The Republicans have released “The Pledge to America,” the 2010 version of the famous 1994 “Contract with America.” The Pledge is interesting in what it lacks as much as what is included within it.
Except for one item, there is not any promise related to the social conservative agenda. There are no promises to overturn Roe v.Wade and allow a ban on abortion. No promises to ban gay marriage.
“The Pledge to America” is also light on entitlement reform. There are no promises to overhaul Social Security. However, a reform of Medicare and Medicaid is at least implied in the health care section.
“The Pledge to America” is divided into five parts: Jobs, Cutting Spending, Health Care, Government Reform, and National Security. Each section has supporting data and a set of action items to take. The executive summary of the Pledge follows:
Stop job-killing tax hikes
Allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income
Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that would add to the deficit
Repeal small business mandates in the new health care law.
Repeal and Replace health care
Roll back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels before TARP and stimulus (will save $100 billion in first year alone)
Establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending going forward
Cancel all future TARP payments and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Will require that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority Give members at least 3 days to read bills before a vote
Provide resources to troops
Fund missile defense
Enforce sanctions in Iran”
“The Pledge to America” seems to be designed to align as much as possible with the political zeitgeist of this election year. It is very heavy on fiscal restraint, albeit without spelling out specifically the very necessary reform of entitlements that it will take to balance the budget. The roll back on the stimulus and TARP are good ideas, as is the “hard cap” on the growth of non-security discretionary spending. What constitutes “security spending” and what does not is not spelled out. Nor is suggested what the allowable amount of growth in the hard cap is.
The details of the hard part of trimming the domestic discretionary budget is left for the next Congress to decide. Presumably some items will shrink or be eliminated, some will remain the same, and some might even grow. But that is the stage in which many an attempt to restrain the budget gets tripped up. Someone’s unnecessary spending is always someone else’s vital investment.
The Democrats will attack “The Pledge to America” as certain as the dusk follows dawn. They will say it will blow a hole in the deficit with tax cuts (unlike their spending increases, which only tripled the deficit), and at the same time enact “draconian” spending cuts that will hurt the sick, the old, minorities, and children. Rolling back health care reform will be depicted as evil. Building up the military will be thought of as reckless.
As with the Contract 16 years before, one suspects that most people will like the Pledge so far as it goes. It suggests that the Republicans are at least kind of serious about running the government differently. It will give just an added impetus for people to pull the lever for candidates with an “R” next to their name.
However, at least one conservative pundit thinks that “The Pledge to America” is thin gruel indeed. Erick Erickson at Red State writes:
“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.”
One supposes that there is no pleasing some people.
Sources: “Pledge to America” Unveiled by Republicans, Brian Montopoli, Jill Jackson, CBS News, September 22nd, 2010
Perhaps the Most Ridiculous Thing to Come Out of Washington Since George McClellan, Erick Erickson, Red State, September 22nd, 2010