A number of readers of my blog at www.RightinSanFrancisco.com have asked my opinion about the House Republicans' "Pledge to America". Briefly, expectedly disappointing - it reflects the cautious Democrat-lite ethos of the Republican establishment rather than the passion of the Tea Party fiscal conservatives.
First, what it does do in its 21 rambling pages:
- Gives a conceptual nod to the Tea Party movement - fiscal responsibility, national security, and good government without emphasis on social issues.
- Confronts the "Party of No" claim by including a thousand Republican positions on everything from taxes, to health care, to missile defense. (Drafted by a committee with 1000 inputs.)
- Provides the structure of a "Repeal and Replace" strategy for healthcare, changing the focus from benefit expansion to cost reduction. (With a majority of the public favoring repeal, the prime issue of the next Congress will be Republican efforts to reshape the rube-Goldberg legislation in the face of Obama's inevitable veto.)
- Provides numerous ideas about how to better run the House (e.g. 3 days to read bills before voting on them) - from the perspective of the minority party which has been abused by Speaker Pelosi since 2006.
More importantly, what it does not do:
- Provide a strategic vision of where we are going financially. It is good to rail against the Democrats exploding deficits and failure to even have a 2011 budget, but some Republican targets are necessary.
- Address in a meaningful way the largest budget problems (Medicare; Medicaid; Social Security; military spending), or the causes of the 2008 financial melt down (Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac; rating agencies; derivatives; hedge funds; "too big to fail").
- Provide a realistic tax strategy - critical since everything is currently up for grabs.
- Signal a real commitment to legislative reform by banning earmarks.
If trends continue and the Republicans gain control of the House and gain 6 to 8 Senate seats, there will be a real test of the GOP. It probably would have been too much to hope for to treat the American public as adults during an election campaign in which the president is leading a chorus such as the blatantly untrue fear mongering on any mention of Social Security. Such is democracy - the voters know what is needed, but do not want to be confronted with the specifics, and many partisans are predisposed to attack anything.
But we do have Paul Ryan's Roadmap and John Boehner's suggestion that we roll back spending to 2008 levels to give us hope for change. The real battle will be in the House between traditional Republicans who see the public's mood as just a political opportunity, and the wave of true believers who will demand a return to fiscal sanity. And maybe that earmark omission was just an oversight.