January 1, 2001
A Legislative Agenda for 2001
The year 2001 has arrived, bringing an end to the period termed by historians as the "American century." The continued preeminence of America as a world power in the new millennium is not guaranteed. The actions of the new 107th Congress will play an important role in setting the tone for the new decade. The incoming Bush administration has the opportunity to advocate sweeping changes in Washington, rather than simply embracing the political status quo with a new cast of political players.
Spending reform should be the foremost priority for the new Congress. The fiscal year 2001 budget is bloated with billions of dollars in unnecessary and counterproductive spending. The Clinton administration successfully pushed through spending increases far beyond those of the previous year. Several federal agencies and bureaucracies received even more in funding than originally requested in the Clinton budget. Dangerous foreign aid spending also grew, sending more of your tax dollars overseas and intensifying conflicts in trouble spots like Colombia, Kosovo, and the Middle East. Despite rosy predictions about the federal "surplus," the truth is that Congress cannot continue to increase spending each year and expect tax revenues to keep pace. Deficit spending and tax increases will be the inevitable consequences. No reasonable person can argue that our current $2 trillion budget does not contain huge amounts of special interest spending that can and should be cut by Congress. Government spending not only affects our fiscal health as a nation; it also determines the size and scope of government power over our lives. Congress must show the resolve needed to challenge business as usual in Washington and dramatically cut spending.
Tax relief remains critical to our future prosperity. The Clinton administration was able to thwart legislation that would have ended the estate tax and the marriage tax penalty, despite bipartisan support for both measures. The new Congress should act quickly to reintroduce such legislation in the wake of endorsements by president-elect Bush. No person should be taxed simply because he saved throughout his lifetime to have something to pass on to heirs, nor should anyone pay higher taxes because of their marital status.
Congress also must address education reform in 2001. The answer is not more government spending on more failed federal programs. Federal involvement in education must be limited, returning control over schools to parents and local education boards. Federal tax dollars must be returned to parents through tax credits and deductions for tuition and other education-related expenses. No longer can we ask parents to send so much of their paychecks to Washington while their local schools deteriorate. Education standards in this country were much higher when local school boards controlled their own curricula, teacher standards, and discipline. Congress should understand this and focus on legislation which returns control and tax dollars back to parents, teachers, and local administrators. The era of micromanagement of our schools by federal education bureaucrats must end if we are to stop the decline in education standards.
Health care also will be a defining issue for Congress this year. Again, the answer to concerns about health care costs and quality is not a massive federal program. Schemes for "free" national health care will only result in shortages of drugs and doctors, waiting lists for procedures, and rationing of treatments and pharmaceuticals. Our emphasis should be on restoring market incentives to the health care and pharmaceutical industries. Our current FDA system reduces incentives for the development of new drugs and restricts competition for existing drugs, which results in the very high drug prices borne by consumers. Congress should undo the regulatory burdens that drive prices up, while providing tax credits and deductions for health care and prescription drug costs.
2001 undoubtedly will be a pivotal year in Washington. The incoming administration and Congress can choose between expanding the size and role of the federal government, with increased spending and taxes as a result, or acknowledging that government is not the solution to every issue.