Government Reform

Faking the Pledge

Republican promises of fiscal sobriety ring hollow.


In the "Pledge to America" they unveiled last week, House Republicans promise they will "launch a sustained effort to stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade." Who better for the job than the folks who ran the government for most of that time?

If the GOP's record of fiscal fecklessness were not enough reason to doubt its newfound commitment to curbing "Washington's irresponsible spending habits," the pledge's failure to address entitlement and defense programs would be. The Republicans say they want to "have a responsible, fact-based conversation with the American people about the scale of the fiscal challenges we face and the urgent action that is required to deal with them." That's hard to do when only a small share of the $3.8 trillion budget is open for discussion, and then only in the vaguest terms.

The Pledge to America, which seems to be based on the assumption that America has a short memory, castigates Democrats for "their out-of-control spending spree." Republicans, you may recall, had a spending spree of their own during George W. Bush's recently concluded administration, when both discretionary and total spending doubled—nearly 10 times the growth seen during Bill Clinton's two terms.

In fact, says Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, "President Bush increased government spending more than any of the six presidents preceding him, including LBJ." Republicans controlled Congress for six of Bush's eight years, and their fingerprints are all over Bush's budget busters, including the trillion-dollar wars to replace dictators with democrats in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Medicare prescription drug benefit, enacted in 2003, is expected to cost something like $800 billion during its first decade, further darkening Medicare's already dire fiscal outlook. It passed the Senate with 42 Republican votes and the House with 207.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, which the Republicans now promise to "cancel" because it exemplifies the "bailouts" that have "rightly outraged" the public by "forc[ing] responsible taxpayers to subsidize irresponsible behavior," received 34 Republican votes in the Senate and 91 in the House. The yeas included House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)—all of whom are pictured in the Pledge to America as models of fiscal rectitude and all of whom also supported the reckless Medicare expansion.

As of last week, however, the Republicans pledge to "make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today's seniors and future generations." Such as? Sorry, that's all you're getting before the elections.

"Let's not get to the potential solutions," Boehner said in a Fox News interview on Sunday. "When you start down that path, you just invite all kinds of problems." Aren't solutions that invite problems what Congress is all about?

Boehner's insistence that an "adult conversation" about entitlements need not include any discussion of what to do about them suggests a certain lack of seriousness. Likewise the Pledge to America's complaints about Obama's "massive Medicare cuts" and its treatment of anything pertaining to "seniors" (one-third of the budget) as a sacred category.

The Republicans think expenditures related to "security" deserve the same exalted status, presumably because a government that is bumbling, wasteful, and ineffective in every other endeavor could not possibly display those characteristics when protecting Americans from terrorists. Yet defense is, among other things, a fiscal issue, consuming a fifth of the budget. The Republicans' grandiose goal of "bringing certainty to an uncertain world" is inconsistent with their goal of "a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government."

Even if you trust the Republicans when they say "we have a plan" to cut $100 billion from the budget, that amounts to just 8 percent of the current $1.3 trillion deficit. And why trust them? As the Pledge to America warns, "it's not enough" to "swap out one set of leaders for another."

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2010 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Good morning reason.

  2. A pledge now is like a promise 4 years ago (Pelosi’s “the most honest, most open, most ethical Congress in history”) – soon broken.

  3. Wasington’s words don’t seem to be worth what they used to be. Or maybe they never were all that valuable and it just took a broader online media landscape to reveal the truth to some of us?

  4. What is ” a Mandate for their lies”, Alex?

  5. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

    1. That’s the spirit!

  6. What the hell do entitlement programs have to do with defense? Did someone cut down the tree Jacob used to hug or something? Jocks picked on him in high school? One of the only things the government should be spending money on is “defense” and things to kill foreigners real good. That’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it, and THAT PART has worked out pretty well so far.

      1. F

        Stay in character!

    1. What entitlement programs have to do with defense is that they are both huge expenditures. Yes, defense is necessary and entitlement programs have no place in good government. However, much of our “defense” spending is not spent in defense of our nation. We are in scores of countries around the world, doing all sorts of things that have nothing to do with defending America. Our DoD spending could probably be reduced to a third of what it is without sacrificing true defense.

      1. A+

        Defense spending and effort has been an integral part of progress in human civilization since we crawled out of the sea. There’s really no argument against this besides personal abhorrence towards reality.

        That money is pretty well spent from an economic perspective. It’s easy to trace the path of that investment. In fact everybody is surrounded by it. Investment into entitlement has not brought about progress towards anything. Lumping it together with military spending only shows a very shallow perspective.

  7. “Boehner’s insistence that an “adult conversation” about entitlements need not include any discussion of what to do about them suggests a certain lack of seriousness.”

    It suggests to depressing things. One, the GOP will not seriously do anything about the entitlement problem. Two, the angst generated by Boenher even suggesting an “adult convsersation” about entitlements says that the political tactic of not talking about specifics is sound. The electorate may not be able to deal with the inherent entitlement problems until it cannot be ignored. Largely on the semi-justified grounds that some demographic is going to get hosed by entitlement reform and no one wants to be in the group who is left out in the cold.

    1. We don’t trust the electorate to comprehend the deep economic doo-doo we’re in, and they don’t trust us to trust them to trust us.

      1. And they’re all probably right.

    2. Told ya’

  8. I believe the only solution is total fiscal collapse. So in November, vote Democrat! Let’s just get this Armageddon stuff over with.

    1. That’s sort of the whole point of the article, MP. If you read it, you would know that the Republicans are just as much to blame. Actually more so on a dollar basis.

      The real point being, if you read Reason at all, you’d know they were both to blame.

    2. Hey, worked for Cuba. It only took them decades to get some small measure of economic freedom back.

    3. Turn your worthless gold into valuable bullets, go to now!

      1. Huh, it don’t exist?

  9. Easy Jacob,easy. We know nearly all Reason’s writers and most Libertarians in general are unabashadly liberal, but what have your guys been willing to swear to?

    1. Unabashadley liberal? I guess that’s why we’ve been seeing articles against Obama almost daily here lately. Unabashedly liberal, except for the “Moar Guns” and “less bailout” part.

      1. I think they are reasonably abashed about it.

      2. [When put to the test the libertine instinct trumps the libertarian.…..your-vote]
        Peter Bagge: 2008 Obama 2004: John Kerry 2000
        Ronald Bailey: 2008 Obama
        Radley Balko: 2004 John Kerry
        Bruce Bartlett: 2008 Obama
        David Brin: 2008 Obama
        Tim Cavanaugh: 2008 Obama 2000: Ralph Nader
        Steve Chapman: 2008 Obama 2004: John Kerry
        Bill Kauffman: 2008 Ralph Nader
        Craig Newmark: 2008 Obama 2004: John Kerry
        Steven Pinker: 2008 Obama 2004: John Kerry 2000: Al Gore
        Ryan Sager:2008 Obama
        Julian Sanchez: 2008 Obama 2004: John Kerry
        John Scalzi: 2008 Obama 2004: John Kerry 2000: Al Gore
        Michael Shermer: 2008 Obama
        RU Sirius: 2008 Obama 2004: John Kerry 2000: Ralph Nader
        Doug Stanhope: 2008 Obama
        David Weigel: 2008 Obama 2004: John Kerry 2000: Ralph Nader
        Matt Welch: 2004 John Kerry 2000: Ralph Nader

        Nuff said??

    2. HMM? How about restoring constitutional limitations for starters. Then we can get to work on fixing that thing up, like getting rid of eminent domain, and fer crying out loud removing the obsolete post roads and offices power.

      As there is really only one true libertarian in the congress, Ron Paul, I suggest you review his real proposals to strip down the federal government to it’s proper size.

      1. Ron Paul is a proud Republican.

  10. Think of it this way: that which cannot continue forever must eventually come to an end. Therefore, there will be entitlement reform. The question is, which party do you want to be the one doing it, once forced into a corner?

    I think the answer is pretty clear: the one that isn’t a lapdog for public sector unions and the plaintiff’s bar.

    In fact, MP, above, makes my point in a different way.

  11. Let me hold that football for you again, Charlie Brown ….

  12. Contract With America
    Pledge To America

    Any bets on what the next version will be in about 16 years?

    1. The Solemn Vow To America 6: No, Seriously… We Really Mean It This Time!

    2. Apology to America

      I keed!

    3. I don’t know what it’ll be called, but it’ll be written on clay tablets.

      I keed!

    4. Looting the Dead

    5. Contract with America 2: Electric Boogaloo

    6. Any bets on what the next version will be in about 16 years?

      “Finger to America”. It remains to be seen which party will come up with it, though.

  13. The difference is last time there wasn’t a Tea Party to hold their feet to the fire. If the Republicans want to become a third party they can go back to their big spending ways.

    1. I agree. This is the GOP’s last chance.

      1. I wish I could believe this.

        1. No kidding.

          I’d be curious to see what a survey of people who said they were aligned with the Tea Party movement thought of the Pledge. My guess is that they love it, since it’s as bereft of solid goals as the Tea Party is.

          1. Of course we love it. The pledge is a document intended to assure us that our priorities are their priorities. Whether they can abide by their gesture remains to be seen.

          2. They broke their ’94 contract, now they ask me to trust them again?

            But the fact remains, that that which is necessary is also politically impossible: cutting taxes and entitlements drastically. No politician in America has the balls to say what needs to be done, much less actually set about doing it. So we can expect more of the same.

            The good times are over: welcome to The New Suck.

    2. No one will be holding the Congressional Republicans feet to any fire. The increasingly irrelevant tea party will outlive their usefulness as a campaign prop within six months of the election.

      If the tea party types try to hold the Republicans accountable for spending & borrowing us into the ground, they will be either ignored or told to shut up and know their role.

      The poison pill of the tea party movement are social conservatives. Most social cons are in favor of large, intrusive government. This massive deficit/debt doesn’t bother them at all. The Compassionate Conservative GWB showed us that.

      Just like the Bush years, the Limbaughs & Hannitys of the world will make all of these excuses for The GOP because “You just have to understand the constraints they are under.” & “We have to spend all of this money & grow government in order to fix these problems”.

      It is about building that permanent majority political party.

      1. Times have changed, Kevin. Other than the Glenn Beck call out to the God squad to get numbers for his rally, the Tea Party avoids social issues like the plague. And to say that debts and deficits don’t bother them is just plain foolish.

      2. Your vastly overestimating the amount of power that the Republican party holds. Unless you’re a social conservative Republicans geneally only get votes on being the lesser of two evils.

  14. IMO, it is unreasonable for the Republicans to assert their tactics for dealing with entitlements at this point. First, assuming they win some control of Congress, they will essentially be playing defense to this ideological President. They cannot make “big” things happen without a veto proof Congress. Second, change to entitlements of the sort necessary will require a presidential level mandate. This is an issue for 2012, where, hopefully, at least one of the Republican candidates will lay out a proposal, specific enough to give him or her a mandate to make the hard choices any significant entitlement change will require.

    1. Sounds like a job for Mitch Daniels.

    2. I disagree. Rather than playing defens, a strong offense is required, unless of couirse they are content with another Barack or Hillary term. The guy’s favorability ratings are still inexplicably high. A constant attack will give them fodder to defeat him/her and recapture the Oval Office. His veto will be (yet) more evidence he ignore’s the will of the people.

      1. The guy’s favorability ratings are still inexplicably high.

        Yes, I think it’s funny when I see a new article declaring Obama’s approval rating hits a new low….at 55%, which many past presidents would love. Some of this is the idea of not seeming ‘racist’ by disapproving of a black president, but I think Republicans should operate on the assumption Obama will be reelected. Assuming they are willing to move toward any kind of fiscal sanity, they can’t wait for 6 years. All they would do is show how little they mean what the say.

    3. You’re right on most of it oldguy73, but the problem with laying out a concrete proposal in 2012 or any other time is that you instantly give the other side something concrete to blast away at.

      It’s truly a vicious dynamic.

      The only good news is that it’s not that hard to fix SS; it’s well known that tweaking just a couple of the parameters can make it fiscally sustainable. So, once in power, you do what has to be done, and hope those who lose out forget the pain before the four year term is up. If you can pull off an economic revival at the same time, you’re golden.

      1. So, once in power, you do what has to be done, and hope those who lose out forget the pain before the four year term is up.

        Hopefully, they will have learned that running the same old game doesn’t keep them in power (if anything will), so why not go for broke and actually fix something for a change.

  15. But seriously, folks, you created us in your image. We are you. Have a nice day!

  16. So Sullum and the rest of you tools prefer the Dems fiscal approach?


    1. As the Pledge makes clear, the only difference between the two is the degree of slope in the trend line towards fiscal Armageddon.

      1. Yep, but the less steep slope gives “us” more time to sell libertarian solutions. Somehow I don’t think we would be too happy with what comes after Armaggedon.

    2. The Republicans wrote the Pledge.
      The article is about the Pledge.
      Therefore the article is about the Republicans.

      If the Democrats had written the Pledge, it would be about them. The point is that ANYbody who believes in this sort of claptrap is a tool. And an idiot.

  17. An intelligent candidate/party can not get elected by a country of idiots!

  18. Hollow? At least there is the admittance of a problem, which is more than any leading Democrat has been willing to suggest. How worried about spending were the Democrats in Congress where it came to inflating domestic spending? How about when it came to Obamacare? All that they can manage to do is shave a little off the top of less than 10% of the non-discretionary budget. Wow… OK, yes, Bush did this, Clinton did that, but how is that relevant to NOW and in the IMMEDIATE FUTURE? The fact is that you’ve got one party that sees a problem, is willing to admit it, and realizes that things will have to change (Who cares how much every minor program costs or where one particular item can be cut? You don’t have know the price of a single loaf of bread and everything else to realize that you’re living beyond your means.), and you’ve got another party that doesn’t. Who sounds more responsible?

    1. Gimme one more chance, baby. I’ll never hit you again, I swear!

    2. You’re blaming Democrats for not addressing your particular bugaboo?

      Learn something: Republicans only care about “spending” because it’s something they can attack Democrats on, because Democrats have been trying to resolve an economic crisis, which according to the ONLY theory left standing requires an increase in government spending.

      The GOP of course wants the economy to falter until election day. If they, for once in their sad lives, actually follow through on their promise to cut spending (not that this Pledge actually proposes anything of the sort), then it will be their crashing economy to deal with.

      1. Learn something: Republicans only care about “spending” because it’s something they can attack Democrats on, because Democrats have been trying to resolve an economic crisis, which according to the ONLY theory left standing requires an increase in government spending.

        So if an individual is suffering from a personal economic crisis, the solution is to take out a whole bunch of high limit credit cards and max them out?

        1. No. The whole point of increasing government spending is because individuals tend to decrease theirs. Why do you feel that people and government should act the same during a recession? What logic precedes that?

          1. Re: Tony,

            No. The whole point of increasing government spending is because individuals tend to decrease theirs.

            That’s circular thinking.

            Why do you feel that people and government should act the same during a recession? What logic precedes that?

            The Laws of Economics.

            1. Tony is quite gifted as he can hold a circle jerk while being all alone.

            2. What laws would those be? I don’t know of any law that says governments should act like individuals when it comes to finances. Misguided common sense for the simpleminded, maybe, but no law.

              1. No, Tony, there aren’t any laws to that effect… but it would be nice if they did exist.

          2. John Maynard Keyenes was a genius. You ignorant hayseeds can ignore his sage advice, but you know he was right.

      2. Tony, Bush increased government spending and that didn’t work. So your solution is to spend even more???

        1. Didn’t work to do what? Demand was fine during most of Bush’s terms. Granted it was mostly fed by cheap credit.

          1. Demand was fine during most of Bush’s terms. Granted it was mostly fed by cheap credit.

            And the demand that Obama is trying to stimulate now will be fed by… what, exactly?

            1. Costly credit?

          2. Ergo, it wasn’t the spending.

      3. Of course, it’s okay for Democrats to spend lots of money.

      4. The GOP of course wants the economy to falter until election day.

        LOL. Of course Democrats weren’t ecstatic when the economy tanked just before the 2008 elections. Both parties want power and will use what they can to get it. Keep that in mind.

  19. Christian conservatives do not believe in smaller government. They will want to outlaw any activity that would make Baby Jesus cry. Then keep around giant bureaucracies like the DEA and the ATF to keep us moral.

    Then there is manifest destiny, where it is the job of Team America World Police to keep people from around the world from killing each other.

  20. As Charlie Brown said, every time Lucy pulled the football away and he fell on his ass:


    1. And the Democrats let you kick it then tell you it doesn’t count.

  21. John Boehner is from Ohio for god’s sake, what good has ever come out of Ohio?

    1. Drew Carey? WKRP in Cincinnati?
      The Toledo Mud Hens?

      Okay, other than that, you have a point.

  22. Might as well let the Obamacrats continue their gang rape of the American taxpayer and their progeny.

    For the common good, of course.

  23. Who said we supported the Republicans when they were spending like drunken sailors? I’m voting out any of the incumbents who don’t get it, whether they have an R or a D behind their name. I’m 46, I have a mortgage I am paying responsibly, my individual insurance rates went up 20% because of Obamacare, and I’m pissed that the rich Wall St. types above me and the lowlife career welfare types below get all the breaks while I work my butt off and played by the rules. Watch me vote in December.

    1. Incumbents are going to be fine when the elections roll around. Constituents don’t like OTHER constituents’ candidates.

    2. Good for you, personally, Connie, but as Tony and his ilk have pointed out many times, government can’t be expected to run its budget like a prudent household would.

      Didn’t you get the memo?

      1. Don’t you think you should understand Keynesian economics before you trash it? You don’t appear to have any understanding of the principles at work, at all.

        1. Keynesian economics, if it works at all, only works if the gov’t has a surplus. Much like a battery in a solar energy collector, when the sun goes behind a cloud (economy takes a dive), the battery (government) kicks in to keep the electricity (money) flowing.

          Following this analogy, in our current situation, the battery is not only dead, but it’s got an internal short circuit (debt and the servicing, thereof) that is sucking electricity from the system (and not storing it) even when the sun is shining it’s strongest.

        2. I’ve read Keynes’ theories, Tony. Just because I didn’t go to college, doesn’t mean I can’t grasp higher concepts.

          And it would still be bullshit, even if I had gone to college.

          This is where you tell me you’re better than me. Go for it.

    3. December? Guess we won’t have to worry about your vote then..

      1. like I said earlier…rant+no coffee = brain dead. lol

  24. It’s the end of the GOP. It seems like they’re getting their ideas and inspiration from Hagar the Horrible comics.

  25. Watch me vote in December.

    Umm, connie, dunno how to break this to you. . . .

    1. Oh, the combo of a rant with no coffee!LOL

  26. This article is so far below the standard of Reason magazine that I had to check the URL to make sure it was for real. The article raises some valid points about the vagueness of the Pledge, but its criticism about entitlements shows a total lack of understanding about the Republican platform and real problems with reasoned problem solving.
    The core of the Republican platform is that government needs to moderate itself fiscally in order to take the burden off of taxpayers. Entitlements are one of the ways that tax payers get some of their money back from Uncle Sam, so maybe that is not the place to start cutting.
    Let’s use Social Security as and example. Whatever form reform ultimately takes the goal is to make the program solvent. That means the criteria for success will be keeping the program cost to a certain dollar value. These changes will no doubt have a huge impact tax payer’s lives. Applying the core principal of making government share in the shared sacrifice to the problem of entitlements demands that, in order to properly frame the problem (i.e. find that program cost goal post), government must first cut it’s other wasteful spending, and there is a great deal of fertile ground there. Every dollar cut from gov’t waste is one more dollar that you don’t have to squeeze out of entitlements.
    The author seems to wish that the Republicans take the Obama approach; frame one problem and solve another (e.g. “Health Care costs the people and the gov’t too much. So let’s buy it for everybody.”)
    The author moves on to a familiar talking point about the Bush spending levels. Feels like time for the Two Minute’s Hate. This argument assumes that most Republicans consider Bush II a fiscal conservative. Most of the conservatives I know do not. So let’s put that straw man to bed.
    TARP may or may not have prevented a meltdown. My personal opinion is that the overarching credit problem was about to self correct in a very disruptive way and TARP bought us an opportunity to try and correct it in a less destructive way. Whether we’ll succeed remains to be seen; however, no one doubts that the program’s funds were wildly misused after the act was passed.
    No doubt about it, the Pledge may be nothing more than a campaign document if voters allow it to be. But if the angry anti-establishment voters (and there are a few out there) hold the Republicans to their pledge then it could well turn out to be more. In the end the fate of this Pledge lies on the hands of voters.

    1. “Entitlements are one of the ways that tax payers get some of their other people’s money back from Uncle Sam”


      1. I concede your “gotcha” point, but it doesn’t invalidate anything I’ve said. It still doesn’t make sense to try and reform entitlements before going after all of the low hanging fruit that constitutes gov’t waste. People still put into Social Security their whole lives and should see at the minimum their principal returned.

        1. It still doesn’t make sense to try and reform entitlements before going after all of the low hanging fruit that constitutes gov’t waste.

  27. Democrat talking heads keep throwing out that $3.7T number in a intentionally deceptive way. Yes that is the correct number, but it’s completely out of context. Our oh so honest author fails to mention that all Democrats want $3T worth of those tax cuts to remain in effect.

    1. One of the bit reforms I would really like to see is for the government to use standard accounting practices. To this end, I would support a fourth ‘branch’ of government that would have the effective function of the CBO/GAO, but be independent of Congress or the Executive. Kind of like a SCOTUS for the financial aspects of government.

  28. What baffles me about Republican candidates these days is that they promise smaller government yet worship Ronald Reagan like a demigod. During Reagan’s time in the White House. federal spending was at its highest since WWII. At least Democrats admit they’re going to tax us dry and SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!

    1. @Brian,
      Reagan is revered for his growth policies, but remember he had to work with a Democratic congress on his agenda.

      1. Reagan is revered because there has been a Reagan-boosting propaganda industry in place since the ignominious end of his presidency. The tea party right only likes him because he’s considered a successful Republican president (those are hard to come by these days), but there’s no way he, with his policies, would ever be accepted in the GOP today.

        1. Which policies would not be acceped by today’s Republicans?

          1. Reagan raised taxes several times, supported an end to nuclear weapons, and, oh, amnesty for illegal immigrants.

            He would not even be a RINO to the tea party. He’d be a socialist.

        2. You may be on to something. When I see the policies and presidency of CALVIN COOLIDGE (at least) being revered by Tea Party people, THEN I will take their principles seriously. I really don’t care that much about Reagan, he did indeed increase the US deficit just to play toy soldiers with the Russians.

          1. Silent Cal was the man– Historically, he’s pretty much a forgotten figure of american politics which is a shame because he said some pretty good shit in his time

          2. True, but who knows what Cal would have done if there was a Cold War.

        3. Come on, Tony, get a new script. No one is fooled by the whole “dead Republicans were so reasonable” schtick.

          1. Note how Tony glosses over the whole FDR lovefest, the result of decades of an FDR-boosting propaganda industry in place since the ignominious end of his presidency.

          2. There’s no way I’d describe Reagan as “so reasonable.” He was relative to almost anyone left in the GOP, and that’s scary, because he was a right-wing loon. Hell, the freakin Bushies are considered reasonable moderates in the GOP these days.

  29. What exactly is the GOP supposed to do? Here is what Tulpa pointed out .

    Right now, in the electorate’s simplistic view, the Republicans are about cutting the deficit and the Democrats are about ballooning it, and that’s unlikely to change before November. All they would accomplish by naming specifics would be to give the Dems ammunition. If they said they wanted to cut funding for needle distribution programs, the Dems would dig up a bunch of blonde, white mothers whose kids died of AIDS from hypodermic needles and have them testify before Congress, and the MSM would run new angles on the story every day for a week. If they say they want to cut back on funding for green energy, the MSM will trot out experts to say the planet is going to be irreparably damaged if the GOP wins, and run with that story every day for a week.

    We have a fifth columnist MSM willing to pull all stops to campaign to expand welfare spending. That is the real problem.

    1. This is smart and mostly right. One of the reasons that I’m down on the Pledge is that it violates the rule that states that you leave your enemy alone when he’s in the process of destroying himself.

      The difficulty is that this MSM attack on any government-shrinking (or even growth-retardant) policies is going to materialize eventually. Cougars United for Needle Trade-ins (“CUNT”) will show up to berate the GOP when they try to cut anything. It’s not like avoiding the discussion now is going to increase the probability of passing cuts later.

      1. The difficulty is that this MSM attack on any government-shrinking (or even growth-retardant) policies is going to materialize eventually.

        The key is to have it materialize when it is not an election year.

  30. What about us , Jacob?

  31. I expect a lot of hot air and not much in the way of honest attempts to solve the federal involvency. They’ll blame the Democrats, the President, whoever. I’ve voted Republican since my ill-advised vote for Nixon in ’68 – I figured they couldn’t have a worse candidate than that! – unfortunately, all the attention is on the national stage. The real action is on the state and local stages. Why? Because that’s where the alliances are formed to elect folks who will do what nearly everyone things it ought to do: help the politicians’ friends and hurt their enemies. Democrat, Republican … doesn’t matter. The local Republican party folks in Texas already have worked out their tactics to keep the “radicals” and “idealists” out and implemented them at the primary elections. “Caucus? Ethel, do we have caucus meetings in the Republican Party? Sir, I don’t know where the caucus will be held. Time? Oh, I don’t know that either, after the voting is over, but that will take a while and we can’t say when.” Honest to Christ, that’s what the Republican primary workers told me at the polling place. I already knew when and where, just wanted to confirm it hadn’t been moved at the last minute; that was their tactic in ’08. The Democratic folks told me it would be at 7:30 pm right there at the polling place. Just like the law says it’s supposed to be. So I told that old biddy not to worry, that I wasn’t going to attend anyway. Wouldn’t want to upsest their apple cart. I was so fired up, I didn’t trust myself to argue with her or discuss it, let alone attend the damned caucus. They’re running things and don’t want any opposition. More attention on the state and local party activities would result in more genuine reform, but the battle is probably already lost there. If you doubt what I write or don’t understand what I’m referring to, I can’t help you.

  32. Sullum doesn’t see the Tea Party as relevant. He doesn’t see that it’s existence changes the game. But he should.

    The ‘tea party influence’ started before there were Tea Parties–in 2004 a lot of people held their noses and voted for Bush–but the GOP lost seats in Congress, and in 2006 the GOP lost Congress entirely.

    And all of that happened because of nascent Tea Party revulsion with the drunken sailor spending of the GOP. That fact doesn’t get a lot of play–the left and the MSM preferred–and still prefers–to see GOP losses in 2006 and 2008 as a mandate for leftist policy. But it wasn’t.

    At the time, I was one of the few arguing against the tactic of teaching the GOP a ‘lesson’ at the polls–pointing out, correctly, what the left would do with that ‘lesson’. But that lesson was the first political action of those who’d become the Tea Party.

    They have already changed things–the ‘Pledge’ was the GOP establishments’ crappy attempt to glom on to that sentiment. Of course it was going to be long on promises and short on details.

    The establishment doesn’t know the details–they don’t know where the Tea Party wing will want to go. And they are terrified of what will happen if they start that ‘adult conversation’ before the election.

    That conversation will, inevitably, turn to the fact that things must be cut if we are to survive, and it is better to talk about cuts AFTER your opponents cease to be able to use that talk against you.

    The pledge was a very roundabout way of admitting that the GOP is willing to do what it takes to survive–unfourtunately, they’re thinking of survival of the party first–but it’s a start.

  33. The Republicans think expenditures related to “security” deserve the same exalted status, presumably because a government that is bumbling, wasteful, and ineffective in every other endeavor could not possibly display those characteristics when protecting Americans from terrorists.

    Every hawk out there argues exactly that: That the only thing the government does well is managing so-called “national security,” as if the Laws of Economics do not apply to soldiering.

    1. I wouldn’t say that the government manages national security “well.” I would say that it does it less badly than the private sector would.

  34. This article fails to understand the pragmatic politics involved in the pledge. The purpose was to once and for all counter the lie that democrats have been saying that republicans have “no policy alternatives” to the current trend of spending. The reason that he doesnt wanna give specifics is that as soon as you do democrats can start picking the ideas apart and take the focus away from them and their laundry list of policy failures. I think Jake is right to be cautious, but he forgets that Contract With America did yield a number of specific policy successes, so its not out of the question that the pledge will too.
    Of course hes not going to talk about what he would do to entitlement spending, because despite what all of us libertarians would love to believe, entitlements are popular. More so than polls even suggest because the same guy who will say he thinks it all a ponzi scheme will freakout when you actually start talking about taking it away (see “Tea Party). Im not saying some of the pledge isnt disingenious, all im saying is that sometimes politicians are purposefully vague, especially when it comes to getting elected on a spending cut platform, because giving specifics can undermine electability.

    1. your third sentence blatantly contradicts the second one.

  35. I pledge to do stuff, and solemnly swear that stuff will happen.

  36. The pitiful spectacle the GOP gives with this pledge is another proof that ridicule doesn’t kill.

    Alas, alas, alas.

  37. The problem is assuming politicians mean what they say, electing them, then being disappointed (or angry) when they don’t follow through. The question is to what degree the cycle will continue to be repeated. If voters aren’t serious, you can’t expect politicians to be. The only way anything will get done about this mess is if voters put continuous pressure on representatives, not just every two years.

  38. Jacob, just what other choice do we have, than to vote the bums out, Long Live the (new) Bums?

    At least we’ve had a chance to run some of the Old Guard out (Alaska, Delaware, Utah) so we are better off going with the Rep’s, than we would be sticking with the Dems.

    After all, when Bush ran us up to the cliff, the Dems didn’t have to drive off the edge, into the abyss, now did they?

  39. I dispute the premise of the author.
    “A strong case can be made that the people most responsible for the gigantic deficits we face today are neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama. The real culprits are Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
    Congress controls the purse strings. When Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid rose to their present jobs in January 2007, the deficit was $161 billion. It had been on a downward trajectory from $413 billion in 2004. Three years later, the Pelosi-Reid Congress had added $1.2 trillion to the deficit.
    Of course, Mr. Bush sponsored or signed into law many of these deficit-raising bills, such as the bank bailouts and effective tax rebates of 2008. But the Democratic Congress passed the legislation.
    Long forgotten is the promise Mrs. Pelosi made on the day she became speaker: “Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.”
    WSJ 9-28-10 The Pelosi-Reid Deficit

  40. For me, the ‘pledge’ seems to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Especially when you take into account the fact that it is an election year, it was released only a month in advance to the elections, and it goes against their voting records. All of these are points the author raised in this article. It is almost certain that they won’t do anything according to their ‘pledge’ giving a lot of merit to the idea that Americans have some level of memory loss.

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