A Flawed Pledge
October 4, 2010
By Humphrey Stevenson
Early last week, in response to many calls for such a document, the Republicans released “A Pledge to America.” It is similar in concept to the “Contract with America” of the 1994 Republican campaign. I eagerly read the “Pledge,” only to find it somewhat disappointing.
Here is a quote from the first page. “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.”
This is the first quote which I would like to take issue. At first glance, it seems to be taken from The Declaration of Independence. However, a reading of the original text we find that Jefferson did not speak of any “agenda.” Rather, he only spoke of “altering or abolishing” the government itself.
This gives us a look into the mindset of those who authored this “Pledge.” The Republicans seem to be saying, “Let’s keep this huge, bloated, overtaxing, overspending, over regulating, government in place and only change the agenda of those in charge of it.”
No, the government itself is in need of altering. This government has been set loose from its Constitutional moorings and has been driven into areas in which it was never intended and in doing so has left many of the “unalienable rights” of people shattered in its wake. Only by altering the government can we bring it back into its original bounds.
Try this quote:
“We will allow small business owners to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their business income.”
“We will allow…”? Who are they to say what they will and will not allow? Must we be given permission to keep our own money? Clearly there is a division in thinking between the people and the authors of this “Pledge.”
Let’s say a mugger points a gun in your face and demands all your money. You, not wanting to end up on a table in the county morgue, comply and give the mugger $100. The mugger hands you back a twenty and says, “I will allow you to keep $20.” Is he any less a thief? There is little difference between this mugger threatening you with a gun and the government threatening you with the force of law. These Republicans running for office had better learn this fact; IT IS NOT THEIR MONEY!
The Republicans pledge to “Cut government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.” Why stop there? The Republicans seem to indict President Obama as the only spend-happy president we’ve ever had. Prior to the bailouts and the stimulus, the government spent money at a shockingly unsustainable rate.
The authors pledge to, “Establish a hard cap on new discretionary spending.” Here the authors have given themselves a couple of outs. The first is the term “discretionary” spending. This is opposed to “mandatory” spending which is a far larger portion of the budget. Discretionary spending is funding voted on by (or renewed by) Congress every year. The largest part of discretionary spending is the military. Mandatory spending items are mainly entitlements; Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, WIC, etc. So the Republicans are not considering cuts or caps on these programs and other entitlements. We will never get a handle on our budget crisis until entitlements are no longer a sacred cow. The second out is the word “new.” What would be considered new spending? I’m sure a wholly new proposal would be considered new spending. But what about a proposal to increase spending on an already existing program? Is that new spending or old spending? Is it subject to this cap or not?
As an aside, I found it interesting that according to the graph shown on page 12 of the “Pledge,” the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Interior and Education eat up nearly one-half of the Federal government’s spending on assistance programs; four areas in which the Federal government has no Constitutional authority. It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out.
There are some good points in the Pledge and I encourage you to read it for yourself. Maybe I’m just a “glass is half empty” kind of guy and was looking for far more or maybe I’m just cynical of the promises of politicians; even those on my own side. Many have said, “It’s a good start.” OK, as long as it’s only that; a start. But in my view if you’re going to shoot for something, shoot for the stars.