I have finally read A Pledge to America, offered up to us by our Congressional Republicans. While I have read some comments on it, this post will only include my impressions of it.
Frankly, I am disappointed. Not surprised, but disappointed.
With this document, the Republican Party has placed itself on the same level as the Democrats. They don't really care about fundamental change that will help us preserve our liberty and stave off economic catastrophe. They just want to get back into power.
The sad part is, they just might get away with it.
Why do I say this?
The Republicans know what we want to hear. The Pledge begins:
America is more than a country.
America is an idea - an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government's powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America is the belief that any man or woman can - given economic, political, and religious liberty - advance themselves, their families, and the common good.
America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and dignity to determine their own destiny.
Fine words. The reference to the Declaration of Independence is a nice touch; which becomes a snare to the unwary reader in the very next sentence:
Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course. [Emphasis added]
The liberties of the people are in danger whenever the government has an agenda -- any agenda. Government is meant to carry out the agenda (if we have to use that word) of the people who elected representatives to it.
We live in revolutionary times. Merely changing an agenda will not resolve the problems we face. It is like trying to treat arterial bleeding with a Band Aid.
The GOP wants to require that every bill going through their Congress contain a citation of Constitutional authority. (I wonder how many times they will cite the catch-all "General Welfare Clause," which does not of itself confer any "Constitutional authority.") The Pledge displays a great deal of confusion on the Constitutional role of government. The following examples, taken from the document, display a rank ignorance of, if not contempt for, the limitations the Constitution placed on the federal government:
- "We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values." That's nice, as long as the Congress doesn't try to legislate on any of those subjects. I wonder how long the conservative base will stand for silence on abortion restrictions and preventing homosexual "marriages." *
- "Instead of pushing off our long-term fiscal challenges, we will reform the budget process to ensure that Congress begins making the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today's seniors and future generations." Please show me where the Constitution authorizes any entitlement program.
- "We offer a plan to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care." Repeal, great! Replace -- uh, please show me where the Constitution authorizes any government intervention in health care.
- "End TARP once and for all." Good. Now, what will your corporate contributors demand in its place?
The Pledge contains a number of serious political problems as well:
- "We will further encourage small businesses to create jobs by allowing them to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income." About the health care act requiring small business to report purchases of over $600 with forms 1099 to Infernal Revenue: "We will repeal this job-killing small business mandate." "We will help the economy by permanently stopping all tax increases, currently scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011." All of these are baby steps in the right direction, but they only address symptoms. The problem is a system of collecting income tax that is too complex, too intrusive, too expensive, and totally unfair. The best thing to do is to abolish the income tax by repealing the Sixteenth Amendment. The second best thing to do is to institute a flat tax -- no deductions, no exemptions, no "progressive" rates, and no excuses. The rich still pay more than the poor, but get to keep what they earn.
- "With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt." Uh-huh. You can't be serious about debt reduction if you're only cutting governmental spending by 4.3 percent! Ohio's state government has routinely cut spending by 10 percent and more in recent years! Restoring fiscal sanity will require sacrifices, both to the Congress and to those who hoped to receive the entitlements.
- The Republicans want to "[impose] a net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees." Now that's a lot of nothing, given the federal propensity to justify almost everything on the basis of "national security."
- They also want to review every government program "to eliminate wasteful and duplicative programs." Then you'll file the report in a box in the National Archives, right? How about sunset legislation?
- "... we will reform the budget process..." Like you did during the George W. Bush Administration, right?
- "We will give all Representatives and citizens at least three days to read the bill before a vote." To read the Health Care Act (2,300 pages) in three days would require a person to read almost 1,500 words of dense legalese per minute, allowing only four hours per day for sleeping and breaks. (The fastest speed readers can read about 1,000 words per minute -- most of us plod along at 200-400).
- The Pledge makes it clear that the Republicans are still pro-war, any war: "We offer a plan to keep our nation secure at home and abroad that will provide the resources, authority, and support our deployed military requires, fully fund missile defense, and enforce sanctions against Iran..." This is not national security. This is more of the same old, same old. National security lies in minding our own business -- getting out of the Middle East for starters -- and in arming our borders and nothing else. The plan does address border security by ensuring that the federal government "fulfills its constitutional duty to protect our citizens and our Nation, working closely with our state and local governments."
- "We will work to ensure foreign terrorists... are tried in military, not civilian, court. We will oppose all efforts to force our military, intelligence, and law enforcement personnel operating overseas to extend "Miranda Rights" to foreign terrorists." I have no objection to this statement, except in what it leaves unsaid. There is no commitment here to habeas corpus, one of the most fundamental human rights. We are untrue to our own commitment to personal liberty, if we decide that an accused terrorist should be locked up indefinitely without a fair trial. Not all accused terrorists prove to be guilty. That "fair trial" can be in military court according to military law, but even the worst of them are entitled to that much.
In summary, the Pledge to America is a slick political document appealing to motherhood, apple pie, hot dogs, and flagwaving conservatism. It offers policy solutions to a structural problem.
What is that structural problem? Just this. The Founding Fathers designed the federal government to consist of three branches that would be competing centers of power -- each jealous of its own prerogatives under the Constitution. They never imagined that the feds would evolve into a state of collusion, where a dictatorial President enlists a rubber-stamp Congress to approve vague legislation that a compliant Supreme Court upholds. Even that collusion could have been prevented if the Seventeenth Amendment (direct election of Senators) had not been adopted, stripping the states of their direct voice in the federal government.
The Republicans preach reform at a time when we need a revolution. Given Washington's love of power, I seriously doubt that the needed structural changes will ever occur on the federal level. This is why I preach secession -- returning power to governments on a more human scale.
So, voter beware. Remember, the lesser of the two evils is still evil. At minimum, support the third-party and dissident Republican candidates who understand the truth and are willing to proclaim it. Better yet, support candidates for the state legislature that will aggressively press for nullification of unconstitutional federal laws -- and if that fails, independence.
* I am not in favor either of abortion or homosexual "marriages", but neither should be regulated by law -- and certainly not at the federal level!