For the most part, I think that a lot of us had Barack Obama pegged from the start. Ideologically, we knew where he came from, we knew the type of people he associated with, we knew who he counted as friends. For the most part, I think that a lot of us were not so much surprised by the scope of his goals as to the expansion of our federal government as we were startled that an American–any American–could so quickly and so resolutely dismiss and pervert the ideas and ideals upon which our nation was founded.
Since even before Marine One took former President George W. Bush on a bit of a short aerial sightseeing tour en route to the airplane which would take him and his family back to Texas, I knew what the Republican Party had to do in order to regain power. The focus, I wrote so many times so as to bore myself and inevitably others, needed to be first and foremost on the proper size, scope, role and function of the federal government. No matter the issue, be it spending, security, social or any conglomeration of those or others, the jumping-off point needed to be the proper role of government.
I was sure of it. That was the way that a hopefully resurgent GOP could win the hearts and minds of an American public which, at the time, did not yet know what it was about to endure. At that time, there was no Tea Party movement; Rick Santelli had yet to speak on February 19, 2009 from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. At that time, there was only what we knew to expect from President Barack Obama, and at that time it was certainly enough to realize that for the Republicans to be relevant in 2010 and beyond, they needed to boil everything down to basics.
And, folks, that’s pretty much what they did.
I was a junior in high school when Newt Gingrich, Larry Hunter, Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, John Boehner and a few others unveiled the Contract With America. If I said that I recalled thinking this or feeling that, I’d be lying through my teeth — I had just turned sixteen years old and, by golly, I was more than six years away from my Fosburian leap rightward; I had no clue whatsoever. I do know, however, that just as Gingrich, Boehner and the rest of the 1994 crew drew heavily from Ronald Reagan’s stunningly phenomenal 1985 State of the Union Address, this particular class, in constructing A Pledge to America, drew upon words by someone that the American left has for years mistakenly claimed as one of their own.
An economy constrained by high tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance the budget, just as it will never create enough jobs.
Those words came from former President John F. Kennedy, and a commitment to “permanently stop all job-killing tax hikes” was only one integral part of the House GOP’s “plan to end the uncertainty and create incentives for job growth,” itself only one small part of a mission statement which touched upon five key policy areas:
- The Economy
- Government Spending
- Health Care
- Government Reform
- National Security
On the economy, Republicans pledge to (1) permanently stop all tax increases currently pending on January 1 of next year, (2) allow small business owners to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their business income, (3) require congressional approval of any new federal regulation which would have an annual economic cost of $100 million or more, and (4) repeal small business mandates such as the unduly burdensome reporting mandates included in the health care reform bill.
Any of these efforts, standing alone, would go a long way toward eliminating the uncertainty which has so many business owners across the country hesitant when it comes to hiring and to expanding their operations. Together, the economic and job growth such an aggressive contraction of government involvement and reach would foster would hasten a recovery that would otherwise take nearly a decade. When it comes to the matter of excessive government intervention during a recession, I’m of the opinion that we should remember our Lessons from 1934, particularly with regard to how Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal policies artificially extended the Great Depression for more than six years.
On government spending, Republicans pledge to act immediately to reduce spending, holding that Congress should “move immediately to cancel unspent ‘stimulus’ funds, and block any attempts to extend the timeline for spending ‘stimulus’ funds.” They also pledge to: (1) “significantly reduce” Congress’s budget; (2) hold weekly votes on spending cuts, drawing from the House GOP’s successful “YouCut” program; (3) cancel TARP, and save the American taxpayers about $16 billion; (4) reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by severing the government umbilical cord; (5) impose a net federal hiring freeze of non-security employees; (6) force the “sunset” of federal programs as part of an effort to root out government waste; (7) reform the budget process so as to protect the entitlement programs already in place, and (8) cut government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, “saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children’s future.”
Building revenue through tax cuts simply is not enough. We need to revert to the proper size, scope, role and function of the federal government when it comes to spending taxpayer money as well. George W. Bush, because of his 2001 tax cuts, enjoyed years of record revenue but presided over a drastic increase in our cumulative national debt because he acquiesced to the spendthrift ways of Congress, especially during the latter half of his second term. According to a 2010 CBO report, since the Democrats regained congressional control following the mid-terms in 2006, the average budget deficit has hovered at roughly $1.1 trillion — compared with an average budget deficit of “only” $104 billion during the dozen years in which the GOP controlled the House of Representatives following 1994 and the Contract With America. Either way, $1.1 trillion or $104 billion, it’s far too much.
Millions of American families from coast to coast know that the key to making a home budget work is to curtail spending. We know this, and it’s important that those we elect to serve in Washington remember that basic idea as well. If we’re spending more money than we’re bringing in, something has to go. Maybe it’ll be that extended basic cable TV package. Maybe we’ll buy cheaper coffee. Maybe it’s as simple as just being a little better about turning lights off when we leave a particular room. Any way you look at it, however, the typical American family cannot fudge numbers and run on deficit — at least not for very long — and we expect our leaders to understand that and apply that on a national level.
On health care, the House GOP’s Pledge is pretty straightforward and, given the focus on health care, worthy of excerpting:
The American people wanted one thing out of health care reform: lower costs, which President Obama and Democrats in Washington promised, but did not deliver. Instead of expanding the size and scope of government with more debt, higher taxes, and burdensome mandates, Americans are calling for reforms that lower costs for families and small businesses, increase access to affordable, high-quality care and strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. We have a plan to do just that …
- Repeal the Costly Health Care Takeover of 2010: Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes, and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law.
- Enact Medical Liability Reform: Skyrocketing medical liability insurance rates have distorted the practice of medicine, routinely forcing doctors to order costly and often unnecessary tests to protect themselves from lawsuits, often referred to as “defensive medicine.” We will enact common-sense medical liability reforms to lower costs, rein in junk lawsuits and curb defensive medicine.
- Purchase Health Insurance Across State Lines: Americans residing in a state with expensive health insurance plans are locked into those plans and do not currently have an opportunity to choose a lower cost option that best meets their needs. We will allow individuals to buy health care coverage outside of the state in which they live.
- Expand Health Savings Accounts: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are popular savings accounts that provide cost-effective health insurance to those who might otherwise go uninsured. We will improve HSAs by making it easier for patients with high-deductible health plans to use them to obtain access to quality care. We will repeal the new health care law, which prevents the use of these savings accounts to purchase over-the-counter medicine.
- Strengthen the Doctor-Patient Relationship: We will repeal President Obama’s government takeover of health care and replace it with common-sense reforms focused on strengthening the doctor-patient relationship.
- Ensure Access For Patients With Pre-Existing Conditions: Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick. We will incentivize states to develop innovative programs that lower premiums and reduce the number of uninsured Americans.
- Permanently Prohibit Taxpayer Funding of Abortion: We will establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion, this includes enacting into law what is known as the Hyde Amendment. We will also enact into law conscience protections for health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals.
Much of this has been written about here at America’s Right and elsewhere for the better part of two years now. The proper way to decrease health care costs for everyone is to embrace and open health care up to the free market. Foster competition. Bank on individual freedom through Health Savings Accounts. Look at the various models we have in states across the country and contrast those which get it wrong–Massachusetts and Maine, for example–with those that get it right–Mitch Daniels’ program in Indiana–when it comes to decreasing costs and avoiding budgetary problems. Again, it comes down to role of government, as MassCare and Maine’s Dirigo System have failed while Indiana’s Health Savings Accounts-heavy program is at last check actually running a surplus.
I do wish that they were more specific. After all, the same people who accused the Democrats of unnecessarily meddling in the risk assessment capabilities of private insurers–and thus driving up costs–are again in the Pledge meddling in the risk assessment capabilities of private insurers. It would behoove the House GOP to explain exactly how this can be done without bringing about the same sort of increase in costs that the Democrats have seen and will continue to see as a result of ObamaCare.
Nevertheless, my guess with regard to health care is that the GOP would act to defund and shut down by attrition the various far-reaching tentacles of ObamaCare, thus rendering it little more than shell legislation while waiting to repeal it altogether. That the Democrats are running away from health care reform only six weeks before a big mid-term election shows their vulnerability on the issue, and shows that it should be a secondary attack point–second only to the economy–between now and November 2.
On reforming Congress and restoring trust, the GOP has a long, long way to go. The America Speaking Out program launched by House Republicans was lovely, as is the commitment in the Pledge to (1) allow for three days to read legislation before any vote, (2) adhere to the Constitution by requiring that any legislation contain a provision showing how that particular piece of legislation is in fact constitutional, (3) make it easier to cut spending by forbidding amendments on spending bills and (4) advancing issues one at a time rather than “packaging unpopular bills with ‘must-pass’ legislation. Republicans, however, are in a position where they need to earn the trust of Americans again.
After all, 1994′s Contract With America contained lofty goals as well, including but not limited to a Constitutional amendment which would require a balanced budget unless otherwise permitted and sanctioned by three-fifths vote in both the House and Senate, as well as a constitutional amendment that would have instituted 12-year term limits on members of Congress, and we see how that worked out. Trust will need to be earned, and should November go the way I believe it likely will, it will be the responsibility of folks like you and like me to ensure that, this time, they keep their word.
As I’ve been saying, the real test of the Tea Party movement will be AFTER a successful election, both on November 3 of this year and November 7, 2012.
Finally, on national security, the House GOP promised (1) that troop funding bills will no longer be delayed due to the inclusion of unrelated legislative means and ends, (2) that they will enjoin the federal government from bringing terrorists into the United States of America, (3) that foreign terrorists will never enjoy the same rights as American citizens–including Miranda rights–and that they will be tried in military rather than civilian courts, (4) that they will advocate the full funding of missile defense, (5) that they will advocate for the enforcement of tough sanctions against Iran, (6) that they will “establish operational control” of our borders, (7) that they will work with state and local officials to enforce immigration laws already on the books, and (8) that they will shore up visa security so as to avoid situations like that which unfolded with Christmas Day would-be bomber Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, also known by his America’s Right nickname: Testicular Bomb Express.
This stuff, and the current administrations take on it all, is perhaps the most maddening of any of it. Sure, it’s frustrating to see folks like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Barack Obama spend us into oblivion and hope to tax us right out of any recovery we can hope for, but there’s something extra fist-clenchingly maddening about seeing this:
Attorney General Eric Holder’s frightening refusal to even acknowledge the existence of radical Islam as an example of precisely why the House GOP’s Pledge to America is relevant and will work to effectively define GOP policy going forward. Certainly, with the Democratic Party virtually imploding on their own, there was a considerable risk in saying or doing anything at all over the next six weeks, even considering the left’s mantra, equal parts meritless and clueless, that the Republican Party is little more than the “party of no.”
Play Holder’s video again. Please. Internalize, if you will, what you feel as you watch him stutter and stagger his way through a politically-correct non-answer to Texas Congressman Lamar Smith’s simple question. What you see there is what the cool kids nowadays are calling a “FAIL.” In this case, it was a “National Security EPIC FAIL.”
What the Pledge to America does, folks, is assess exactly what has emerged as the statists’ most notable FAILs and confront them with common sense. Notably missing from the Pledge to America is any reference to social policy — while social policy has been and always will be important to the conservative movement, I find it difficult to classify in the context of this particular time and election cycle the Democrats’ policies on abortion and gay marriage, for example, as an EPIC FAIL. Besides, when effectively boiling down each and every issue to a core argument involving the proper size, scople, role and function of the federal government, it is difficult to equitably argue minimal government involvement in the private sector while simultaneously arguing in favor of expanding government involvement in the private lives of Americans.
(Incidentally, according to yesterday’s Special Report with Bret Baier, Indiana Congressman and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence was very much in favor of including social policy in the Pledge. Without going too deep into my concerns about the possible candidacies of folks like Pence and Rick Santorum and a perceived inability to put social policy on the proverbial back burner, I was glad to hear that other Republicans such as John Boehner were able to ensure that the final document was predominantly fiscal in nature and focus.)
Just as most of us had Barack Obama pegged from the start, I think that most of us understand that the Democratic Party leadership is extremely vulnerable this fall, especially when it comes to the economy, government spending, health care, government reform and national security. Thankfully, those are the areas addressed by the House GOP in A Pledge to America.
Unfortunately, some on the American political right seem to lack an understanding of exactly what the Pledge is and what it needed to be. RedState’s brilliant Erick Erickson, for example, tweeted last night that “The House GOP’s Pledge is A+ rhetoric and C- ideas,” that the Contract With America “was a surprise and unexpected” while this was “expected and nothing new,” and that “we should refer to it as the Pledge to Nowhere if we are forced to talk about it.” At RedState, Erickson wrote that it was “perhaps the most ridiculous thing to come out of Washington since George McClellan”:
These 21 pages tell you lots of things, some contradictory things, but mostly this: it is a serious of compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because the House GOP does not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama.
I have one message for John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and the House GOP Leadership: If they do not want to use the GOP to lead, I would like to borrow it for a time.
Yes, yes, it is full of mom tested, kid approved pablum that will make certain hearts on the right sing in solidarity. But like a diet full of sugar, it will actually do nothing but keep making Washington fatter before we crash from the sugar high.
It is dreck — dreck with some stuff I like, but like Brussels sprouts in butter. I like the butter, not the Brussels sprouts. Overall, this grand illusion of an agenda that will never happen is best spoken of today and then never again as if it did not happen. It is best forgotten.
I don’t mean to pick on Erick Erickson. In terms of overall knowhow and wonkishness he runs laps around me in his sleep and, from the few minutes I had to chat with him two weeks ago in Washington, he seems as decent as he is intelligent. The problem is that Erickson seems to ignore that where 1994 seemed to be a battle of ideas, 2010 is a knock-down, drag-out war between ideologies. After the 1994 election, Bill Clinton was pragmatic enough to run to the center; Barack Obama knows no such pragmatism.
Was the Pledge a little heavy on rhetorical flourishes? Sure. In that, it reminded me of the work I churn out when I really just don’t want to put in the time necessary to put together a fact-heavy, substantive argument. However, to insist that the House GOP’s work product was short on new ideas is to forget that conservatism in itself is not new, that conservative principles as espoused by libertarians like myself are not, by their nature, anything groundbreaking. What we need right now is an actual commitment to tried and true ideas, not some wonkish blueprint to a reinvented wheel, and what A Pledge to America provides is something in black and white for people like you and like me to hold Republicans to when the entire Tea Party movement and the right’s new media resurgence really matters — November 3, 2010 and November 7, 2012.
Perhaps I am just one of those “certain hearts on the right” that Erickson wrote about, but if ever this purported “grand illusion of an agenda” is going to have a chance to manifest itself legislatively, it will be in a political climate in which the American people are genuinely involved, and genuinely angry.
It is because a whole lot of folks out there had Barack Obama pegged from the beginning and because the result nearly two years later was even worse than imagined that the American people, like the survivor of a terrible accident with a newfound respect for life, have a newfound respect for their freedom and liberty and are in a position to ensure that, for once, Washington, D.C. bends to the will of the masses and not the other way around.
A Pledge to America certainly is not perfect. But it sure is a start.
LINKS TO MORE:
- Dan Riehl at Riehl World View
- The Editors at National Review Online
- John McCormack at The Weekly Standard
- Allahpundit at HotAir
- Melissa Clouthier at Liberty Pundits