Steve Forbes's Marching OrdersJANUARY 11, 1998
What follows is the text of a memorandum sent by Steve Forbes to Republican leaders. In it he outlines a positive, wide-ranging agenda for 1998 that covers all the bases of the modern conservative movement: national security, traditional morals, and free markets. Equally important, however, is a negative agenda: a large part of politics consists of blocking bad ideas, and the White House seems to churn out a few every week. Steve Forbes has played, and let's hope will continue to play, a constructive role in supplying the arguments and strengthening the determination that Republicans will need to beat them.
And where are racial preferences? Is Forbes as fearful of the issue as Republican congressional leaders are? Or is an issue that could expand the GOP to include more working-class Democrats and independents simply not on his radar screen as he methodically courts the existing Right?
TO: MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND CONSERVATIVE LEADERS
FROM: STEVE FORBES, HONORARY CHAIRMAN
SUBJECT: THE 1998 AGENDA
Curiously for a man so consumed by thoughts of his "legacy," President Clinton acts like the captain of the Titanic. Troubled waters and dangerous ice fields lie ahead. But he is untroubled, ignoring warnings, and happy to party with his political partners.
The President has rejected across-the-board tax relief for the American people. He has yet to propose a plan to save Social Security from impending bankruptcy or give younger Americans more control and a better return on their soaring payroll taxes.
In his 1996 State of the Union address, President Clinton declared "the era of big government is over." Last week, he reversed course, announcing a blizzard of proposals to create new government programs, expand existing federal entitlements, and increase federal government spending. The President has returned to the destructive ethos of his 1993 State of the Union address, when he said: "I believe our government must do more."
So Congress must set the agenda.
Protect U.S. national security. Dangers do not subside just because the President is disinterested.
Expand economic freedom and reduce the tax burden on the American people. What good is prosperity if people cannot keep more of what they earn?
Reassert the moral basis of a free society, here at home and around the globe. Values matter.
Top priorities in 1998:
STRENGTHENING AMERICA'S MORAL FOUNDATIONOverride President Clinton's veto of the ban on partial birth abortion. Twenty-five years after Roe v. Wade, even Roe has changed her mind. Attitudes toward abortion are changing. Americans correctly see partial birth abortion as infanticide and morally unacceptable. The President is on the wrong side of history. Force his hand.
Give parents control of education—particularly in urban areas. A new Education Week study finds that only 40 percent of urban public school students achieve even a basic level of proficiency in reading, math and science. In D.C., only 1 in 5 public school students can handle basic math and science. This is destroying real children. Pass legislation that will give parents more options to rescue their children—including magnet and charter schools, vouchers and educational savings accounts.
Stay focused on the fight to reduce dangerous, illegal drug use—and block drug legalization. The number of teenagers using heroin doubled between 1991 and 1996. The number of 8th graders using marijuana has tripled in the past five years. Drug use among 18-25 year olds is now the highest since 1988. This is a serious threat to young people. Look to New York City for anti-crime and anti-drug strategies that work.
Pass the "Freedom From Religious Persecution Act." Millions of believers around the world face regimes without conscience. Sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf and Sen. Arlen Specter, this bill reasserts the principle that government's essential role is to protect life and liberty, not subsidize terror and intimidation. It is a good move in the right direction, particularly if its language on trade is targeted to products used in torture or violence and if its sanctions focus on terminating foreign aid.
PROTECT U.S. NATIONAL SECURITYMake the fall of Saddam Hussein from power an explicit U.S. national security priority. President Clinton has an ostrich-like policy of drift and appeasement in Iraq. Result: another showdown with the Butcher of Baghdad is looming. The U.S. should start by taking two steps to isolate and undermine Saddam. First, declare all of Iraq a no-fly zone. Second, engage in Radio Free Europe-like broadcasts to Iraq. Saddam is heavily dependent on air power to quickly quell uprisings or army mutinies. Immediately after the Gulf War, rebellions broke out in numerous parts of Iraq. Saddam was doomed until we inexplicably allowed him to fly his helicopters and aircraft, which he promptly used to crush these uprisings. Would-be rebels would be more prone to act if they knew Saddam was deprived of his critical air power. Powerful radio broadcasts would battle Saddam on a daily basis without firing a shot. Such transmissions helped undermine the former Soviet empire. The free-flow of information is devastating to totalitarian regimes.
Strengthen our still-essential military. The world remains dangerous. Iran is rapidly developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and deploying advanced ballistic missiles. North Korea is a threat. Rapidly complete and deploy an effective ballistic missile defense system to protect U.S. citizens, interests and allies. Don't abandon the Navy's Arsenal Ship program a superb defense tool virtually undetectable on radar and an ocean-going version of our Stealth bomber. Reverse the ominous demilitarization trend of the Clinton-Gore Administration. Weapons procurement has plummeted 46%. Research and development spending is down 11% from already inadequate levels. Start to reverse the demoralization plaguing our military today by implementing the Kassebaum Commission recommendations on military training.
Block additional funding to the economically destructive International Monetary Fund. The IMF wants Congress to approve a $3.5 billion authorization for its New Arrangements to Borrow program. The IMF also wants a 45 percent increase in its General Agreement to Borrow program. Combined, this could increase U.S. taxpayer financial obligations to the IMF by some $16-21 billion. Say no. Along with the Clinton-Gore Treasury Department, this agency has been prolonging and deepening the currency crisis that is roiling more and more of the world. Its austerity policies of devaluation and higher taxes are making the Asian economic crisis worse. If the crisis is not soon stemmed, the U.S. will be paying a real price in both lost economic growth and lower equity values. Of the 89 less-developed countries that the IMF has "helped" since 1965, most are poorer or no better off.
EXPAND FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY AT HOME Immediately pass Rep. Bill Paxon and Rep. Steve Largent's legislation to abolish the corruptingly complex federal income tax code by 2001. This would force an immediate national discussion of what would replace this corrupt income tax code.
Immediately pass and phase-in a flat tax that's a tax cut. This would be similar to Rep. Dick Armey and Sen. Richard Shelby's plan. Use a single low rate with generous personal exemptions for adults and children so that a family of four making $36,000 would pay no federal income tax. This would take millions of moderate- and low-income hard working families off the federal income tax rolls where they were never intended to be.
Immediately eliminate the marriage tax penalty. Twenty-one million couples are forced to pay the IRS an average of $1,400 more per year. Why? Simply because they are married. This is immoral and unfair. This is money parents could be using for child care, early education, health care and other family expenses. Let parents keep it.
Repeal limits on the number of Medical Savings Accounts. The number of tax-free MSA policies is unfairly limited to a miserly 750,000 policies. Medicare MSAs are limited to just 390,000 policies. This hurts those who most need low-cost, high-quality health insurance. Of those purchasing new MSA policies in 1997 through Golden Rule Insurance (the largest MSA provider), 77% are self-employed, 72% are families, 17% were previously uninsured and 10% are single-parent families.
Eliminate Section 4507 of the new Medicare law. As of January 1, Section 4507 effectively prohibits doctors from treating elderly patients on a private basis. This denies most seniors the choice of seeking treatment outside of Medicare. Even Britain, mother of socialized medicine, allows patients to contract privately with physicians. We must do all we can to maintain the right of patients to choose their own doctors and hospitals.
Begin phasing-in a new, personalized Social Security system for young people while keeping the current one for those in and about to enter it. With 76 million Baby Boomers preparing to retire in the next century, the current system is headed for the financial rocks. Worse, it is a bad deal. Young people could get a far better return investing their payroll taxes in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and bank CDs. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said last November that the longer we wait to start the transition to a new system, the more difficult it will be. Start now.
Immediately pass the McConnell–Armey auto insurance choice bill. Car insurance premiums across the country have been surging year after year. Between 1987 and 1994 alone, premiums soared by 44 percent. This hits everyone hard, but especially those with low incomes. The auto insurance reform bill introduced by Rep. Dick Armey and Sen. Mitch McConnell would slash frivolous lawsuits and inflated claims. It would also give consumers the choice of staying with the current system, or opting for a new system that would reduce their annual premiums by as much as 30 percent, or about $250 per year.
Conservatives must cease shadow boxing. They must be willing again to fight for substance and principle rather that trying to hold on to office for the sake of holding office.
Rose Garden photo-ops are no substitute for policies based on sound, conservative principles.
The test is at hand.
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