The Republican Party includes fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, neoconservatives, moderates, and libertarians. Prior to the formation of the conservative coalition, which helped realign the Democratic and Republican party ideologies in the mid-1960s, the party historically advocated classical liberalism, paleoconservatism, and progressivism.
Republicans emphasize the role of free markets and individual achievement as the primary factors behind economic prosperity. To this end, they favor laissez-faire economics, fiscal conservatism, and the promotion of personal responsibility over welfare programs.
A leading economic theory advocated by modern Republicans is supply-side economics. Some fiscal policies influenced by this theory were popularly known as Reaganomics, a term popularized during the Presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan. This theory holds that reduced income tax rates increase GDP growth and thereby generate the same or more revenue for the government from the smaller tax on the extra growth. This belief is reflected, in part, by the party's long-term advocacy of tax cuts. Many Republicans consider the income tax system to be inherently inefficient and oppose graduated tax rates, which they believe are unfairly targeted at those who create jobs and wealth. They believe private spending is usually more efficient than government spending. Republicans oppose the estate tax.
Most Republicans agree there should be a "safety net" to assist the less fortunate; however, they tend to believe the private sector is more effective in helping the poor than government is; as a result, Republicans support giving government grants to faith-based and other private charitable organizations to supplant welfare spending. Members of the GOP also believe that limits on eligibility and benefits must be in place to ensure the safety net is not abused. Republicans introduced and strongly supported the welfare reform of 1996, which was signed into law by Democratic President Clinton, and which limited eligibility for welfare, successfully leading to many former welfare recipients finding jobs.
The party opposes a government-run single-payer health care system, believing such a system constitutes socialized medicine and is in favor of a personal or employer-based system of insurance, supplemented by Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid, which covers approximately 40% of the poor. The GOP has a mixed record of supporting the historically popular Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs. Congressional Republicans and the Bush administration supported a reduction in Medicaid's growth rate; however, congressional Republicans expanded Medicare, supporting a new drug plan for seniors starting in 2006.
In 2011, House Republicans overwhelmingly voted for a proposal named The Path to Prosperity and for major changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and the 2010 Health Care Legislation. Many Republicans support increased health insurance portability, laws promoting coverage of pre-existing medical conditions, a cap on malpractice lawsuits, the implementation of a streamlined electronic medical records system, an emphasis on preventative care rather than emergency room care, and tax benefits aimed at making health insurance more affordable for the uninsured and targeted to promote universal access. They generally oppose government funding for elective abortions.
Republicans are generally opposed by labor union management and members, and have supported various legislation on the state and federal levels, including right to work legislation and the Taft-Hartley Act, which gives workers the right not to participate in unions, as opposed to a closed shop, which prohibits workers from choosing not to join unions in workplaces. Some Republicans are opposed to increases in the minimum wage, believing that such increases hurt many businesses by forcing them to cut jobs and services, export jobs overseas, and raise the prices of goods to compensate for the decrease in profit.