History always has a way of repeating itself. Madonna & Lady Gaga, Sarah Palin & Christine O’Donnell, Mike Tyson & Chris Brown. When debating in the hallowed halls of Congress many elected officials use history as vital reference points for their arguments in favor or opposition of legislation. Ideally the historical roadmap should guide the policymaker in the right direction because they can see the mistakes that were made in the past. Well this is only an ideal situation. The Republican Party leadership did a lousy job at interpreting history because their “Pledge to America” is nowhere near as substantive as the 1994 “Contract With America”. This manifesto is nothing more than a contradictory document laden with fabrications. Instead of outlining substantive measures that will positively affect the economy, they speak in glaring generalities about “tax hikes” and “small businesses”. Not only is their appeal to “Middle America” tenuous, at times their stances are paradoxical.
Although I don’t necessarily agree with Newt Gingrich on many things, especially his claim about Barack Obama’s “anti-colonial, Kenyan behavior”, I respect his intelligence. As the architect of the 1994 “Contract With America” Gingrich put the left on their heels, as the Republicans won control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. The “Contract with America” was based on 8 solid principles.
1. require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply to Congress;
3. cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
4. limit the terms of all committee chairs;
5. ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
6. require committee meetings to be open to the public;
7. require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
8. guarantee an honest accounting of the Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.
Although many of the bills that emanated from the Contract with America died in committees or on the Senate floor it still helped the Republicans secure a solid majority in the House and Senate based on substantive policy proposals.
The Pledge to America reads like a diatribe against the Obama administration. The Anti-Obama rhetoric is more conspicuous than any clear reformatory ideas. The manifesto calls the current administration, “An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decision, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many”. First of all, the Executive branch does not write bills nor do they vote on them. The individuals deciding on legislation in this country are not self-appointed, they were elected by their respective constituencies. Technically speaking, any law passed in Congress is a mandate. The concept of a government having a legitimate mandate to govern via the fair winning of a democratic election is a central idea of democracy. New governments who attempt to introduce policies that they did not make public during an election campaign are said to not have a legitimate mandate to implement such policies. Congress is merely implementing the policies that were central to their promises made in 2006 and 2008. In fact, they have done of good job at it too. A study done by Congressional Quarterly shows that Obama has the highest success rate in the House and Senate on votes where he staked out a clear position. His 96.7 % legislative success rate is higher than other president in 5 decades. Although the right claims he and the Democrats have done nothing, they have done a better job of sticking to their word than any other Congress and Presidential administration.
The Pledge to America is filled with glowing language about creating tax deductions for small business owners. What the Republicans fail to realize is that 98% of small business owners fall into the middle class bracket that are already receiving tax cuts. They want to rein in Wall Street, yet they want to repeal TARP which provides more regulation and fiscal oversight. Republicans must have a short term memory, because if there amnesia wasn’t kicking in they would remember that the original TARP program started at the behest of Henry Paulson and George W. Bush. They claim to want to wipe out deficits, but according to economist Paul Krugman, extending tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 % will increase the deficit to 3.7 trillion dollars over the next 10 years.
Let’s work at doing what’s right for the American people. Any Pledge to America should be for the people not for political power.