Pledge to America
Last week the GOP released their Pledge to America, attempting to give American voters a clear view of where the Republican Party stands on current issues. Since so many Americans – especially those of us who identify as Republicans – are furious with our out-of-control federal government, a specific plan of attack is a great idea.
One of the biggest concerns among Republicans that the Pledge to America addresses is the new health care law. Good points can be found in the health care section of the Pledge, but we should be cautious not to blindly accept everything the Republicans are offering. For example, the GOP’s Pledge promises to require health insurance companies to offer coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The party in Washington that has allegedly heard the concerns of America has pledged to extend regulations that dictate how insurance companies must operate.
Requiring insurance companies to cover customers with pre-existing conditions is a violation of free market economic principles and is a regulation that will raise insurance costs for everyone.
People with pre-existing conditions will buy the insurance (because government regulations will require insurance companies to offer them coverage), and the higher costs incurred because of the pre-existing conditions will lower the insurance company’s profit margin.
To offset the lower profit margins, insurance companies will raise their policies’ premiums, offer less extensive coverage, and give lower payments to doctors. As health insurance costs increase, we will find ourselves paying for coverage too costly to afford, receiving fewer benefits, and being treated by disgruntled doctors who have been forced to accept lower payments for their services.
Is this reform, or is this the status quo?
The agenda is reminiscent of “The Contract with America” that House Republicans announced on the steps of the Capitol in 1994. That manifesto helped them win control of the House during the second year of Democrat Bill Clinton’s presidency.
While short on specifics, the new Republican plan calls for $100 billion in annual savings by scaling back federal spending to 2008 levels — with exceptions for the elderly and U.S. troops — and ending government control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Republican House leaders also vowed to stop “job killing tax hikes” and allow small business owners to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their business income.
Under pressure from the conservative Tea Party movement to slash the size and cost of government, the Republicans promised to repeal Obama’s landmark overhaul of the healthcare system and eliminate unspent funds from his $814 billion economic stimulus program.
The reaction among Democrats has been predictable as they again try to bring up George W. Bush, a strategy that hasn’t worked thus far:
In an ad in major papers on Thursday, the Cato Institute criticized both Democrats and Republicans in Congress for their lack of leadership in cutting the massive budget deficits that threaten the prosperity of the United States. While the $33 billion in proposed cuts are being touted as the largest spending cut in history (and that’s not true), they represent less than one percent of spending this year.
The ad suggests billions in proposed spending cuts that Congress could enact, including eliminating farm subsidies, repealing Obama and reforming Social Security.
Last week, House Republicans presented $32 billion in spending cuts - far short of the $100 billion they promised in the “Pledge to America.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was dismissive of the cuts, noting that they are “not going to touch the problem.”
Today, Sen. Paul is talking up his own proposed cuts - totaling $500 billion - in an editorial at the Wall Street Journal:
According to the Congressional Budget Office, this will be the third consecutive year in which the federal government is running a deficit near or greater than $1 trillion. The solution to the government’s fiscal crisis must begin by cutting spending in all areas, particularly in those that can be better run at the state or local level. Last month I introduced legislation to do just that. And though it seems extreme to some—containing over $500 billion in spending cuts enacted over one year—it is a necessary first step toward ending our fiscal crisis.
My proposal would first roll back almost all federal spending to 2008 levels, then initiate reductions at various levels nearly across the board. Cuts to the Departments of Agriculture and Transportation would create over $42 billion in savings each, while cuts to the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development would save about $50 billion each. Removing education from the federal government’s jurisdiction would create almost $80 billion in savings alone. Add to that my proposed reductions in international aid, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and other federal agencies, and we arrive at over $500 billion.
After promising $100 billion in spending cuts in the Pledge to America (p. 23), House Republicans have presented a budget that cuts only $32 billion over the remainder of the current fiscal year; about six months:
House Republican leaders on Thursday said they would seek $32 billion in spending cuts from the resolution currently funding the government.
Republicans framed their proposal as cutting $74 billion from President Obama’s 2011 budget request. However, because Obama’s budget was never approved by the last Congress, the cuts would actually be made against a continuing resolution now funding the government.
That resolution is to expire on March 4, and if lawmakers do not agree on another short-term measure or one funding the government for the rest of the year, they risk a government shutdown.
The GOP decision sets up a two-front battle with congressional Democrats and President Obama, who have warned that immediate spending cuts would damage the economy, and with conservative Tea Party-backed Republicans who want to make deeper cuts to spending.
Late yesterday afternoon and on the same day as a new poll by ABC News and the Washington Post was released showing that slight majority of Americans support repeal of ObamaCare, the House of Representatives followed through on a campaign pledge by repealing the health care “reform” law enacted last March, by a vote of 245 to 189 - with only three Democrats, Dan Boren, Mike Ross and Mike McIntyre, supporting repeal:
Democrats are deriding last night’s House vote to repeal ObamaCare as “symbolic,” and it was, but that is not the same as meaningless. The stunning political reality is that a new entitlement that was supposed to be a landmark of liberal governance has been repudiated by a majority of one chamber of Congress only 10 months after it passed. This sort of thing never happens.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama announced a two-year freeze on federal wages (non-civilian defense would be excluded) that would save $5 billion:
“The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by employees of the federal government,” Mr. Obama told reporters. He called federal workers “patriots who love their country” but added, “I’m asking civil servants to do what they’ve always done” for the nation.
The pay freeze amounted to an opening bid as the president and Republican Congressional leaders begin jousting in earnest over tax and spending policy. It also illustrated how Mr. Obama can use his executive power on occasion to get ahead of newly elected Republicans; they had been talking about making such a move when they assume control of the House and additional Senate seats in January.
But while the move represents a gesture toward public anger over the anemic economic recovery and rising national debt, the $5 billion to be saved over two years will barely dent a deficit that has exceeded $1 trillion for the past two years.
Obama is almost taking a page right out of the House Republicans’ Pledge to America, where the soon-to-be majority made a promise to take on this issue by putting a hiring freeze in place (and as Philip Klein notes, they’ve supported a pay freeze, as well).
In the commotion over the Pledge to America, a weak, politically safe platform presented by House Republicans, I overlooked this post from Erick Erickson over at RedState where he offers a pledge I can get behind:
We, the House Republicans, pledge to do only these things and limit ourselves to doing them in such a way that if normal, non-lawyer Americans cannot comprehend our actions as deriving from one of these then we shall deem the action beyond the scope of our powers and not do it. The things we shall do and only do are as follows:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
I’ve heard some pretty bizarre things passing for logic in my time, but the oddest is some of the criticism leveled at one point in the Republican Party’s Pledge to America. That “controversial” statement is the idea that members of Congress should look at the constitutionality of proposed legislation before deciding to vote on it. A radical notion, to be sure.
Apparently, there is a whole school of that that says Congress shouldn’t worry about the constitutionality of a bill because that’s the Supreme Court’s job. They say this despite there being no actual language in the Constitution (you know, that document they ignore because it’s someone else’s job to look at?) that specifically outlines the Supreme Court is to conduct judicial review. Nada. This is a power that SCOTUS has taken on itself, and it needs to be done. Obviously, Congress can’t be trusted to weigh the constitution in its decisions.
I’m not the only one who finds it bizarre either. Jonah Goldberg over at Townhall.com seems to as well. He throws out some examples of some real radicals who made a stand on the constitutionality of things who weren’t even close to being on the Supreme Court:
George Washington vetoed an apportionment bill in 1792 because it was unconstitutional. What was he thinking? If only he had a Ben Adler around to tell him what a fool he was.
If no one else will take a strong stand against earmarks, it’s left to private citizens to lead the charge and that’s exactly what Joe Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs, has done:
Joe Ricketts, an owner of the Chicago Cubs and founder of Ameritrade, has launched an effort to pressure lawmakers to give up the home-state spending provisions, including a fall campaign targeting a few lawmakers who support earmarks.
Ricketts launched a new organization and website today that tracks earmarks requested by lawmakers and dubs members of Congress “hooligans” or “hero’s” based on their history with earmarks. The campaign is called Taxpayers Against Earmarks and is being run with the help of Washington public-relations firm The Herald Group.
Ricketts plans to promote the website as a way to give the voters more information about whether their local lawmakers are requesting earmarks. “We are bringing to the light of day the earmark issue [and] allowing people to see what they are,” Ricketts said in an interview.
As for targeting specific lawmakers, Ricketts hasn’t unveiled his budget or his targets, but said he will go after both Republicans and Democrats. “I’m going to try to get people out of Congress who do earmarks,” he said, adding that “Once we have been successful in an election or two, I think I’ll get a lot more respect.”
Among the earmark hooligans and heroes, Rickets has identified 10 heroes in the Senate, including seven Republicans. In the House, all but a handful of Republicans are hero’s because they signed onto the House GOP’s moratorium on earmarks earlier this year. Five House Democrats also made the list of heroes.