- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2000

When Republicans won the 1994 elections and won control of the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years they promised to change both Congress and the world.

They did both.

In five years the Republican Congress has so changed the direction of the country that both their supporters and critics underestimate the scale of change by taking for granted changes that were impossible just a few years before.

On their first day in power, Jan. 5, 1995, House Republicans voted to limit the terms of all committee chairmen. Never again a Rep. Dan Rostenkowski or Rep. Jack Brookes amassing unlimited corrupting power. In power, the Republicans carried out their promise to limit, disperse and reduce power by making it temporary. Republicans then arranged for the first audit of the House of Representatives. (Ah, yes, those fierce watchdogs of the press who never asked to look at the books during 40 years of Democrat control of the House.) Committee staff was cut by one-third. A strong gift ban was enacted. And Republicans ended the $600,000 a year (pre-refrigeration) practice of having ice delivered by bucket to every House member's office.

Despite President Clinton's two vetoes, Republicans forced Mr. Clinton to sign their welfare reform bill that ended an entitlement program of 61 years and liberated 7 million Americans from dependence on welfare.

Republicans passed the Freedom to Farm Act that ended the Stalinist five-year plans with government control of who could plant wheat where and at what price. Farm subsidies were phased out over seven years. Republicans spent political capital to reform Medicare which was headed for bankruptcy and was given another six years of life. (How many articles did we read in the 1980s about how we had to raise taxes because we could never end or even reform entitlements?)

Major legislation that had been stalled for decades was finally passed, beginning the deregulation of telecommunications and the financial-services industry. Now Congress is debating how and when not if to move the $200 billion electric power industry into a fully competitive market.

The Republican Congress passed a school-choice measure to empower the 3,000 poorest parents in the District of Columbia to send their children to the school of their choice. This time Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy played the role of George Wallace and shouted, "Never" into the faces of black parents who wanted to take their children out of failing school buildings. The politics of education has changed forever.

Back in the 1980s Democrats used to complain gleefully about President Ronald Reagan's deficit spending. Republicans argued that Congress, not the president, has the real power over the purse. Democrats said the GOP was simply making excuses. Well, now we know. During the Reagan years we had a Republican president who wanted lower non-defense spending and a Congress pushing the other way. For the past five years, in an almost clinical test, we have a pro-spending Democrat president and a Congress that said it wanted to rein in spending and balance the budget.

The results are in. Republican spending restraint has turned a 1994 deficit of $212 billion to a 1999 surplus of $123 billion. If one looks at the 10-year projection from 1994 to 2004, the difference between the Clinton budgets projected forward and what the Republicans created is a $6 trillion difference in reduced deficit/increased surplus. That's larger than the present national debt. That is more than a dime's worth of difference.

Some non-economist defenders of President Clinton try to argue that he should get credit for the stronger economy and therefore the better deficit/surplus numbers. But this doesn't pass the laugh test. Let's look at the Dow Jones average on Nov. 3, 1992, the day Mr. Clinton was elected (3,223) and on Nov. 8, 1994, the day that the Republicans took over Congress: (3,807). The stock market rose 9 percent in each of those years.

Today, 48 percent of Americans own shares of stock directly. When they buy shares of stock they are telling us how they really feel about the health of the economy. On Jan. 5, 2000, the Dow Jones was 11,122. So the average growth during the years of Republican congressional power was 58 percent: six times the growth rate during the 1992-1994 period in which Democrats controlled the House, Senate and White House. (Oh, yes, Mr. Greenspan was appointed Chairman in 1987, well before the stock market took off.)

And federal spending was 20.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 1994. Five years later it stands at 18.7 percent. If we simply continue the progress of the past five years we can cut the cost of government in half in the next 25 years: one generation.

No, it's not a revolution. But it is what winning looks like.

Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.

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