The GOP’s “Pledge to America”

by Burt on September 24, 2010

Is the newly released “Pledge to America,” a legitimate outline for reform or is it just political pablum, dished up for gullible voters during an election year?  We can’t be sure, but we can say the document has merit. 
First, the Pledge describes first principles (adherence to the Tenth Amendment and limited government) and rarely commits to specific programs.  That is good in that we need a discussion of first principles right now.  Do we continue massive federal spending, or do we rely on free markets and smaller government?  The Pledge makes the case for the latter.  Also, if the Pledge had been more specific, the Democrats would have seized on its provisions to scare voters into thinking their federal goodies will disappear.  Let’s hope many of them will disappear but now is not the time to be too specific on that. The failed stimulus package and health care bill are key issues in the campaign, and the Republicans would be foolish to take attention away from these disasters and focus on Republican countermeasures. 
Sure, a lack of specifics can be an opening for politics as usual if the GOP wins big in 2010.  But many similar elections in the past tell a different story.  Ronald Reagan became more specific after he was elected in 1980, not before.  Another example is the election of 1920.  Big-spending Democrats were unpopular that year and GOP candidate Warren Harding refused to be specific on what he would do about the ballooning national debt–most of which had just been piled on by Democrat Woodrow Wilson.  Once elected, Harding installed Andrew Mellon as Secretary of Treasury and Mellon made a masterful proposal to cut tax rates on all taxpaying groups.  The end result was a genuine stimulus for business–air conditioners, radios, refreigerators, and even Scotch tape became part of American life.  Also, the tax cuts counterintuitively produced greater federal revenue and we had federal budget surpluses every year of the 1920s.  And yet Harding and Coolidge were very vague in their 1920 campaign for the White House.  They pointed to the direction they would go but they refused to be specific.  That is what the Republicans seem to be doing at present.
When the Pledge is specific, it also points in the right direction.  On the healthcare bill, the Republicans promise to repeal the part where small businesses have to report to the IRS any purchases over $600;  the Pledge also promises to cut health insurance costs by allowing companies to compete across state lines.  Those two steps alone will cut red tape and lower costs for millions of Americans. 
The Pledge and the current campaign are only part of a larger problem.  The healthcare bill is so bad and so intrusive–and President Obama’s spectacular interventions in education, mortgages, and (as he has proposed) in cap and trade so permeating–that American citizens now must push back hard just to retain some of the individual liberty our nation has enjoyed over the last 200 years.  Even if the Republicans win, the nation must direct public policy toward this question:  “Will the U. S. be entrepreneurial and free with an unequal distribution of wealth, or will we be much less prosperous and much less free with greater government control and a more equal distribution of the smaller amount of wealth in the nation?

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