Contract From America Wrap-Up
Over the past few weeks, we’ve reviewed each of the ten items in the Contract From America, a document put together with input from many people in the loosely affiliated groups that make up the Tea Party movement.
Hopefully, this is helpful to Tea Partiers and non-Tea Partiers alike. For the former, it’s a deeper dive into some of the issues they care about and a look at some of the bills in Congress already that would do what they want to do.
For non-Tea Partiers, it’s a chance to get away from the politics and posturing to look at what the substantive proposals are. That doesn’t mean you’ll agree with them, but at least you’ll know better why you disagree.
With the information we’ve put together, hopefully people can do a better job of holding their viewpoints and discussing them with others. Congratulations to everyone on every side of these issues because you’re doing your civic duty simply by being aware and involved.
Here again are the ten items in the Contract From America (with the level of support each received in a voting process), followed by a link to our write-ups and some brief discussion of the proposal.
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%)
The House already requires this in its committee reports, but the Supreme Court interprets the constitution’s Commerce Clause quite broadly, which is what allows the federal government to do so much of what it does.
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%)
We looked at what cap and trade is, and the high costs of implementing such a system.
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%)
Bringing the budget back into balance is getting more and more important, but this could just as well be done with tax hikes. Read about how this proposal tries to promote spending cuts instead as the path of least resistance.
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%)
We looked briefly at several of the existing proposals to create a flat tax, which would be simpler and lift many burdens and costs associated with the current tax system.
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%)
It will take much more than a commission—a whole bunch of time-worn practices will have to change—for the government to function better in the eyes of many Americans. Our frank assessment was that this is one of the weaker proposals in the Contract.
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%)
We talked about how this Contract item is modeled on “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” (or “TABOR”) bills that have been proposed and passed in some states.
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%)
Lots of bills have been introduced to repeal “Obamacare”—sometimes to replace it with another approach.
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%)
There’s a tension between this item and agenda item 1, which seeks to push the federal government back within its constitutional limits. We talked about whether the Framers of the Constitution would have seen energy policy as a proper federal role.
Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark. (55.47%)
We’ve put a lot of effort into earmark transparency here at WashingtonWatch.com.Some of that is highlighted in our write-up of this Contract item. (And check out Earmarkdata.org, a campaign site seeking good data about earmarks from Congress.)
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%)
As we noted in our write-up of this Contract item, tax increases are coming in 2011. With so much new spending and increased government debt since existing tax cuts were last extended, it seems unlikely that they will be extended again or made permanent by the end of the year. But the Contract From America wants to put the issue front and center in the next election.
And that is the story of the Contract From America, putting issues front and center in the next election. It’s a very interesting document, which is likely to have significant influence in the upcoming election and in the course of the country’s policies from here forward. Make sure you have your share of influence too, by staying aware of what your government is doing. We try to make it easy, with a free weekly email newsletter and various RSS feeds for the more technically inclined of you.