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The “Pledge to America” – A False Start from the Irrelevant Wing of the GOP

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This week Republicans in the House of Representatives issued an agenda for the future called the “Pledge to America.” The idea of making a promise to the American people as was done with the “Contract for America” in the 1990s is an appealing step in the right direction, but the pledge is a timid and unambitious plan, and based on their track record, why should we have any confidence in their willingness to follow through on their promises even if they could with Democrat opposition?

These are the same legislators who have again and again funded bailouts and stimulus packages and who have signed off on any level of war and military spending for a decade without showing any sign of an interest in fiscal responsibility. Now they feel threatened by anti-establishment candidates and the rise of the party’s grassroots, but the agenda they are pledging to pursue falls far short of what most Republicans and concerned independents are demanding from our government.

Further, although they have kept their demands relatively modest in some key areas like budget reduction, they demand expansions of Congressional power which are ambitious and unrealistic and not likely to be utterly beyond their power to implement over a presidential veto, a strategy which just sets them up for guaranteed failure.

Some of the ideas are indeed very good, if mostly symbolic. For example, requiring all bills to include a citation of Constitutional authority is appealing, even if it is largely meaningless. Similarly the demand to require a three day public access period for pending bills where citizens and legislators can read what they are going to vote on answers a public demand for legislative accountability. It’s probably not enough time to read some of the massive bills which get written and it doesn’t make legislators actually take the effort to read the bills, but it makes the job of the staff members who do read the bills somewhat easier and will slow down the breakneck pace at which some bills get rushed through to avoid scrutiny.

Much more important, if they actually followed through on the letter of their pledge, is the demand that they will stop bundling unpopular bills with major legislation to bully legislators into passing them. This highly politicized practice has been a mainstay of the Democrats and is particularly offensive. It makes no sense to controversial special interest legislation on things like the military or transportation appropriations bills. The pledge here does not go far enough. They should promise to ban any addition of amendments which do not apply directly to the content of bills and require them to be voted on as stand-alone bills, not amendments.

Their proposals on the budget sound comprehensive, but while they touch on many areas they lack substance. They propose a budget cap, but it sets no specific level for the cap. They promise a federal hiring freeze, but exempt security related jobs, one of the fastest growing, most potentially abusive and most unnecessary areas of government. I’d rather see them cut the Department of Homeland Security entirely and privatize the Transportation Safety Administration, as well as reduce the sizes of other federal security agencies. They promise to roll back spending to “pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels” which means that the already bloated spending level of the Bush era will be preserved. That’s just not adequate. The proposed savings of $100 billion a year from these trivial reductions is less than 10% of the current budget. It’s a bandaid applied to a severed limb. They should be promising progressive cuts with a target of reducing yearly budgets to the area of $500 billion within 5 years.

They plan to demand congressional approval of any new federal regulations which add to the deficit or make it harder to create jobs – so vague it could apply to anything. Congressional oversight of the federal bureaucracy is a good idea, but it’s just pushing small numbers around when they should be cutting entire programs and agencies.

One appealing proposal in the area of cuts is the establishment of a federal “sunset” system like those in many states where agencies and programs would be periodically reviewed and potentially shut down if the prove unnecessary or ineffective. A great idea, but likely to turn into nothing but a meaningless rubber stamp and yet another bureaucracy as it has in many states.

There’s a host of other proposals which are all good intentions with no practical reality. How these elected and serving Republicans can propose ideas which they know that even with a majority they will be unable to get past a filibuster is inexplicable. There’s also a lot of rhetoric we’ve seen before: opposition to card check, promising to stop cap and trade, ending federal funding of abortion. There’s also an interesting idea to cut taxes by 20% for small businesses. It’s appealing but again, inadequate. They should eliminate all corporate taxes at all levels if they really want to stimulate the economy and eliminate double taxation.

I like their proposal to end future bailouts and cancel TARP, but almost all of the TARP money has been spent and they don’t seem to have a plan to actually reverse the enormous bailout spending. Plus, reversing any of that spending over the objections of the unions and the businesses which benefit from it seems unrealistic unless they win a super majority in both houses. Similarly, their proposed reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be blocked by Democrats in the pockets of real estate and banking interest.

They also go after Obamacare, but don’t seem to have a real plan for eliminating it, so they focus on reforming it and picking it to death with a repeal of the mandates on small businesses and various vague reform ideas and repeated buzz phrases like “empower small businesses.” Nothing new, nothing radical and nothing which will really make a difference is proposed.

Most of these proposals seem well-intentioned but they are vague and don’t include specific targets or hard numbers and when you try to put numbers to them they don’t really add up. And the thing which throws all the math off is their lengthy discussion of what they absolutely won’t cut: medicare, social security, medicare, the military, foreign aid, homeland security, the overseas wars and deployments and subsidies to local law enforcement. They firmly assert their commitment to expansionism, a security state and violation of the rights of citizens in the name of law and order.

Putting aside the civil rights and foreign policy concerns, the main problem with their proposed “hands off” areas of government is that they add up to about three quarters of the federal budget, and without cutting them it is impossible to even implement the modest spending cuts they propose, much less the far more radical cuts we really need. The math just doesn’t work. You can’t cut the budget substantially while making the majority of it off limits to cuts. To claim you can is just ridiculous.

This pledge is getting a lot of coverage in the media, perhaps because it is so lukewarm and futile. It doesn’t present a strong message for the Republican Party. Many Republicans are disavowing it, from future Senator Rand Paul to current rising star Senator Jim DeMint. It’s not what the grassroots of the party are demanding and in many ways it’s a declaration of irrelevancy from the party establishment. If this is the best they can come up with, it may be time to push them out of the way and find leaders who can actually lead. The people demand and deserve better.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Dan(Miller)

    Here is an inspiring and somewhat “radical” proposal from a well known and highly respected leader, at least some of whose thoughts might be appealing in the U.S.


  • jeannie danna

    Are you planning on hiring all of these displaced people, Dave, or maybe you plan to run the bread-lines?

    Don’t go near the(socialized)programs that work! SS, Medicare, and VA Health Care-that has an 85% approval rating among Veterans.

    JD So, stay away!

    But, even if any of them win in a general, highly unlikely, they wont have that much say…

  • Dave Nalle

    What are you nattering about, Jeanie? If we cut the government budget substantially and got rid of corporate taxes we’d have jobs again, people would be employed and immigration would become a benefit rather than a problem.


  • concerned person

    So the extremely liberal hacks at Yahoo! put a bashing blog as the #1 result when “Pledge to America” is surfed. I hope you do go backrupt- except that Google is even MORE liberal. Bing anyone?

  • handyguy

    Dave is right that the Pledge is warmed-over bullshit hash.

    So is his own canard that eliminating corporate taxes would magically eliminate unemployment.

    Beware politically motivated people offering simple solutions to complex problems. Solving the problems is not the intention of the writers and politicians spreading this bilge — confusing the electorate is.

    By the way, only about half of TARP was spent, and a large percentage of it has been paid back with interest. It’s possible to reasonably oppose policy without spreading lies about it.

    [Figures from Wikipedia — if you have other info why not share it? — After an original request for $700 billion, $356 billion was spent and $89 billion is still outstanding. Yes, there were large non-TARP actions by the Fed such as buying Fannie and Freddie securities and buying government bonds. Is Dave prepared to say he knows what would have happened if the Fed hadn’t taken those actions?]

  • Baronius

    Dave, most of your complaints are about its vagueness or failure to go far enough. If that’s the case, why should politicians back away from it? Shouldn’t they accept it as a starting point for reform?

    Secondly, and somewhat contrarily, you mention that it’ll be next to impossible to get some of this stuff through Congress and into law. What’s wrong with stating your agenda? I’m sure they’ll have to negotiate away most of this, unless President Obama goes full-Clinton in the second half of this term. But you’ve got to make an initial offer before the deal-making begins. When viewed that way, the document’s bigger proposals seem reasonable.

  • Leroy

    Dave is wrong ” If we cut the government budget substantially and got rid of corporate taxes we’d have jobs again,”

    Not if you don’t have sales, you won’t!

    All the rest is irrelevant without sales.

    Where you going to get ’em from, smart guy?

  • krissi

    you are absolutely WRONG the Republicans like Eric Cantor who wrote this re-newing pledge are NOT the same people who voted for the the bail out and all these economony killing bills Obama has shoved down the peolpes thoarts!! No Reublicans voted for the bail outs or Obama-care. Why doesn’t your web site publish the actual Pledge so people can read it for themselves. Young adults of my generation need to wake up from this Obama daze they’ve been in > If they knew really how he & the democratic party were destroying our futures they would be rejecting him and his policies. I beg people dont get your news analysis from only these left wing radical sites they tune into Mark Levine 6:06 wabc 770 am,, for the truth Hurry up and wake up we are now living in a soft tyranny

  • El Bicho

    “This highly politicized practice has been a mainstay of the Democrats and is particularly offensive.”

    What’s also offensive is you fail to mention it’s a mainstay of both parties.

    “Why doesn’t your web site publish the actual Pledge so people can read it for themselves.”

    Because Dave provided a link. Surely a young adult of your generation should know what that is. If you are calling this a “left wing radical site”, you are loonier than Mark Levin(no e), the worst voice in radio.

  • handyguy

    Not that I expect Krissi to come back and actually read other comments: but both Eric Cantor and John Boehner were among the 65 House Republicans who voted for TARP even the first time, when the vote failed to carry. On the later successful vote, 91 Republicans voted Yes.

    [By the following March, Rush Limbaugh was falsely claiming that “not one Republican” voted for the bailout. Well, no, not one, but 125: 91 in the House, 34 in the Senate, and the bill was signed by Republican President Bush.]

  • Dave Nalle

    Dave is wrong ” If we cut the government budget substantially and got rid of corporate taxes we’d have jobs again,”

    Not if you don’t have sales, you won’t!

    Leroy, cutting corporate taxes will help bring companies which have offshored back to this country, creating jobs. Job creation creates consumers. Consumers create sales.

    EB, Mark Levin is hardly the worst on talk radio. You clearly don’t listen to it enough. Try checking out Hannity or Alex Jones.


  • El Bicho

    Levin’s nasal drone is way worse than Hannity shrillness. Haven’t heard Jones

  • jeannie danna

    Six out of eight, are telling you that you are wrong, Dave.

    cutting corporate taxes will help bring companies which have off shored back to this country

    Nothing is going to bring those greedy bastards back. Realize, that it is the free-ride and the dirt-cheap labor of exploited people that these corporations are currently enjoying, and record profits! While the rest of us? Some, like you, are actually doing their bidding for them. Trying to peel away votes needed to hold on to some decency for all Americans and not just the *Haves* and the delusional losers who will never have any of that *Have* themselves.

    wake up.

  • John Wilson

    Dave is still wrong: “… cutting corporate taxes will help bring companies which have offshored back to this country, creating jobs. Job creation creates consumers. Consumers create sales.”

    What nonsense! Corporate taxes are insignificant and getting more insignificant every year as businessmen and their lawyers find more ways to escape them. 50 years ago 80% of federal taxes were paid by corporations, but by diligent application of lawyering and political bribing they’ve reduced it to 20%. What you propose is to subsidize corporations with personal taxes.

    And it won’t work anyhow because it’s just an incentive, which companies are free to ignore (for exampl if some other country whores it’s citizens out to companies on even more favorable terms).

    What you propose is just a ripoff of US citizens and taxpayers to further the advantages of a pampered business class.

    Also, jobs have weak influence on consumer creation whereas consumer spending has strong effect on jobs because the money is applied where it does more good, i.e., increases money velocity.

  • Dave Nalle

    Some pretty delusional stuff in the comments here, as usual. I guess you guys can just ignore the direct relationship between increased corporate taxes and offshoring of compnaies and the fact that those companies specifically relocated to tax haven countries. Those bits of reality don’t support your anticapitalist bias.

    And I’m not necessarily talking about bringing factories back to America by cutting corporate taxes. That would require cuts in wages, and that’s a longer, much harder fight we need to take on. But cutting corporate taxes would at least bring corporate headquarters and administrations back to the US.

    We need to make the US the most attractive place for businesses to operate in the world. That’s the solution we’re looking for.

    And cutting corporate taxes is a reduction in corporate overhead which results in a reduction in prices, at least theoretically. Right now consumers who buy products from American companies are being double taxed with corporate and sales taxes, which is a large dissincentive to buy US products.

  • Baronius

    Not even close, John. Corporate taxes as a percentage of revenue were around 42% in 1960. They’ve declined into the 20% range, although they’ve been on the rise since Bush’s first term. (I guess that means that corporate influence was on the decline under Bush.) And that percent of revenue calculation excludes revenue from OADSHI, so that 42% in generous in your favor.

  • jeannie danna

    The language in comment # 16 needs a link to support it.

  • jeannie danna


    I’m not anti-capitalist, I’m anti-greedy-capitalist-pigs, which describes any American company who left their original work-force at home to go out and find cheaper-labor.I feel sort of like a first wife.


  • Baronius

    No can do. I did the calculations by hand. The data is on the OMB website.

  • John Wilson

    Baronius may be embarrassed by his sources, but I’m willing to supply any number of confirming sources for my assertions.

    Maybe Baronius made a math error: I’m not aware that he’s a math whiz of any note.

    Tax Policy Center

    The Numbers: What are the federal government’s sources of revenue?

    Individual income taxes and payroll taxes now account for four out of every five federal revenue dollars. Corporate income taxes contribute another 12 percent. Excise taxes, estate and gift taxes, customs duties, and miscellaneous receipts (earnings of the Federal Reserve System and various fees and charges) make up the balance. The composition of tax revenue has changed markedly over the past half century, with payroll taxes contributing an increasing, and corporate income and excise taxes a decreasing, share of the total, but the share provided by individual income taxes has remained roughly constant.

    * In 2008 the federal government collected $2.5 trillion, an amount equal to 17.7 percent of GDP. Federal revenue has ranged from 14.4 to 20.9 percent of GDP over the past five decades, averaging 18.2 percent.
    * The individual income tax has been the largest single source of federal revenue since 1950, averaging just over 8 percent of GDP.
    * Payroll taxes swelled following the creation of Medicare in 1965. Taxes for Medicare, combined with periodic increases in Social Security taxes, caused payroll tax revenue to grow from 1.6 percent of GDP in 1950 to more than 6 percent since 1990. Payroll taxes also include railroad retirement, unemployment insurance, and federal workers’ pension contributions.
    * Revenue from the corporate income tax fell from between 5 and 6 percent of GDP in the early 1950s to 2.1 percent of GDP in 2008.
    * Excise taxes fell steadily throughout the same period, from nearly 3 percent of GDP in 1950 to 0.5 percent in recent years.
    * The remaining sources of revenue have fluctuated less, together claiming between 0.5 and 1.0 percent of GDP since 1950 and standing near the bottom of that range in 2008.

    The individual income tax has consistently provided nearly half of total federal revenue since 1950, while other revenue sources have waxed and waned. Excise taxes brought in 19 percent of total revenue in 1950 but only about 3 percent in recent years. The share of revenue coming from the corporate income tax dropped from about one-third in the early 1950s to less than one-sixth in 2008. In contrast, payroll taxes provided more than one-third of revenue in 2008, compared with just one-tenth in the early 1950s.

    Etc., etc.

    They even provide a nifty piechart, if that’s more ones style.

    There are plenty of other citations available.

  • Baronius

    John, I never had no formal schooling in math, but I got ten fingers and nine and most of a tenth toe, and I can tell you, that your earlier statement is wrong:

    “50 years ago 80% of federal taxes were paid by corporations, but by diligent application of lawyering and political bribing they’ve reduced it to 20%.”

    Look at Figure 2 on that link you provided. The percentage of corporate income tax falls by close to half, but it was nowhere near 80% of total governmental revenue in the 1960’s. It was about 22%.

  • Baronius

    Actually, you don’t even have to look at the other page. Consider your two statements, that 80% of federal taxes were paid by corporations in 1960, and that the individual income tax has been the largest single source of federal revenue since 1950. They’re contradictory. Your comments in #20 support my numbers in #16.

  • handyguy

    But they don’t support the argument that corporate taxes are the main driver of the economy and hiring. Corporate taxes have been higher during some boom times and lower during some bad times. Other factors must be at least as important and probably more so.

  • Baronius

    See, Handy, this is the kind of place you’ll criticize me for obsessing on a detail. But let’s face it, I’m not going to convince you or John to change your positions. If I can put the right statistics out there then the next person can at least make up his mind on the basis of facts.

  • handyguy

    And we can often count on you to avoid responding directly to an argument, or to at least concede that there might be counterevidence to your preferred ideological “analysis.”

  • John Wilson

    The CBO pie chart at the URL is very clear about who pays.

    Taxes should be raised for corporations, not lowered. In fact, there is quite a bit of that sentiment in the international financial press.

  • John

    To Dave:

    “Leroy, cutting corporate taxes will help bring companies which have offshored back to this country, creating jobs. Job creation creates consumers. Consumers create sales.”

    False. America has THE lowest corporate tax system in the world. This isn’t what’s driving jobs over seas. It’s NAFTA and other corporations that want to exploit work forces that are non-organized.

    We need to being back tariffs like almost every other country has.

  • John Wilson

    And what we need for JOBS is consumer DEMAND. Without demand there is no business, and demand is sagging badly.

    Remember, this is a consumer-driven economy.

  • jeannie danna

    Remember, this is a consumer-driven economy, and, a greed-driven society. Greed is the reason why out-sourced cheap labor gives us a huge GNP with no jobs!

  • Dave Nalle

    It’s not that corporate taxes are the main driver of the economy. They are just an important factor in encouraging companies to relocate. When our corporate taxes are tied for the highest in the world with Japan (as they are now) then companies which have the choice of where to locate corporate operations and administrative centers look elsewhere.


  • Dave Nalle

    Plus it’s not the percentage of our government’s revenue which comes from corporate taxes which matters, it’s the relative hit they take from our taxes vs. those of other countries. If they can pay 25% in corporate tax instead of 35% that 10% makes a huge difference to their bottom line.

  • Dave Nalle

    False. America has THE lowest corporate tax system in the world.

    This just isn’t true at all. We have both state and federal corporate taxes. In some states our combined corporate tax is the highest in the world. In those states with no corporate tax we are 3rd behind France (after it cut its corporate tax rate) and Japan. On average we’re about tied with Japan.

    Our BASE rate is 20%. That’s higher than the total rate in places like Ireland and Hong Kong or Singapore. With state and local taxes our rate goes as high as 35% while the top rates in other developed nations, even in Europe is much lower. Even the UK tops out at 28%, and the highest rates in the EU are now capped at 33.8%, more than a point lower than the highest in the US. 11 European countries have a top corporate tax rate lower than our bsse federal rate, and that includes rather nice industrialized countries like Poland and Hungary.

    And to go a step further, consider that the executives who work for companies don’t like paying high personal taxes and some of these countries with corporate taxes substantially lower than the US also have low income tax rates.

    If I owned a big corporation right now I’d be relocating to Georgia. The top corporate tax is 20%. Income tax is only 12%. VAT is the main source of revenue at 18%. They make some of the best Cognac and wines in the world. The people are friendly and pro-American. They have decent universities. And the next time Russia invades them the invading army can easily be bribed to leave your corporate HQ alone.