The Republicans will tomorrow unveil their “Pledge to America”, looking to mimic the success of the Newt Gingrich “Contract with America”. The 21 page document used plenty of Republican boilerplate about cutting taxes, protecting the constitution, etc. I have posted the full document below. For the purposes of this post I would like to focus on the portions of the document dealing with the federal deficit. From the Republican Pledge:
Our Plan to Put Government on a Path to a Balanced Budget
We will have a responsible, fact-based conversation with the American people about the scale of the fiscal challenges we face, and the urgent action that is required to deal with them. We will curb Washington’s spending habits and promote job creation, bring down the deficit, and build long-term fiscal stability.
• Act Immediately to Reduce Spending: There is no reason to wait to reduce wasteful and unnecessary spending. Congress should move immediately to cancel unspent “stimulus” funds, and block any attempts to extend the timeline for spending “stimulus” funds. Throwing more money at a stimulus plan that is not working only wastes taxpayer money and puts us further in debt.
• Cut Government Spending to Pre-Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels: 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 begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children’s future.
• Establish a Hard Cap on New Discretionary Spending: We must put common-sense limits on the growth of government and stop the endless increases. Only in Washington is there an expectation that whatever your budget was last year, it will be more this year and even more the next. We will set strict budget caps to limit federal spending on an annual basis. Budget caps were used in the 1990s, when a Republican Congress was able to bring the budget into balance and eventual surplus. By cutting discretionary spending from current levels and imposing a hard cap on future growth, we will save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
• Cut Congress’ Budget: This year, Congress increased its own budget by 5.8 percent at a time when families and small businesses across the country are cutting back. We will make Congress do more with less by significantly reducing its budget.
• Hold Weekly Votes on Spending Cuts: Earlier this year, House Republicans launched the YouCut initiative to combat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress. Over the course of nine weeks, YouCut produced proposals to save taxpayers more than $120 billion. We will continue to hold weekly votes on spending cuts.
• End TARP Once And For All: Americans are rightly outraged at the bailouts of businesses and entities that force responsible taxpayers to subsidize irresponsible behavior. We will cancel the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a move that would save taxpayers roughly $16 billion.
• End Government Control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Since taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies that triggered the financial meltdown by giving too many high risk loans to people who couldn’t afford them, taxpayers were billed more than $145 billion to save the two companies. We will reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by ending their government takeover, shrinking their portfolios, and establishing minimum capital standards. This will save taxpayers as much as $30 billion.
• Impose a Net Federal Hiring Freeze of Non-Security Employees: Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the engine of our economy and should not be crowded out by unchecked government growth. We will impose a net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees and ensure that the public sector no longer grows at the expense of the private sector.
• Root Out Government Waste and Duplication: Once created, federal programs almost never go away, even if the problem they were created to address is no longer relevant. More than 20 states have addressed this problem by requiring that programs end – or “sunset” – by a date certain. We will adopt this requirement at the federal level to force Congress to determine if a program is worthy of continued taxpayer support.
• We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations. That means requiring a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, setting benchmarks for these programs and reviewing them regularly, and preventing the expansion of unfunded liabilities.
While there may well be some things that will marginally promote deficit reduction the Republicans, who have been ferocious in their criticism of Democrats and the President on the issue, come up empty here. The failure to even put a small dent in the deficit is made worse by the embrace of the extension of the Bush tax cuts with no corresponding offsets, and with the pledge to maintain defense spending at current or higher levels. I guess it is critical to spend on defense, but not so important that we would actually pay for it.
When the Presidents Commission issues its report on the deficit we will see who the deficit hawks really are. You can rest assured that the Republican leadership will run like gazelle from a cheetah when that report advocates revenue increases as well as deep spending reductions.
Both the Speaker and the White House issued the requisite condemnations. They are below.
“Congressional Republicans are pledging to ship jobs overseas; blow a $700 billion hole in the deficit to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires; turn Social Security from a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble; once again, subject American families to the recklessness of Wall Street; and take away patients’ rights,” the spokesman, Nadeam Elshami said in a statement. “Republicans want to return to the same failed economic policies that hurt millions of American and threatened our economy.”
“This is the same agenda that caused the deepest recession since the Great Depression, costing 8 million jobs, wiping out trillions in family wealth and setting middle-class families back,” Pfeiffer wrote. “Instead of a pledge to the American people, Congressional Republicans made a pledge to the big special interests to restore the same economic ideas that benefited them at the expense of middle-class families.”
Read the New York Times story here.