Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Not a Republican Anymore

I'm certainly no Democrat, either.  I'm not quite as draconian as the official Libertarian platform.  I'm politically homeless. 
There was a time when it was easy to be a proud Republican.  Reagan helped.  Bush 41 had his moments.  Heck, Bush 43 had his (just not lately).  But it was in 1994 that I was most proud.  Newt Gingrich made a whole hell of a lot of sense.  He hasn't stopped since. 
But the party stopped listening.
Here's what first caught my eye in 1994.  It was the Contract with America.  Most of the text is in italics below, with my comments in plain font describing departures from the GOP of today:
On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:
FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
Hmm...  Republicans seem to fall a bit short of the mark here.  What would be considered "insider trading" or even "bribery" in the private sector is called "lobbying" or "fund raising".

SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
Ha.  Congress specializes in waste and abuse.  Fraud I can't prove...  But I haven't really tried.  Republicans fail miserably here.

THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
If only I could get my grass to grow as well as Congressional committee and staff budgets...

FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
So committee members rotate.  Big deal.

FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;

SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
Good idea in principal.  In practice, it just gives politicians another chance to grandstand and precious little opportunity to have serious discussions about the best way to govern.
SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
Wish it were so.  Actually, Republicans have been doing a good job on tax rates.  Lousy job on tax costs (complexity, compliance, crushing long term debt overhang due to spending binges).
EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.
Hardly.  In a true zero base-line budget, every penny of spending needs to be justified.  This should always lead to cuts as some programs are found ineffective, inefficient, obsolete, etc.  Instead, we get hikes, hikes, hikes...  And the rhetoric reinforces it.

Thereafter, within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, we shall bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny.

1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out- of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses.
A line-item veto would be great, though perhaps unconstitutional.  Maybe each bill passed could have a severability clause stipulating that the president may strike any line item, rather than a blanket change in presidential powers.
As for the budget amendment...  Love the idea, but we can't get these a-holes to stop even the most egregious lumps of porkfat from being over-funded.

2. THE TAKING BACK OUR STREETS ACT: An anti-crime package including stronger truth-in- sentencing, "good faith" exclusionary rule exemptions, effective death penalty provisions, and cuts in social spending from this summer's "crime" bill to fund prison construction and additional law enforcement to keep people secure in their neighborhoods and kids safe in their schools.
Republicans remain tough on crime.  Perhaps even too tough on non-crimes. 

3. THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.
Republicans and Democrats are off to a good start.  Much, much more needs to be done.  Throwing debit cards at Katrina victims is not helping matters.

4. THE FAMILY REINFORCEMENT ACT: Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening rights of parents in their children's education, stronger child pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce the central role of families in American society.
Never really liked this one.  The parental involvement in education is good, and kiddie porn is just abominable...  But mucking about with tax credits is a bad idea.  That's what the GOP specializes in, though...  Tax complexity.

5. THE AMERICAN DREAM RESTORATION ACT: A S500 per child tax credit, begin repeal of the marriage tax penalty, and creation of American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle class tax relief.
Again, lowering the tax burden is good, and the GOP is doing all this stuff....  But it comes at the expense of simpler, fairer, more efficient taxes.

6. THE NATIONAL SECURITY RESTORATION ACT: No U.S. troops under U.N. command and restoration of the essential parts of our national security funding to strengthen our national defense and maintain our credibility around the world.
Republicans are doing a great job here.  Give credit where it is due.

7. THE SENIOR CITIZENS FAIRNESS ACT: Raise the Social Security earnings limit which currently forces seniors out of the work force, repeal the 1993 tax hikes on Social Security benefits and provide tax incentives for private long-term care insurance to let Older Americans keep more of what they have earned over the years.
I think the GOP is sticking to the plan.  Not sure.  Too young to follow this issue closely.

8. THE JOB CREATION AND WAGE ENHANCEMENT ACT: Small business incentives, capital gains cut and indexation, neutral cost recovery, risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis, strengthening the Regulatory Flexibility Act and unfunded mandate reform to create jobs and raise worker wages.
Cap gains cuts: Done.  Indexation: not done.  Pain in the butt if they ever do it.
Incentives: Sorta.  All over the place.  Targeted incentives are a pain in the butt, but they do some marginal good, and the GOP loves 'em.
Regulatory reform: Ha.  The GOP has allowed and even encouraged regulations to swell to unmanageable proportions.

9. THE COMMON SENSE LEGAL REFORM ACT: "Loser pays" laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages and reform of product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation.
Some marginal progress here, and only in the past year or two.  No loser pays yet, but it'd be nice.

10. THE CITIZEN LEGISLATURE ACT: A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators.

I will eat a bowling ball if, within the next 4 years, the GOP limits their own congressional terms to less than 20 years.
So there you have it... The Contract with America is, for the most part, long dead.  I mourn it.  And I wonder whether to vote Libertarian or Republican in the next few cycles.  Democrats are still worse than the GOP, but not by much.   I wonder if a large protest vote for a third party would scare the GOP into rediscovering its principles, or if it would make them shift further left..