What's Your Agenda
It's easy to complain.
Especially when it comes to our elected officials in Washington.
Some of us do it so often that we toss the buzz-phrases around with
the ease of a carnival barker: Those stuffed shirts do nothing
but squabble. The only thing they're interested in is
re-election. All they want is more of my money
Fair enough. A grumbling electorate is an American tradition. And
heaven knows the criticism is frequently deserved. But once we've
indulged in this time-honored rite, then what? End of story?
Not here at The Heritage Foundation. We're determined to see that
our elected officials get some constructive advice. After all, they
need all the help they can get, given the range of issues
confronting them, from national security (North Korea, Iraq, al
Qaeda, etc.) to the growing need for tax relief, health-care
reform, better schools-you name it. They need guidance-and
To that end, my Heritage Foundation colleagues have sketched a
handy blueprint for progress, entitled "Agenda 2003" (available
). No, it's not what so many think tanks
specialize in-dry, dusty tomes that languish on the shelf. Rather,
"Agenda 2003" is a brief but authoritative overview of the major
issues, with usable, plain-English recommendations for what
lawmakers can do. Not next year-today.
. Everyone agrees something
must be done
about the 41.2 million Americans who lack health insurance. But
what? As "Agenda 2003" notes, Congress took a step in the right
direction last year when it created the first health-care tax
credit for individuals. But lawmakers made it available only to
about 200,000 workers who had lost jobs to overseas trade.
According to Heritage health-care expert Nina Owcharenko, it's time
to make such a credit available to all uninsured Americans, so they
can finally begin to exercise some control over the cost and type
of health benefits they get.
Then there's the
law of 1996. It came up for renewal last year,
but Congress refused to build on the success we've seen so
far-soaring employment rates among single mothers, declining
poverty rates, shrinking welfare rolls. Lawmakers merely extended
the law another few months. So what does Heritage expert Robert
Rector, chief author of the 1996 law, suggest the new Congress do?
For starters, it should strengthen work requirements to ensure that
welfare recipients are taking active steps to emerge from
At the same time, Congress must address the leading causes of
poverty, such as single-parent households. Research by Rector and
others have established beyond a doubt that children of intact
two-parent families earn more, learn more, get into trouble less,
have more successful marriages themselves and make the decisions on
child-rearing, education and careers that move their families out
For decades, we've spent about a penny to promote marriage for
every dollar we've spent to address the problems of single-parent
households-with no discernible good to show for it. Why, Rector
asks, shouldn't Congress reallocate $300 million in welfare funds
to promote sound marriages?
There's more-a lot more, in fact-packed into the pages of "Agenda
2003." How to build a
Department of Homeland Security
that isn't a bureaucratic mess.
How to proceed with a
workable missile defense
. How to promote
peace in the Middle East
and beyond. How to
repair a budget process
that breaks down year after year. We've
taken what we consider the best crash course in public policy
around and made it widely available to the men and women who
control the levers of our government.
"How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct," the
famed British politician Benjamin Disraeli once said. Armed with
"Agenda 2003," today's policy-makers can be both.
Feulneris president of The Heritage Foundation
(www.heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy research