The current debate surrounding the federal debt ceiling (about $16.7 trillion) only hints at the true, enormous debt of our country. Our government hides its true liabilities from the public and the media, while for the last two decades, economists have been predicting that our runaway entitlement programs would go bankrupt. In reality, our nation’s unfunded liabilities are $126 trillion, or $1.1 million per taxpayer!
We must take the lead in reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid now, since the other party refuses to do so. Furthermore, we must not compound our dire fiscal outlook with another $6.5 trillion in debt that would come by granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. This platform provides Republicans with common-sense reforms that can be promoted to reduce the size of the government and restore some fiscal sanity to the nation.
We are the party of government reform, and we mean to limit its expansion. Very little government spending is backed by evidence that the money is being spent wisely. Government programs should have a mechanism for tracking their effectiveness systematically, so that effective results and wise spending can be promoted, while worthless programs can be eliminated. In the results-oriented government we envision, we believe in holding politicians accountable for supporting and funding programs that do not efficiently serve the taxpayer. First and foremost, the structure of federal entitlement programs and their unfunded liabilities must be reformed now to avert higher taxes and/or skyrocketing debt in the near future. A true fiscal crisis and a shredded safety net would impact the most vulnerable members of society the hardest, and reforming these programs now will help the poor, who society and government have a special responsibility to care for.
Without major reforms, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will soon grow to consume all tax revenue that the federal government raises. The continuing failure to be honest with Americans about these programs puts our retirement and health security in a perilous state. Though policymakers have known about the problems for decades, they lacked the political will to deal with the underlying structural issues that weaken these programs. We believe that there are clear reforms that should be undertaken now to strengthen and save each program.
Social Security is intended to provide a minimum level of income security for retirees, those with disabilities, and survivors. Due to increased life expectancy coupled with lower average retirement age, it no longer functions like it did when it originated in the 1930s. The risk to the program is nearer at hand than most acknowledge, and our generation will inherit an unstable program that we cannot rely upon. The other party takes a deny-and-delay approach, so their pledges of future retirement security are nothing but empty promises, because we recognize that sharp benefit cuts (or substantial tax increases) are forthcoming. If we act sooner rather than later, changes can be gradually phased in.
The current system redistributes wealth from workers’ taxes to pay benefits to retirees in a massive shift of earnings away from young, working families towards recipients. These taxes cannot be passed to future generations, as private accounts can. We support allowing our generation the option of creating personal accounts that could build wealth better than Social Security accounts, where we have freedom and control over our investment decisions and where we take more responsibility for our income in retirement. We would preserve the program for seniors, grow benefits more slowly for higher-income workers, and provide lower-income retirees with more targeted assistance than those who have had ample opportunity to save for retirement. We oppose taxpayer bailouts of underfunded private-sector pension plans, and we urge states to address their unfunded public-sector pension liabilities.
Medicare is critical to help seniors to achieve health security in retirement, and the trend line of future health care spending is on an impossible, unsustainable path. We recognize the unprecedented fiscal challenge that we face with a Medicare program that will bankrupt the nation without reforms. There are two ways to control this spending: keep the current system of bureaucrats setting price-controls and deciding which health care services can be used, even though we know that cutting payments to providers lowers quality of care and restricts patient access to doctors, or give patients more power to utilize providers who deliver high quality, low-cost care.
We can put solutions in place now, to fix Medicare’s flaws for future generations, which would not disrupt those in and near retirement. We believe in empowering individuals with the freedom to choose either the traditional fee-for-service plan or a more efficient pay-for-performance plan; whichever they choose will have a government premium-support payment to pay for or offset the cost of the plan, with increased support for low-income and less-healthy retirees, and guaranteed affordable coverage choices for all seniors. The strengthened Medicare program that we support would require wealthy seniors to pay an increased share of their plan premiums, raise the age eligibility, and encourage older workers who can still work to do so. These plans would be forced to compete for service quality and price, and free market healthcare competition guarantees better care at lower cost. We believe that the patient should be the customer of medical services, not the federal government, and patient power serves their needs better than bureaucrats.
Medicaid, the program of health care coverage for the poor shared between the federal and state governments, is also experiencing spending growth at a rate much faster than the growth of the economy. The open-ended nature of Medicaid, and the perverse incentive for states to grow the program, creates rising costs for taxpayers. In addition, billions of dollars are wasted every year in fraudulent payments caused by inadequate oversight. Despite the money being spent, quality of care is actually declining for Medicaid patients.
We believe in strengthening Medicaid by providing state governments with greater flexibility to help recipients through the ability to design their own modernized systems. We support the conversion of the federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant the program to the states, just like the successful welfare reforms in the 1990s. States should be freed to tailor Medicaid to fit the needs of their populations, unshackled from federal requirements and enrollment criteria. States will be able to achieve savings, provide better access to care, and design innovative coverage options, without federal mandates.
Immigration reforms should be enacted to serve the American people, not to expand the size of the government. Any solutions must contribute to our economy, while protecting the contributions of our national asset – the American worker – from being undermined by competition with illegal labor in the workplace. Immigration reforms must not contribute to the depression of wages of our lowest-paid native-born workers, or sacrifice the economic interests of working families in deference to corporatists who want cheap labor. For the sake of higher economic growth, we should strategically encourage visas for high-skilled, advanced STEM degree holders, and support reforms to lower barriers for these immigrants to become citizens.
On the other hand, the tacit approval of illegal immigration that violates our sovereignty, threatens our national security, and introduces unidentifiable elements of terrorism, drug cartels, human trafficking, and criminal gangs into our homeland is unacceptable. We are the party of the rule of law, and our current immigration laws should be enforced and strengthened. State efforts to reduce illegal immigration by enforcing federal laws should be encouraged. We believe that those who come into the country legally but overstay their visa should be identified and penalized. We believe that those who practice identity theft, deal in fraudulent documents, and traffic in human beings should be punished. We believe that the federal government must secure our borders and build the previously approved fencing on the southern border. We support the mandatory use of the E-Verify program that confirms the identity and employment eligibility of job applicants.
We object to granting amnesty or expediting a path to legal status to intentional violators of our laws, especially if it precedes tougher enforcement measures. Our laws should not be undermined by pardoning illegal immigrants while unfairly penalizing those who have waited through the legal immigration process.