Government Spending

Pledgin' Their Time, But Not to Cutting the Federal Budget


The Republican Pledge to America is out, appearing at a hardware store near you.

As predicted, there is, alas, very little to get excited about. Oaths to make sure that all laws Congress passes are constitutional are laughable (in a Jerry Lewis The Day The Clown Cried kind of way), especially given the way that Supreme Court Justices such as Antonin Scalia interpret the commerce clause. Any "bold" plan for the future that bothers to talk about keeping Gitmo open (or closed, for that matter) is a joke (again, in a Day The Clown Cried sort of way). Promising to read legislation before passing is a good idea coming from the many of the very same folks who bum-rushed The Patriot Act and TARP through on the grounds that if we didn't act immediately, we'd all turn into pillars of salt.

More to the point (which Matt Welch made earlier today), these sorts of documents are about as binding as a plate full of prunes, especially when they are chock full of Mack Truck-sized loopholes such as:

Cut Government Spending to Pre-Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels:  With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt,  balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children's future. [emphasis added.]

Regular readers here know that pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels of spending were absolutely horrible. And why do seniors get a pass? For god's sake, repeal the Medicare prescription drug plan already! Over the next decade, the costs are estimated to be about $730 billion, all for a program that wasn't necessary in the first place (back in 2000, when the plan was getting discussed, seniors spent just 3.2 percent of their money on drugs, less than they spent on entertainment). By all means, help those (few) seniors who need a hand, but this sort of Bush-pushed entitlement is precisely one of the reasons why the pre-stimulus, pre-bailout budget was more bloated than Larry Summers' third chin.

The document's most deafening silence is on entitlement spending. Indeed, it's main attack on ObamaCare is precisely that this awful new program steals money from Medicare. Which last time anybody looked, was the time bomb that's ticking under the federal budget like a Guy Fawkes' powder keg.

Memo to House Republicans, who had, what about four years?, to come up with an agenda: If you do win big in the midterms—and by all rights, you will—don't mistake those gains against a really awful opposition for anything like support for your non-program.

Read it and weep. And listen and learn:

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  1. these sorts of documents are about as binding as a plate full of prunes,

    LOLZ. The snark is strong with The Jacket.

  2. It’s fucking amazing how milquetoast the GOP is, in a time when it stands to make crushing gains against the Dems. Or maybe it’s not; maybe they figure it’s smarter to play it mild because they’re going to crush them anyway.

    1. It’s not amazing. If they come out and talk about major changes to get our fiscal house in order and to weaken Leviathan, well, they won’t be able to do the things they want to do and pay off the constituencies they want to pay off when they’re back in power.

      Face it: The whole business is an open scam. One group of thugs gets to play with lives, power, and money, then another group gets to do it. Around and around it goes. We could stop it, but we won’t.

      The only sane and principled course of action right now is to dramatically cut spending, with some of the savings going back into the economy via tax rate reductions and some (probably more, to begin with) going to pay down debt. On top of that, strict limitations on deficit spending will need to be added to the Constitution, and we’ll also need to return to some concept of limited government to prevent the inevitable decline into tyranny. Naturally, we’ll do no such thing, as government is rarely sane or capable of long-term planning.

      1. Face it: The whole business is an open scam. One group of thugs gets to play with lives, power, and money, then another group gets to do it. Around and around it goes. We could stop it, but we won’t.

        I’m not gonna argue with that. See my comment downthread.

      2. +1

      3. Breads and circuses.

        Lather, rinse, repeat.

      4. The whole business is an open scam. One group of thugs gets to play with lives, power, and money, then another group gets to do it. Around and around it goes.

        “A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.” –Lysander Spooner

    2. It’s fucking amazing how milquetoast the GOP is

      I don’t see it, and i suspect you have not read the actual document. Is it a libertarian manifesto? no

      But it does go after repealing Health care reform, and stopping stimulus spending pretty definitively.

  3. Of course if they wrote the thing exactly as Welch wants them to, they would hand the Democrats the sword to kill them with “these nuts want to throw grandma in the street”. And when that happened I have no doubt Welch and Gillespie would be on Reason snickering about how dumb the Republicans were for giving the Democrats so much ammunition.

    I would love to think that you could come out and tell the truth and really go after entitlements and win. But I see no evidence that is true. And even if it is true, no one who has survived in politics long enough to be in a position of power is ballsy enough to do it.

    If they wrote what you wanted, Matt they would be crucified. So what are they supposed to do? Lose so they can say I told you so later? If they even did what is promised in the document, that would be a start and better than what we have now.

    1. John, do you think they are actually planning to make real cuts and whatnot if they regain power, and are just couching their language for now? Because that’s ridiculous (as ProL spelled out well above). They will get back in, make a few token changes, and then business as usual.

      1. At times like these, where anti-government sentiment is running high, we will some politicians get elected with at least some reformer ideals. They may or may not stick to their principals, but the problem is that they won’t be a majority.

        What’s sad is that I think with maybe 20-30 Ron Paul/Jeff Flake types in Congress, the libertarian minority actually could effect some gradual changes. But we’re too easily manipulated into voting against “mean” people who suggest that we can’t afford infinite welfare or “wimpy” people who don’t want to go to war every few years.

      2. Since they don’t control the White House and won’t have even a sixty vote majority in the Senate, I don’t see how they can do much beyond a few token changes and torturing Obama. At most they were at best going to ensure that Obama didn’t make things worse. But you can’t make real because of a mid term election unless the President is willing to work with you, which isn’t going to happen.

        Do you honestly think Obama would ever sign a bill that defunded Part D? I don’t. So why run on it?

        They are not going to balance the budget anymore than the Democrats were going to end the Iraq war after they won in 2006. You can’t change things by just winning an off year election. You have to have the Presidency to.

        I don’t know what they will do. Maybe they will go back to stealing. But no matter what, Reason will still be bitching. Even if they do the right thing and prevent a bunch of bad stuff from being passed and force Obama to accept a little bit of fiscal sanity, I guarantee you Welch will be on here bitching about how they sold out and only got half a loaf. So in that sense, it really doesn’t matter.

        1. What I was asking you was whether you still think, if they actually had the power, they would do anything drastic towards reducing government; not excuses why they “can’t” at this point. Because they showed in the Bush years that they won’t even if they have the power.

          1. They won’t even pretend to try.

          2. I don’t know. Many of the current leadership wouldn’t want to, that is for sure. But reality is a harsh mistress. Things cannot go on like they are forever.

            If they don’t, then we are screwed. The Democrats sure as hell are not going to change things. And the Libertarian Party isn’t winning shit ever. And there won’t be a viable third party until at least 2016 and that will probably be too late. And even if it is not too late, a third party is just as likely to split the vote and put the Dems back in as it is to actually change things.

            So, basically, the Republicans are about the only hope we have. You may not like that, but that is the truth.

            1. If my options are GOP, Dems or “crash n burn”, I will take the latter. The GOP or the Dems could change my mind, but this is making it clear the GOP has no interest in that.

              In fact, it makes clear that the GOP prefers the crash n burn option too.

            2. I agree with rob. The GOP is not the only hope, because they’re no hope at all. They’re just as corrupt, venal, stupid, and focused on the now as the Dems.

              Your partisan leanings for the GOP cause you to engage in wishful thinking, John.

              1. Where did I ever say they would do better? I just said I didn’t know. And if there is no hope, the quit fucking whining and stating the obvious. I just told you reality. The libertarian party is joke. The Tea party may turn into a third party. But it won’t be a force in a few years but not right now. And even when it is, Libertarians will never support it because they are too in love culturally with the Left. So it is GOP or more of Pelosi Reid and Obama.

                That is just reality. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

                1. Uh, how can they be our only hope if they aren’t going to do better? If they’re not going to do better, then they certainly fucking aren’t our only hope. So which is it? The reality is that you’re enough of a GOP fanboi partisan that as far as you’re concerned, if they’re going to be equally bad, at least you’d rather have your team in charge.

                  1. I don’t what they are going to do Episiarch. And neither do you and neither do they. Reality has a way of intervening in the best laid of plans.

                    They can’t be any worse than what we have. And if you hate them so much vote for the Democrats anyway. Look, it is mostly about the culture war and sticking it to the rednecks and fundies anyway. At least with the Dems you get to do that.

                    And they are not are only hope. They are our only alternative. If you don’t like that, tough shit. I can’t change it for you.

                2. No, John. Reality is that Conservative nation is going to come to a cross roads: Economic and individual liberty, or the continuance of their moral agenda? They cannot have both, and the former is what Libertarians crave. Perhaps the Tea Party can do that, but I won’t hold my breath.

                  1. the moral agenda such as it is, isn’t what is driving us broke. Is the lack of gay marriage going to run us broke? Is abortion being illegal going to bankrupt the nation? The moral stuff is cheap.

                    And Libertarians are going to come to a crossroads as well. Things like open borders are not popular and never will be popular. They might be able to win a few things on the drug war because that is getting to the point of it being unsustainable.

                    But until Libertarians give up on open borders and their love of the Get the US Out of North America Left, they will always be on the margins.

                    1. Yes the adherence to those social issues has and will continue to bankrupt the nation because many voters will refuse to support a candidate who has all the right economic positions but still wants to breathe down their necks on civil rights.

                  2. Here’s the deal. The GOP is now having to come to terms with the fact that, within their structure, are people who are beholden, not to them, but to the Tea Party. They are desperately trying to remain relevant.

                    The Tea Party has gotten much closer to actually getting some power than the Libertarian Party ever has. AND they have a wide libertarian swathe to their message.

                    So your choice is, go LP, and get nothing, as usual. Go Democrat, and maintain your seat at the good parties while the country goes down the shitter. Or, take a chance that there’s enough spine to the Tea Party candidates to get some real, libertarian change going(and, if you vote GOP, at the very least you get gridlock).

                    There’s not going to be a ‘viable third party’ anytime soon–and, when it comes, that viable third party is not going to be the LP. The LP is a house divided against itself–at best, it serves as a gadfly to the right, and via liberaltarians, a mosquito to the left.

                    Change, in this political system, with come from internal takeover of one or both of the existing big parties.

                3. “they are too in love culturally with the Left”

                  I just through up in my mouth a little.

          3. if they actually had the power, they would do anything drastic towards reducing government

            I am not john but while they have the house and Obama has the presidency I think they will cut the discretionary budget to the bone.

          4. Tea Party, Dude! Where ya been?

        2. The way you win the presidency is by passing things and making Obama veto them.

          1. Exactly. That’s what the pledge to repeal health care reform is really about. They know its impossible while he’s President, but they’re going to try to make him veto it. That’s also why they included some problematic stuff that nevertheless polls well, IMO.

        3. I don’t really care anymore about anything other than whether they voted for TARP.

          There are those who voted for TARP and those who didn’t. I don’t care about any pledges about what they’re going to do; I care what they do about what they themselves have already done.

          I will never support a majority Republican House with a Speaker who voted for TARP.


          I don’t care if he’s a Republican or Nancy Pelosi. I don’t care if he pledges to get rid of the income tax, social security and lay off everyone at the Energy, Commerce and Education Departments…

          I don’t care what their position is on abortion or gun control or missile defense–or whether they want to give me a 20% personal income tax deduction! If this ends up with a leadership that voted for TARP, then they’re a disgrace.

          I will never support a Republican majority Congress if the Speaker voted for TARP.

          1. We agree. Just ask Bob Bennett.

          2. The current Speaker is Nancy Pelosi. She voted for TARP. If Republicans take the House a new speaker will have to be elected.

            Boehner doesn’t just inherit the clown gavel. Campaign against him.

            1. Campaign against him

              I am pretty sure Ken is doing just that.

        4. Actually on the Part D thing I do- I just don’t think the GOP would propose it- remember it was an inverse of the normal entitlement support-oppose coalitions on that bill- the GOP pushed Part D through on a party-line vote against Dems not vice versa- indeed cuts to Part D are one of the main GOP objections to the HCR plan.

      3. John, do you think they are actually planning to make real cuts and whatnot if they regain power, and are just couching their language for now? Because that’s ridiculous (as ProL spelled out well above). They will get back in, make a few token changes, and then business as usual.

        It’ll be like the real changes Obama’s made on foreign adventurism, civil liberties and ramping down the War on Drugs Youth.

        It’s all fucking bullshit and if you support either major party you are complicit.

    2. They were “crucified” over the orginal contract with America and it only won them a massive landslide.

    3. “If they wrote what you wanted, Matt they would be crucified. So what are they supposed to do?”

      How about they shut the hell up and quit playing with their stools?

    4. no one who has survived in politics long enough to be in a position of power is ballsy enough to do it.

      And isn’t that really at the heart of the problem? Might term limits be a step in the right direction?

      1. Yes, that is the heart of the problem. And it is the reason why the establishment loves creatures like Mike Castle and Lisa Murkowski.

    5. How’s that shit taste, John?

  4. “back in 2000, when the plan was getting discussed, seniors spent just 3.2 percent of their money on drugs, less than they spent on entertainment”

    Nick, for some of us geezers, drugs are our entertainment! DON’T MESS WITH MY MEDS, SON! And, besides, we have so much income that 3.2 percent is like a lot.

    1. Shut the fuck up, Vanneman. Just shut the fuck up.

    2. Hey Alan, did you just review Cocoon or something? Or maybe Cocoon: The Return? That would explain a lot.

    3. Shouldn’t you be at home writing As You Like It?

      1. What’s with all the hate on Vanneman, guys?

        Save it for Obama.

        1. How about because he fucking sucks and has nothing relevant to say?

          1. How ’bout he’s been saying relevant interesting stuff and getting linked to by Gillespie and others since years before I ever noticed you around?

      2. Are you saying Vanneman is a sheepfucker?

  5. John Boehner voted for TARP, and if the Tea Party puts the Republicans over the top, and that results in making John Boehner the Speaker of the House?

    Then that will be to the disgrace of the Tea Party.

    If John Boehner and the Bush Era House Republicans want to make a commitment to their voters that they’re really going to be different?

    Then John Boehner needs to resign as Minority Leader. Anything short of that is unacceptable.

    If the newly elected Tea Party inflected Republicans of the next Congress vote him back into leadership? Then that’s their business, but the only pledge I want from the Republicans right now is a) Never TARP, never again. and b) We’re showing it right now by demanding the resignation of John Boehner from a leadership position.

    If John Boehner doesn’t go? Then don’t believe the hype. If the House Republicans demand he steps down now, and then he’s actually forced to do it?

    Even I’m buyin’ in.

    1. The “tea party” candidates should issue their own Pledge – with real teeth.

      1. Absolutely…

        If I’m a Tea Party candidate right now? And I’m trying to pull for swing voters who aren’t gonna be voting for Democrats? That’s my pledge right there…

        I’m campaigning on it! I’m telling my voters the first thing I’m gonna do when I get to Congress is fight to get rid of the Bush Era Republican leadership–who brought TARP into existence in the first place.

        Try to demonize a candidate as being just like the Bush Era Republican leadership when he or she is running on a platform that promises to oppose John Boehner–because of his vote for TARP.

        1. Problem- despite what some people think the Tea Party types aren’t anti-spending just anti-spending on stuff they don’t like- ask them if we should slash medicare or social security and your in for fight.

          1. They’re not libertarians.

            I wish they were, but they aren’t.

            That being said, I think you’ll find that they’re pretty much in agreement about not spending so much–like everywhere in America, they differ on what exactly should be cut…

            Although I think they’re pretty much unanimous that $700 billion + for TARP was a bad idea. Most of them would probably strangle FHA, Fannie and Freddie in the cradle if they could.

            But, yeah, they like Medicare and Social Security and public schools, and they don’t like illegal immigrants and…

            And, unfortunately, IMHO, that makes ’em pretty mainstream.

      2. The timing would be very good for the Tea Partiers to finally state just what the fuck it is they want.

        1. ANd it’s better that they do so now, than when they do have some power and tell the world how they’re against immigration, weed, etc.

          I’d rather know their agenda before the elections.

    2. Enough already with the “Tea Party candidate” and “disgrace of the Tea Party” talk.

      Repeat after me:

      The Tea Party is not a political party. It does not have conventions or primaries, therefore it does not have candidates.

      It is a movement, not unlike the civil rights movement. The day may come when, like the civil rights movement, it is coopted by a political party, but that day is not today.

      1. If the Tea Party means anything, it means opposition to TARP.

        If it’s the Tea Party that puts the Republicans over the top, then the Minority Leader who voted for TARP has no business heading the Republican Party as Speaker of the House.

        The reason Barack Obama is President and not Hillary Clinton? Is because at an important inflection point, the party faithful realized that Barack Obama was against the Iraq War and Hillary Clinton wasn’t. The American people voted Barack Obama into office because they were sick of the Bush Administration and sick of the Iraq War. …the last thing they needed was a Democrat who championed the war.

        John Boehner was instrumental in bringing TARP about in the first place, and opposition to what he did is what brought the Tea Party into existence–it sprang up outside of the Republican Party because John Boehner and his pro-TARP ilk were in it.

        Whatever the Tea Party is, it isn’t about the elevation of Bush Era Republicans who voted for TARP.

        It hasn’t been about elevating pro-TARP Republicans like that at all–throughout the primaries, it’s been about throwing pro-TARP Republicans like John Boehner out on their asses.

  6. I though this whole “Pledge” thing was about getting Newt Gingrich to change his name to Newcular Titties Gingrich. I’m very upset to read that this is no where in their pledge.

  7. I’ve nothing to add to this excellent diagnosis of GOPbullcrapitis.

    Never, ever, not in my lifetime will I vote for a major party candidate again. If Jesus Libertarian Christ ran on either the Dem of GOP ticket, the son of God doesn’t get my vote.

    I am done playing a rigged game.

    1. I’ll vote for the less evil candidates on primary ballots, because there’s no such beast as a contested LP primary. Did that about a week ago with my absentee ballot.

      General election, I always vote for the LP candidate, if any, and blank ballot the rest of the races unless one of the choices is much more evil than the alternative.

    2. Never, ever, not in my lifetime will I vote for a major party candidate again.

      For Presidential elections i am pretty sure i will vote big “L” Libertarian until i am dead.

      For Governor and Senate seat will either vote for the other guy if i hate who is in office or leave it blank or write in some random person.

      For local elections though i think you are making a grave mistake. Local elections can be swayed easily. For those elections i would target the worse person in government in any coming elections then dip into the good old Nixon-bag-O-tricks and lie cheat and steal to get that person out of office.

      There is no guarantee that the next guy will be better. But who gives a fuck. We are libertarians and there is no hope of ever getting what we want. But we can hurt those who prevent us from having liberty and those who steal our freedom.

      There is no hope…

      …but there is revenge.

    3. Oh dry up. You have to play this game or you just get played. If one major party candidate is much better than the other, then you better vote for him. If both major party candidates suck, go LP. Very simple. As soon as libertarians stop crying and fustering so much they can have real influence.

      1. The most influential movement in politics today is the Tea Party–it sprang into existence outside of the Republican Party and it certainly wasn’t a Democratic Party artifact…

        Considering the evidence right in front of our faces, I’d say if you think swing voters have to do what the major parties say? You’re puttin’ the cart before the horse.

        Every primary I see, I see the same message… The Republican Party better do what it’s told–or else.

  8. Oaths to make sure that all laws Congress passes are constitutional are laughable (in a Jerry Lewis The Day The Clown Cried kind of way), especially given the way that Supreme Court Justices such as Antonin Scalia interpret the commerce clause.

    Not only do they not need SCOTUS to have a correct view of the constitution to pass constitutional laws, it is their sworn duty based on their oaths of office to remove justices from the bench who make unconstitutional rulings.

    The problem is that virtually no one in the federal government actually wants to follow the constitution as actually written, because it conflicts with their political philosophy, and they know they can get away with ignoring stuff they don’t like.

  9. John Boehner needs to resign as Minority Leader.


    Sorry, Ken


    1. Well let’s start being open about that then.

      Maybe it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves?

      Maybe people in the media need to start giving that issue some attention.

      Newt Gingrich stepped down because of political pressure. He didn’t jump from his position of leadership, of course–he was pushed!

      The same thing happened to Trent Lott.

      The decision about who to support as your next Speaker of the House (or as Minority Leader) isn’t up to the leader himself…

      It’s up to the Backbenchers.

      And come January? The backbenchers are gonna be Tea Party candidates. It’ll be the Tea Party that put the Republicans over the top–so why do they have someone who voted for TARP as their Speaker?

      The time for John Boehner to step down is right now–so the Republicans can make a real case to the voters instead of this phony pledge. I’m not saying he’s gonna do it willingly, but it’s time to start having that conversation in public.

      John Boehner voted for TARP–so John Boehner is unfit to lead the Tea Party.

      It’s as simple as that. And the sooner the rest of the Bush Era Republicans get that through their thick skulls–the better their party is going to do in the upcoming elections.

      1. Anyone who spends that much time in a tanning bed does not deserve high office.

        1. ::looks at Charlie Crist::

  10. The document’s most deafening silence is on entitlement spending.

    True…but that has not stopped the democrats from saying that the “Plague on America” will shut down Social Security.

  11. Forget about the spending, but what’s with the surreal foreign policy pledges. The foreign policy involves missile defense, Iran and Gitmo. Don’t we have two wars going on that are more important than all of those things?

  12. John, here’s why I will not vote Republican:

    We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps.

    1. “With prior coverage”. That seems to mean that they would prevent insurance companies from dumping you after you get sick. That is totally diferent than saying they have to give you coverage, where none existed before, after you get sick.

      It doesn’t seem to mean what you guys think it means. Am I missing something?

      1. What you’re missing is that establishment Republitards don’t want to repeal Obamacare, they want to “improve” it.

        1. Well that is nice. But who the fuck cares? The point is that people on here seem to be acting under a false assumption.

          1. John: The Republicans are restricting freedom this way not that way! Don’t you see how important that distinction is compared to the fact that Republicans are being statists???

    2. The problem is that the Republicans are signalling, clear as day, that they intend to micromanage private insurance transactions, exactly as the ObamaCare plan does. They just want to move the commas around a little. Anyone who would write that is not a principled small government anything, much less someone who takes at all seriously their pledge to vote only for Constitutional legislation.

      Sorry, but that is not, to coin a phrase, “change I can believe in”.

  13. seniors spent just 3.2 percent of their money on drugs, less than they spent on entertainment

    @ Old People: You’re doing it wrong.

  14. Mr. Gillespie said, ” . . . the time bomb that’s ticking under the federal budget . . .” That old time bomb has been ticking since 1940 (See a partial list at TIME BOMB ). Henny Penny has been calling for the sky to fall at for at least 70 years.

    The debt hawks don’t seem embarrassed that their repeated predictions never come true. They just keep leading the flock up the mountain to await the end of the world, then lead them back down, when the world doesn’t end.

    The federal debt is not a “time bomb” in any sense of the word. The government never will default. Period.

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

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