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My Take On The “Contract From America”

I’m finally getting around to review the Tea Party “Contract from America“. I think it’s good that people who aren’t professional activists or party leaders are getting involved. But I’m wondering how realistic this “Contract” is. So let us look at the items and see what is in there.

Amending the constitution to require a balanced budget and a two-thirds majority for any tax hike.

A balanced budget sounds good on paper but isn’t realistic at the federal level. It would have to take into account emergencies that can only be handled by the federal government, like wars. Remember this also; Reagan was able to beat the Soviet Union by having the federal government outspend the Soviets in defense programs. It also increased the national debt. A requirement to balance the budget would have kept Reagan from defeating the Soviet Union. Even the requirement for a two-thirds majority to put in a tax hike isn’t realistic without exceptions.

I don’t see this as being a very good idea considering since even I could pick it apart so easily.

Permanently repealing all tax hikes scheduled to begin in 2011.

This is good.

Requiring every bill in Congress to be made public seven days before any vote can be taken and all government expenditures authorized by any bill to be easily accessible on the Internet before the money is spent.

Any requirement of this type will need an amendment to the Constitution, otherwise the rules of the House and Senate can and will override this. Plus, emergencies have to be taken into account.

Requiring each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

This is good. It can be expanded so that these bills show federal court rulings that would back up the claim of a bill’s constitutionality.

Permitting all health insurance plans to be sold anywhere in the United States through the purchase of insurance across state lines. Allow small businesses and associations to pool together across state lines to buy insurance.

Expanding on this, state health insurance regulations would have to be removed from the loop and transferred to one set of regulations established by Congress. This would actually expand the federal government’s authority, although I think it would be appropriate since the Commerce Clause would properly fit this change.

Adopting a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and “replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words — the length of the original Constitution.”

I think the required number of words thing is kind of silly, but I get the point. But I believe the better way to go would be to first amend the Constitution to scrap the 16th Amendment, disallowing the government’s ability to tax income, since determining what is income is subjective anyway. It should be replaced by an amendment that authorizes an excise tax on all goods and services subject to the Commerce clause, and that the tax rate should be the same, regardless of the good or service being taxed. At this point, the two-thirds rule for increasing a tax rate could be put in place, subject to certain exceptions.

Imposing a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.

This doesn’t appear doable. It looks better on paper than in practice.

Allowing Americans to opt out of Social Security and Medicare and instead put those same payroll taxes in a personal account “they own, control and can leave to whomever they choose.”

This is a variation of what President Bush wanted to do in 2005. I was for that, although the start-up costs for Bush’s plan were huge. I like it, although I think this needs to be a first step. Social Security needs to go away to get the government out of the retirement planning business altogether. Paul Ryan’s plans for Medicare are also a good start.

Preventing any regulation or tax on the Internet.

I am in total agreement with the regulation part; keep the government out. I also agree that taxing use of the Internet should not be done while the current tax system is in place. However, my tax plan that I had mentioned earlier when discussing taxation would require a tax on the use of the Internet. But the tax rate wouldn’t be any higher than on any other good or service.

Improving education by eliminating ineffective and wasteful programs, giving parents more choices from pre-school to high school and improving the affordability of higher education.

As far as I’m concerned, the Department of Education should be scrapped in its entirety. Education should be kept at the state and local levels. This will cut the budget by tens of billions of dollars every year.

Authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition.

Agreed. No argument here.

Prohibiting the Federal Communications Commission from using funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

Agreed.

Creating a Blue Ribbon task force that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs.

Interesting. However, we already have the CBO and GAO for this. There’s no need for another one.

Blocking state and local governments that receive federal grants from exercising eminent domain over private property for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues.

Agreed. Better yet, get the horrendous and unconstitutional Kelo ruling overturned.

Preventing the EPA from implementing costly new regulations.

Agreed. But as with eminent domain, the EPA is doing what it’s doing due to various Supreme Court edicts.

Placing a moratorium on all earmarks until the process is fully transparent. Also requiring a two-thirds majority to pass any earmark.

Good luck. Plus, this will require an amendment to the Constitution or it will never happen. Besides, the real problem with the government’s fiscal irresponsibility has to do with mandatory spending, not the discretionary spending that comes from earmarks. They do have their place, although, as we’ve seen, can be abused.

Making all lawmaking regulators, including presidential appointed czars, be affirmatively approved by Congress and signed into law by the president.

As much as I hate these “czars”, the Constitution does allow them. They actually have little power since all they can do is recommend policies; Cabinet members are held accountable for implementing policies. Of course, Congress should hold the feet of these czars to the fire when they recommend things that are stupid; John Brennan is one such czar who fits this description.

Audit the Federal Reserve System.

I agree. What this audit should show is that the Fed isn’t doing anything it is supposed to do; namely, keeping economic disasters and near-disasters from occurring.

Making sure the federal government does not bail out private companies. The government should also immediately divest itself of its stake in the private companies it owns from recent bailouts.

Agreed. The federal government should also get out of any business that can be done in the private sector. This would include Social Security, Medicare, and the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac/Ginnie Mae/FHA monolith.

Amending the constitution to require congressional term limits. No person shall be elected to the Senate more than twice or to the House of Representatives more than four times.

Better yet, do the following: first, repeal the 17th Amendment; second, only allow someone to serve in Congress for one term, then they would have to take a twelve-year hiatus from running for any Congressional seat.

The Roman Republic had a good system in place which lasted for nearly 400 years. Lawmakers (tribunes) and magistrates (consuls, praetors, aediles, quastors; this was the de facto Executive Branch of the government) were only allowed to serve a single one-year term (with the exception of censors, which served for five years), then take at least a year off (there were exceptions, of course). The Roman Senate during the Republic, whose members could be in for life (it was the job of the censor to update who could be in the Senate, and they could kick people out), was not a lawmaking body. The Senate was where magistrates came from; and, they were the body authorized to spend any public money, so they had great influence in legislation.

Making all regulations “sunset” after 10 years unless renewed by congressional vote.

Not bad. But it would probably require an amendment to the Constitution.

Broadcasting all non-security meetings and votes on C-SPAN and the Internet.

Yep.

I think this is a good first attempt as there are some good things in there. I’m not any kind of policy wonk but some of those items are just not realistic at all.

I think the Tea Parties are great since the real majority in this country, the working people, are getting involved in the federal government’s activities. But the United States isn’t a pure democracy and it should never be one. There are times when the government does have to go against the people on some things, especially as they relate to things like warfare. However, that doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t listen to the people’s concerns either, which is what is happening with the health care debate and with how the economy can be turned around.

Like I said, a good first crack. But these issues have to remain within the boundaries of the Constitution or they aren’t going to happen.

(Hat tip: Hot Air)

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