How hard is it to position yourself to the right of Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi?
This is all the House Republicans did recently when they released their “Pledge to America” at a Virginia hardware store on September 23.
Mimicking their 1994 “Contract with America,” this new Republican proposal sets forth their legislative agenda should the American people see fit to give the Republican Party a majority in the House of Representatives in the upcoming election.
Do Republicans think we’re stupid? Do they think we’ve forgotten the eight-year presidency of Republican George W. Bush? Do they think we’ve forgotten that Republicans had an absolute majority in both houses of Congress for over four years of the Bush administration? Do they think we’ve forgotten that the Republican Party controlled the Congress during the last six years of Clinton’s presidency?
The empty promises, grandiose claims, vain assurances, and blatant lies in the Republican “Pledge to America” mean that it’s not worth the paper and toner it would take to print out a copy. Republicans are clearly trying to capitalize on voter discontent with the Democratic Party, garner the support of the Tea Party movement, and sucker Americans into voting them back into power.
Before even examining the text of the “Pledge to America,” I would like to point out two major practical problems. First, like the “Contract with America,” this is a House Republican document. And like what happened with the “Contract with American,” there is no guarantee that Senate Republicans will pass legislation proposed by the House — assuming that Republicans even regain control of the Senate. The second problem is, like what happened with the “Contract with America,” we have a Democratic president with veto power. So, even if the Pledge is a good thing (it isn’t), and even if the Republicans are sincere (they aren’t), there is no guarantee that Republicans will accomplish anything even if they do win back control of the House. And as it was pointed back out in 2000: “The combined budgets of the 95 major programs that the Contract with America promised to eliminate have increased by 13%.” Is there any doubt that things will turn out any different this time?
But what about the text of the Pledge itself? Well, the preface is a lie. The foreword is a lie. All five of the plans introduced are a lie. All six chapters are a lie. All forty-five pages are a lie. Even the cover is a lie.
Surely, Mr. Vance, you are exaggerating. You are being too hard on the Republicans. You are making baseless accusations. You couldn’t possibly have carefully read the Republican’s Pledge.
Is that so? We need to look no further than the cover. It says that the “Pledge to America” is “a new governing agenda built on the priorities or our nation, the principles we stand for and America’s founding values.” Among other things, America’s founding values certainly include liberty and limited government. Is this Pledge or any other Republican agenda built on these things?
Let’s talk about the economic system that existed in the United States from the inception of the nation to the latter part of the 19th century. The principles are simple to enumerate: No income taxation (except during the Civil War), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, economic regulations, licensure laws, drug laws, immigration controls, or coercive transfer programs, such as farm subsidies and education grants.
There was no federal department of labor, agriculture, commerce, education, energy, health and human services, or homeland security. There was no SEC, DEA, FEMA, OSHA, or EPA.
There was no Federal Reserve System and no paper money or legal-tender laws (except during the Civil War). People used gold and silver coins as money.
There were no foreign military bases and no involvement in foreign wars. The size of the military was small.
Now, I ask you a simple question: Does that way of life resemble even in the remotest way the way of life under which Americans live today? Of course it doesn’t, because the way of life under which we live today is precisely opposite to that under which our American ancestors lived. Today’s Americans do live under all those programs, departments, and agencies, and principles that were absent during the first 125 years or so of American history.
Oh, the “Pledge to America” talks about Republican plans to “advance policies that promote greater liberty” and about how their plan “stands on the principles of smaller, more accountable government,” but then the Republicans propose, not to cease funding any of the abovementioned programs, agencies, and policies, but — are you ready — “to roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.” My, what an ambitious plan to promote liberty and limited government!
In the preface to the Pledge, the Republicans have the audacity to complain about “an unchecked executive” as if the presidency of George W. Bush never occurred. They pledge to “honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers,” and in particular “the Tenth Amendment.” I’ve got to hand it to the Republicans. They know the right words to use to sucker conservative advocates of the government strictly following the Constitution to vote for them. Of course, if Republicans really believed in the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment, they would introduce legislation to eliminate 95 percent of what the federal government does.
The foreword to the Pledge introduces the five Republican plans:
- A plan to create jobs, end economic uncertainty, and make America more competitive
- A plan to stop out-of control spending and reduce the size of government
- A plan to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care
- A plan to reform Congress and restore trust
- A plan to keep our nation secure at home and abroad
One thing in particular in the foreword that stands out is the Republicans claim that they want to “protect our entitlement programs for seniors and future generations.” This shows without a doubt that Republicans don’t have the slightest intention of honoring the Constitution, following the Tenth Amendment, stopping “out-of-control spending,” and reducing “the size of government.”
I want to focus in particular on the first and last of the Republican plans in the “Pledge to America.” I will, however, not neglect the lies in plans two, three, and four.
The Republican plan “to create jobs, end economic uncertainty, and make America more competitive” sounds good on the surface. It blasts Keynesian economics, Obama’s stimulus, tax increases, federal regulations, job-killing policies, and small business mandates while promising to create jobs, end economic uncertainty, and make America more competitive by permanently stopping all job-killing tax hikes, giving small businesses a tax deduction, reining in the red tape factory in Washington, DC, and repealing job-killing small business mandates. Don’t be deceived: Even Republicans sometimes look good when compared with Democrats. However, alongside the standards of liberty, limited government, and strict constitutionalism, Republican economic policies are not much better than those of Democrats. This Republican plan mentions how a Republican Congress enacted the child tax credit in the 1990s. This is a good thing, as are all tax credits. However, why is this tax credit progressive; that is, why does this tax credit begin to phase out above a certain income level and end completely at another? And even worse, if the amount of the tax credit exceeds the tax liability, the unused portion is refundable in the form of an “additional child tax credit.” This means it is an income transfer program, as is the Republican-instituted earned income tax credit.
Another troubling thing about the Republican economic plan is its attitude toward business regulation:
Small businesses must have certainly that the rules won’t change every few months so they can get back on their feet.
Excessive federal regulation is a de facto tax on employers and consumers that stifles job creation, hampers innovation and postpones investment in the economy.
The Republicans seem to be saying that as long as federal regulations are relatively constant and not excessive then they are okay. In fact, they give their threshold as $100 million: “To provide stability, we will require congressional approval of any new federal regulation that has an annual cost to our economy of $100 million or more.” But if Republicans really wanted to “honor the Constitution,” then they would require congressional approval of any new federal regulation that has an annual cost to our economy of $100 or more not $100 million or more.
The last section of this economic plan mentions a “job-killing small business mandate.” Since when are Republicans against these? Is there a greater “job-killing small business mandate” than the minimum wage? Did not even Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell say a few years ago that “raising the minimum wage” was a good idea? Outside of Ron Paul, would a Republican member of Congress ever publicly question the concept of a federal minimum wage? What it all comes down to is this: Democratic mandates are bad; Republican mandates (or Democratic mandates they accept) are good.
The promise in plan 2 “to stop out-of control spending and reduce the size of government” is laughingly pathetic when you realize that the national debt increased under the Republicans from $5,727,776,738,304.64 at the time of Bush’s first inauguration in 2001 to $10,626,877,048,913.08 on the last day of Bush’s second term in 2009. Republicans speak negatively in this plan about “the bailouts of businesses and entities that force responsible taxpayers to subsidize irresponsible behavior.” Yet, this is the same Republican Party that helped the Democratic Party pass the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the first bailout bill).
The Republican plan “to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care” is only being proposed because it is a Democratic takeover of health care and not a Republican one, as I have written about here and will write more about in the future. I would like to point out, however, that the proposal to “establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion” is a little overdue. What were all the pro-life Republicans in the House doing when the Republican Party had an absolute majority in the House and Senate for over four years under a Republican president? They were funding Planned Parenthood, that’s what.
The promise in plan 4 to “reform Congress and restore trust” is more smoke and mirrors. The Republicans lament that “for too long, Congress has ignored the proper limits imposed by the Constitution on the federal government.” Their solution is to “require each bill moving through Congress to include a clause citing the specific constitutional authority upon which the bill is justified.” The real truth is that Congress has sought to circumvent the Constitution almost since the day it took effect in 1789. Citing specific constitutional authority for a bill is an empty gesture. Just as Nancy Pelosi cited the Constitution’s “commerce clause” in defense of the health care bill so Republicans will cite the phrase “to provide for the common defense” in the Constitution’s preamble to justify funding drone attacks in Pakistan.
The Republican plan “to keep our nation secure at home and abroad” is the most objectionable part of the “Pledge to America.” It can be summarized as: xenophobia, war, empire: vote Republican. It consists of one lie after another followed by one bad policy after another. It promises to keep terrorists out of America by keeping foreigners locked up in Guantanamo — as if there were any connection between the two. What this really means, of course, is that Republicans are in favor of the U.S. military picking up anyone anywhere in the world and holding them indefinitely without charge or trial — or until they are killed and their deaths reported as suicides.
This plan “to keep our nation secure at home and abroad” is sure to create more terrorists, further erode civil liberties in the name of national security and fighting the war on drugs, line the pockets of the military-industrial and security-industrial complexes, further blacken the name of the United States throughout the world, provoke a war with Iran, further bankrupt the treasury, senselessly cause more U.S. troops to die in vain, and unjustly kill more foreigners.
What is tragically ironic is that a liberal group earlier this year placed an ad in the New York Review of Books condemning Obama’s actions “to keep our nation secure at home and abroad” as in some respects “worse than Bush”:
First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.” Third, the Obama administration, in expanding the use of unmanned drone attacks, argues that the U.S. has the authority under international law to use extrajudicial killing in sovereign countries with which it is not at war.
Such measures by Bush were widely considered by liberals and progressives to be outrages and were roundly, and correctly, protested. But those acts which may have been construed (wishfully or not) as anomalies under the Bush regime have now been consecrated into “standard operating procedure” by Obama, who claims, as did Bush, executive privilege and state secrecy in defending the crime of aggressive war.
The most wretched lie in this fifth Republican plan is the statement that “the threat from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles could materialize as early as 2015.” This is political fearmongering at its worse that is designed to sucker Americans into voting Republican and justify funding of provocative boondoggles like missile defense. U.S. foreign policy is already aggressive, reckless, and belligerent enough without the Republican plan “to keep our nation secure at home and abroad” making it even more so.
Promises, promises — that’s all the Republican Party is good for. Promises to cut spending. Promises to cut the deficit. Promises to cut the debt. Promises to reduce federal regulations. Promises to reduce the size of government. Promises to reduce the scope of government. Promises to do better than the Democrats. Promises to follow the Constitution.
But not only does the Republican Party never deliver, it can always be counted on to increase spending, increase the deficit, increase the debt, expand federal regulations, expand the size of government, expand the scope of government, do worse than the Democrats, and make a mockery of the Constitution.
The Republican “Pledge to America” is not, as Bob Barr says, a “good and sound document.” It is political propaganda, pure and simple, from a party desperate to regain power.
Promises, pledges, lies: vote Republican.
Never, ever, under any circumstances, for any reason, trust in, rely on, or put any hope in Republican promises. As night follows day, disappointment, vexation, and anger are sure to follow.