When Ed Feulner and I set out to write Getting America Right in 2005, we did so because we thought America—and the conservative movement that has done so much for her—had strayed off course. By proposing a six-point plan for reform, we thought we could help the country—and the movement—return to its first principles, perhaps even ahead of the November 2006 mid-term elections.
As you may have noticed by now, our hopes for corrective action before the elections were dashed. And so a tidal wave of Democratic success at the ballot box swept Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid into power on Capitol Hill, and ushered in a contentious political clash between the president and Congress in Washington.
This political shift has proven a difficult pill to swallow. Still, our hopes for larger change for America remain strong. We seek change that has the power to outlast election cycles, politicians, and even generations. Change that reaffirms free markets, free people, traditional values, and a strong national defense. We believe this change starts with Getting America Right’s six simple questions that every citizen and policymaker should consider before supporting a particular policy.
First, is it the government’s business? The rise of the administrative state and its offspring, a culture of dependency, has produced a federal government that thinks everything is its business—and a populace that largely agrees with that notion. This fast track to tyranny must be stopped. We believe federal involvement in the lives of American citizens should be minimal, leaving room for state and local solutions in public policy. More importantly, by limiting the size and power of the federal government we encourage millions of creative Americans to devise free market solutions for our most complex problems.
Second, does it promote self-reliance? In its annual Index of Dependency analysis last year, the Heritage Foundation found that individual dependency on government rose six percent between 2004 and 2005 and has more than doubled since 1980. For an example of the consequences of this dependency, consider the response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Citizens thought government—state, local, or federal—would care for them. Local officials thought state government was responsible; state officials thought responsibility rested with the federal government. In the end, nobody moved, and many people died. We believe promoting a culture of self-reliance is the key to preventing such calamities in the future. America is a stronger, safer and more vibrant nation when its citizens take responsibility for their own lives.
Third, is it responsible? Federal spending has increased by more than 40 percent under President Bush. He has overseen the largest increases in Medicare and federal education spending in a generation. Meanwhile, Congress has regularly earmarked precious federal resources to pay for, among other things, a rain forest in Iowa. We believe America—not to mention the Republican Party—can do better in this area. Responsible government should live within its means and refuse to fund the lavish pet projects of special interest groups.
Fourth, does it make America more prosperous? With all the new policy programs being bandied about by presidential candidates, this is an especially important question. Sure, it’s easy to promise voters the moon—but who will actually pay for it? Inevitably, big government programs make America less prosperous by siphoning money from the free market and burdening citizens with higher tax rates. We believe prosperity is the natural result of free markets and free people, and that government should not enact any policy that unnecessarily hinders the pursuit thereof.
Fifth, does it make us safer? Had we written this book 100 years ago, this question certainly would have made our list. But it takes on even greater significance in a post-9/11 world. Talk of preventing the “next 9/11” is not hypothetical. Debates about Iraq and the broader war on Islamic fascism are not academic. We live in serious times with serious security challenges. In response to these conditions, we believe we must maintain a strong national defense, fight terrorism at home and abroad, and reinvigorate our public diplomacy.
Sixth, does it unify us? On January 17, 2007, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) sponsored a bill that would create a separate, race-based government for native Hawaiians. Not only is the bill unconstitutional, but the ideology behind it is deeply poisonous to American unity as it seeks to divide a class of people based solely on race. If you think that sounds like segregation, you’re right. It’s disgraceful that a United States Senator seeks to reintroduce such an awful relic of our past in the 21st century. Contrary to Sen. Akaka, we believe our unity depends on a shared national identity. Whatever country our ancestors came from, or whatever political party we belong to today, we are all Americans. No government policy should ever do anything to try to change that.
We believe these six questions can help all Americans properly evaluate public policy proposals. We are thankful that thousands of Americans found our book useful enough to purchase it last year. We hope that many more of you will join the discussion with the updated paperback release of the book this spring. Getting America Right is going to be a team effort, and we can’t wait for you to join us.