After the 'Contract with America' Republicans Sell Snake Oil Again with the Pledge to America

09/24/2010 03:33 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Brian Ross Managing Editor, and pioneering ezine editor of the first sports ezine, MLNSports

John Boehner's hard-tack hardware store pitch should have started with "I pledge allegiance to power." Fool me once with the Contract with America, shame on me. Fool me twice with the rehash "Pledge to America"? Shame on the GOP.

Yesterday's folksy photo opportunity at a Virginia hardware store was more empty stagecraft by the Republican Party.

A recent AP-GfK Poll found that while the Democrats are taking the heat for the economy's woes, the Republicans aren't winning any popularity contests either.

"They're not doing anything to mitigate the problems we have, because it's in their best interests to make Democrats look bad," Emile Wery, 66, a military retiree in Pahoa, Hawaii said of the GOP in the AP article.

The Republicans' foot-dragging and failure to govern, along with the choices of more radical Tea Party candidates, like Delaware's Christine O'Donnell or Arizona's Sharron Angle, is tempering what otherwise might have been more of a blow-out in a mid-term election year with the economy in a slow recovery that, by all accounts from all sides, still has too many Americans sidelined from work.

To answer critics who have contended that just saying "No" to everything is not a platform, the GOP developed a new variation of their "Contract with America" that propelled Newt Gingrich and his gang into control of the Congress during the Clinton mid-term election.

The major points, though, are more of the same propaganda without much substantial change that we've been hearing for the last two years.


  • Stop job-killing tax hikes

    The only tax "hikes" that the Obama Admininstration has proposed are on the wealthiest 2% of Americans, returning rates to the Clinton days of the 1990s when the economy flourished and the deficit was reduced. The same people who preach reining in the deficit want to extend it by more than $679.6 billion a year, by giving the wealthiest Americans a continued break. Everyone else keeps their tax break.

    McClathchy reports:

    The Treasury Department estimates that extending all the tax cuts would deny the Treasury almost $3.7 trillion in revenues over the next decade, swelling the national debt. However, allowing the reductions for the wealthiest 2 percent to expire would narrow that loss to just under $3 trillion by raising $679.6 billion in new revenue from the wealthy, the Treasury estimates.

  • Allow Small Businesses to Take a Tax Deduction Equal to 20 percent of Income
    This is actually less generous than the tax breaks proposed by the Obama Administration for small businesses, and capital investment in growing businesses of all sizes who invest in American jobs, clean energy, and technologies that reduce dependence on foreign oil. It's those last couple that rile the big oil industry, a major patron of the GOP.
  • Require Congressional Approval for Any New Federal Regulation that Would Add to the Deficit

    As proposed, it's a lot of fluff, and likely unconstitutional. The Congress already has spending oversight, but the proposal overreaches Congress' authority in ways that the Supreme Court would have to rein in. As much as the Democrats voted for a needless war or two, the Republicans okayed the Stimulus Bill, a fact which they should all be reminded of come election time. This is nothing more than posturing.

  • Repeal Small Business Mandates in the new Health Care Law There is nothing more onerous in the HCL for small business than there is in the Romneycare plan in Massachusetts. No one is closing shop and moving to Connecticut because of it there.

Cutting Spending:

  • Repeal and Replace the Health Care Act

    In spite of the outright lies about the Health Care Act which, according to a recent study, nearly a third of all Americans believe, the HCA reduces the deficit and insures 95% of Americans. Ezra Klein in The Washington Post reports:

    The bill will cost $940 billion over the first 10 years and reduce the deficit by $130 billion during that period. In the second 10 years -- so, 2020 to 2029 -- it will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.

    So the HCA actually does cut spending and reduce our deficit as is. Past GOP changes have proposed insurance-industry sponsored water-downs that would cost more and leave lots of people uninsured, including those with pre-existing conditions.

  • Roll Back Non-Discretionary Spending to 2008 pre-TARP/Stimulus Level

    The GOP claims that this will save $100B in first year alone. The problem is that much of what they tag as slashable is, of course, programs and policies that have kept this country from looking like the after-product of that Great Depression president, Herbert Hoover. The Dems also want to roll back spending after the economy rebounds, but raise revenue as well by shutting down Caribbean tax havens, and other perquisites that corporate America carved out for itself under the Bushes and Reagan.

  • Establish Strict Budget Caps to Limit Federal Spending Going Forward

    They have to stick in the "going forward" caveat because the Republican Party wrote the book on breaking through spending limits during the Reagan, Bush Sr, and the George W. Bush administrations. In a great article on, they describe this chart:

    The green line shows what would have happened if Reagan and the Bushes had just kept the debt growing at the same rate as the economy. That would make their parts flat. But Reganites claim Congress increased Reagan's budgets, so I have used their numbers to show how much debt that would have caused from 1981 until 1993. (Most of today's debt is from Reagan and the Bushes.)

  • Cancel All Future TARP Payments and Reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

    TARP is not only helping, but the payments to banks have been repaid to the profit of the government for the temporary investment. Losses thus far are less than estimated and even though it is, by no one's estimation including the president, the best way to go, TARP was actually started by George W. Bush, not Obama, prior to leaving the White House.

    Fannie and Freddie are already scheduled for reform debates anyway, so this is not news, but the GOP has never owned up to the big push that the banks made to dump blocks of loans on to these agencies so that it would free up capital for them to make new loans, with origination fees, application fees, and more. Banks now typically earn up to 18% of their income from fees, up from the 3 or 4% of a couple of decades ago. No one forced BofA or Citigroup to sell loan bundles to Fannie and Freddie. It was profitable when it worked. Now they're hanging the agencies out to dry because it is politically expedient to make them the bogeymen in banking, to take the heat off of the mega-banks like Countrywide that originated most of the bad loans.

Reforming Congress

  • Will require that Every Bill have a Citation of Constitutional AuthorityIf you don't like herring much, this red one won't be more appealing to other than hard Righties who like to think of themselves as defenders of the Constitution above those evil Dems. In practical application this process already happens every day. Legislation put before Congress is usually vetted when it's in Committee for the likely constitutional red flags. Usually all of that gets sorted out before bills pass muster enough to leave committee and head to the full body, House or Senate, for consideration. Perhaps Mr. Boehner missed that civics lesson while folksily sweeping up the bar rather than studying for his American Government class.
  • Give Members at Least 3 Days to Read Bills Before a Vote

    A fine idea but in practice the staffs of these congressmen and senators typically can rip apart even the most mammoth mountain of legislation in 24-48 hours. The stall time is more for the party in the minority to buy time to mount opposition.


  • Provide Resources to Troops

    Who can argue with this? The problem is that we also waste a ton of money in providing valuable resources, from wasteful procurement practices to simply buying items of doubtful military value because some, usually Republican, senator or congressman has the pull to keep their local company in the military-industrial complex happy.

  • Fund Missile DefenseStar Wars has been the modern Maginot Line since Ronald Reagan used it as a poker bluff, combined with crushing military spending, to break the old Soviet empire by bankrupting them in the 1980s. It's great fluff for Republican defense contractor buddies, but it's almost as useful as the multi-billion dollar white elephant border fence that we constructed because the Republicans said it would keep border traffic down. Apparently not enough, if Arizonans are right about the size of the flow of illegals from Mexico.
  • Enforce Sanctions in Iran

    Another complete non-issue. Obama has not been buddy-buddy with Ahmadinejad, even if his middle name is "Hussein." Republicans like to bluster a lot about national security, but historically Democrats have walked that walk better over time than the GOP has, and that includes President Obama.

This exercise in symbolism for the mid-term 2010 elections will be largely forgotten within a few days, and for good reason: It is nothing more than flash, snake-oil peddling, devoid of new ideas. Many of these "time-tested" concepts, from trickle down economics to missile defense in space, have been proven and costly failures. The Republicans specialize in form over substance, though, so the very mention of "a plan" may do. Very few people will bother to see it for the hollowness beyond the simple symbolism.

My shiny two.