The voters spoke loud and clear last year, handing George Bush a mandate to replace big government with a true ownership society. Now, to help achieve that goal, we have handed him the Heritage Foundation "Mandate for Leadership."
Heritage has published several editions of "Mandate" since 1980. This year's is by far the shortest, for a good reason: In the past, we needed to explain to policymakers why conservative principles should form the policy building blocks.
But in the 2004 election, the American people overwhelmingly endorsed conservative ideas. On the campaign trail, President Bush promised to reform Social Security reform, expand free trade, fix the tax code and reduce federal spending and regulation. Mr. Bush earned more than 60.6 million votes for that platform -- the most any candidate has ever won.
So the 2005 "Mandate" serves primarily as a detailed checklist of measures conservative politicians need to take to build an "Ownership Society." It can also serve as a guidebook for voters, so they can make sure their representatives are living up to their conservative promises. Some haven't been lately.
In the late '90s, large government surpluses fueled an irresponsible jump in federal spending. Adjusted for inflation, spending has increased 25 percent since 1996. Unfortunately that boom shows no sign of abating. Today the government spends more than $20,000 per household.
But now, elected to a second term and with a growing conservative majority in both houses of Congress, Mr. Bush has vowed to begin changing this. It will be a major undertaking.
For example, we already know the government's recent spending spree must be paid for eventually. Right now, we're borrowing the money. But some day, we'll have to raise taxes to pay for it -- unless we start to trim spending now.
Mr. Bush promised to cut the federal budget deficit in half in five years, and he has already taken a sensible step toward that end: He has drafted a budget that would hold the 2006 spending increase below 1 percent. Even that modest goal is likely to be demonized as a series of "radical cuts" by lawmakers on the left and their mainstream media allies.
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