THE RIGHT WORD
From time to time, it is a good idea for political parties to re-affirm their general principles, and define their stance on various issues.
The Republican Party did just that yesterday when Minority house leader John Boehner released the House GOP’s legislative agenda, dubbed the ”Pledge to America”. It is no mistake that the wording sounds similar to 1994’s “Contract With America”, because it endeavors to do many of the same things that Newt Gingrich’s platform did in the 1990’s – regroup the Republicans around a set of core ideas, contrast the Republicans with the governing Democrats, and outline broad policy directions to act as a guide for the new delegation of Republican congressmen.
Happily, the Pledge goes further in many regards than did its predecessor. The overall language is bolder, and the outline more aggressive in terms of implementing a conservative agenda. The Pledge also does not shy away from social issues, such as federal abortion funding, issues which the Contract avoided like a witch from kindling.
From the beginning, the document recognizes the larger philosophical issues. Referring back often to principle and the wisdom of America’s constitutional heritage, the Pledge affirms an allegiance to “the permanent truths of our Founding”. It is wording designed not only to reach out to those in the Tea Party movement, but to frame the argument for a broader conservative restoration.
The Pledge segregates its proposals into 5 general categories; jobs and the economy, spending and size of government, health care, Congressional reform and National Security. In each, the Pledge does a notable job of illustrating why the current situation is a problem, and then offering proposed solutions.
Throughout, the Pledge does contain some generally admirable proposals, for instance capping the growth of domestic discretionary spending, after reducing it to “pre-stimulus, pre bailout” levels, and a plan to reduce Congress’ own legislative budget. One of the best proposals in the entire document is one for a “sunset provision” on all legislation passed, which would eliminate unnecessary, redundant, or outdated programs. Although by no means the complete answer, these and the other cost cutting measures in the Pledge are a step in the right direction to implementing policies to systemically, year after year, shrink the size of government, reversing its tendency to expand like a Chia Pet on growth hormones.
Included among the other more commendable ideas are ones for the institution of single issue legislation, to prevent malignant bills from being smuggled into law by attaching them to bills of vital importance (such as troop funding), and a Constitutional Authority Clause being required on any Bill introduced to the House, each of which should be staples of Republican policy.
It is not a perfect document. The Pledge includes some good policies for economic recovery revolving around tax cuts and loosening restrictive regulations. However, with the focus on repeals and prevention of new taxes, there is not much detail as to where to go from there. For instance, there was no mention of future cuts to (or repeal of) the Capital Gains Tax, nor any mention of possible reforms to the tax system, such as institution of a flat tax. As well, the proposal to offer small business a 20% tax deduction is a wonderful idea, but then why not extend it to all business? Excluding any size of business from the job creation formula is simply ignoring the forest for the trees. Other proposals here and there are also similarly less than perfect. Nevertheless, this document does provide a good place to start.
There will, of course, be criticism from the left, as the Pledge threatens the Leviathan that the Democrats have so carefully cultivated over the last several years. There will also be criticism from the right, which will be frustrated that it does not threaten it enough. Some of the conservative complaints are not entirely without merit, but as a compass, and a well timed, politically astute re-affirmation of the principles which conservatives need to adhere to in order to restore the prosperity and ordered liberty that America is both capable of and known for, this is not a bad start.