The Watch

The GOP’s Latest ‘Pledge to America’: A New Piece of Grand Political Theater?

Being simply the “party of no” against President Barack Obama has worked pretty well for Republicans all year. You would think they might prefer to quietly ride that wave of obstructionism to the much projected gains that pundits expect them to achieve in the next election. But the Republicans have never been fans of Reality. So, true to form, they’ve decided that what’s really needed here is a grand bit of political theater. After all, nothing rallies the Republican rank and file like a good dose of concentrated bullshit.

Enter the GOP’s “Pledge to America”.

The Republicans apparently believe that their gains during the Clinton era were tied mostly to their last, much ballyhooed, “Pledge to America”, that piece of grand political theater that was engineered by Newt Gingrich. Apparently the Republicans’ plan for “taking back control of our government” is based upon a strategy of asking the American people to forget what a farce the last “Pledge to America” really was, not to mention the trainwreck that ensued following their gains in Congress and the White House. Essentially, they’re saying “Sure, we lied to you last time, screwed you, and drove the country into a ditch. But we really have a plan this time. You’ll just have to trust us.”

Of course, it’s all political theater. Most of the Republican rank-and-file won’t even read this new “Pledge to America”. They don’t have to. It has a nice ring to it. Sort of the same thing that happens when people don’t bother looking at Sarah Palin’s record, much less take note of her bizarre ramblings, and decide to vote for her because they like the way she strings together words in a complete gibberish which, none-the-less, sounds good. With the Republicans, they don’t have to actually do anything or have a plan. They just have to act like they have a plan.

More information follows below, taken from a Washington Post article by Eugene Robinson.


The problem with the new “Pledge to America” is that the numbers don’t remotely add up. The document is such a jumble of contradictions that it’s hard to imagine how it could possibly pass muster with anyone who survived eighth-grade arithmetic.

The pledge bills itself as a plan to “create jobs, end economic uncertainty, and make America more competitive.” These sound like worthy initiatives, but the GOP also promises to “stop out-of-control spending and reduce the size of government.” Most economists would contend that right now, given the level of economic distress throughout the nation, those goals are mutually exclusive. No matter, I suppose, since the pledge wouldn’t really do either.

To create jobs, the Republicans vow to make all of the Bush administration’s tax cuts permanent — as opposed to the Democrats’ position, which is to make the cuts permanent for the middle class but allow taxes to return to Clinton-era levels for households making more than $250,000 a year. The GOP also would give small-business owners a new 20 percent tax deduction on their business income. The pledge also tosses in the perennial Republican promise to curb “excessive federal regulation.”

But on the spending side, the party would take a number of actions that would immediately destroy jobs. Republicans propose a hiring freeze for federal employees — exempting the defense and security sectors. Since the private sector isn’t hiring, a public-sector job freeze would only ensure that unemployment remains higher than it otherwise would have been. The pledge also proposes embargoing any funds from last year’s stimulus bill that have not already been spent — money that is meant to keep construction workers, teachers, firefighters and others on the job.

If Americans who might have been hired by the federal government or paid with stimulus funds are out of work, they won’t have money to spend on goods and services — and businesses, facing lower demand for their goods and services, won’t hire workers or invest in new facilities. Do Republicans actually want to send the economy back into recession, or have they just not read the document issued in their name?

There’s much more. I’m just coming to the most dishonest – or, charitably, most insincere – of the pledge’s many promises. Republicans claim to want to reduce the “massive” federal deficit. That is, indeed, a noble aim. But the plan is riddled with measures that would make the deficit grow, not shrink.

Perhaps the biggest is not just extending the tax cuts, but making them permanent. Over the next decade, this measure would add an estimated $4 trillion to the deficit. The Republicans’ notion that cutting the federal budget will somehow make up the difference is laughable. The pledge exempts defense, entitlements and debt service – the biggest components of the federal budget – and focuses on “discretionary” spending, which Republicans would cut by “at least $100 billion in the first year alone.” Yeah, right.

Sucking that much money out of discretionary programs would require draconian cuts in programs, such as education grants, that both red states and blue states have come to depend on. It won’t happen. And even if it did, the impact on the deficit would pale in comparison to that of the tax cuts.

One funny thing: The “Pledge to America” mentions the phrase “Social Security” just twice in passing. If the GOP were somehow to enact its full plan, one of the only conceivable ways to keep the country out of bankruptcy would be to make radical changes to Social Security – perhaps privatizing the program, which George W. Bush tried and failed to accomplish. Is that what Republicans have in mind?


The new “Pledge to America” is such a bad piece of political theater that it’s even upset many Conservatives, who say it doesn’t go far enough to rein in big government.

“This is the most fiscally irresponsible document ever offered by the GOP,” blogger and columnist Andrew Sullivan wrote Thursday. “It is an act of vandalism against the fiscal balance of the U.S. … It is the opposite of responsible conservatism.”

Other conservative bloggers called it “milquetoast” and “smoke and mirrors”.

Some conservatives did applaud the document for outlining a series of other reforms, including tough language against abortion, tighter congressional rules and a requirement that all bills include an enabling citation in the Constitution.

The plan also pledges to honor “traditional marriage” and faith-based organizations.

The Congressional Budget Office said in August that the federal budget deficit will grow by $6.2 trillion through 2020. Extending all of the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, as the GOP proposal calls for, would reduce government revenue by an additional $3.1 trillion, according to the nonpartisan Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative. That would bring the projected accumulated deficit to $9.3 trillion, far more than the $1 trillion savings in the Republican pledge.

Just extending the tax cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000, as the Obama administration has proposed, would leave the 10-year deficit at $8.5 trillion.

Ending the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the federal stimulus program, or enacting the other GOP reforms, would do little to narrow that enormous gap, some experts said Thursday.

“It wouldn’t come close to balancing the budget,” said Josh Gordon, policy director at the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan deficit reduction group.

It also does not suggest any specific cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare. Some Republicans – notably Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – have said entitlement reform is essential to reducing the cost of government.

Still, Republicans argued that, despite the annoying interference of the GOP’s arche enemy, Reality, and the equally annoying resistance of the numbers which any 8th grader could add up and find lacking, their plan was better than the Democrats’ plan. As usual with the Republicans, the general message is “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”.

It’s more of the same from the Republicans. In short, it’s more bullshit. More smoke and mirrors. And, sadly, a lot of people are going to buy it.

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