The Pledge to Some of America

24 Sep

The Republican establishment has put forth a document entitled the “Pledge to America”. It basically wants to rewind to the times of George W. Bush, and it looks towards a future as devoid of minorities as the Jetsons.

You may go ahead and now consider how much 2010 mirrors 1994.

Unlike the poll-driven “Contract with America” that the Gingrich congress promoted 16 years ago, the Pledge to America isn’t so much a pledge to America as it is a pledge to some of America. Oh, and they’ve abandoned the whole “term limits” thing because maybe someone realized the laughable irony of criticizing, e.g., Ted Kennedy for his congressional longevity alongside upstart newcomer Strom Thurmond.

The signature piece of the Republicans’ proposal is the repeal of health insurance reform. Again, ironic that the pledge is released on the day that some of the most popular parts of that reform were implemented. As of yesterday, you can keep your kids on your insurance to age 26. As of yesterday, there are no more lifetime caps on your coverage – if your cancer treatment hits $1MM you won’t have to sell every one of your belongings to keep receiving coverage for your care. As of yesterday, your insurer can’t punitively or arbitrarily rescind your coverage when you get sick.

It’s earth-shattering that these reforms are so earth-shattering.

But let’s disabuse ourselves of the notion that Republican politicians went back to their people and figured out what to include in the “pledge”. The document was drafted by a staffer on minority leader John Boehner’s payroll who was until recently a lobbyist for a firm that handled clients such as AIG, Exxon, and other big business looking to buy influence.

Ezra Klein describes the document as almost bipolar:

Their policy agenda is detailed and specific — a decision they will almost certainly come to regret. Because when you get past the adjectives and soaring language, the talk of inalienable rights and constitutional guarantees, you’re left with a set of hard promises that will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people, create a level of policy uncertainty businesses have never previously known, and suck demand out of an economy that’s already got too little of it…

…Perhaps the two most consequential policies in the proposal are the full extension of the Bush tax cuts and the full repeal of the health-care law. The first would increase the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next 10 years, and many trillions of dollars more after that. The second would increase the deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years, and many trillions of dollars more after that. Nothing in the document comes close to paying for these two proposals, and the authors know it: The document never says that the policy proposals it offers will ultimately reduce the deficit.

Then there’s the question of policy uncertainty. The health-care law, which is now in the early stages of implementation, would be repealed. In its place, Republicans would write a new health-care bill. They offer some guidance as to what it would look like, but as every business knows, the congressional and regulatory processes are both long and uncertain. That’s joined by three sentences on shrinking and reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the policy’s anticipated effects on the housing market, where the two mortgage giants are backing nine out of every 10 new loans, are not mentioned — and a promise to force a separate congressional vote on every regulation with more than $100 million in economic impact, which would force businesses to figure out a new, dual-track regulatory process.

The Republican Party used to mock the liberal Democrats as being “bleeding heart” types whose governance is guided more by feelings than by brains. Now, it’s the Republicans who have eschewed making tough choices in governing a country and instead have absorbed and been subsumed by the touchy-feely, high-on-emotion-low-on-information “tea party”, which is a euphemism for “Bush dead-enders”.

It goes right down to the preamble of the document, which purports to mirror the Declaration of Indepedence, but this line in the Declaration:

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

now reads thusly:

Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.

The “different course” is simply a reversion to the course that had been set in the minds of the most conservative members of the Republican Party whenever they had been in power in the last couple of generations. Higher spending, lower taxes, militarism, jingoism, missile defense, and selective demonization. The language is clever in that it equates the duly elected Obama Administration and the elected Democratic representatives in Congress with the tyrannical, unelected rule of King George III over a disenfranchised colonial populace.

An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people.

Translation: King George III and his Kenyan Muslim minions have destroyed America and raped your daughters.

The pledge offhandedly mentions a supposed return to constitutional principles, but only cites one portion of the document – the Tenth Amendment. In the end, the Republicans continue to pay lip service to the ideas that kept the South segregated. So, it’s no accident that denying gay Americans the right to marry or otherwise enjoy the rights and privileges of civic life that all Americans enjoy is in literally the second paragraph down from the 10th Amendment entry.

Other points include:

Jobs:

– Stop job-killing tax hikes
– Allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income
– Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that would add to the deficit
– Repeal small business mandates in the new health care law.

Cutting Spending:

– Repeal and Replace health care
– Roll back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels before TARP and stimulus (will save $100 billion in first year alone)
– Establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending going forward
– Cancel all future TARP payments and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Reforming Congress:

– Will require that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority
– Give members at least 3 days to read bills before a vote

Defense:

– Provide resources to troops
– Fund missile defense
– Enforce sanctions in Iran

The document is punctuated by large photographs of congressional leaders, soldiers, citizens at town hall meetings, factory workers, businesspeople, etc; photographs of middle America that the Republicans want so badly to return to through the policy proposals contained in the document. Lots of cowboy hats and whatnot.

The only person of color pictured is John Boehner of Orange. It is a pledge to white America, to the people who perceive themselves victimized by the urban community activist minions of the Obama dictatorship, Saul Alinsky, ACORN, and Karl Marx. It’s almost striking in that the only diversity in the Republicans’ America has to do with gender.

It proposes nothing for the middle class or working poor. It proposes nothing to reform immigration – just to expel and repel. It proposes nothing for expanding demand in a beleaguered economy. Meet the new GOP, same as the old GOP. New ideas need not apply.

If you loved the great recession, you’ll love the aftermath of the Pledge to America.

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19 Responses to “The Pledge to Some of America”

  1. Bbill September 24, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    The real GOP Contract On America

  2. BobbyCat September 24, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    Every single asinine pledge, every insincere promise depends on one thing: the inability of the American voter to separate fact from fiction. Suppose you produced a slam-dunk case that the “Pledge” was nothing but a bag of lies designed to help the rich get richer, and your evidence included tearful confessions by all the perpetrators. It wouldn’t matter, because most Americans don’t read and pay little attention to the news. This is low information America where on the eve of the Iraq invasion, 7 out of 8 Americans believed that Sadamm was responsible for 9/11. You can sell any crock of shit to Americans as long as you call it ‘ice cream’ and they will buy it. But the swing voters who can tilt an election, the ignoramuses who will eat-up this bullshit ‘pledge’, no matter what evidence you produce to the contrary.

    It’s no secret that the GOP wants to end social security and close the Veterans Hospitals. Most Americans would be outraged if they ever learned about it, but they won’t. The GOP leadership is confident that Americans are so out of touch, they might as well be on the moon, so they’ll never hear about it. What we have to fear… more than terrorists attacks…is our own national ignorance.

  3. BobbyCat September 24, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Jon Stewart compare the old “Pledge” to the new Pledge. He nails it.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/24/stewart-gop-pledge-america_n_737812.html

  4. Brian Castner September 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    @ BobbyCat – I, and millions of other Republican veterans, would love to hear the part about closing VA hospitals. Pass a link to that tidbit along anytime you get a chance.

    @ Alan: Well, at least the Republicans are for something now. When you enter negotations, you start with your most extreme position, and whittle it down from there. Consider this the opening offer that will land on the President’s desk in November. In the end, we’ll get some combination of it, and the president’s agenda. Someone has to have tax cuts on their plate – if it weren’t for the Republicans, there would be none at all. And why go racial here – just to get the Beohner Orange joke in? I mean, I get it. But if you cut taxes for everyone, that does mean everyone, including black, brown, purple and orange folks. Even the rich ones.

  5. Mike In WNY September 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    The Republican Pledge still leaves too much government interference in our lives.

  6. BobbyCat September 24, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    @Brian

    The radical right wants to privatize EVERYTHING, not just social security. Two days ago I watched a video of John McCain during his campaign, proposing that every veteran be issue a card that allows some kind of voucher for health car. I can’t locate the clip.

    Privatizing the VA was discussed yesterday on Olberman. A spokesman for Iraq-Afghan vets said that it would not pass muster, the vets would fight it voraciously,

    The richest Americans have got the tea party people fighting their fight. They dodn’t want their tax rate going back up to 39%. Remember, Nixons top rate was 50%, Eisenhowers was 91%. But they will fight to the death not to pay an additional 3%. To hell with the middle class, they say. This is greed, Gordon Gecko style.

    If SS was privatized and the market crashes again, where will 60 million Americans eat? Garbage cans?

  7. BobbyCat September 25, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    Paul Krugman on the “Pledge”
    NYTimes sept 25

    Once upon a time, a Latin American political party promised to help motorists save money on gasoline. How? By building highways that ran only downhill.

    I’ve always liked that story, but the truth is that the party received hardly any votes. And that means that the joke is really on us. For these days one of America’s two great political parties routinely makes equally nonsensical promises. Never mind the war on terror, the party’s main concern seems to be the war on arithmetic. And this party has a better than even chance of retaking at least one house of Congress this November.

    Banana republic, here we come.

    On Thursday, House Republicans released their “Pledge to America,” supposedly outlining their policy agenda. In essence, what they say is, “Deficits are a terrible thing. Let’s make them much bigger.” The document repeatedly condemns federal debt — 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade — about $700 billion more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals.

    True, the document talks about the need to cut spending. But as far as I can see, there’s only one specific cut proposed — canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That’s less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified — “except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.” In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.

    So what’s left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”

    The “pledge,” then, is nonsense. But isn’t that true of all political platforms? The answer is, not to anything like the same extent. Many independent analysts believe that the Obama administration’s long-run budget projections are somewhat too optimistic — but, if so, it’s a matter of technical details. Neither President Obama nor any other leading Democrat, as far as I can recall, has ever claimed that up is down, that you can sharply reduce revenue, protect all the programs voters like, and still balance the budget.

    And the G.O.P. itself used to make more sense than it does now. Ronald Reagan’s claim that cutting taxes would actually increase revenue was wishful thinking, but at least he had some kind of theory behind his proposals. When former President George W. Bush campaigned for big tax cuts in 2000, he claimed that these cuts were affordable given (unrealistic) projections of future budget surpluses. Now, however, Republicans aren’t even pretending that their numbers add up.

    So how did we get to the point where one of our two major political parties isn’t even trying to make sense?

    The answer isn’t a secret. The late Irving Kristol, one of the intellectual godfathers of modern conservatism, once wrote frankly about why he threw his support behind tax cuts that would worsen the budget deficit: his task, as he saw it, was to create a Republican majority, “so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.” In short, say whatever it takes to gain power. That’s a philosophy that now, more than ever, holds sway in the movement Kristol helped shape.

    And what happens once the movement achieves the power it seeks? The answer, presumably, is that it turns to its real, not-so-secret agenda, which mainly involves privatizing and dismantling Medicare and Social Security.

    Realistically, though, Republicans aren’t going to have the power to enact their true agenda any time soon — if ever. Remember, the Bush administration’s attack on Social Security was a fiasco, despite its large majority in Congress — and it actually increased Medicare spending.

    So the clear and present danger isn’t that the G.O.P. will be able to achieve its long-run goals. It is, rather, that Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way. As I said, banana republic, here we come.
    ——————————————

  8. Brian Castner September 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    @ BobbyCat: Use hyperbole much? McCain’s voucher that could be used at civilian clinics, by those in rural areas away from VA hospitals, is hardly a plan to close down the system. I didn’t watch Olbermann, because I never do, but I think its telling you can remember who opposed the privatization plan, not who was for it. Olbermann’s rating come from inviting guests on to decry the rightest and looniest propositions – its manufactured outrage, and nothing else. I’m not worried about the VA in Buffalo closing anytime soon, and neither should you.

    Now, on privatizing EVERYTHING (your emphasis). There is plenty that could be privatized. There is no reason many government services could not be done by private contractors, at lower cost – it is Dem-funded public sector unions that stand in the way of that good government reform – look no further than NY’s Medicaid budget that is double the next closest, with no difference in health outcomes. But on SS itself – the choice is not between our current SS and privatized nothing. It is between a bankrupt system, where everyone under 40 never sees a dime, or higher payroll taxes, or lower payouts, or some hybrid public/private system. Since you love facts, educate yourself about the plan of the other side: http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/09/paul-ryan-roadmap. You’ll see that under the Republican plan, you could opt in or out of traditional SS. So never fear, you don’t need to change yours. But I could change mine. That’s called freedom.

  9. BobbyCat September 26, 2010 at 7:46 am #

    Brian,

    The reference you cite, young-gun Paul Ryan, claims he wants to reduce the deficit yet he wants to continue the Bush tax cuts which adds 700mil to the deficit. Paul Krugman is correct when he says that the Republican pledge is a battle against arithmetic. Where does Mr. Ryan
    get his real-world economic experience, working for Jack Kemp? Kemp was another guy whose lack of real world experience bankrupted the nation. His implementation of Art Laufer’s trickle-down theory bankrupted this nation. .One economist estimated that Ryan’s economic plan to eliminate capital gains tax would increase the national debt by 4 trillion dollars.
    Ryan is no expert, he’s an ameteur.

    I’m not against self-directed investment plans, but if a majority of Americans had opted-out of Social Security at the hight of the bubble, they would have no money today. Eating out of garbage cans is not hyperbole. Read the classic, “Hard Times” , by Studs Terkel. I think you’re one of those people who say “it couldn’t happen”. Talk to your grandparents, and listen.

  10. Rob September 26, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    Repeal health care subsidies for the lower middle class but fund “missile defense”. That about says it all.

  11. Brian Castner September 26, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    @ BobbyCat – I don’t think you want to get into a discussion about real world experience. Citing king of the ivory tower Krugman first to make that point is hilarious, and we have the most out of touch White Economic staff possible (no one on that dwindling economic team has ever run ANYTHING).

    Costs of tax cuts to me are always misleading, and often totally unreliable. Its the revenues that matter, obviously, and cutting taxes, increasing growth, and bringing in more revenue makes tax cuts not cost so much (shhh, which is why Obama is doing some targeted ones). This in in contrast to Dem social programs, which also seem to cost orders of magnitude more (see: medicare).

    As for SS, whether I invested my SS taxes in the market or not, I still won’t see a dime, as its currently set up. I have no money today, and I won’t when I retire. The baby boomers will bakrupt the system. I’d rather roll my dice in the market than assure myself a total loss of all those tax dollars I pay out now – from my paycheck to yours. You’re welcome.

  12. Rob September 26, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    The projected Social Security deficit could be completely eliminated with modest tax increases beginning in a decade or so, without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age.

  13. Brian Castner September 26, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

    @Rob – thanks for calling it a tax (i.e. wealth transfer). You see, when it was sold to the American people, it was supposed to be your money put aside for the future. Mandated savings with a set rate of return. But since personal withdrawls have no relationship to personal deposits, it is now a tax, and nothing else.

  14. BobbyCat September 27, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    Saying that you won’t see a dime from Soc Security doesn’t make it true. Who says so, Paul Ryan? You hold Ryan up as a financial guru, a guy who believed in trickle-down economics and then you scoff at Havard professor Krugman? Get real.

    I know we’re in an anti-intellectual period where smart people are scoffed at.but I don’t engage in that nonsense. The GOP has no serious proposals other than more of the same.

    I know something about the market. I was a registered rep and sold securities.
    What is demonstrably true is that if your SS money had been invested their in the market, the market crash would have wiped you out.

    The Pledge to America is nothing more than rhetorical ploy, probably the brainchild of Newt or D.Frank Luntz. I’m sure you have seen the Jon Stewart video that compared it to Newt’s Contract for America. Word for word, it’s the same pablum that we heard in 1994.

    There is no future in deception. The current GOP leaders are nothing more than con men. Of course the Dems have their share of crooks, too, but nothing like the GOP. The “Pledge’ is a public relations scam.

  15. Rob September 27, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    So? The point is, your claim that Social Security is doomed to bankruptcy is wrong. It is (relatively) easily sustainable, at current benefit levels, for a long time. If Republicans and Lieber-Dems want to return to the days of a 50% poverty rate among the elderly they should say so.

  16. Brian Castner September 27, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    @ BobbyCat – you are right, me saying I won’t see a dime doesn’t make it so. This makes it so: http://www.newsweek.com/2009/05/22/let-them-go-bankrupt-soon.html SS is scheduled to go bankrupt in 2037, when I am 60. If you deal in securities, I would hope you realized there is more than one type? And very few types are now worth nothing. If you took all of your social security money, and put it in GM, now that it is bankrupt, you would have nothing. But if you put it in Gold, you’d have made triple. Safe T-Bills, you’re bringing in 5-6%. The S&P 500, you lost 60%, and then gained back 50%. But that would be your choice. Under the current government non-choice, I get a negative rate of return.

    So, like I said, the choice is not between the great current system, and privatized nothing. I have no idea how old you are, but I have a feeling from your comments it does more for you than me (zip).

    @Rob: Your feelings argument is tired. SS could be fixed lots of ways, your simple fix (more taxes), or mine (more choice). Neither are happening. Leave it like it is, and you create 50% poverty for seniors in 27 years. Is that “progressive?”

  17. BobbyCat September 27, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    SS is solvent but needs some tinkering, it’s true.. The real problems are with Medicare and Medicaid. The bulk of that solution is called ” the public option”.

    I don’t have the time to talk securities. Suffice to say that historically, gold is a loser. (Every try to buy a loaf of bread with a Krugerrand?) T-bills never beat inflation, nor do most bonds. Unless you stray ahead of inflation you lose money. There is a self-directed investment option located on Section 401-k of the code -for those who want to tinker. But nobody beats the market (regularly), and nevr try to time the market. Everyone fails. Thus, You can ignore 99.9 % of all financial advisers. You don’t need them. Then dollar-cost your way into a no load, low fee index fund and hope that the economy gives you 7-9% over the long run. And by the way, that’s Warren Buffett’s standard advice, too.

  18. Rob September 28, 2010 at 7:54 am #

    In 2037 the surplus is projected to be depleted, if no steps (tax increases or benefit cuts) are taken before then to shore up funding. It does not “go bankrupt” in any real sense; even without any these minor adjustments, there would still be sufficient funds to pay benefits at 75% of current levels for several decades after 2037.

    I didn’t really make an argument in my prior post, merely referred to Social Security’s success in greatly reducing the poverty rate among the elderly, but I guess the fact that you refer to this as a “tired” “feelings argument” at least clarifies where you’re coming from, so thanks.

  19. Rob September 28, 2010 at 8:01 am #

    By the way, the fact that SS (again, even without some tinkering) will still have sufficient funds to pay 75% of promised benefits at current levels in 2037, means that your claim that “you won’t see a dime from SS” is also flat wrong.

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