Kissing Your Republican Sister!

The Republican “pledge” is, at best, the rough equivalent of kissing your sister in terms of the excitement quotient.  Well short of manifesto status it is a carefully considered, calculated political document, which represents little risk and less courage.  Better than the absence of a statement, it is inherently a small step seemingly calculated to reach the lowest common denominator of conservative acceptability.  The ideas are acceptable, but they lack the manner of political courage many of us were hoping for, against all evidence that such hope was justified.  While the ideas are acceptable, what is absent may not be. 

The best thing one can say for the Pledge is that it does address the most vocalized issues to some extent: TARP, Health Care repeal, unspent stimulus funding. It’s easy to applaud those commitments, but those commitments do not represent anything new or surprising from Congressional Republicans. The worst one can say is that it is simply not aggressive enough and is a document intended to secure power but not fully address critical issues.  It is an election plan intended to cement the current trend, not an acceptable governance plan to the skeptics among us.    

If “The Pledge” was aimed at Independents and leaning Democrats it likely hit the target.  It offers a mea culpa for past sins represents generalized conservative values and reinforces constitutionality as a legislative basis point.    

“The Pledge” addresses, in the main, economic issues and at the same time ignores critical issues.   To target spending to pre-bail out levels is to target spending at a level that was unacceptable in the first place.  This will, according to the Pledge, save $100 billion a year, $100 billion a year is less than 8% of the annual deficit. That said the economic program is a valid first step with clear tax cuts for small business, it’s most aggressive proposal and one to be applauded.  The analysis of tax impact is also valid but that analysis would have supported a much more aggressive program.

The Pledge commits to “common sense” spending caps but does not address specifics related to spending reductions.  Outside of spending cuts in Congress itself, 5.8%, there are no “hard” targets for spending reductions beyond the 2008 standards.  If the Pledge had committed to targeted 10% reductions from 2008 levels there would be dancing in the Conservative streets, there is no dancing.  If there is a hard target for deficit reduction I missed it.

The Pledge commits to “root out” government waste and duplication; great, how?  The application of Sunset provisions is notoriously ineffective and tends to find new life in the dark of night.  The Pledge misses a major opportunity to define an aggressive approach to elimination of waste and duplication by forcing bureaucratic departments to prioritize based on Congressionally mandated funding reductions.       

The Pledge does not address, in a meaningful manner, the $120 trillion dollar entitlement boondoggle that is at the heart of our fiscal crisis in the future.  The Pledge is disturbing, in light of the fact that Republicans such as Paul Ryan have invested significant effort and analysis in an effort to point the way toward fiscal sustainability.   It is not a case of Republican ideas being absent on the issue; it is, however, unsettling that those ideas are absent from the Pledge.

The Pledge does not address earmarks, it addresses “amendments to spending bills”, hard to know if that is the same thing.  The typical argument that earmarks represent a small percentage of government spending is true.  However, earmarks represent a large percentage of what most consider to be corrupting influences.  Again, a clear lack of courage and a demonstration of the political versus the governance focus of the document.  Were the pledge to contain a provision that committed to no earmarks by Republicans that would be meaningful and a demonstration of some degree of leadership courage.

The Pledge recognizes American discontent with Congress but goes only so far as requiring Constitutional authority, prioritization of economic issues, reduction time spent on non legislative issues and a three day “reading” period.  Absent is a commitment to simplify the legislative process to the point of comprehensibility for average Americans. Having three days to read an incomprehensible bill is not the “change” many of us were looking for.

Border security is highlighted but the only commitment is to “enforcing our laws” and to establish “operational control”.   What, no wall?

The “Pledge” is better than nothing.  Stale bread is better than nothing to a starving man.