Earlier today I commented on the newly-minted Mount Vernon Statement, which to me is a noble gesture but seems to fall short on actionable items. After all, most conservatives are America-first, limited-government types who simply want Washington to get out of their way and allow America to continue to be the greatest country on earth – the “shining city on a hill” as it were.
In 1994 Newt Gingrich took similar principles and, with the help of dedicated conservatives, created the Contract With America for Republicans seeking seats in the House of Representatives. The success was obvious as the GOP took over the House for the first time in 40 years and all but one of the ten principles spelled out had some kind of Congressional action (term limits being the exception.) By nationalizing the election, Gingrich and his allies created the impetus for voters to look beyond their district and support a principle of governance.
This time, Newt is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to the game, and it’s a coalition of conservative groups (including a large number of TEA Party organizers) which are spearheading the effort. And instead of a select cadre determining each planks, this contract is based on input from the grassroots. Ten of these 22 planks will be inserted into the Contract From America.
- DEMAND A BALANCED BUDGET: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.
- STOP THE TAX HIKES: Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.
- COMMIT TO REAL GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY: Every bill, in its final form, will be made public seven days before any vote can be taken and all government expenditures authorized by any bill will be easily accessible on the Internet before the money is spent.
- PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.
- PASS REAL HEALTHCARE REFORM: Greatly improve affordability of health insurance by permitting all Americans access to all health insurance plans sold anywhere in the United States through the purchase of insurance across state lines and allow small businesses and associations to pool together across state lines to buy insurance.
- ENACT FUNDAMENTAL TAX REFORM: Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the Internal Revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution.
- END RUNAWAY GOVERNMENT SPENDING: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.
- LET US SAVE: Allow all Americans to opt out of Social Security and Medicare and instead put those same payroll taxes in a personal account they own, control, and can leave to whomever they choose.
- PROTECT INTERNET FREEDOM: No regulation or tax on the Internet.
- GIVE PARENTS MORE CHOICES IN THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN: Improve American education by reforming the broken federal role through eliminating ineffective and wasteful programs, giving parents more choices from pre-school to high school, and improving the affordability of higher education.
- PASS AN ‘ALL OF THE ABOVE’ ENERGY POLICY: Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition.
- PROTECT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in any form, including requiring “localism” or “diversity” quotas.
- RESTORE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & CONSTITUTIONALLY LIMITED GOVERNMENT: Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states.
- PROTECT PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS: Block state and local governments that receive federal grants from exercising eminent domain over private property for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues.
- REJECT CAP & TRADE: Prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.
- STOP THE PORK: Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the process is fully transparent, including requiring a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
- NO CZAR REGULATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION: All “lawmaking” regulations must be affirmatively approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, as the Constitution requires for all laws.
- AUDIT THE FED: Begin an audit of the Federal Reserve System.
- NO MORE BAILOUTS: The federal government should not bail out private companies and should immediately begin divesting itself of its stake in the private companies it owns from recent bailouts.
- STOP CAREER POLITICIANS & CURB LOBBYIST POWER: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require Congressional term limits. No person shall be elected to the Senate more than twice or to the House of Representatives more than four times.
- SUNSET REGULATIONS: All regulations will be “sunset” after ten years unless renewed by Congressional vote.
- LET US WATCH: Broadcast all non-security meetings and votes on C-SPAN and the Internet.
Talk about your tough choices! Most of the lot is good, but right off the top I would say that items 7, 20, and 21 would be my favorites.
Number 7 is a slightly adapted form of TABOR laws, with TABOR standing for Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rights. This provides for necessary increases in government but not excessive ones. Yes, there is the weakness of not requiring cuts which should be made (since the natural tendency would be to budget to within a gnat’s eyelash of the limit) but the principle is sound.
I would only change number 20 to a 12+12 rule (6 House terms and 2 Senate terms.) However, the one thing missing from this plank is to restore the states’ voice in the process by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment. The idea of popular election of Senators has shifted the balance in Congress and federalized the government, when the intent was to create tension between states and Washington.
Number 21 might just have been my suggestion from three years ago, back when I did my ’50 year plan’ series. My argument now is the same as it was then – if Congress is busy justifying the renewal of old laws, they may be too busy to think of new ones.
I could probably vote for 10, but it’s likely I’ll only vote for a few to strengthen their position. Bullet voting may be a good practice in this case. In any case, here’s a chance for the people to decide what they think is most important and what they’ll vote to change come November.