The GOP has finally revealed its "Pledge to America" (135MB PDF) in an attempt to counter criticism that the party has nothing to offer Americans other than obstructionism. I have read the whole lobbyist-written Pledge, and have some observations. The self-evident observation in the introduction that "In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed," which is this followed by a series of claims that "regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent:"
An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down longstanding laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people.
An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.
Remind me again: which party won the last two federal elections? Not the GOP? Oh, so I guess that explains the aroma of sour grapes. Paul Waldman called the document a Pledge to Whine at America:
In order to have a genuine democratic debate, there are a few things we all need to agree on. One of them ought to be that a government isn't illegitimate just because it's made up of people who aren't from your party. Right now, Democrats control the government. [...] That's how the system works: when you win, you get to make the decisions until the next election. [...]
The fact that you don't like the outcome of that process doesn't mean it was undemocratic, or that it happened without "the input of the many." [...] ...the fact that after all that input, a majority of them voted in a way you didn't like about one thing or another doesn't mean they acted illegitimately. They might or might not be wrong, but they're not tyrants.
The pledge contains a few Republican dog-whistle phrases such as "honor[ing] familes, traditional marriage, life and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values." that have thrilled members of the Religious Right on fairly meager fare:
there is one throwaway mention of marriage and one passing mention of religious liberty in 21-pages of text and yet the Religious Right is acting like it pulled off a major coup.
American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie describes the Pledge as emanating from a mirror universe where "Barack Obama appointed himself to the presidency [and] used his mind-control powers to manipulate Congress into repealing, among other things: apple pie, baseball, the Republican Party, and optimism." That black-is-white mentality is also evident in the Pledge's statements about "the best ideas trump[ing] the most entrenched interests," "fiscal accountability" and plans to "stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade"--as if GOP lobbyists don't represent entrenched interests who have spent the three decades since the beginning of the Reagan era spending like drunken sailors on shore leave. The Pledge states that "Washington's out-of-control spending spree needs no introduction," but apparently IOKIYAR.
The GOP comes out strongly against the pump-priming spending that stopped our economic freefall, claiming that it's "time to end this liberal Keynesian experiment." Let's pause for a moment to look at some facts, represented in these graphs about job losses and Obama's economic policies:
(I'm on thin ice here considering the GOP's preference for misleading graphs, but I thought that some accurately-represented data couldn't hurt...)
The Pledge claims that "Democrats continue to double-down on their job-killing policies," but that's more reality inversion. Without the recovery programs, we'd be staring a second Great Depression in the teeth--and the watering-down that has occurred may be enough to cause a repeat of the Recession of 1937-1938. The Pledge asserts that "Federal spending ...is crowding out the private economy," but private economic interests are sitting on trillions of dollars rather than putting that money to work. Far from crowding out the private sector, public spending has been vital in keeping the economy from grinding to a halt.
The Pledge spends a fair amount of time on healthcare reform and repeats an old lie from the Paultard wing of the party:
Roughly 16,500 IRS auditors, agents, and other employees may be needed to collect the hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes levied on the American people by the new health care law.
The problem is that, like so much else in the Pledge, this claim is false:
Q: Will the IRS hire 16,500 new agents to enforce the health care law?
A: No. The law requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The claim of 16,500 new agents stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation.
ThinkProgress notes "at least 7 of the GOP's ideas on health care are already included in the health care law" that the Pledge promises to "repeal and replace." TP also notes the absence of a previously-made promise to end earmarks; here's a suggestion about how this oversight should be corrected:
Online reactions from the Web have been fairly dismissive, even without mentioning that the Pledge's 1994 ancestor--Newt's 1994 Contract on America--made little difference at the polls. The Center for American Progress analyzed the Republican scheme: increasing the deficit by extending Bush's top-heavy tax cuts, repealing healthcare reform, and shutting down the government if they don't get their way.
House Republicans are ready to double down on the failed policies of the Bush administration, on everything from taxes and federal spending to national security, and want to undo some of the strong progressive policies enacted by the current Congress.
Andrew Sullivan excoriates the GOP for its fiscal fraudulence, writing that "this is the most fiscally irresponsible document ever offered by the GOP:"
It is an act of vandalism against the fiscal balance of the US, and in this global economic climate, a recipe for a double-dip recession and default. It is the opposite of responsible conservatism.
WaPo's Ezra Klein calls the plan a bad idea, an agenda that
will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people, create a level of policy uncertainty businesses have never previously known, and suck demand out of an economy that's already got too little of it. [...] It is a document with a clear theory of what has gone wrong -- debt, policy uncertainty, and too much government -- and a solid promise to make most of it worse.
Jonathan Bernstein sums up its foreign policy as "amateurish and pathetic...a sad piece of work that really does not reflect well on the party." It's a sad-but-true reflection of the party. Washington Monthly's Steve Benen writes that the Pledge appears to be something of a joke and "an embarrassing failure...that simply doesn't make any sense to those who take reality seriously:"
The document combines old ideas, bad ideas, contradictory ideas, and discredited ideas. The Republican Party that lost control of Congress four years ago has had an abundance of time to craft a policy vision that offered credible, serious solutions. Instead, we're confronted with a document that can best be described as tired nonsense. [...] If Republicans set out to prove that they're wholly unprepared and incapable of governing effectively, they've succeeded beautifully.
Unfortunately, that's the only sense in which they've been successful in quite some time.
Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars takes aim at some of the Pledge's lofty rhetoric:
You have the nerve to talk about liberty? You not only want to forbid access to abortion for rape and incest victims, you're backing candidates who want to make birth control illegal.
Screw you, and the elephant you rode in on. Even wifebeaters eventually learn an important truth: You have to sleep sometime. Sooner or later, the new "Third World" workers of the U.S. will slam a cast iron frying pan upside your sleeping heads.
Because once you rig the game, and buy off the refs, well, people won't care anymore about sportsmanship.
RJ Eskow writes in "Pledge to Rob the Middle Class" about some of this GOP's economic sportsmanship, calling the Pledge "a trillion-dollar giveaway to the rich - at everybody else's expense:"
Their "pledge" would slash needed spending, kill jobs and end any hope of growing the economy. It declares open season on the public's health and safety with a deregulation agenda that would unleash BP, Goldman Sachs, and every other corporation whose risky behavior endangers us. It would lead to even more financial crashes and environmental disasters. Firefighters, cops,and teachers would be laid off in droves. The deficit would soar. We'd face a permanently stagnating economy. The middle class would wither away.
That's the future they're offering. It's Bush on steroids, fattened up and ready to feast on ... you. If you like today's economy, you'll love the one these guys are cooking up.
Maybe that scenario won't actually come to pass, because The NY Daily News notes that Republicans are already breaking their pledge:
It didn't take long for Republicans to break a promise in their new "Pledge to America" to "give small business tax deductions," Democrats charged this afternoon.
Four hours after the GOP rolled out its new campaign manifesto, a bill containing $12 billion in tax cuts for small business passed on a 237-187 vote in the House. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) was the lone Republican to vote for the measure.
Paul Krugman calls the Pledge a war on arithmetic, writing that
In essence, what [Republicans] say is, "Deficits are a terrible thing. Let's make them much bigger." The document repeatedly condemns federal debt -- 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade...