September 24, 2010 [LINK / comment]

The GOP "Pledge to America"

As someone who was at first a bit wary of the GOP "Contract with America" in 1994, but was ultimately convinced that the Republicans in Congress were serious about governing, I view yesterday's release of the GOP "Pledge to America" with mixed feelings. I certainly sympathize with its stated goals, and I was glad that it was drafted with a healthy dose of pragmatism, playing down the "wedge issues" that the Christian Right often harps on. But the main defect in my view is that it fails to address the most painful policy dilemmas, which make budget cuts so difficult and painful.

As for the main points, I couldn't agree more with upholding the principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution, fostering more economic liberty, and honoring traditional values. But I was discouraged right after the heralded "plan to stop out-of-control spending and reduce the size of government" to read "With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops..." I'm sorry, but everyone is going to have to shoulder the economic burden if this country is to save itself from financial ruin. The current generation of elderly people is enjoying a high level of retirement, Social Security, and Medicare benefits that will simply not be available to future generations. The time to begin necessary entitlement reforms, across the board, is NOW.

Likewise, I agree that the new health care law should be repealed, but I don't think it's a realistic goal to set. Among the proposed alternative health care reforms, there is no hint of awareness that the fundamental problem in this country is too much health insurance already. That's what keeps driving up costs. has an embedded e-book version of the Pledge, and Rep. Boehner's Web site has a video clip explaining the Pledge.

As noted at the (hat tip to Facebook friend Bruce Bartlett), many conservative Republicans are angry about what was left out, such as a promise not to use "earmarked" appropriations. Another FB friend, Andrew Murphy, concurred about the weakness on specifics as far as spending cuts, and the fiscally irresponsible devotion to keeping taxes as low as possible. My comment:

Just when they had the chance to differentiate themselves from the sorry Bush legacy once and for all, and show that they had the guts to do what was necessary for the national interest, even if unpopular, the GOP leaders flinched and played it safe with retread tax cuts. Too bad.

I'm not going to give up on the Republicans, because I know that they have to bridge factions. "You can't always get what you want." Nevertheless, if the Republicans really seek to win over a large number of thoughtful independent voters to take back a majority in Congress, they are going to have to work very hard between now and November 2.