A Pledge to America: Final Thoughts

This is the part of the series where I look back over the entire Pledge to America and sum up.  Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

I was not sure what I was expecting, but there were almost no concrete actions promised in the entire document.  That could be a move to avoid a “Read my lips, no new taxes” statement, but I was hoping for something more specific.  A Pledge to America purports to be Republican goals, but they are not very measurable.

I was deeply disturbed by the healthcare section.  The ideas endorsed, such as healthcare as a right are directly from the liberal and progressive playbook.  The notion that the federal government should be involved in my healthcare was not soundly rejected.  Medicare and Medicaid were not offered for reform and the budgetary chopping block.  The underlying belief was that government intervention and regulation was desirable and necessary, when in fact it is not.

One quote from page 3 stood out to me: We make this pledge bearing true faith and allegiance to the people we represent, and we invite fellow citizens and patriots to join us in forming a new governing agenda for America. How about I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same?

I was disappointed in the national security section.  Only declarations of support of the Border Patrol from my list of things I wanted to see made the Pledge.

The section to promote job growth through less regulation and freezing taxes at the current level was good.  The section on controlling spending and reducing the size of government was another head burial in the sand.  It really was a commitment to freeze spending on only half the federal budget.

In summation, I think that this Pledge is an attempt to rally the troops, to hang the prospect of another “Contract with America” type document in front of the voters.  (Now I haven’t read the Contract with America myself, so I’m going off of other’s commentary)  I do not see a real change of heart in the underlying policies and baseline thoughts and assumptions by the Republican Party.  I still see a commitment to big government solutions and expanding government roles.  I do not see a strict Constitutional mindset.  The Pledge to America is not the change I am looking for.

-BattleBlue1

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A Pledge To America: Checks and Balances

My thoughts on the final section of the Pledge to America and whether this Pledge is a commitment to something new, or a promise to continue with the same old mindset and policies that we have seen in the past.  In my view this section was more talking points and summation.  I didn’t see a lot of substance  – there was a bit of new information about union card check and energy policy, but nothing of significance not already mentioned.   The full text is here, and the text of the section with comments is below.

Page 43  Our founders built a system of checks and balances to slow the growth of government and prevent the tyranny of the majority. The ultimate power in this system of government is held by the people, who were given the tools by our Founders to hold those they elect as their representatives accountable for their actions. Government exists to be the servant of the people, not their master. I agree that the government derives its power from the consent of the governed.  I also agree that governments are an institution appointed by God to protect society and individuals.  Government should exist to serve the people under it.

Unfortunately, the metrics used to hold Congress accountable are often flawed. Rather than using the scale of how well elected representatives represent the views of the people, the scale is often currently measured in bills passed, dollars spent, and programs created. This must change.

Every American must ask: what has Congress done to ensure opportunity and to safeguard my liberty and the freedoms guaranteed to me in the Constitution? We stand ready to be judged by that standard.

We will stand committed to our principles and fight to renew the drive for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government. We will promote and advance solutions that get people working again, stop out-of-control spending, repeal and replace the government takeover of health care, make Congress more open and transparent, and keep our nation secure at home and abroad. Sounds like more fluffery to me.

At the same time, we will serve as a check and a balance against any schemes that are inconsistent with the priorities and rights of the American people:

• We will fight to ensure transparency and accountability in Congress and throughout government.
• We will continue to fight the growth of government and oppose new stimulus spending that only puts our nation further in debt. We need to reduce the size of government.  We need to drastically reduce our spending.  I would home for some stronger language than this.
• We will fight efforts to fund the costly new health care law.
• We will fight to increase access to domestic energy sources and oppose attempts to impose a national “cap and trade” energy tax.
• We will fight for the rights of workers and oppose “card check” schemes that put Washington union bosses before individuals’ right to a secret ballot.
• We will fight efforts to use a national crisis for political gain.

A Pledge To America: A Plan to keep our nation Secure at Home and Abroad

This section will be near and dear to my heart as a former infantryman and as one who still has many classmates still on active duty.  Before I read this section, I would like to list the things I would like to see:  opposition to the effort to repeal DADT, a commitment to only fund spending the military requests (for example don’t make the Air Force buy more C-17s at $244.5 million apiece than they say they need), abolish the Department of Homeland security, fully fund and authorize the border patrol to close the border, &  some sort of commitment to oppose the pulling out of Afghanistan on a strict timeline.  Let’s see if there are any matches…

Page 38  We are a nation at war. We must confront the worldwide threat of terrorism and to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. We will do all that is needed to protect our homeland, support our troops and the veterans who have so honorably served us, and ensure our government has a coherent strategy to confront and defeat the terrorist threat. And we will never apologize for advancing the cause of freedom and democracy around the world, nor will we abandon our historic role in lifting up those who struggle to receive the blessings of liberty. Fluffery, but nice fluffery.

Pass Clean Troop Funding Bills- When asked to provide our troops with the resources they need, we will do so without delay. That means no more troop funding bills held up by unrelated policy changes, or extraneous domestic spending and pork-barrel projects. Alright, sounds nice and good, but no commitment to not make a service buy something they say they don’t need.

Keep Terrorists Out of America – We will prevent the government from importing terrorists onto American soil. We will hold President Obama and his administration responsible for any Guantanamo Bay detainees they release who return to fight against our troops or who have become involved in any terrorist plots or activities. I really do not think that President Obama wants to “import” terrorists into the US and release them into the wild.  While I would oppose closing Guantanamo and moving the prisoners to the US, I am not sure how the Legislative branch would hold the Executive Branch “accountable” if a released terrorist fought in the US or against our troops overseas.  How about denying a pay raise to them, or something like that…

Demand an Overarching Detention Policy – Foreign terrorists do not have the same rights as American citizens, nor do they have more rights than U.S. military personnel. We will work to ensure foreign terrorists, such as the 9/11 conspirators, 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. Spot on – fire for effect & repeat!

Page 39  Fully Fund Missile Defense – There is real concern that while the threat from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles could materialize as early as 2015, the government’s missile defense policy is not projected to cover the U.S. homeland until 2020. We will work to ensure critical funding is restored to protect the U.S. homeland and our allies from missile threats from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. Yes, more missiles to shoot at other missiles.  More lasers to shoot at missiles.

Require Tough Enforcement of Sanctions against Iran Just fluffery in this paragraph.

Establish Operational Control of the Border – We must take action to secure our borders, and that action starts with enforcing our laws. We will ensure that the Border Patrol has the tools and authorities to establish operational control at the border and prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands. I like one phrase in this section: “that action starts with enforcing our laws.  Not write new laws, just enforce the ones we have – Great!  I’m not sure what ‘operational control’ of the border means – sounds just like a catchphrase to me.  I take a pretty radical view of what securing the border looks like in my mind, something like gaining possession of the border, with or without force, and to deploy force in a manner which prevents its loss to unauthorized entry.

We will reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws. I agree.

Strengthen Visa Security – To stop terrorists like Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, we will require the Department of Homeland Security to review all visa applications at high-risk consular posts and prevent aliens from attempting to avoid deportation after having their visas revoked. More fluffery.

So, let’s see how this section graded out:

  • Opposition to the effort to repeal DADT – NO
  • A commitment to only fund spending the military requests – NO
  • Abolish the Department of Homeland security- NO
  • Fully fund and authorize the border patrol to close the border – YES, I think
  • Some sort of commitment to oppose the pulling out of Afghanistan on a strict timeline – NO

Well, they got one right, so let’s give them a pay raise!

A Pledge To America: Reform Congress and Restore Trust

I am again looking forward to reading the ideas proposed here.  I remain optimistic that there will be some measures of this pledge that are worthwhile.  (Full text of the Pledge here)

Page 35: We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives. Sounds good to me.  A longer timeframe would be better to allow for more people to read, but I think this is a good start.

Adhere To the Constitution – For too long, Congress has ignored the proper limits imposed by the Constitution on the federal government. Further, it has too often drafted unclear and muddled laws, leaving to an unelected judiciary the power to interpret what the law means and by what authority the law stands. This lack of respect for the clear Constitutional limits and authorities has allowed Congress to create ineffective and costly programs that add to the massive deficit year after year. We will require each bill moving through Congress to include a clause citing the specific constitutional authority upon which the bill is justified. Here is one of the items that I have been pointing out again and again.  This pledge says that they will adhere to the constitution, that they will cite specific authority before passing a law.  This is direct contradiction to the last section on healthcare.  Remember “Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. We will make it illegal for an insurance  company to deny coverage…”?

We will let any lawmaker — Democrat or Republican — offer amendments to reduce spending. I’ll buy this.

I am really disappointed in the adhere to the Constitution part.  After all the expanded government ideas put forth here, I just do not think that this is what is really believed.

A Pledge To America: Repeal and Replace the Government Takeover of Health Care

In today’s post I look at the healthcare section of the Pledge to America.

Page 26 The American people wanted one thing out of health care reform: lower costs, which President Obama and Democrats in Washington promised, but did not deliver. Actually, I wanted one thing out of health care reform – the whole notion to be scrapped.  Real health care reform is if the government got out of the Medicare/Medicaid business altogether.  That’s health care reform in my book.

Page 27 Repeal the Costly Health Care Takeover of 2010 – Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes, and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law. I agree with all that, but how about something saying that oh, where in the constitution does it say that a responsibility of the national government is healthcare for its citizens?

We will enact common-sense medical liability reforms to lower costs, rein in junk lawsuits and curb defensive medicine. Again, the devil is in the details.  I understand what the goal is, but I am not sure if I will like the reforms.  Is it capping the amount of damages, is it something saying that you have to have been actually physically harmed…  I don’t know.  I agree that changes are needed here, I would like to have a better idea of what those changes are.  But this is a broad brush document, so I guess I will accept this.

We will allow individuals to buy health care coverage outside of the state in which they live. How about get government out of the business of regulating healthcare insurance altogether.

Strengthen the Doctor-Patient Relationship – We will repeal President Obama’s government takeover of health care and replace it with common-sense reforms focused on strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. I didn’t know that a Washington/State capitol/local city bureaucrat could make my relationship with my doctor better!  What kind of regulation would this look like?  The receptionist has to smile at me, the doctor has to give me a lollypop when I am finished?  I want government OUT of this relationship, not trying to “enhance” it.

This next paragraph is why I started writing these posts on the Pledge to America.  Sit down and read this quote:

Ensure Access for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions – Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. We will make it illegal for an insurance  company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick. We will incentivize states to develop innovative programs that lower premiums and reduce the number of uninsured Americans. Deep into this pledge, we see the heart of the issue with the dissatisfaction with both the Democrat and Republican parties.  They both seem to think that a bigger government is a better thing and that if there is a problem, the federal government should fix it.

Health care should be accessible for all. Healthcare is not a right.  I am 100% sure of that.  If you think it is, I suggest reading the Constitution.  The word “health” is not even there!

We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. Sounds like you want to push the costs for this down to the state governments.  And how does getting involved in high risk pools really reduce costs?

We will make it illegal for an insurance  company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick. So we will eliminate ways that insurance companies have found to reduce their costs.  You say before and after this that you will reduce the costs for plans, but then here you say that you will mandate an action that will greatly INCREASE costs?  Incompetence, astonishingly bad reasoning skills, disconnection from reality, or deception.  Seems like it has to be one of those four things…

Page 28  We will establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion. I agree – respect, protect, and cherish human life from the moment of conception to natural death.

No grade save that of F, for very obvious reasons.

A Pledge to America: A Plan to Stop Out of Control Spending and Reduce the Size of Government

Well, this should be interesting.   Republicans talking about reducing the size of government.   Let’s see if they want to close down the department of education, health and human services, & homeland security, among others.  Let’s make the Federal Reserve go away, why don’t we.  There’s a radical idea!  Let’s see how this proposal works out…  (Full text of the Pledge here)

Page 20  Washington’s out-of-control spending spree needs no introduction. Yeah.  No kidding – tell me something I don’t already know.

It isn’t just that we need to stop spending so much – we need to stop spending so irrationally. Are you kidding me?  “It isn’t just”?!?  That is the whole point!  So what if we mis-spend some money in my estimation?  I have some blow money in my budget that I get to spend however I choose.  My wife goes and buys groceries.  She may buy some things that seem “unwise” or “irrational” to you, but she stays within her budget.  Rationality is not the problem – “rationally” spending way more than you take in is.

Unfortunately, Washington Democrats refuse to listen to the American people and eliminate, restrain, or even budget for their out-of-control spending spree. You seem to have left out the Republican overspending there, buddy.

Page 21 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. Goes without saying.  Perhaps destimulating the economy will actually stimulate it.

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. Seniors?  Who are we talking about?  Raising Social Security payments?  Oh wait, Social Security is about 20% of the budget, Defense is about 20% and Veterans benefits is about 7%, so what you are saying is “Sure, we are OK to increase spending on nearly half the budget!” (I got my numbers here) Doesn’t make sense to me.

We will set strict budget caps to limit federal spending on an annual basis. Really.  Unless you say it is an “emergency” and then we don’t have to worry about where the money comes from…  I’ll believe it when I see it.

I would continue to comment, but I am getting aggravated at what I am reading so far, so I leave the analysis of the rest of this section to you.  There are several other items listed: Establish a Hard Cap on New Discretionary Spending, Cut Government Spending to Pre-Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels, Hold Weekly Votes on Spending Cuts. Sounds nice and all, and even some of it is good beginning measures, but based on the two pages I have seen above, this is more talk and not a substantial change.

This section’s grade: D – Did not Digest Due to Disgust.

Evaluating A Pledge to America: Section 1

This section is titled: OUR PLAN TO END THE UNCERTAINTY AND CREATE INCENTIVES FOR JOB GROWTH

Alright, I am going to sift through the babble and see what is actually being said here.  This section begins on page 13 and starts with lofty phrases and then starts with what we are up against.  Roger – got it.  Its hard because of all the reasons listed.  But guess what!  You still haven’t said what you are specifically going to do!  That doesn’t get around until page 16.

  • Permanently Stop All Job-Killing Tax Hikes. Alright, permanent enstatement of the current level of taxation is a start.
  • Give Small Businesses a Tax Deduction – We will allow small business owners to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their business income. OK, you have blown it on the very next bullet.  Just leave me alone.  Treat small business like everyone else.  Have a flat corporate tax rate.  Imagine if the collective brainpower of most of the accountants and tax lawyers was released into the market to produce something that was positive, instead of being focused on compliance!  Holy mackerel – what could all those smart folks do!  Instead this has gone right back to trying to buy off a group of folks instead of just leaving them alone!
  • Rein in the Red Tape Factory in Washington, DC – Excessive federal regulation is a de facto tax on employers and consumers that stifles job creation, hampers innovation and postpones investment in the economy.  When the game is always changing, small businesses cannot properly plan for the future. To provide stability, we will require congressional approval of any new federal regulation that has an annual cost to our economy of $100 million or more. This is the threshold at which the government deems a regulation “economically significant.” If a regulation is so “significant” and costly that it may harm job creation, Congress should vote on it first. I will agree with the first sentence wholeheartedly – excessive federal regulation compliance IS a defacto tax.  The idea of having congressional approval for items that cost $100 million or more is not a bad idea.  But the devil is in the details.  Will the courts think this is not an unconstitutional infringement of the legislative upon the executive branch?  Who defines the $100 million cost?  Who does the cost estimating?  I’m not sure I am a fan on second thought, but I like the way you are thinking.
  • Repeal Job-Killing Small  Business Mandates – One of the most controversial mandates of the Democrats’ government takeover of health care requires small businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service any purchases that run more than $600… Yes, some common sense here.  Go ahead and repeal this.

Overall grade: SSame underlying premise as before – big government is ok, it just has to be restructured and restrained more.  I’m not seeing a real change of heart.