by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
September 30, 2010
REPUBLICANS PLEDGE A RETURN TO PARTISAN GRIDLOCK
DUMMERSTON, Vt., Oct. 1, 2010 -- The House Republicans' long-awaited "Pledge to America" came out last week, and it's hard to believe that they could cram so many faulty assumptions, misstatements, fuzzy math and just plain lies into one 21-page document.
Despite the claim that the document was written in consultation with average Americans, House Minority Leader John Boehner apparently chose the more direct approach. He invited to his office 20 top lobbyists representing big corporations and pro-big business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
By coincidence, these are also the biggest donors to the Republican Party who are now spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect more Republicans to Congress.
If you look at the polls, a majority of Americans favor stronger regulation of financial markets, higher taxes on the super wealthy, health care reform and greater protection of the environment. And while President Obama's approval rating hovers around 45 percent, more Americans are annoyed with him because he hasn't done enough, rather than doing too much.
You wouldn't know this if you listen to conservatives. They advocate repealing Mr. Obama's health care reform law, continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting every other federal program except for Social Security, Medicare and the Defense Department. Doing all this, they claim, will balance the budget by 2020.
There's one problem with this agenda. It is fiscally impossible.
According to Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the only way to balance the budget by 2020 using the aforementioned spending plan would be to completely abolish the rest of the federal government.
"No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H.," wrote Geckman. "No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress."
But since the "Pledge with America" is a Republican document, whether the numbers add up is not as important as whether this agenda will help them gain political power. That's why you can take this document's claim that Republicans will preserve Social Security and Medicare with a boxcar of salt. Cutting and/or privatizing these two programs is almost a dead certainty if the GOP regains power.
The good news is that Republicans won't have the power to push much of their agenda over the next two years as long as President Obama is in the White House. The bigger fear is that, as economist Paul Krugman wrote last week, "Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way."
These are serious times, with serious problems. And all the Republicans have to offer is warmed -over ideological gruel from the 1990s and the same fiscal policies that got us into the current recession.
These are the facts. This recession was caused in part by a housing bubble that burst just before President Obama was elected. The collapse of that bubble took several trillion dollars worth of demand out of the economy, and the $787 billion economic stimulus package that Democrats passed last year was not enough to offset it. It did enough to prevent a depression, but not enough to hold down unemployment or reduce the number of Americans living in poverty.
The thought of turning Congress back over to the architects of the current disaster is laughable, but too many Americans - frustrated with the lack of a economic recovery - seem willing to do this.
They forget what happened in 1994. They forget the time and money spent by the GOP investigating the Clinton Administration over non-existent scandals, and that the current crop of Republicans are poised for a replay against the Obama Administration.
Bill Clinton was not the greatest president we ever had, but when he left office, our nation saw the longest peacetime economic expansion in history and budget surpluses. His successor, President George W. Bush, squandered those surpluses on tax cuts for the rich and two unnecessary wars and pushed economic policies that have badly mauled our economy. President Bush, not Mr. Obama, deserves the bulk of the blame for the recession.
If you, as a voter, are truly concerned about restoring full employment, lowering the deficit, rebuilding our infrastructure, improving the health, education and general welfare of Americans or trying to avert a global environmental catastrophe by doing something about global warming, the last thing you want to do is give the Republicans a majority in Congress.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.