America is ready for change.
The national debt is nearing $20 trillion, with annual deficits rising again. The economy only recently crawled out of one of the slowest recoveries in America's history. Too many working Americans feel left behind.
The status quo is broken, and change is finally coming to Washington.
Today the nation inaugurated a new president, who promised to shake things up and make America great again. Last year, The Heritage Foundation issued a trio of policy reports to help the new Congress and the new president turn things around. Think of it as a series of “how-to” manuals for policy-makers looking to drain the swamp and restore solid economic growth.
The three reports: Blueprint for Balance, Blueprint for Reform, and Blueprint for a New Administration — set forth a set of principles to identify federal programs that should be reformed, cut, or eliminated, and federal policies that should be changed.
We recommend that, in developing the FY 2018 budget, policymakers assess every federal program by asking four basic questions:
Is the program wasteful, duplicative or failing to achieve its purpose?
Would eliminating the program increase opportunity for all Americans or reduce government-driven favoritism that forces competitors to play on an uneven field?
Would the program better serve the American people if it were administered and financed by the private sector?
Would the program be better administered by state or local governments?
Our recommendations would rein in entitlement programs that are most responsible for rising deficits and debt and—by focusing on serving those most in need — make them financially sustainable. They would also reprioritize annual spending so that the most essential government services are adequately funded.
It’s a commonsense approach that turns deficits into surpluses within seven years, frees the economy to grow for the benefit of all Americans and enables civil society to flourish.
The blueprint series shows Congress how to secure programs such as Medicare and Social Security for younger and future generations, while ensuring that the federal government meets its obligations to seniors. It eliminates corporate welfare programs and cuts down on wasteful spending. And it relegates programs that are outside the proper scope of the federal government to the private, state or local level.
The blueprints aren’t just about cutting the budget.
In prioritizing spending, they would send more money toward higher-value federal missions such as national defense. Programs that have demonstrated cost-effectiveness — such as Washington, D.C.’s highly successful school-choice program — are rewarded as well.
To help spark business start-ups and expansion, we also identify specific actions to roll-back excessive, job-killing regulations. The regulatory state has grown far beyond what’s reasonable and necessary, and American families and businesses are paying through the nose for it.
The proposed reforms are big and far-ranging precisely because reform is long overdue. The federal government has grown considerably — and its tentacles spread far wider — under President Obama. At the same time, years of defense budget cuts have left our military forces smaller and weaker, even as foreign threats have increased.
Over the last decade, policies pursued by Congress and the president have led to a significant reduction in personal freedoms, a massive increase in the national debt, and significant erosion of national security.
Change is needed. The kind of change that requires vision, boldness and a willingness to step on a few toes — and a few hooves of supposedly sacred cows.
It won’t be easy. Every federal program benefits at least one special interest. Consequently, every effort to change the status quo, no matter how beneficial to the nation as a whole, will be virulently opposed by an organized coalition of special interests who stand to lose money, power or both.
Our nation's fiscal and security condition is quite precarious. A bold change in direction is needed. And that’s exactly what a new president and a new Congress can provide.
President Trump and Congress have an opportunity to revive America by embracing the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Heritage’s Blueprint series shows them how to do just that.
This piece originally appeared in The Hill