So the GOP came out yesterday with their "Pledge to America." Catchy title, but what does it mean for us, really? I decided to dig into it some and see what there was in there that I thought was good or lacking.
Rein in the Red Tape Factory in Washington, DC
Not much I can argue with here, although I would like some more specifics. Bureaucracy is strangling this country, at all levels, in my opinion and getting rid of any of it is an improvement. But how? Will they push to abolish any of these regulatory agencies that drown us in rules that Congress never voted on? Personally, I would like to see a bill that would require any proposed federal regulation have a vote in both Houses - that alone would cut down on the regulatory nightmare because Congress is inherently lazy and probably wouldn't get around to it before they had to break for the next holiday.
Act Immediately to Reduce Spending
AKA kill the stimulus. I like it - don't see it happening, but I'm willing to be pleasantly surprised.
Cut Government Spending to Pre- Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels
While it's a good start, why stop there? There's a lot of spending that got approved prior to the stimulus that could go as well. Medicare Part-D? God only knows how many earmarks? Bueller?
Establish a Hard Cap on New Discretionary Spending
All this does is limit the rate at which government will grow - but it still grows. I would recommend capping discretionary spending increases at the inflation rate, giving each agency the same budget each year with that inflation adjustment. If they really feel they need more, let them justify that need, preferably in writing or in a hearing, so everyone can see it. Also, agency budgets should be reviewed periodically (say, every 2 years), to determine if they still need all that money.
Hold Weekly Votes on Spending Cuts
And this will do what, exactly? Seriously, the YouCut website is a nice idea, but it's like trying to bail out the Titanic with a teaspoon. Ramp it up, and hold votes on whether to kill some major programs, and maybe it might work.
End TARP Once And For All
'Nuff said. Bad idea to begin with, can't end too soon.
End Government Control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
See the previous comment.
Root Out Government Waste and Sunset Outdated & Duplicative Programs
Haven't we heard this before? Seems like everyone talks about this at some point, and we end up rooting out about $50 million or so, then patting ourselves on the back as we proceed to spend another $100 bajillion (defined as 10 to the power of "Doh!"). Try sunsetting some CABINET LEVEL agencies for a change - God knows some of them serve no purpose, and that would actually free up a chunk of change that might mean something.
Repeal the Costly Health Care Takeover of 2010
Don't see how you can go wrong on this one. Does health care (or rather the insurance model) need reform? Sure. But burning down the house in order to put in a new toilet is damned stupid.
Enact Medical Liability Reform
This is going to be problematic. Most of the need for tort reform is at the state level - very few malpractice suits end up in federal court. While this sounds good, unless Congress can justify telling states to change their tort laws, it's probably not going anywhere.
Purchase Health Insurance across State Lines
Let the market work! At the same time, we should include language that would keep states from requiring out of state plans to offer the same mandatory benefits as in state plans - that is what drives most of the cost of premiums these days. People should be able to design health insurance plans the same way they do car insurance, by picking the services they want, and leaving out the ones they don't. Where I live, the state mandates that every health plan has to include in vitro fertilization coverage. If you've never explored it, IVF is INCREDIBLY expensive, which means that insurance companies here have to charge a lot more for their plans. Personally, I don't need that coverage (witness Offspring 1 & 2 as evidence), so why do I have to pay for it?
Expand Health Savings Accounts
This is a big one that I think will get ignored by most people. HSAs are one of the best ideas to come along in health care in quite some time. Let people control their own money, and choose their own providers based on their preferences. What a concept! And if they don't use the money, they can keep it to use later, instead of it being lost forever in a traditional health plan.
Adhere To the Constitution
It would be really nice if we didn't need to have this spelled out. I'm pretty sure Congresscritters have to take an oath to the Constitution already, right? Maybe it's too long to read, like those pesky bills...
Advance Legislative Issues One at a Time
Another good one that doesn't go far enough. How about a law requiring that each bill address only one topic, and that all amendments must be related to that topic? And maybe a limit on the length of the bill - say 2000 words? 5000 if I'm feeling generous. Honestly, if you can't get your point across in 5000 words, is it really worth the time and effort to say it?
I would have liked to see a commitment to ending earmarks permanently, as I think they have corrupted the legislative process immensely. Thanks to earmarks, it's basically become a bribery factory for the constituents - how much money can I funnel back to my district so they'll re-elect me?
Another issue I would have liked to see is a promise to end "off budget" accounting. The Pledge does talk about requiring a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but I would like to know exactly what that means. Ideally, they should have to account for those programs each year in the budget, showing the programs' unfunded liabilities as well as what Congress is doing that year to reduce those shortfalls - currently at around $106 TRILLION.
All in all, I would give it about a B+. Good effort, but could have been more specific and focused.