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The Republican's Playbook

Thursday morning, the GOP will unveil a "Pledge to America" (text here), attempting to reproduce the results of the 1994 election by replicating the means: the "Contract with America." Both the CwA and the PtA was / is a mere sidebars to the prevailing national zeitgeist which swept / will sweep Republicans into office - but the substance is instructive of how well the GOP has internalized the prevailing national zeitgeist.

The PtA emerged from town hall meetings and an internet project, America Speaking Out. CBS highlights the PtA agenda as:



- Stop job-killing tax hikes

- Allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income

- Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that would add to the deficit

- Repeal small business mandates in the new health care law.

Cutting Spending:

- Repeal and Replace health care

- Roll back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels before TARP and stimulus (will save $100 billion in first year alone)

- Establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending going forward

- Cancel all future TARP payments and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Reforming Congress:

- Will require that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority

- Give members at least 3 days to read bills before a vote


- Provide resources to troops

- Fund missile defense

- Enforce sanctions in Iran


The GOP has thus shown its hand.

The Obama administration immediately expressed its knee-jerk, blanket opposition to the PtA. Co-option of some provision and targeted opposition to others might have proved a more bipartisan, practical response. But delusions of that sort should be all but evaporated by now.

On the right, NRO's lengthy review embraces the PtA as "bold" and "compelling," and Powerline praised it as a "ringing statement of first principles" which "deliberately echoes the Constitution and, especially, the Declaration of Independence." Conversely, Redstate lambasts the PtA as "the most ridiculous thing to come out of Washington since George McClellen." "Dreck," they call it. "Stagnant water."

Six weeks to go.

Categories > Political Parties

Discussions - 14 Comments

I think you mean 'roll back discretionary spending'.

The bullet points you list do amount to dreck. This has nothing about the reform of entitlement programs, nothing about simplification of the tax code, and no admission that tax increases will be a necessity to save the public credit because discretionary domestic spending is only a modest fraction of the federal budget and the entitlement spending can be reduced only gradually. (And, I might note, nothing about social questions or the secular decay of democratic institutions, Judge Vaughan Walker being an obtrusive example).

Those are our leaders: a bunch of worthless bourbons obsessed with advertising pitches.

The "Pledge" represents a massive miscalculation by Republicans. The only pledge that matters to voters is about character, not policy.

The GOP proved itself untrustworthy. That's why conservatives don't trust them. Republicans will never redeem themselves by offering a list of policy prescriptions. They must walk the honorable walk and prove, by their actions, that they can once again be trusted.

I'll believe it when I see it. I certainly don't take their "Pledge" as anything more than a campaign gimmick.

Part of 'walking the honorable walk' is telling the public what needs to be done and not what your ad men tell you makes salable copy. As for 'character', the complex of institutions and practices we have interacts with what's out there among our bourgeoisie to give us the junk political class we have.

That is a bit harsh Art,

On the other hand I do agree with you about taxes. If republicans are just about cutting taxes and democrats about inventing new entitlements, should such behavior be sustainable we would have the best of both worlds: a reduced cost lunch!

The best that can be said about this scenario is that currently we really aren't paying a high percentage interest rate on the debt. You almost have to presume that the Fed will keep interest rates near zero, and make large buys, and most importantly that we will remain the world reserve currency.

If republicans and democrats are going to effectively work in tandem to decouple the cost of government from the price of government, then it is safe to say that the Ryan Plan has no chance(you sort of knew it would both be seen as anti-business), but then again the CBO projections out to 2080 are rediculous for taking such a long term perspective. Perhaps the most dangerous insight of Keynes was that in the long run we are all dead.

It seems entirely possible to me that american exceptionalism isn't really based on anything other than our role as a global reserve currency.

Going back to the best thing that can be said about the deficit, and an other than short run explanation for why the markets are not wrong in providing liquidity for T bills. A lot of countries are willing to lend to us at a near zero percent rate, and the Treasury is willing to sell them TIPS if they are really worried about Inflation.

In all honesty at the current moment liberal economists like Krugman are right that If we expand our debt in order to make high-return, productive investments, the economy can become stronger than if we slash expenditures, and perhaps Cheney is also right, We can finance Iraq and Afghanistan, and possibly even Iran, spend an incredible amount on a star wars program and spend more on the military. That is we can spend money we don't have to keep policemen and teachers on the job, and bail out states like California (or provide to them government low interest loans at a tiny fraction above T bond rates.) Essentially we could go even further towards debt by allowing states the luxury of deficit spending. At the same time in the short run, higher taxes are bad as they are more expensive than running a deficit at close to free rates.

That is at this low interest rate a lot of borderline state interests become legitimate. I mean quite literally that I agree with Justice Thomas and Scalia who doubt in the University of Michigan Law School is a legitimate state interest, In terms of it making sense for Michigan the fact that only 17% of its graduates remain in state is key in part because the question asked is: what is the ROE(return on investment) for Michigan? Actually for the nation the University of Michigan is probably a boon/positive externality. Why not allow Michigan to borrow from the federal government(so that its decisions about legitimate state interest, aren't narrowed by short run pitfalls.)

I know my shopping cart would be considerably fuller if I was offered a credit card with .5% interest. Of course there is always variable interest rates, the abuse of this line of credit might cause us to lose reserve currency status...and perhaps we the people need to check up on our congressmen to ensure they know what they are getting into.

On the other hand just maybe we are seeing such low rates and a disinterest in TIPS, because the rest of the world buys into the view that the united states invests wisely, that Christina Romer is right when calling for both tax cuts and increased spending.

That is the rest of the world is saying that the United States is eating a low cost lunch, that is providing it nutrients that will more than enable it to repay its debt.

In other words you could immagine a budget that only cuts spending and raises taxes when interest rates are high and inflation is a problem. So long as you have slack in the economy in terms of production capacity and unemployment, this seems weak. The rest of the world is already in some sense pot commited to the US dollar, and is willing to loan us money so that we can consume and produce such that we grow our tax base and future ability to repay faster than we grow our debt.

In other words sometimes I wake up thinking that every law and aspect of government should be based upon its price, and that legitimate state interests should be sensitive to ten year treasury notes.

In the absence of some sense of risk of missile attack and coresponding knowledge of what a defense system would cost. I am indifferent, but I am indifferent in a way that is biased towards it given current debt burden costs.

That is short run, more spending and tax cuts look good. It is just way too bearish to think that we can't get a good return on investment at such low interest levels.

And it is just too clear that the Ryan Plan is anti-business and factually discounts our reserve currency position.

So I think if we are thinking about "advertising pitches" the ultimate goal is to pursuade that cost is not a factor, to instill brand loyalty. To argue that X is a "Right" an "Entitlement" or a "legitimate state interest". Democrats generally are guilty of this. But at a certain bargain price level, where for example you are certain that Head Start reduces crime and spending on jails, at this level spending becomes a legitimate state interest" subject to a certain price level where it becomes burdensome and a bad return on investment. So right now you have to be a hawkish, tax cutting democrat/socialist, you have to love deficits, and look generously at all government programs, almost strainning to find rational basis, with the 10 year treasury note at 2.55 you have to put yourself in the mind of Justice Brennan, and at any lower level you would have to move to the left of him.

At some point in time dictated in part by the ten year treasury yield you have to switch to being a dovish, tax raising, libertarian/limited government deficit hawk, say with a tipping point at around 6% you start phasing out programs that you tried in the salad Brennan days that didn't work, at this point you think slightly to the right of Kennedy. At 10% you are to the right of Scalia, and you combine a tax raise with a cut to programs on the principle that it is cheaper to raise taxes than it is to pay outlandishly high amounts for debt. At a high enough rate, the return on investment is wrong and it is not a wise use of government funds.

A problem on the right may be that we are jumping the gun on the deficit by being scared by a quasi-fictional CBO,(anything that projects to 2080 is fiction, and deserving of full copyright protection regardless of the facts employed.) and while Ryan will be right on the money at some point, republicans I think are ignoring the bargains and investment opportunities to be had in the short run. Which is why currently I am on the left of Obama.

This is off the cuff, so I might need a better metric than the 10 year treasury bond. The goal is not to get too long term in your thinking so that you can respond to market signals and opportunity, and be willing to pile up a deficit to include big tax cuts at a bargain rate.

It is eccentric wisdom, but I want to spend more when it costs less and spend less when it costs more. Right now it costs less.

Without deficit spending and reserve currency status, republicans are right to express the sentiment, that when government spends money it thinks it can get a better return on your money than you can.

With deficit spending and reserve currency status this isn't quite right. Government should spend money when it thinks it can get a better return on the money than it costs to borrow it, and it should forgo taxing you because it should also believe that you can get a better return on the money than it would cost the government to borrow it.

Low taxes and increased gov spending would snap off deflation, and spur demand.

When money is expensive the Government should shed its hubris and illusions and scale back its legitimate state interests/(ROI) projections and it should tax you because only at this point should it believe that you can't beat in ROI what it would cost the government to not tax you.

High taxes and reduced gov spending would pay down the deficit and allow inventories to rebuild cutting off inflation.

In other words it is always true that when the government increases taxes it believes it can spend the money better than you can, but there is no need for the government to believe this when it can borrow for 10 years at 2.55%. At this level the government should be bullish on our prospects and we should be bullish on the governments prospects.

John, your post is 1,570 words long, or about 5 double-spaced typed pages. That is in response to three posts which contain a sum of 12 sentences. I cannot be bothered.

"If republicans and democrats are going to effectively work in tandem to decouple the cost of government from the price of government, ..."

What gibberish!

Hey, Art, I stopped reading John L. a long time back. He obviously likes to read his own handiwork, but does anyone else?

I think it's important to remember that the original "Contract with America" was cobbled together via focus groups and surveys, and look how successful it was. The "pledge" is a little disappointing, granted, but it's better than no statement of intent at all.

Sounds like Hope and Change to me - whaddya think Michelle... After all that Hope N Change is working so well - right Michelle....

It was a component of the set of events which broke the lock of the Democratic Party on the House of Representatives and rendered the party caucuses fairly distinct as regards their menu of policy preferences. The resultant Congress did buffalo the President into accepting time limits on welfare benefits and put general expenditures on a sustainable trajectory. That was good. The thing is, our problems now are much more acute and severe and the President a less able and knowledgeable (if less corrupted) man. Dr. Gingrich, for all his character and personality defects and affection for gimmickry, was an idea man. So was Dr. Armey, who did not have those defects. Messrs. Boehner and Cantor? No such confidence.

The pledge is also weak on some of its factual foundations:

Well, Craig, I'd check all that out if I had the time. Since the "pledge" is a vehicle rather than a social science article, I'm not sure I care too much. As for factcheck, I've heard of it, but I don't know if it's something I can trust.

What I do care about is winning in November and throwing these priests of "hope and change" out of office. Given the Dems utter disregard of veracity and democratic process, I think it's a case of the kettle calling the pot black.

The only spanner in the works is that the Republican caucus in Congress has learned flat nothing and will offer no solutions.

Well, AD, perhaps you have learned nothing as well. For me, I thought it couldn't get much worse than the big spending GOP in power, BUT I WAS WRONG. I'll take Bush's GOP over the current leftist monstrosity any day. So you see, I'm not a purist. Let's get rid of the Obamanation first and then worry about winnowing the GOP. Winning in November is step1 -- without that, there will be no step 2.

Oh, I will do something I have never done before the 1st week of November and vote a straight Republican ticket. I am, however, exceedingly anxious and not at all hopeful and quite repelled by John Boehner. Sixty years ago, the social processes which generated our political class produced much corruption and many policy errors, but also put forward a crew who could take the necessary measures, educate the public, and stand for something larger than themselves when the crunch came. We no longer produce such people except at the margins.

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