I want Republicans to win.
But not just for the sake of it. It is not enough simply to get power. Republicans must demonstrate that they actually understand why they were sent home in 2006 and 2008, and that they are 100% committed to changing the direction of Washington now that America seems poised to give them another chance. Fail to do that and the American people will send them home again.
Yesterday's much anticipated "Pledge to America" represents a glimpse into how Republicans plan to govern, and simply put, it's a pledge to nowhere.
At a time when America needs a bold, simple, fresh plan for putting America on the path to fiscal and constitutional sanity - we get instead an almost 8000 word term paper of inside-the-beltway regurgitation that lacks the one thing the American people seem to be dying to have... actual leadership. Harsh? Hardly.
1. The Pledge fails to address the single greatest threat to our nation's long term fiscal health - the fact that we have precisely $0 set aside for the more than $106 trillion in unfunded liabilities staring us in the face for social security, medicare and medicaid. Instead, we get more of the same political rhetoric about seniors standing to lose Medicare because of Obamacare. MEDICARE IS BANKRUPT. SOCIAL SECURITY IS BANKRUPT. FOR GOODNESS SAKE, MAN UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
2. The Pledge blatantly fails to even mention earmarks, much less calling for a ban on them. The issue here isn't about how much money we will save. The issue is about Congressional arrogance - and their naked addiction to using your tax dollars to try to buy off your votes back home.
3. The Pledge offers no significant, concrete plan to reduce spending such as a Balanced Budget Amendment or a Spending Limit Amendment, relying instead on gimmicks like weekly votes on spending cuts and hiring freezes, as well as nebulous promises to cap spending.
4. And perhaps most troubling of all, the Pledge adopts the nonsensical "repeal and replace" mantra for Obamacare - offering as replacement yet more federal government mandates regarding pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps on benefits, which begs the question: which mandates are unconstitutional and which ones are not, GOP? And, STOP WITH THE MANDATES. STOP IT. MANDATING THAT INSURERS COVER PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS IS JUST AS BAD AS THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE ON ITS FACE - BUT WORSE, YOU IDIOTS, IT WILL LEAD TO AN INDIVIDUAL MANDATE BECAUSE YOU CANNOT COVER THE ALREADY SICK WITHOUT MANDATING THAT THE HEALTHY PARTICIPATE. JUST STOP IT.
In one asinine move, the GOP House leadership demonstrated that it is more interested in votes than in changing Washington and that it has learned nothing. In fact, all you need to know is that the ever-inspiring and bold David Frum wrote yesterday about the Pledge, "GOP to Tea Party: Your Votes Yes, Your Ideas No."
Maybe if the self-dubbed "Young Guns" were focused on leading by virtue of the power given them in the Constitution rather than self promotion, they would realize that words are not enough. But let's take a look, anyway.
The Pledge is broken into five sections. Let's go through them.
1. A Plan to Create Jobs, End Economic Uncertainty and Make America More Competitive
In this section, you would think there would be something bold. Instead we get a promise to prevent massive tax increases by making all current tax rates permanent (i.e. the Bush tax-cuts), a mediocre small business tax deduction, an odd plan to require large-impact regulations to get Congressional approval and a promise to end burdensome regulations imposed by Obamacare.
All fine, but pretty weak. How about reducing corporate tax rates to even the level of our competition in other countries? How about cutting or eliminating the Capital Gains tax? How about massively simplifying the tax code by adopting a flat or FAIR tax? How about picking 100 burdensome regulations to end within the first 100 days rather than some nebulous, difficult-to-carry-out promise to stop future regulation? Congress has given the Executive branch the power to carry out most regulations - TAKE IT AWAY, and be specific.
2. A Plan to End Out-of-Control Spending and Reduce the Size of Government
Laudable goal. Weak plan.
First observation: no mention of a Balanced Budget Amendment, a Spending Limit Amendment or any other concrete proposal to end the madness in Washington.
Second observation: no mention of earmarks. Why? Because the politicians in Washington view them as the source of their power and ability to buy votes back home. Sure, they hide behind their "right" to spend money instead of a bureaucrat, but the reality is that Dr. Coburn is right when he calls earmarks the "gateway drug to spending." After all the Tea Party backlash, these guys couldn't even mention earmarks.
Third observation: more gimmicks. Weekly votes on spending cuts? Non-security hiring freeze? Really? The reality is that the actual employed federal work force has been the same size since World War II, and it's composition is driven heavily by "security" employees in DoD and DHS. This would do nothing to curtail the millions of people on the government dole as contractors - where the real growth has occurred, as well as at state bureaucracies where compliance for federal mandates must occur (e.g. Medicaid). Finally, the number of employees are a symptom of largesse - they aren't the problem. The problem starts in Congress.
Finally, I again note that there is no mention of actually reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - other than lip service to "a full accounting" of them. $106 Trillion in unfunded liabilities. I repeat, $106 TRILLION IN UNFUNDED LIABILITIES - MORE THAN THE TOTAL ECONOMIC OUTPUT OF THE WHOLE WORLD - MULTIPLE TIMES OVER.
3. A Plan to Repeal and Replace Obamacare
First - just repeal it, and if you can't repeal it... de-fund it. Period. Stop babbling about "replacing." I don't want the federal government to "replace" Obamacare. I want the federal government to get out of the health care business and to take the minimal steps necessary to free up competition.
Second - STOP WITH THE MANDATES. STOP IT. STOP IT. MANDATING THAT INSURERS COVER PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS IS JUST AS BAD AS THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE ON ITS FACE - BUT WORSE, YOU IDIOTS, IT WILL LEAD TO AN INDIVIDUAL MANDATE BECAUSE YOU CANNOT COVER THE ALREADY SICK WITHOUT MANDATING THAT THE HEALTHY PARTICIPATE. JUST STOP IT. And mandating a prohibition of caps on lifetime benefits is just as silly.
Third - Again on mandates - so you think its unconstitutional for the federal government to require an individual to buy insurance, but it's perfectly ok to require that private companies must insure someone? Besides, see the above point - we'll get individual mandates anyway.
Fourth - medical liability reform isn't a federal issue. States that are adopting it are succeeding. States that aren't are not. People are moving from the latter to the former. Let it be.
Fifth - I don't want the federal government to have anything to do with the doctor-patient relationship.
Sixth - Yes, do not fund abortions. And yes, HSA's are good.
4. A Plan to Reform Congress and to Restore Trust
First - Reading the bill is a good pledge. But it should be a longer period, and you have to include amendments and "substitutes," which I am willing to bet you will quickly forget. You leadership folks didn't exactly give the rest of your conference a full 3 days to review this document, did you? And, how about by starting with a promise to reduce the number of bills introduced. Do you really need to introduce 6500 bills?
Second - Adhere to the Constitution. Sure. But do you need to pledge to do that? It's your job, and uh - you took an oath to do it. Besides - any measure you pass can simply offer up the Commerce Clause and the various other powers always abused to justify Congressional action. Justifying it isn't the problem. Actually adhering to the Constitution is the problem.
5. A Plan to Keep Our Nation Secure at Broad and at Home
I am not going to go through this. But where is any mention of reviving our dwindling defense spending? I am not talking about war spending, I am talking about the future of our military. We were spending almost 1/3 of our GDP on defense at the end of World War II. Today, we still spend less than 5%. We are weakening our military in the long run. FIX IT.
I also notice there is no mention of immigration - only the border.
Most of the other stuff is fine - but the reality is that promises are no good when it comes to these issues. Americans want to see action - a strong military, a secure border (actually secure - not "operational control," whatever that means) and dead terrorists - not terrorists in our back yard.
Get it done.
Americans wants common sense action. They don't need 8000 words of inside-the-beltway babble. You may well have one shot, GOP, to get this right. This was not a good start.