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Libertarians on Republican's Pledge to America

Adrian Moore
September 26, 2010, 12:57pm

Libertarian's have not exactly embraced the Republican's new Pledge to America

Reason's Nick Gillespie raised some interesting questions even before the release of the pledge, based on advance marketing of the pledge. He focuses on the harsh reality that the Republican's have not really been a font of innovative policy ideas, and have been inept at implementing the changes they have actually proposed.  The more famous, and bolder, Contract With America was at least a call for real reforms, thought it amounted to nothing.

The junior high kids in my economics classes don't take long to figure out that the federal government's spending problem can only be solved but reducing entitlements.  But The Pledge shy's away from that issue with obvious fear and trepidation.  The most obvious place they could be bold, and they punt.  Peter Suderman dissected nicely the missing entitlements reform in the Pledge, pointing out the feeble paragraph where they discuss it:

We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations. That means requiring a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, setting benchmarks for these programs and reviewing them regularly, and preventing the expansion of unfunded liabilities.

They will make decisions! That are necessary! But what might those decisions be? Er, um...look, a blimp!

Combine this with the hedged promise to only roll back spending “with common-sense exceptions for seniors” (as well as veterans and troops) and you have a recipe for total inaction on our unsustainable entitlements.

Then, as Matt Welch point out, the Pledge has been a touchstone for cheering from social conservatives on all manner of social issues that are far from the top of the list of issues in this election, and frankly where the federal government has no business.  Protecting marriage? Come on guys. . .

One final beating to point out.  The Libertarian Party was particularly brutal.  They say

It should have gone something like this:

"We're sorry, America. Sorry we grew the federal government budget from $1.7 trillion to over $3 trillion. Sorry we added $5 trillion to the federal debt. Sorry we doubled the size of the Department of Education. Sorry we started two incredibly costly foreign wars. Sorry we supported the absurd and costly TARP bailouts. Sorry we created a huge and costly new Medicare entitlement. Sorry we did nothing to end the costly and destructive War on Drugs. Sorry we did nothing to reform the federal government's near-prohibition on immigration. But hey, at least we helped you by shifting a lot of your tax burden onto your children and grandchildren."

Harsh, dude!

I really opened the Pledge with fairly high expectations. I knew there would be some election year inspired fluff and fear of "third rails". But I figured there would be some key elements of real reform ideas. Nick, more cynical than I, came closer to the truth with his skepticism based on the Republican's track record.  I have gone over this thing and there is just not much there there. A lot of the bold looking ideas are pretty feeble on 2nd look, or are missing a key piece that would make them actually substantial.  Take the cap on spending for example.  This Congress cannot cap the spending of the next Congress--they don't have the power.  Like a 140lb nerd talking smack about his football days, the cap is a silly attempt by Republicans to looker tougher than they really are.  Far more credible would have been a pledge to specific spending levels over the coming, say, 5 years.

As Matt points out in his above post, this Pledge compares poorly to short, simple, and focused Tea Party Contract FROM America

  1. Protect the Constitution
  2. Reject Cap & Trade
  3. Demand a Balanced Budget
  4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform
  5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government
  6. End Runaway Government Spending
  7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care
  8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy
  9. Stop the Pork
  10. Stop the Tax Hikes

OK, it needs a lot of specifics. But the focus is right.  How much more dynamic and exciting would things be right now if the establishment Republican's Pledge laid out a series of specific goals and legislative proposals to implement all or even most of these 10 points??!!


Adrian Moore is Vice President, Policy


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