- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

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 percent 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.

The 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 8,000-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 zero dollars 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 even to mention earmarks, much less call 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 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 such as weekly votes on spending cuts and hiring freezes, as well as nebulous promises to cap spending.

4. 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? Stop with the mandates. Stop it. A mandate 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 for AOL News 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 George W. 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 tax 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 spending it, but the reality is that Sen. Tom 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? Nonsecurity hiring freeze? Really? The reality is that the actual employed federal work force has been the same size since World War II, and its composition is driven heavily by “security” employees in the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. 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 state bureaucracies - where compliance with federal mandates must occur (e.g. Medicaid). Finally, the number of employees is a symptom of largesse - the employees aren’t the problem. The problem starts in Congress.

Finally, I note again 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

Just repeal it, and if you can’t repeal it, defund 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 take the minimal steps necessary to free up competition. Mandating a prohibition of caps on lifetime benefits is just as silly.

4. A plan to reform Congress and restore trust

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 three days to review this document, did you? And, how about starting with a promise to reduce the number of bills introduced? Do you really need to introduce 6,500 bills?

Adhere to the Constitution. Sure. But do you need to pledge to do that? It’s your job, and 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 home and abroad

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 more than one-third of our gross domestic product on defense at the end of World War II. Today, we still spend 5.5 percent. 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 backyard.

Americans want common-sense action. They don’t need 8,000 words of inside-the-Beltway babble. You may well have one shot, GOP, to get this right. This was not a good start.

Hogan is a frequent blogger at RedState.com. These comments are edited from a post on that site.

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