Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A new contract with America?

The NY Times today reveals that there have been meetings in the House where congress members have been kicking around the idea of a new "manifesto" for the Republicans in Congress. According to the times:

Leaders of the Republican Study Committee intend to use a closed-door party meeting on Tuesday to present a seven-point proposal calling for a constitutional limit on federal spending, a new simplified income tax alternative and a proposal to require recipients of food stamps or housing aid to meet work requirements.

That's not a bad start, and I certainly like the idea of a new contract with America. It seems like 1994 was the last time Congress did anything that the American people approved of. I guess if we are going to keep the Republicans from acting like Democrats we are going to have to get it in writing and have them sign it. It's a shame that it's the only way they keep their word- but hey, whatever works! That being said, I have my own ideas about what could be included in this new contract. Some of it comes from the ideas on Newt Gingrich's website and Mitt Romney's website, and I really think that they should not create a new document wtihout consulting the two of them.

A seven point proposal doesn't seem bad, but I think 10 points might be easier for marketing. You know, 10 commandments, 10 amendments in the bill of rights, David Letterman's top ten list, etc. For the first 3, I am just going to go ahead and put in the ideas that they've already came up with.

1) A constitutional limit on federal spending (hopefully this means spending only what you have)
2) A new simplified income tax alternative (hopefully this means a flat tax option for those who choose it)
3) Requiring food stamps and housing aid recipients to meet work requirements

So far so good, these are the type of things that are going to get conservatives energized for the upcoming elections these are also common sense ideas that resonate with all Americans (or at least a strong majority). What else should be included in this contract? Glad you asked, these are the things that I would like to see included (not necessarily in this order).

4) Ending ear marks in congress. It boggles the minds of ordinary Americans to think that spending can be attached to bills in the middle of the night without any debate or vote on that particular spending item. It should boggle the mind, it makes no sense. This would be something that John McCain could help champion as well.

5) Require some form of valid ID for voting in federal elections. The recent supreme court ruling allows for this, and it definitely something the vast majority of American's support. 95% of Americans support this idea according to some polls. And it should sail through Congress.

6) Immigration reform. This is a hot topic, but the GOP is going to have to employ bold strategies if they want to really get something out of this contract. This part of the contract would be one of the most debated, but if you are in the right and the polls show that the vast majority of Americans want the immigration laws enforced (70-80% depending on the poll) - so I dare Obama to oppose it. This bill would consist of:

• finishing the border fence
• implementing an enforceable employer verification system
• cutting of federal funding to sanctuary cities
• encouraging legal immigration

7) Making health care more affordable - again this is a hot issue, and the GOP will not be rewarded for shying away from the tough issues (not in this election cycle) and of course the beauty of the contract is should they win a majority in Congress - they will have the political momentum to actually get all of their points passed into law. After all, they did spell out for the American people what they were going to do once elected and the American people voted for them - it's harder to think of a better referendum than that. Making health care more affordable would consist of:

• Deregulating state markets
• Making all health care expenses tax deductible
• Federal caps on non-economic and punitive damage awards to eliminate frivolous lawsuits
• Promote Innovation in Medi-caid. Letting states spend their money however if most efficient for them.
• Use some of the money currently spent on providing expensive "free care" for the uninsured at emergency rooms to instead help the truly needy buy private insurance.

8) Excellence in Education - this is a touchy issue for conservatives as most of us believe the way to improve education is to give more local control and have the federal government stay out of it. That being said there are still a lot of things that can be done at the federal level to improve education.

• promote school choice and encourage the use of vouchers and charter schools. 67% of African Americans and 60% of Hispanics support school choice for those in low-income or failing schools so this should be no-brainer to be included in the contract.

• promoting performance pay for teachers. 70% of voters support the idea of teachers getting pay based on performance. This is the type of thing that will have the teachers unions out against the Republicans, but they were against us to begin with so nothing has changed. But, it is an idea that most American's agree with and the Democrats will have to oppose because so much of their funding comes from the teacher's union. This puts the Dems at odds with the majority of Americans - again it's a no brainer to be included.

• tax credits for home-schoolers to help off-set educational costs. The vast majority of home schoolers support the GOP already, but this is just needed. It also helps to fire up a grass roots base across the country.

• Promoting excellence in Math & Science - whether it's Newt's "pay for an A" program or Mitt Romney's idea to establish solely math and science high schools these are the type of initiatives that America needs to succeed in the 21st century.

The GOP owns the educational reform issues as we are the only party with any ideas about changes to the education system. The only thing the Dems can counter with is they want to raise taxes to throw more and more money at failing programs. The Dems will get killed at the debates on this issue and it must be included in the contract.

9) Ending Energy Dependence This is something Americans have been crying out for ever since the 1970's and for some reason congress has never delivered. This would call for:

• Promoting Nuclear Power - nothing demonstrates the problem more than the fact that there are electrical plants in the US that burn oil to make electricity.

• Increasing Domestic Production - drilling in ANWR, off-shore and creating new oil refineries will all help increase the supply dramatically and lower the price of gas

• National Standard of Gasoline- currently there are 36 different types of gasoline that the oil companies have to refine - a national standard would not only simplify their jobs, but permit over-seas refineries to produce our gasoline for us. Again dramatically lowering costs.

• Improved smart-grid technology for power distribution

10) Restoring Fiscal Discipline This would consist of:

• Instituting the line-item veto- giving the president the power held by most state governors to veto individual elements of a spending bill and strip out unnecessary spending.

• restoring the supermajority requirement - impose congressional rule requiring a 3/5 super majority to pass any law that would raise taxes

All in all the contact could be the most brilliant move made by Republicans ever. Especially, if John McCain signs it and it is tied to the presidential election. That would keep the race focused on where the Republicans are strongest - on the issues. And it may force the Democrats to come up with their own contract to show what they would do if put into power - which could ultimately be their undoing. After all, if the Dems showing their proposals to improve education, health care, immigration and energy independence it's going to consist of one idea- TAX & SPEND.

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