The 1996 Republican Platform

Adopted August 12, 1996


"This is no time for diminished expectations. This is no time to sell America's potential short. This is a time to let go of the 20th Century and embrace the 21st - to seize the promise of the new era by liberating the genius of the American people."
Bob Dole, September 5, 1995 in Chicago, Illinois

Improving the Standard of Living

We are the party of America's earners, savers, and taxpayers - the people who work hard, take risks and build a better future for our families and our communities. Our party believes that we can best improve the standard of living in America by empowering the American people to act in their own behalf by:

That's not wishful thinking; it's what we, the American people, used to take for granted before the growth of big government began to shadow our days and smother our hopes. In the 1980s - when we cut taxes, restrained regulation, and reduced government spending as a share of the nation's economy - prosperity made a comeback. Jobs were created, incomes rose and poverty fell for seven straight years. Then the Democrat-controlled Congress forced the tax hikes of 1990 and jammed through Bill Clinton's tax bill of 1993.

Since then, Clintonomics has produced an economy that is squeezing the middle class between high taxes and low growth. The astounding fact is that we were growing 50% faster in 1992, when Bill Clinton described the economy as the worst in five decades. We've managed to avoid a recession only because the Republican Congress put the brakes on Bill Clinton's rush to ruin by substantially reducing government spending over the last two years. But we cannot go on like this. For millions of families, the American Dream is fading. Our goal is to revive it, renew it, and extend it to all who reach for it.

Our formula for growth, opportunity, and a better family life is simple: Trust the people, cut their taxes, scale back the size and scope of government, foster job creation, and get out of the way. We've done it before, we can do it again.

Tax Relief for Economic Growth

American families are suffering from the twin burdens of stagnant incomes and near-record taxes. This is the key cause of middle-class anxiety. It is why people feel they are working harder, but falling further behind; why they fear the current generation will not be as successful as the last generation; why they believe their children will be worse off; and why they feel so anxious about their own economic future.

After averaging 1.7 percent growth annually during the expansion following the 1981 tax cut, family incomes have failed to grow at all under Bill Clinton. Since 1990, families have actually lost much of the ground they gained during the low-tax, high-growth 1980s.

Anemic economic growth under Bill Clinton is largely responsible for this lost ground. The current economic expansion has not only failed to compare to the growth seen in the decade preceding his administration, it is the slowest recovery in the last 100 years. Since 1992, the economy has grown by only 2.4 percent per year, compared to 3.2 percent in the previous 10 years and 3.9 percent between 1983 and 1989.

Bill Clinton has demonstrated that he fails to understand the role excessive tax burdens play on the economy and family incomes. In the first year of his administration, he pushed through the largest tax increase in history, raising taxes on families, senior citizens, and small businesses. Confronted with Republican attempts to cut family and business taxes, he vetoed the 1995 Balanced Budget Act which included the $500 per child tax credit as well as incentives to increase savings, economic growth and job creation.

The Clinton tax increase has produced the second-highest tax burden in American history. Federal tax collections now consume more than one-fifth of our total economic output. Federal, state, and local taxes take more than 38 cents out of every dollar the American family earns. The federal tax burden alone is now approaching a record 25 percent of family income.

American families deserve better. They should be allowed to keep more of their hard-earned money so they can spend on their priorities, as opposed to sending ever-increasing amounts to Washington to be spent on the priorities of federal bureaucrats.

In response to this unprecedented burden confronting America, we support an across-the-board, 15-percent tax cut to marginal tax rates. Fifteen percent represents the total increase in the federal tax burden since Bill Clinton took office, and we believe such a cut should be the first step towards reducing overall tax burdens while promoting the economic growth that will raise family incomes and our overall standard of living.

Another drag on family finances has been government's failure to maintain the personal and dependent exemption at historic levels. If the personal and dependent exemption that was $600 in 1950 had kept pace with inflation, it would be $3,800 rather than the current $2,500. That is why Republicans have made the $500-per-child family tax credit one of the primary features of our tax cut package.

Job creation and increasing family incomes depend on economic growth, and a precondition for economic growth is a healthy rate of saving and investment. Nevertheless, Bill Clinton vetoed Republican bills to provide these incentives, including expanded and more generous IRAs - and new spousal IRAs - which could be used for health care, education, and home-buying. As a result, today's personal savings rate is less than half what it was two decades ago. Republicans support expansion of IRAs and the establishment of spousal IRAs to encourage savings and investment.

Bill Clinton also vetoed provisions to reduce the capital gains tax rate. Excessive taxes on investment cripple the American economy and kill American jobs by increasing the cost of capital, locking in resources, and stifling small business growth and entrepreneurial activity. Largely because of these excessive taxes, American businesses face a competitive disadvantage with respect to our major trading partners, hurting their ability to export products abroad and create jobs. To remove impediments to job creation and economic growth, we support reducing the top tax rate on capital gains by 50 percent.

In 1993, Bill Clinton raised taxes on millions of middle-class retirees by dramatically increasing the income tax on Social Security benefits. This targeted attack on the economic security of our elderly was unfair and misguided. Republicans believe that this Clinton initiative must be repealed.

These proposals making the current tax code fairer and less burdensome should be viewed as an interim step towards comprehensive tax reform. The current tax code is ridiculously complex and unfair. It is also an unnecessary drag on the economy. At a time when business investment plans are greatly diminished and savings rates are unacceptably low, we must reform our tax system to remove existing artificial, government-induced bias against saving and investment.

To that end, we firmly commit to a tax code for the 21st century that will raise revenue sufficient for a smaller, more effective and less wasteful government without increasing the national debt. That new tax system must be flatter, fairer, and simpler, with a minimum of exclusions from its coverage, and one set of rules applying to all. It must be simple enough to be understood by all and enforced by few, with a low-cost of compliance which replaces the current stack of endless forms with a calculation which can be performed on the back of a postcard.

It must expand the economy and increase opportunity by rewarding initiative and hard work. It must foster job creation and end bias against saving. It must promote personal freedom and innovation. It must do all this in order to boost wages and raise living standards for all of America's working families.

A simple, fair tax system that is pro-growth and pro-family will not need today's burdensome IRS. That agency has become a nightmare for law-abiding taxpayers. It must be dramatically downsized - with resources going to more important efforts like drug enforcement - and made less intrusive.

To protect the American people from those who would undo their forthcoming victory over big government, we support legislation requiring a super-majority vote in both houses of Congress to raise taxes.

We also support a government that keeps its word. Retroactive taxation, like Bill Clinton's infamous 1993 tax hike, breaks that word. We pledge a legislative or constitutional remedy to prohibit its repetition. Because of their vital role in fostering charity and patriotism, we oppose taxing religious and fraternal benefit societies. We will not tolerate attempts to impose taxes by federal judges.

Balancing the Budget
and Reducing Spending

"We didn't dig ourselves into a $5 trillion debt because the American people are undertaxed. We got that $5 trillion debt because government overspends."

"The budget deficit is a 'stealth tax' that pushes up interest rates and costs the typical family $36,000 on an average home mortgage, $1,400 on an ordinary student loan, and $700 on a car loan."
Bob Dole

Raising tax rates is the wrong way to balance the budget. It enables the Clinton tax addicts to wastefully spend the public's money. Republicans support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, phased in over a short period and with appropriate safeguards for national emergencies. We passed it in the House of Representatives, but Bill Clinton and his allies - especially the Senate's somersault six, who switched their long-standing position on the issue - blocked it by a single vote. As president, Bob Dole will lead the fight for that amendment, and in the States, Republicans will finish the fight for its speedy ratification.

Once and for all, we declare:

A president should be Commander-in-Chief in the nation's budget battle as well as in military conflicts. Bill Clinton has been AWOL - Absent Without Leadership. Congressional Republicans had to fight his Senate allies for over a year just to give him a line-item veto for appropriation bills. Instead of helping us strengthen the presidency in this way, he set an historic precedent: vetoing whole appropriation bills because they spent too little money! His vetoes essentially shut down much of the government.

We make this promise: A Republican president will veto money bills that spend too much, not too little, and will use the line-item veto to lead the charge against wasteful spending. A Republican president will build on the achievements of our Republican Congress which has cut spending in excess of $53 billion over the last two years.

The Clinton Administration's tactic of using irresponsible monetary policy to hide the effects of their bad fiscal policies leads to:

This is not only bad economics; it is a hidden tax against both income and savings. We pledge a non-political monetary policy to keep prices stable and maintain public confidence in the value of the dollar.

Creating Jobs for Americans

Our goal is to empower the American people by expanding employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. Fundamentally, jobs are created in the private sector.

Small businesses are the engines of growth and job creation. They generate 75 percent of new jobs and 55 percent of our gross domestic product. The Republican Party is committed to the survival, the revival, and the resurgence of small business. In addition to our overall program of lower taxes, regulatory reform, and less spending, we will:

Small business is a force for enormous progress, socially, politically, and economically. This is both an economic and a civil rights agenda. Small businesses owned by women now employ more people than all the Fortune 500 companies combined. Republican-created enterprise zones will offer dramatic opportunities to workers employed by small businesses, particularly minorities and the "Forgotten Workers." Republicans support the creation of jobs in all areas of the country, from the inner city to rural America.

We must create the workplace of the future so that it becomes a vehicle for personal liberation for those who seek a foothold on the opportunity ladder. We advocate increased access to capital for businesses to expand, export, and bring new products and technologies to market. We propose to consolidate federal training programs and to transfer their administration to the States and local governments.

Restraining the size and spending of government is only part of the job. We must transform official policies and attitudes toward productive Americans. Many of our labor laws and job training programs are out of date and out of touch with the needs of today's workers. Both the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act, for example, have come to restrict opportunity, increase costs, and inhibit innovation.

Congressional Republicans have already launched a fight against the union bosses' ban on flex-time and comp-time in private industry. Those innovations are especially important to families with children. Government has no business forbidding America's workers to arrange their schedules to suit the needs of their own families.

In the same spirit, we will enact the TEAM Act to empower employers and employees to act as a team, rather than as adversaries, to advance their common interests. (It is opposed only by those who profit from labor conflict, for whom Bill Clinton has vetoed the bill.) Another way to replace conflict with concerted action is to transform OSHA from an adversarial agency into a pioneering advocate of safer productivity. We will mesh its activities with the work of councils formed under the TEAM Act to advance worker protection from the ground up.

In contrast, the Clinton Administration has produced no regulatory reform, no tax relief, no product liability reform, and no legal reform.

Our vision is that everyone who seeks a job will have a job. We will break the "job lock" and bring employment opportunities to all Americans. Science, Technology, and Innovation in the 21st Century

Our goal is to empower the American people by using the benefits of advanced science to improve their quality of life without undue restraint from government. Our bottom line is more jobs, better jobs, and a higher standard of living for the families of America.

As we prepare for the dawn of a new century, it is essential that our public policies keep pace with an evolving economy. Increased productivity is essential to expand the economy and improve the standard of living of all Americans. A recent report by the Office of Technology Assessment attributes at least half of all economic growth in the United States to advances in technology.

America is expanding its leadership role as a country that fosters innovation and technological advances, the essential ingredients of increased productivity. Leading these efforts are the men and women - and high technology businesses - that foster creative solutions to world problems. We must create policies that enable these thoughtful leaders to continue to invest in research and development. U.S. research and development (R&D) investment has increased significantly over the past two decades and currently accounts for about 2.6 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. The private sector has been the main engine behind this growth, contributing over 60 percent of the national R&D investment. Such investment has led to increased employment and high-quality jobs. Businesses that invest heavily in R&D tend to create more jobs, and to employ high-skilled workers in those new jobs at above average wage levels.

Research and development is our commitment to the future. It is our investment in the future. We must design tax and regulatory policies that encourage private sector research and experimentation, while lowering the cost of such investments.

We believe the marketplace, not bureaucrats, can determine which technologies and entrepreneurs best meet the needs of the public. American companies must use the most advanced production technologies, telecommunications, and information management systems. Technological advance means economic growth, higher productivity, and more security. We therefore support private-sector funding of applied research, especially in emerging technologies, and improved education in science and engineering. American workers must have the knowledge and training to effectively utilize the capabilities of those new systems.

Federal science programs must emphasize basic research. The tax code must foster research and development. These policies will increase the pace of technological developments by de-emphasizing the role of government and strengthening the role of the private sector. We will advance the innovative ideas and pioneering spirit that make possible the impossible.

New discoveries to bolster America's international competitiveness are essential. The fruits of federally funded research led to the creation of the biotechnology industry through the Bayh-Dole Act. This is an example of innovation and risk-taking, creating 2,000 biotechnology companies employing thousands of employees and selling billions of dollars of products to keep us first and foremost in the global marketplace.

The communications revolution empowers individuals, enhances health care, opens up opportunity for rural areas, and strengthens families and institutions. A Dole-led Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to promote the full and open competition and freedom of choice in the telecommunications marketplace. In contrast, the Clinton-Gore Administration repeatedly defended big-government regulation. This micromanagement of the Information Age is an impediment to the development of America's information superhighway.

We support the broadest access to telecommunications networks and services, based upon marketplace capabilities. The Internet today is the most staggering example of how the Information Age can and will enhance the lives of Americans everywhere. To further this explosion of new-found freedoms and opportunities, privacy, through secured communications, has never been more important. Bob Dole and the Republican Party will promote policies that ensure that the U.S. remains the world leader in science, technology, and innovation.


Homeownership is central to the American Dream. It is a commitment to a safe and stable community. It is not something government gives to the people, but rather something they can attain for themselves in a non-inflationary, growing economy. For most Americans, our home is our primary asset. Mortgage interest should remain deductible from the income tax.

We applaud Republican congressional efforts to pursue federal budget policies that will result in lower interest rates. Lower interest rates will open up more housing opportunities for more Americans than any program Washington could devise.

Republicans support regulatory reform efforts that make buying a house easy, understandable, and affordable.

We affirm our commitment to open housing, without quotas or controls, and we condemn the Clinton Administration's abuse of fair housing laws to harass citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.

In addition, we support transforming public housing into private housing, converting low-income families into proud homeowners. Resident management of public housing is a first step toward that goal, which includes eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD's core functions will be turned over to the States. Its civil rights component will be administered by the appropriate federal agency while enforcement will remain with the Department of Justice.

With the housing sector representing such a significant segment of the Nation's economy, housing policy is and should continue to be a priority. We believe in a federal role which supplements, not directs or competes with, States and localities. We believe in federal programs which augment, not displace, private sector capital and resources.

The Federal Government should not impose prescriptive solutions on State and local governments. Republicans believe that States and localities should have maximum flexibility to design programs which meet the individual needs of their communities. Washington must abandon the "one size fits all" approach and concentrate on adding value to the efforts of States, localities, private and faith-based organizations and individuals. Republicans believe we can and will accomplish this without disrupting services to the elderly, disabled and families with children.

Promoting Trade
and International Prosperity

Republicans believe that the United States, as the sole superpower in the world today, has a responsibility to lead - economically, militarily, diplomatically, and morally - so that we have a peaceful and prosperous world.

Republicans support free and fair trade. In the American Century ahead, our country will lead in international trade. American workers will be the winners in any fair competition, and American technology will drive a prosperity revolution around the world. Exports already fuel our economy; their continuing expansion is essential for full employment and long-term prosperity. That is possible only within the context of expanding trade, and we can do it better without a Department of Commerce.

Our country's merchandise trade deficit exploded to $175 billion in 1995 and will likely set an all-time record in 1996, siphoning American wealth into the hands of foreigners. Trade deficits with all our major trading partners were worse in 1995 than in 1992. With China alone, the deficit more than doubled to $35 billion in the last three and a half years. With Japan, Bill Clinton announced a series of hollow agreements that have done little to improve market access. With Russia, he approved a $1 billion Export-Import Bank loan to foster competition with the American aircraft industry. With Canada, he tolerates discrimination against the United States beverage industry and focused on our lumber crisis too late to help closed logging mills. With Mexico, he ignored injury to American agriculture from massive surges in imports.

We should vigorously implement the North American Free Trade Agreement, while carefully monitoring its progress, to guarantee that its promised benefits and protections are realized by all American workers and consumers.

Republicans are for vigorous enforcement of the trade agreements we already have on the books, unlike the Clinton Administration that uses United States trade policy as a bargaining chip and as a vehicle for pursuing a host of other social agenda items. Republicans will enforce United States trade laws, including our antidumping laws, and will use the Super 301 investigations that give the President authority to challenge foreign barriers to our exports. And we will use the Export Enhancement Program to boost American farm exports. To advance economic freedom, we insist that United States foreign aid, whether bilateral or through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, promote market reforms, limit regulation, and encourage free trade. Republicans will stop subsidizing socialism in the less developed nations. Republicans will not allow the World Trade Organization to undermine United States sovereignty and will support a World Trade Organization oversight commission.

Free market capitalism is the right model for economic development throughout the world. The Soviet model of a state-controlled economy has been discredited, and neither stage of development nor geographic location can justify economic authoritarianism. Human nature and aspirations are the same everywhere, and everywhere the family is the building block of economic and social progress. We therefore will protect the rights of families in international programs and will not fund organizations involved in abortion. The cost of turning our back on the global marketplace is the loss of opportunity and millions of jobs for United States citizens.

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Copyright © 1995, Republican National Committee