22 September 2010

GOP's new "Pledge to America"

So I wrote a while ago about the various Republican contracts - the Contract with America, Contract from America, New Contract with America, YouCut, and AmericaSpeakingOut. Well, there's a new one that has the full backing of the GOP: the "Pledge to America." That's right: the Republicans have endorsed some specific policies.

In another recent post of mine, I belabored the GOP for never moving away from generalities when it came to positive changes on things like deficit spending and healthcare reform. So let's see how this measures up.

This is a leaked copy of the "Pledge to America," but since they're releasing it tomorrow it can't be too different. Here's how it goes.

Boilerplate
First in the 21-page document, there's some standard ideological boilerplate for 5 pages: smaller government, make Washington listen, eliminate job-killing taxe hikes, etc. No surprises.

Finance
  • Extend all the Bush tax cuts.
  • New tax cut for small businesses (20 percent of income).
  • Unspecified "red tape" removal.
  • Repeal the 1099 provision of the health care reform.

This section will cost a lot of money. The Democrats also want to extend most of the Bush tax cuts (except the top 1%) and reform the 1099 thing, but the GOP's additional tax breaks will cost some hundreds of billions.

Spending
  • Cancel unspent stimulus funds.
  • Unspecified discretionary spending cuts.
  • Enact a budget cap.
  • Cut Congress' budget.
  • Hold weekly votes on "YouCut" proposals.
  • Cancel what remains of TARP.
  • End government control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
  • Government hiring freeze.
  • Require a sunset provision in new laws.
  • Benchmark Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The actual specified items will save something like $200 - 300 million, from what I can tell. About half the stimulus bill's unspent funds are tax cuts, and I think we can safely assume they won't actually repeal those.

Health Care
  • Repeal.
  • Tort reform.
  • Retain popular aspects of health care reform (pre-existing conditions, interstate purchase).
  • Prohibit funding of abortion.

If you repeal the parts of reform that keep costs down, then costs will skyrocket. Tort reform has been estimated to save something like $16 billion, a drop in the bucket of the massive costs of keeping the good parts but dropping the hard parts of health care reform.

Congressional Reform
  • Publish all bills online three days before debate.
  • All bills must cite Constitutional authority.
  • No legislative packaging. Each bill must address a single subject.

This sounds fine, although Constitutional authority in a huge number of bills will cite the Elastic Clause or the Commerce Clause and not leave anyone more enlightened. And of course there's absolutely no chance the GOP would stop legislative packaging.

National Security
  • No riders on troop funding bills.
  • Keep Gitmo open.
  • No civilian court trials.
  • Spend more on missile defence.
  • "Tough enforcement of sanctions on Iran."
  • Spend more on the border patrols.
  • Better visa review.

Obviously, this will cost a huge amount. No specifics are given on how much spending will be increased for things, but considering how Obama already massively increased the military budget we're going to see some crazy numbers here.

So overall, not a whole lot of specifics. I pretty much called it. Most everything that's specific will cost a lot of money, increasing the deficit. The entitlement cuts and spending cuts are either tiny or unspecified. No surprises.

You can read the Pledge to America here.

EDIT: In its first day, the Pledge has not been a success. Some of the conservative base are contemptuous; Erick Erickson at Redstate calls it "dreck" full of "compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes." And on the left... well, it's a big fat target. Wonk Room has already begun mocking the Pledge for vowing to replace health care reform with identical provisions. And while everyone at the New Republic is piling on, Jonathan Bernstein is particularly damaging when he points out that the "foreign policy section is...amateurish and pathetic."  Ouch.

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