Hoping to repeat the success of their 1994 "Contract With America," House Republicans on Thursday rolled out their "Pledge to America," a modest legislative agenda that calls for limiting federal spending, permanently extending all of the Bush tax cuts and repealing President Obama's signature health care law.
"Across America, the people see a government in Washington that isn't listening, doesn't get it, and doesn't care," said House Minority Leader John Boehner as he and other Republican leaders -- in their shirtsleeves -- released the 21-page document at a news conference at a hardware store and lumber yard in Sterling, Va.
"'A Pledge to America' offers a new way forward that hasn't been tried in Washington: an approach focused on cutting spending instead of accelerating spending, and eliminating uncertainty for the private-sector innovators and entrepreneurs who create jobs," Rep. Boehner said.
The phrasing is odd, apparently in an attempt to rebut Potlatch President Barack Obama's claim that today's Republicans seek to take the country back to the "failed policies of the past."
In fact, the GOP does need to renounce the go-along-with-tax-and-spend agenda that it increasingly fell into from 1992 right up through the lost-my-veto-pen administration of George W. Bush. In dumping "Republicans in Name Only" like Delaware's Mike Castle, instead nominating true fiscal conservatives, it has already made large strides.
But low taxes and minimal government red tape made America great from its founding at least up through 1912 -- why claim that's anything new or untried?
The GOP "pledge" calls for a reduction in federal spending to fiscal 2008 levels except for the Pentagon and Homeland Security; for citing specific constitutional authority when introducing legislation; and for requiring all bills to be posted online three days before votes -- a pointed barb at Democratic measures including the 2,000-page ObamaCare legislation, of which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said, "We have to pass it so we can find out what's in it."
Democrat response was not impressively thoughtful.
"If it sounds familiar, it's because it's the same litany that got us into this mess -- tax cuts for the rich that costs millions of dollars," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
But tax cuts don't "cost" Americans anything. Only taxes "cost" Americans. Leaving more Americans with more of the money they've earned -- their own money -- can only help the private-sector economy, while the notion that all money starts out belonging to the government, which thus sustains a "cost" when it "allows" some Americans to keep more than they need to barely subsist, is pernicious socialism.
The GOP plan is hardly ambitious, and it's short on specifics. But the document shows signs that House Republicans soberly analyzed what steps they're really likely to be able to take during the two more years Barack Obama is in the White House.
The "pledge" is a practical plan that would move America in the correct direction. Conservative pundits have already voiced important words of warning, however: Should the GOP capture a House majority in five weeks, the party had better show it's serious by getting to work on this agenda -- at the very least -- in short order.
Americans are fed up. If proper measures are passed and the Democrats choose to filibuster or veto them, fine. But long months of saying, "Oh, you don't understand how things work here," are not likely to be well-tolerated.