George W. Bush on Government Reform

Big government cannot be compassionate

Bush warned against too much reliance on the government to provide direct services to the needy, saying, “My concern about the role of the federal government is that an intrusive government, a government that says, ‘Don’t worry, we will solve your problems’ is a government that tends to crowd compassion out of the marketplace”
Source: Alison Mitchell, NY Times Nov 1, 2000

Regulatory style: like Reagan, get government out of the way

The next president won’t just command the armed forces; he also will lead an army of bureaucrats. As Top Regulator, Bush or Gore would take fundamentally different approaches: It is an area that strongly reflects their basic dispute about the role of government.

Bush, a frequent critic of heavy-handedness in government, would take a less-is-better stance through his appointees, stressing flexibility and voluntary actions by industry and the states. Gore, while touting the importance of a “smaller, smarter government,“ would push for more muscular regulation.

Critics worry that each man, in his own way, would go too far. Bush’s ”notion that government should get out of the way is the Ronald Reagan mantra,“ says one analyst, referring to Reagan’s aggressively antiregulatory stance. For his part, Gore ”shows an instinct to intervene in the marketplace,“ says another economist, who insists such intervention only makes problems worse.

Source: Laurie Mcginley, The Wall Street Journal Oct 31, 2000

Gore would be “obstacle in chief” to reform

Al Gore would be the “obstacle-in-chief” fighting against school, tax and Social Security reforms, Bush said. “Scare tactics, distortions and exaggerations -- that’s all my opponent has left. During this campaign, Americans have seen my priorities. Better schools. Fairer taxes. Stronger military. Security for our seniors. These reforms are coming to Washington. In truth, we should have had them long ago. The Clinton-Gore administration has blocked reform at every turn.”
Source: AP Story, in NY Times Oct 23, 2000

Claim that Gore grows government not backed by history

Bush said Gore was a big spender whose proposals would bust the budget. And he said electing Gore would mean the return of big government.

Bush’s budget has less of a buffer than Gore’s does. Bush’s budget would use all but $265 billion of the surplus, and that is without paying for some of his campaign promises, like missile defense. Gore says he would set aside $660 billion of the surplus for a reserve fund.

Gore said he had helped slim down the federal bureaucracy through his work on the administration’s Reinventing Government initiative. Since 1992, the civilian government work force has fallen by 400,000 people, to 1.82 million, although nearly three-quarters of the reduction has been the Pentagon.

Some analysts measure the size of government by looking at total spending relative to the size of the economy. By that measure, outlays have declined steadily in recent years, to 18.7% of gross domestic product this year. Gore said his plan would push that figure down to 17% by 2008.

Source: NY Times analysis of St. Louis debate Oct 19, 2000

We believe in people; they believe in government

The people of Wisconsin, they respect limited government. I thought last night it was one of the most telling moments in the debate when my opponent looked America in the eye and said he’s absolutely against big government. Now there’s a man who’s prone to exaggeration. He wants to grow the size of the federal government. He believes in Washington. We believe in people. We’re of the people and by the people and for the people. That’s the motto of our campaign. He’s of the government. He’s for government. He loves Washington, D.C. Now there’s a role for our government, but it’s not to tell the average folks how to live their lives.

If you’re sick and tired of Washington, D.C., the attitude, the finger-pointing, the name calling, if you want a fresh start after this season of cynicism, join this campaign.

Source: Remarks in Eau Claire, Wisconsin Oct 18, 2000

Not enough money for all of Gore’s spending plans

BUSH [to Gore]: When you total up all the federal spending [Gore] wants to do, it’s the largest increase in federal spending in years. And there’s just not going to be enough money.

Q: Is he right?

GORE: Absolutely not. Under my plan, we will balance the budget every year. I’m not just talking. I have helped to balance the budget for the first time in 30 years, and pay down the debt. And under my plan, in four years, as a percentage of our gross domestic product, federal spending will be the smallest that it has been in 50 years.

Q: The vice president says you’re wrong.

BUSH: Well, he’s wrong. Just add up all the numbers; it’s three times bigger than what Pres. Clinton proposed.

GORE: That’s in an ad [which] the journalists who analyzed it said was misleading.

BUSH: Forget the journalists. You propose more than Walter Mondale & Michael Dukakis combined. This is a big spender, he is. And he ought to be proud of it. It’s part of his record. We just have a different philosophy.

Source: St. Louis debate Oct 17, 2000

Clinton/Gore haven’t gotten social programs done in 8 years

GORE [to Bush]: If you want somebody who believes that we were better off eight years ago than we are now and that we ought to go back to the kind of policies that we had back then, emphasizing tax cuts mainly for the wealthy, here is your man [pointing to Bush]. If you want somebody who will fight for you and who will fight to have middle class tax cuts, then I am your man. I want to be.

BUSH: We’ve had enough fighting [in Congress]. It’s time to unite. You talk about eight years? In eight years, [the Clinton/Gore Administration] hasn’t gotten anything done on Medicare, on Social Security, a patients’ bill of rights. It’s time to get something done.

I cast the tie-breaking vote to add 26 years to the life of Medicare. It was due to go bankrupt in 1999.

Source: (X-ref Gore) St. Louis debate Oct 17, 2000

Strict constructionists on Supreme Court; not activists

BUSH (to Gore): I’ll put competent judges on the bench, people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy. I believe that the judges ought not to take the place of the legislative branch of government, that they’re appointed for life and that they ought to look at the Constitution as sacred. I don’t believe in liberal, activist judges. I believe in strict constructionists. And those are the kind of judges I will appoint.

GORE: Both of us use similar language to reach an exactly opposite outcome. In my view, the Constitution ought to be interpreted as a document that grows with our country and our history.

BUSH: I’ll tell you what kind of judges he’ll put on there. He’ll put liberal, activist judges who will use their bench to subvert the legislature. That’s what he’ll do.

GORE: That’s not right.

Source: Presidential debate, Boston MA Oct 3, 2000

Gore plan will lead to massive government and bureaucracy

Q: What are the choices facing people in November?

GORE: We’ve got the biggest surplus in history. Will we use that prosperity wisely in a way that benefits all of our people and doesn’t go just to the few? I think we have to invest in education, protecting the environment, health care, a prescription drug benefit that goes to all seniors, not just to the poor; under Medicare, not relying on HMOs and insurance companies. I think that we have to help parents and strengthen families. I think we have got to have welfare reform taken to the next stage. I think that we have got to balance the budget every single year.

BUSH: He’s going to grow the federal government in the largest increase since Johnson in 1965. We’re talking about a massive government, folks. We’re talking about adding to or increasing 200 new programs, 20,000 new bureaucrats. Imagine how many IRS agents it’s going to take to be able to figure out his targeted tax cut for the middle class that excludes 50 million Americans.

Source: (X-ref Gore) Presidential debate, Boston MA Oct 3, 2000

Make govt citizen-centered, results-oriented & market-based

    I have set forth policies that capture my vision of government reform. They are guided by three principles: government should be citizen-centered, results-oriented, and, wherever possible, market-based.
  1. The idea here is to clear away the layers between the citizen and the decision-maker. I will expand the use of the Internet to empower citizens.
  2. Second, government should be guided not by process but guided by performance. Under my proposal, over the next five years, a majority of the service contracts offered throughout the federal government will be performance-based. With a system of rewards and accountability, we can promote a culture of achievement throughout the federal government.
  3. Finally, government should be market-based - we should not be afraid of competition, innovation, and choice. What matters in the end is not just making promises, but making good on promises.
Source: Speech: “Getting Results”, in “Renewing America’s Purpose” Jun 9, 2000

Restore cooperation with Congress, to accomplish more

There is too much argument in Washington and not enough shared accomplishment. I am proposing today specific reforms relating to the budget process, pork-barrel spending, and nominations. I propose that the federal budget be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president into law. I support putting the entire budget and appropriations process on a biennial basis. I support the establishment of a bipartisan commission to eliminate pork throughout the federal government. Further, to bring fiscal discipline to the budget, I will ask Congress to pass line-item veto legislation. The president must be prompt in submitting his nominations, and the Senate prompt in acting upon them. As president, I will set a new tone in Washington. I will do everything I can to restore civility to our national politics.
Source: Speech: “A New Approach”, in “Renewing America’s Purpose” Jun 8, 2000

Judges should be strict constructionists

Would appoint strict constructionists who would interpret the law, not legislate from the bench
Source: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ Apr 2, 2000

Pay for tax cuts with cash, not corporate loopholes

McCAIN [to Bush]: Last November there was an incredible bill passed full of earmarked pork barrel spending. They spent the then $14 billion surplus that was supposed to be there for this year. And you said you supported that bill. I voted against it; said as president I would veto it and saw it as one of the most egregious practices. Tell me, what corporate loopholes would you close and what spending cuts would you make?

BUSH: If I’m the president and you’re a Senator, you can come in my office and you can outline all the different corporate loopholes you think are wrong. And we can pick and choose. But what I’m doing, John, is I’m selling my tax cut plan without claiming I’m going to close some kind of corporate loophole. Your plan uses so-called corporate loopholes to pay for it. I used cash to pay for it. And if the money stays in Washington -- my problem with your plan is that it’s going to be spent on bigger government.

Source: (X-ref from McCain) GOP Debate in Manchester NH Jan 26, 2000

Meet basic priorities, & return leftovers to taxpayers

Bush: It’s important for government to do a few things and do them well, and when there’s money left over like there is today, instead of creating more government, we must cut the taxes. I intend to pass it back to the taxpayers. My plan meets our basic priorities.
Narrator: Reduces income tax rates; eliminates death tax; doubles child credit; reduces marriage penalty.
Bush: It cuts the taxes. [But] mark my words, under President Bush there will be a sound Social Security system.
Source: Television advertisement in NH Jan 13, 2000

No legislating from the bench-judges should just interpret

Q: Would you have appointed David Souter to the Supreme Court?

BAUER: President Bush made a colossal mistake by putting a justice on the court that is a reliable vote for Clinton. We can never afford to make another mistake like that.

BUSH: I’m the only one on the stage who’s appointed judges. And my judges strictly interpret the Constitution. And that’s what I hope all of us would do. The bench [is not a] place from which to legislate. My dad can defend himself.

Source: Republican Debate in Durham, NH Jan 6, 2000

Term limits for state representatives and governors

Gov. Bush stated that he would support amending the Texas Constitution to limit the number of terms of State Senators and Representatives as well as the Governor.
Source: Vote Smart NPAT 1998 Jul 2, 1998

Reform the court system to serve people, not lawyers

From people across America, I am hearing that out legal system needs reform. That our courts aren’t serving the people, they are serving the lawyers. That frivolous lawsuits are hurting people. Some think this special interest group is too powerful to take on. That money determines everything. This is not an argument; it is an excuse. This cause is not hopeless. But it requires leadership to get results.
Source: Civil Justice Reform, in “Renewing America’s Purpose” Feb 9, 2000

Favors Tort Reform to make it harder to sue corporations

The big law firms in Texas divide into corporate defense firms, which represent the state’s wealthier interests, and plaintiff firms, which make their money by suing big corporate interests. When Bush ran for governor in 1994, one of his four campaign platform issues was tort reform, which is a legalistic way of saying that he thought the laws in Texas were too favorable to the plaintiffs. In his first term as governor, Bush successfully pushed tort reform through the Texas legislature.
Source: Boston Sunday Globe, p. A30 Oct 3, 1999

No lawsuits on good-faith acts

Source: “1999 Texas Legislative Record” Jun 25, 1999

George W. Bush on Campaign Finance Reform

Ban soft money, but no public financing of elections

GORE [to Bush]: If I’m president, the first bill I will send to Congress is the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. And the reasons it’s that important is that all of the issues like prescription drugs for seniors that is opposed by the drug companies, will be easier to pass if we limit the influence of special interests.

BUSH: I am not going to lay down my arms in the middle of a campaign for somebody who has got no credibility on the issue. I would support an effort to ban corporate soft money & labor union soft money. I believe there needs to be instant disclosure on the Internet as to who’s given to whom.

GORE: You have attacked my character and credibility and I am not going to respond in kind. One serious problem is that our system of government is being undermined by too much influence coming from special interest money.

BUSH: I want people to hear what he just said. He is for full public financing of congressional elections. I’m absolutely, adamantly opposed to that.

Source: Presidential debate, Boston MA Oct 3, 2000

Ban some soft money; fewer restrictions on individuals

Bush has no interest in changing campaign finance rules. He has raised a record amount of money, more than $100M (though only a small part of that is “soft” money, $83M of it coming from individual donations). He also accepted $500,000 in the 1999 Texas legislative session from polluters he had exempted from mandatory cleanup rules. But he, like Gore, has responded to McCain’s challenge by devising a reform plan. It would:
  • Ban soft money from unions and corporations, but not from individuals
  • Raise the limit on individual donations from $1,000 to $3,400 in each election
  • Introduce “paycheck protection”, by which union members would have to give approval for their dues to be spent on political activities
  • Introduce weekly Internet disclosure of all contributions
  • Reformers say the soft-money ban is undermined by the exemption for individuals. They detect (not surprisingly) an anti-union bias. And they know his heart is not in it.
    Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” special Sep 30, 2000

    “Paycheck Protection”: no union-directed campaign donations

    Source: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ Apr 2, 2000

    No government takeover of campaign finance

    Bush called Gore’s endowment proposal a “government takeover that replaces individual spending decisions with decisions made by an unelected government committee.” He said the plan echoed Clinton’s 1993 failed health care legislation. In a statement, Bush described his campaign finance overhaul proposal as “superior because it abolishes corporate and union soft money without creating taxpayer-financed elections.” Gore’s plan is nothing more than “welfare for politicians,” Bush’s spokesman said.
    Source: AllPolitics Mar 27, 2000

    Full disclosure and no giving limits

    Q: Do you disagree with the recent Supreme Court decision that upheld limits on campaign contributions?
    A: In my state that’s the way it is. People can give any amount they want to give so long as there’s disclosure. That Supreme Court case was [too] liberal an interpretation of the Constitution. I believe in freedom of speech. I understand there’s going to be limits and I’ll live with them. But I believe the best policy is to say individuals can give and then have instant disclosure on the Internet.
    Source: GOP debate in Los Angeles Mar 2, 2000

    No corporate or union soft money.

    Q: Where do you stand on campaign finance reform? A: We ought to ban corporate soft money, and we ought to ban labor union soft money. We ought to make sure that labor bosses cannot spend union members’ money without their permission. Thirdly, we should not allow federal candidates to take money from one campaign and roll it over into another campaign. And members of the United States Congress should not be allowed to raise money from federal lobbyists during a session.
    Source: GOP Debate on the Larry King Show Feb 15, 2000

    Agrees to no negative ads; stop tearing each other down

    Q: [to Bush & Forbes]: Will you agree not to run any negative ads against each other?

    FORBES. The answer is if being negative is telling the truth I will continue to tell the truth. People deserve it, we deserve an honest and open and vigorous debate. And if a man breaks a pledge [re 1997 tax cuts], the voters ought to know it.

    BUSH: I’ll run positive ads. Listen, I cut taxes as the governor. That’s a fact. That is the bottom line. The people of my state know my record and they endorsed it with an election. And yet if you look at [Forbes’] ads it doesn’t say that. I don’t mind debates. I do mind Republicans tearing each other down.

    FORBES. You’re not going to win the White House by making pledges that are then broken. We’ve been through that before, particularly on taxes. A pledge made should be a pledge kept. And in Texas it was your own party that saved you from breaking that pledge. You tried to break it, they blocked you.

    Source: (cross-ref to Forbes) GOP Debate in Michigan Jan 10, 2000

    Supports tweaking campaign finance rules

    Bush proposes lifting the $1,000 limit on individual contributions and requiring full disclosure of contributors.
    Source: Time Magazine, p. 37, col. 2 Jul 5, 1999

    Other candidates on Government Reform: George W. Bush on other issues:
    George W. Bush
    Dick Cheney
    Al Gore
    Bill Clinton
    Jesse Ventura
    Ross Perot
    Ralph Nader
    Pat Buchanan
    John McCain
    Civil Rights
    Foreign Policy
    Free Trade
    Govt. Reform
    Gun Control
    Health Care
    School Choice
    Social Security
    Tax Reform
    War & Peace