The Corner

Contract From America Unveiled

A while back I wrote a piece on the efforts of some grassroots groups to draft a Contract From America for the 2010 election cycle. The groups offered 20 items and encouraged visitors to their website to vote for ten. Today they have unveiled the top ten items. I listed my ten in my piece. How does the final product match up?

1. Protect the Constitution

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does. (82.03%)

Did it get my vote? No. I don’t think this requirement would put any meaningful limits on congressional power. Committee chairmen would simply stamp any iffy provision with the words “Commerce Clause” and head to lunch. That doesn’t make it right, and I hope the coalition of 13 state attorneys general that is suing to overturn Obamacare succeeds in reining in the misuse of the Commerce Clause. But I’m not terribly optimistic.

2. Reject Cap & Trade

Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures. (72.20%)

Did it get my vote? Hell yes.

3. Demand a Balanced Budget

Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike. (69.69%)

Did it get my vote? No. Unrealistic.

4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform

Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution. (64.90%)

Did it get my vote? No. I favor incremental approaches to tax reform.

5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the US Constitution’s meaning. (63.37%)

Did it get my vote? No. Unnecessary. We know which agencies are wasteful and ineffective. What we lack is a congressional majority of either party willing to do something about them.

6. End Runaway Government Spending

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (56.57%)

Did it get my vote? No. A lot of work needs to be done in the area of entitlements before we can start talking about statutory spending caps. And if we exempt entitlements, then such a proposal “savors of Obama’s ’spending freeze,’ which conservatives rightly criticized as ineffectual.”

7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care

Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries. (56.39%)

Did it get my vote? Yes.

8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy

Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs. (55.51%)

Did it get my vote? Yes: “Energy prices, on the rise again, could make drilling a winning issue in 2010.” Obama’s drilling order reduces the potency of this issue somewhat, but not completely: His order leaves large swaths of the Outer Continental Shelf off-limits, to say nothing of his administration’s decision to block oil-shale development in the Mountain West.

9. Stop the Pork

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark. (55.47%)

Did it get my vote? Yes: “Earmarks, while relatively inconsequential relative to the size of the budget, tend to grease the skids on large spending bills.” (The House GOP has since adopted a unilateral earmark ban.)

10. Stop the Tax Hikes

Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011. (53.38%)

Did it get my vote? Yes. This item was at the top of my list.

On the whole it’s not a bad list. More skewed toward castle-in-the-sky reforms than it would have been if I’d drawn it up. The list omits any serious commitment to cutting entitlement spending, as I predicted it might. This is going to be a problem for GOP leaders. They don’t want to embrace policies that might jeopardize their momentum. But if they are elected on a platform that lacks any mention of entitlements, they are going to find themselves lacking a mandate for fixing entitlements without resorting to large tax increases when the bond vigilantes blow the whistle. It’s troubling.

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