increased funding for nanotechnology research. In addition, the President has dedicated $1.7 billion over five years to develop hydrogen fuel cells and related next-generation energy technologies. The President's support for NASA and vision for space exploration will also enhance scientific development and technological breakthroughs.
Broadband provides Americans with high-speed Internet access connections that improve the nation's economic productivity and offer life-enhancing applications, such as distance learning, remote medical diagnostics, and the ability to work from home more effectively. Broadband technology will enhance our nation's economic competitiveness and will help improve education and health care for all Americans. Republicans have implemented a wide range of policies to create economic incentives, remove regulatory barriers, and promote new technologies, all of which are essential to making broadband competitively available and affordable.
President Bush established the goal of providing every American with access to affordable broadband by 2007. We recognize that taxing broadband access would increase its cost to consumers and stifle the extension of broadband service. The President has signed into law a two-year extension of the Internet Access Tax moratorium and is working with Congressional Republicans to pass legislation that would explicitly extend the moratorium to broadband and make it permanent.
Republicans are working to reduce burdensome regulations that discourage broadband investment. High-speed Internet access should not be governed by regulations established decades ago for the telephone. Consumers should have more options for affordable broadband access. The promise of broadband over power lines and wireless Internet access provide new opportunities to connect households, schools, and businesses to the Internet. Under the President's leadership, the Administration has nearly doubled the amount of spectrum available for innovative wireless broadband applications such as Wi-Fi and Wi-Max.
Republican policies are working:
- Broadband adoption has grown 300 percent from December 2000 to December 2003 – from 7 million to 28 million lines.
- Over 93 percent of zip codes have broadband access.
- Ninety-four percent of public schools have broadband access to the Internet.
By applying 21st century policy to 21st century technology, we will encourage new investment that will bring broadband to even more homes in more areas of America.