The 1996 Republican Platform
Adopted August 12, 1996
FAMILIES AND SOCIETY
- Stronger Families
- Improving Education
- Improving America's Health Care
- Renewing Hope and Opportunity
- Older Americans"The alternative to cold bureaucracy is not indifference. It is the warmth of families and neighborhoods, charities, churches, synagogues and communities. These value-shaping institutions have the tools to reclaim lives - individual responsibility, tough love, and spiritual renewal. They do more than care for the body; they restore the spirit."
Bob Dole, May 23, 1996, in Philadelphia
We are the party of the American family, educating children, caring for the sick, learning from the elderly, and helping the less fortunate. We believe that strengthening family life is the best way to improve the quality of life for everyone.
Families foster the virtues that make a free society strong. We rely on the home and its supportive institutions to instill honesty, self-discipline, mutual respect and the other virtues that sustain democracy. Our goal is to promote those values by respecting the rights of families and by assisting, where appropriate, the institutions which mediate between government and the home. While recognizing a role for government in dealing with social ills, we look to mediating institutions - religious and community groups, private associations of all kinds - to take the lead in tackling the social ills that some government programs have only worsened.
This is the clearest distinction between Republicans and Clinton Democrats: We believe the family is the core institution of our society. Bill Clinton thinks government should hold that place. It's little wonder, then, that today's families feel under siege. They seem to work harder with less reward for their labor. They can no longer expect that life will be better for their children than it was for them.
Their problem starts in the White House. Bill Clinton has hit families with higher taxes, vetoed their tax relief, and given their money to special interest groups. He has meddled in their schools, fought family choice in education, and promoted lifestyles inimical to their values. He repeatedly vetoed pro-family welfare reforms before surrendering to the demands of the American people. He tried to impose a ruinous government takeover of health care; led a scare campaign against Republican efforts to preserve, protect, and strengthen Medicare; and appointed to major positions in his administration social theorists whose bizarre views are alien to those of most Americans.
Republicans want to get our society back on track - toward good schools with great teachers, welfare that really helps, and health care responsive to the needs of people, not government. We want to make sure our most important programs - like Social Security and Medicare - are there when people need them. In all those cases, we start with the family as the building block of a safe and caring society.
Our agenda for more secure families runs throughout this platform. Here we take special notice of the way congressional Republicans have advanced adoption assistance, promoted foster care reform, and fought the marriage penalty in the tax code. They have worked to let parents have flex-time and comp-time in private industry, and have safeguarded family choice in child care against the Democrats' attempts to control it. They passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines "marriage" for purposes of federal law as the legal union of one man and one woman and prevents federal judges and bureaucrats from forcing states to recognize other living arrangements as "marriages." Further, they have advanced the Family Rights and Privacy Act - a bill of rights against the intrusions of big government and its grantees.
In the House and Senate, Republicans have championed the economic rights of the family and made a $500 per child tax credit the centerpiece of their reform agenda. But that overdue measure of relief for households with children was vetoed.
We salute parents working at the State level to ensure constitutional protection for the rights of the family. We urge State legislators to review divorce laws to foster the stability of the home and protect the economic rights of the innocent spouse and children.
Improving Education"At the center of all that afflicts our schools is a denial of free choice. Our public schools are in trouble because they are no longer run by the public. Instead, they're controlled by narrow special interest groups who regard public education not as a public trust, but as political territory to be guarded at all costs."
Bob Dole, July 17, 1996, in Minneapolis
The American people know that something is terribly wrong with our education system. The evidence is everywhere: children who cannot read, graduates who cannot reason, danger in schoolyards, indoctrination in classrooms.
To this crisis in our schools, Bill Clinton responds with the same liberal dogmas that created the mess: more federal control and more spending on all the wrong things. He opposes family rights in education and opportunity scholarships for poor children. When it comes to saving our schools, he flunks.
Americans should have the best education in the world. We spend more per pupil than any other nation, and the great majority of our teachers are dedicated and skilled educators, whose interests are ignored by political union bosses. Our goal is nothing less than a renaissance in American education, begun by returning its control to parents, teachers, local school boards and, through them, to communities and local taxpayers.
Our formula is as simple as it is sweeping: the federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the work place. That is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning. We therefore call for prompt repeal of the Goals 2000 program and the School-To-Work Act of 1994, which put new federal controls, as well as unfunded mandates, on the States. We further urge that federal attempts to impose outcome- or performance-based education on local schools be ended.
We know what works in education, and it isn't the liberal fads of the last thirty years. It's discipline, parental involvement, emphasis on basics including computer technology, phonics instead of look-say reading, and dedicated teaching.
Abstinence education in the home will lead to less need for birth control services and fewer abortions. We support educational initiatives to promote chastity until marriage as the expected standard of behavior. This education initiative is the best preventive measure to avoid the emotional trauma of sexually-transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies that are serious problems among our young people. While recognizing that something must be done to help children when parental consent or supervision is not possible, we oppose school-based clinics, which provide referrals, counseling, and related services for contraception and abortion.
We encourage a reform agenda on the local level and urge State legislators to ensure quality education for all through programs of parental choice among public, private, and religious schools. That includes the option of home schooling, and Republicans will defend the right of families to make that choice. We support and vigorously work for mechanisms, such as opportunity scholarships, block grants, school rebates, charter schools, and vouchers, to make parental choice in education a reality for all parents.
On the federal level, we endorse legislation - like the Watts-Talent Low-Income Educational Opportunity Act, which is part of the Community Renewal Act of 1996, and the Coats-Kasich Educational Choice and Equity Act - to set up model programs for empowering the families who need good schooling the most.
We will continue to work for the return of voluntary prayer to our schools and will strongly enforce the Republican legislation that guarantees equal access to school facilities by student religious groups. We encourage State legislatures to pass statutes which prohibit local school boards from adopting policies of denial regarding voluntary school prayer.
We endorse Bob Dole's pledge that all federal education policies will be guided by his Education Consumer's Warranty. The Education Consumer's Warranty says that all American children should expect to:
- attend a safe school;
- be free from educational malpractice at the hands of bad schools, incompetent teachers, timid principals, and intrusive bureaucrats;
- find out exactly how well they and their school are doing (in terms of achievement) in relation to how well they ought to be doing;
- learn the three R's through proven methods;
- learn the nation's history and democratic values and study the classics of western civilization;
- attend a school that is free to innovate and isn't tied down by federal red tape;
- be confident that their high school diploma signifies a solid education, suitable for college or a good job;
- choose the school that's right for them;
- know that their tax dollars are reaching the classroom, not being siphoned off into overhead and bureaucracy; and,
- count on being able to arrive at college prepared to do freshman-level work.
To reinforce our American heritage, we believe our nation's Governors, State legislators, and local school boards should support requiring our public schools to dedicate one full day each year solely to studying the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
America's families find themselves on a college treadmill: the more they work to pay tuition, the faster it seems to increase. Tuition has escalated far in excess of inflation, in defiance of market factors, and shows no sign of slowing down. Billions of dollars are wasted on regulations, paperwork, and "political correctness," which impedes the ability of the faculty to teach. We call for a national reassessment of the economics of higher education, to stop the treadmill and restore fiscal accountability to higher education. Congressional Republicans budgeted a 50 percent increase in student loans while fighting Bill Clinton's intrusion of Big Government into their financing. Heeding the outcry from the nation's campuses, we will end the Clinton Administration's perverse direct lending program. We support proposals to assist families to prepare for the financial strains of higher education, like the American Dream Savings Account, passed by congressional Republicans but vetoed.
To protect the nation's colleges and universities against intolerance, we will work with independent educators to create alternatives to ideological accrediting bodies. We believe meeting the higher education needs of America will require new, public and private institutions that are flexible, able to apply new technologies, willing to provide access to all those who need it, cost-effective and that place no burden on the American taxpayer.
Improving America's Health Care
Our goal is to maintain the quality of America's health care - the best in the world, bar none - while making health care and health insurance more accessible and more affordable. That means allowing health care providers to respond to consumer demand through consumer choice.
That approach stands in stark contrast to Bill Clinton's health plan of 1993. "Clintoncare" would have been a poison pill for the nation's health care system. Congressional Republicans countered with the right prescription:
- make insurance portable from job to job;
- ensure that persons are not denied coverage because of preexisting health conditions when changing employment;
- crack down on Medicare and Medicaid fraud, while preserving the confidentiality of medical records from inappropriate scrutiny and without imposing criminal penalties for clerical errors and billing mistakes;
- reform malpractice laws, to reduce the costly practice of "defensive medicine" and to make it easier for doctors to specialize in fields like obstetrics. We also recognize the vital importance of maintaining the confidentiality of the national practitioners data base;
- let individuals set up tax-free Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs), so they can plan for their own medical needs instead of relying on government or insurance companies. Republicans believe that Medicare and Medicaid recipients should also have the option to utilize Medical Savings Accounts, which would result in huge savings for the American taxpayers;
- overhaul the Food and Drug Administration to get better products on the market faster and at less cost to consumers;
- change IRS rules that restrict coverage: let employer groups offer tax-exempt policies and make premiums 100% deductible for farmers, small businesses, and all the self-employed;
- promote a private market for long-term care insurance;
- reduce paperwork through electronic billing;
- change anti-trust laws to let health care providers cooperate in holding down charges;
- avoid mandatory coverages that make consumers pay for more insurance than they need;
- allow multi-employer purchasing groups and form "risk pools" in the States to make employee health insurance more affordable;
- remove regulatory barriers to the use of managed care for those who choose it. Traditionally, all Americans have had the freedom to choose their health care plans, as well as the providers who treat them. To ensure quality of care, it is imperative that patients continue to enjoy the freedoms to which they have become accustomed. Communications between providers and patients should be free and open, and allow for full discussion of the patient's medical care. Financial arrangements should not be a barrier to a patient's receiving quality medical care;
- permit families with incomes up to twice the poverty level to buy into Medicaid;
- promote rural health care through telecommuni-cations and emergency air transport; and
- increase funding for Community and Migrant Health Centers.
Bill Clinton and most congressional Democrats opposed many of these reforms, especially Medical Savings Accounts and changes in malpractice laws. Congressional Republicans rallied the nation to win a long overdue victory for consumers and for commonsense. Three months away from the November elections, Bill Clinton caved in and promised to sign into law the Republican solution to America's health care problems.
But the Clinton Democrats are still blocking Republican efforts to preserve, protect, and strengthen Medicare. Until Medicare is financially secure again, our job is not finished. More than 38 million people depend on Medicare, which is rushing toward bankruptcy even more quickly than predicted. Bill Clinton doesn't seem to mind. Despite repeated Republican efforts to work with his administration to save Medicare, his response has been a barrage of propaganda. We proposed Medisave; he indulged in Mediscare. We say this with solemn deliberation: Bill Clinton lied about the condition of Medicare and lied about our attempts to save it.
We reaffirm our determination to protect Medicare. We will ensure a significant annual expansion in Medicare. That isn't "cutting Medicare." It's a projected average annual rate of growth of 7.1 percent a year - more than twice the rate of inflation - to ensure coverage for those who need it now and those who will need it in the future. We propose to allow unprecedented patient choice in Medicare, so that older Americans can select health care arrangements that work best for them, including provider-sponsored organizations offering quality care with strong consumer protections.
Our commitment is to protect the most vulnerable of our people: children, the elderly, the disabled. That is why we are determined to restructure Medicaid, the federal-State program of health care for the poor. Rife with fraud, poorly administered, with no incentives for patient or provider savings, Medicaid has mushroomed into the nation's biggest welfare program. Its staggering rate of growth threatens to overwhelm State budgets, while thwarting congressional progress towards a federal balanced budget. Bill Clinton's response has been to ignore the problem - and attack Republicans for trying to solve it.
We must find better ways to ensure quality health care for the poor. Medicaid should be turned over to State management with leeway for restructuring and reform. Low-income persons should have access to managed care programs and Medical Savings Accounts, just as other persons do, and State officials should have authority to weed out substandard providers and to eliminate excess costs. We endorse Republican legislation extending federal tort claim coverage to health care professionals who provide free medical services to persons who cannot afford them.
Preventive care is key to both wellness and lower medical bills, and strong families are the most powerful form of preventive care. Responsible families mean less child abuse, lower infant mortality, fewer unvaccinated youngsters, fewer teen pregnancies, and less involvement with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. To help low-income families toward those goals, we will unify scattered federal resources into block grants.
We reaffirm our traditional support for generous funding of medical research, especially through the National Institutes of Health, and for continuing federal support for teaching hospitals and medical schools. We remain committed to, and place a high priority on, finding a cure for HIV disease. We support increased funding for research targeted at conditions that touch the families of most Americans, like Alzheimer's, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and diabetes. We call for an increased emphasis on prevention of diseases that threaten the lives of women. This requires dramatic expansion of outreach and education to expand public awareness. We call for fetal protection in biomedical research and will enforce the rights of human subjects in all federally funded studies.
The value of medical research and preventive care to wellness and lower health care spending can be highlighted by the example of diabetes. Approximately 16 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and 50 percent of people above age 65 are at risk for developing some form of the disease. Diabetes is a leading cause of adult blindness, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke and amputations, and reduces life expectancy by up to 30 percent. As much as 25 percent of Medicare expenditures are incurred in the treatment of diabetes-related complications. Scientific discoveries, made possible by federal funding of medical research, have led to new efforts to prevent diabetes, as well as new treatment strategies to forestall the development of its debilitating and life-threatening complications. Today, people stricken with diabetes can, in concert with their health care providers, delay or prevent the serious and deadly complications of the disease. In other words, we now have the opportunity to reduce the burden of diabetes.
Renewing Hope and Opportunity"Thirty years ago, the `Great Society' was liberalism's greatest hope, its greatest boast. Today, it stands as its greatest shame, a grand failure that has crushed the spirit, destroyed the families, and decimated the culture of those who have become enmeshed in its web."
Bob Dole, May 21, 1996, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Within a few weeks, Bill Clinton will sign into law a Republican reform of welfare. With a straight face, after twice vetoing similar legislation, he will attempt to take credit for what we have accomplished.
So be it. Our cause is justice for both the taxpayers and for the poor. Our purpose in welfare reform is not to save money but to bring into the mainstream of American life those who now are on the margins of our society and our economy. We will, in the words of the Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, replace the welfare state with an opportunity society for all. The Clinton administration's "Reinventing Government" program to reform the welfare state bureaucracy has failed. In fact, management reforms of the Reagan years were repealed and new labor-management councils that diluted efficient management were added as additional bureaucracy and red tape. We will revoke these Clinton administration policies and oppose the liberal philosophy that bureaucracy can reform welfare.
The current welfare system has spent $5 trillion in the last thirty years and has been a catastrophic failure. Despite this massive effort, conditions in our nation's poor communities have grown measurably worse. Poverty used to be an economic problem; now it is a social pathology.
The key to welfare reform is restoring personal responsibility and encouraging two-parent households. The path to that goal lies outside of official Washington. In the hands of State and local officials, and under the eye of local taxpayers, welfare can again become a hand up instead of a handout. All able-bodied adults must be required to work, either in private sector jobs or in community work projects. Illegal aliens must be ineligible for all but emergency benefits. And a firm time limit for receipt of welfare must be enforced.
Because illegitimacy is the most serious cause of child poverty, we will encourage States to stop cash payments to unmarried teens and set a family cap on payments for additional children. When benefits of any kind are extended to teen mothers, they must be conditioned upon their attendance at school and their living at home with a parent, adult relative, or guardian. About half the children of today's teen welfare mothers were fathered in statutory rape. We echo Bob Dole's call to our nation's governors to toughen and enforce State laws in this regard, as well as those concerning enforcement of child support.
Restoring common sense to welfare programs is only one side of the Republican equation for hope and opportunity. The other side is giving low-income households the tools with which they can build their own future. We propose to do this along the lines of the American Community Renewal Act, a Republican congressional initiative that would establish throughout the nation up to 100 renewal communities where residents, businesses, and investors would have unprecedented economic freedom and incentives to create prosperity. School choice for low-income families is an integral part of that initiative.
We call for the removal of structural impediments which liberals throw in the path of poor people: over-regulation of start-up enterprises, excessive licensing requirements, needless restrictions on formation of schools and child-care centers catering to poor families, restrictions on providing public services in fields like transport and sanitation, and rigged franchises that close the opportunity door to all but a favored few.
Not everyone can make it on their own. Government at various levels has a role - and some aid programs do work well - and so do private individuals and charitable and faith-based organizations, whose record of success far outshines that of any public welfare program. To promote personal involvement with anti-poverty efforts, we call for a Charity Tax Credit that will be consistent with the fundamental changes we propose in the nation's system of taxation. To ensure that religiously affiliated institutions can fulfill their helping mission, we endorse Republican legislation to stop discrimination against them in government programs.
Our commitment to older Americans runs throughout this platform. It strengthens our call for tax fairness, shows in our action agenda against violent crime, and motivates our crusade to preserve, protect, and strengthen Medicare.
The Republican Party has always opposed the earnings limitation for Social Security benefits, a confiscatory tax that discourages older Americans from active engagement in all walks of life. While Bill Clinton imposed his new tax on Social Security benefits, he also initially vetoed our legislation to reform the earnings limitation, just as he vetoed our estate tax reform.
The Social Security system remains the cornerstone of personal security for millions of the elderly. In 1983, a Republican president, working with the Republican Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee - Bob Dole - saved the Social Security system from fiscal disaster. We have a legal and moral responsibility to America's seniors and will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that government honors our commitment to Social Security beneficiaries, now and in the future. We will keep it financially sound and keep politics out of its administration. We will work to ensure the integrity and solvency of the Social Security trust funds.
Those who are not older Americans now will one day be so. Our common goal is a secure economic future. To that end, public policy should encourage cooperative efforts by businesses and employees alike to expand the availability of savings vehicles for all. We want to expand retirement options so that individual choice, not government fiat, steers the decision-making process. We must increase both the amount and the portability of personal savings, especially in today's rapidly changing and unpredictable economy. We salute congressional Republicans for their landmark legislation simplifying pension law, cutting away the red tape that prevented many businesses from offering pension plans, and establishing a new pension system designed to meet the needs of workers in small businesses.
We also salute Congressional Republicans for making long-term care more affordable and more available to those who need it. Too many seniors live in fear that they one day will incur long-term care costs that will wipe out their life savings and burden their children. The Republican Congress has passed legislation giving long-term care insurance policies the same tax-preferred treatment that health insurance policies now receive. Over the years, this legislation will give millions of Americans peace of mind and the financial wherewithal to obtain nursing home care of the highest quality.
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