The Republican "Pledge to America:" Old Wine in New Wineskin!
As we trod down the final stretch of the November mid-terms, Republicans hastily unveiled what was peddled as their “Pledge to America;” a cocktail of core conservative policy positions that in my view, basically amount to bottling old wine in new wineskin!
In a mood eerily reminiscent of Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America,” flanked by a coterie of GOP lawmakers, the House Minority Leader, John Boehner last Wednesday lashed out at Obama for overseeing an administration that “is too big, . . spends too much, . . . (is) out of control,” “isn't listening," and "doesn't get it."
Occasionally citing excepts from the 21-page document, Boehner forcefully outlined a vision for the country that among other things included their plan to:
- permanently extend Bush-era tax cuts scheduled to expire at year’s end
- repeal and/or replace recently enacted health care reform legislation and institute "common-sense solutions focused on lowering costs and protecting American jobs"
- roll back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels before TARP and the stimulus package
- unilaterally freeze spending on domestic programs except politically ones like veteran’s benefits
- prohibit tax-payer funding for abortions
- require every new bill to include a citation of constitutional authority
- cancel unspent funding authorized by the economic stimulus bill
- extend small businesses a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income
But did the Republican Congressional Leadership truly believe that, beyond clearly demonstrating the degree to which Tea Party adherents have usurped the conservative political machine, this grand-standing photo-op actually garnered them much support among independent voters?
It is hardly controvertible that nothing in this legislative agenda seems novel, coherent or even moderately invigorating. If anything, it jarringly borders on the psychotic. Otherwise, why are these ordinarily intelligent individuals ostensibly incapable of making the obvious connection between the recipes they seem welded to and the dreadful material conditions that these ideas unarguably begot?
Or are they simply opportunistic revisionists banking on the chance that our short attention spans and relative artlessness might cause us not to remember how we got into this mess in the first place?
Take the tax cut issue, which remains the cornerstone of the conservative schema, if this were truly the silver bullet they claim it portends, why aren’t we basking in glory? The defamed Bush tax cuts were initiated between 2001 and 2003; the global economic meltdown struck late 2007, early 2008.
Besides, how does one reconcile the illogic of chanting fiscal conservatism at the same time that these voodoo connoisseurs are peddling a tax policy that none is willing to publicly hazard an explanation as to how it would be paid for and, by most estimates, could add nearly a trillion dollars to the deficit?
Regarding the health care reform bill, it is euphemistically confounding to understand the call to supplant a landmark legislative victory that is positively impacting the lives of millions of Americans in real time with something as nebulous and ill-defined as "common-sense solutions focused on lowering costs and protecting American jobs."
It is really no more than a clever code for a return to the pre-Obama years when more than 43 million Americans were without coverage and hundreds of thousands of households were forced into bankruptcy paying for exorbitant, price-prohibitive medical bills.
The “Pledge to America” might perchance be remembered for a few other important facts that it puzzlingly and most conveniently skirted.
Though a large portion of it focused on the spiraling deficits (causal/contributing factors as well as solution ideas), it offered up no specifics for restraining the growth of the federal entitlement program trifecta---Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
It also interestingly left out a staple of Republican demagoguery; it failed to commit conservative lawmakers to strive toward the elimination of earmarks (the age-old practice of padding major pieces of legislation with unrelated pet projects that channel funds to their home districts).
I end with my beginning premise. The so-called Republican “Pledge to America” is a little more than an ill-fated effort to re-cast or recapture a past that is overpoweringly sordid and inglorious. While conservatives have the right to espouse or articulate their ideological positions as fervently as anyone else, they certainly do not have the option of wadding or manufacturing their own facts.
Much as conventional wisdom and a fascinating assortment of pundits have all weighed in about the hemorrhage that predictably awaits incumbents and the party in power in Washington, I am strong in the belief that the November mid-term elections is really like no other in recent memory. The mood of the country is justifiably downcast; millions of Americans are still unemployed and the economic recovery has not been as meteoric as many expected. Nonetheless, as amply demonstrated by this “Pledge to America” manifesto, the choice before the American people is very simple: an affirmation of the Obama administration’s tortured but steady striving toward a return to economic prosperity, increasing egalitarianism and governmental transparency or the Republican push for a return to the Bush years of unbridled plutocracy and corporate kleptocracy.