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The Tea Party’s “Contract from America”

This is a great start, a bold set of initiatives defining what the Tea Party stands for. Notice that unlike Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America”, this is a ground up contract of our expectations.

The next step is getting politicians to sign on to these beliefs. If they do so, they get our support. If not, they will be in our sights.

The “Contract from America”:

•Amending the constitution to require a balanced budget and a two-thirds majority for any tax hike.
•Permanently repealing all tax hikes scheduled to begin in 2011.
•Requiring every bill in Congress to be made public seven days before any vote can be taken and all government expenditures authorized by any bill to be easily accessible on the Internet before the money is spent.
•Requiring each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.
•Permitting all health insurance plans to be sold anywhere in the United States through the purchase of insurance across state lines. Allow small businesses and associations to pool together across state lines to buy insurance.
•Adopting 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.”
•Imposing a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.
•Allowing Americans to opt out of Social Security and Medicare and instead put those same payroll taxes in a personal account “they own, control and can leave to whomever they choose.”
•Preventing any regulation or tax on the Internet.
•Improving education by eliminating ineffective and wasteful programs, giving parents more choices from pre-school to high school and improving the affordability of higher education.
•Authorizing 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.
•Prohibiting the Federal Communications Commission from using funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.
•Creating a Blue Ribbon task force that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs.
•Blocking state and local governments that receive federal grants from exercising eminent domain over private property for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues.
•Preventing the EPA from implementing costly new regulations.
•Placing a moratorium on all earmarks until the process is fully transparent. Also requiring a two-thirds majority to pass any earmark.
•Making all lawmaking regulators, including presidential appointed czars, be affirmatively approved by Congress and signed into law by the president.
•Audit the Federal Reserve System.
•Making sure the federal government does not bail out private companies. The government should also immediately divest itself of its stake in the private companies it owns from recent bailouts.
•Amending the constitution to require congressional term limits. No person shall be elected to the Senate more than twice or to the House of Representatives more than four times.
•Making all regulations “sunset” after 10 years unless renewed by congressional vote.
•Broadcasting all non-security meetings and votes on C-SPAN and the Internet.

Feel free to give us your comments. Are they missing anything?

DreadPirateRoberts

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  1. 152
    February 16, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Alot. Like, common sense!

    • February 17, 2010 at 1:47 pm

      Thanks for the comment, 152! I don’t often agree with you, but you have a very good blog. Well done.

  2. alarob
    February 16, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    I have some concerns about this as it stands, because of likely but unintended consequences.

    1. Making it more difficult to tax (with a two-thirds threshold) is liable to stimulate unfunded mandates to the states, or other shenanigans. Balancing the budget would be sufficient to control tax increases. In some cases, lawmakers must be able to raise taxes in order to manage funds responsibly. But tax increases will never be popular, and are always an easy point of attack against an incumbent. The statutory cap on spending is enough of a safeguard.

    There’s an assumption out there that politicians raise taxes because they enjoy it, or because they get some direct benefit. They don’t. They raise taxes in order to pay for programs. Control spending and you control taxation. But the biggest spending category is the military.

    2. I like linking bills to an authorizing article or section of the Constitution. It’s a good back-to-basics exercise. But in practice, could it lead to delaying debates on constitutional law on the House or Senate floor? Would it invite the Congress to usurp the Supreme Court’s role of judicial review?

    3. A single-rate tax system is a reverse Robin Hood scheme, if we’re talking about income or sales tax. (I assume this is not meant to create a federal property tax.) Low and average incomes should not be taxed, and doing so would be oppressive. (We should raise the income tax threshold to only affect disposable income, not make it universal.) As for sales tax, it is the most volatile revenue source, declining sharply just when people make the greatest demands on government. Also, wealthy earners spend far less of their income on taxable purchases, and that defeats the purpose of the “fair” tax.

    A practical problem: There are too many tax attorneys, tax preparers, and people living on unearned income – all with well-funded lobbyists – to allow a simplification of the tax code. It would take a huge effort.

    4. Social Security and Medicare opt-outs would be a giant gift to Wall Street, and an invitation to them to fleece consumers as they did before the mortgage lending crisis. Wall Streeters have been trying to get their hands on Social Security for decades, so far without success. This is a very poorly thought out idea, based on the gut feeling that any government program must be worse than any private-sector program. Think again.

    5. About the EPA regulations — “costly” in dollars, or in lives and health? Alabama Power has been working its lobbyists to get exemptions passed, and avoid compliance with the Clean Air Act passed in 1972 by a Republican administration. So my hometown pays the cost in ways that can’t be measured, like my mother’s respiratory illness. Are you telling me the only costs that matter are the kind you can measure in dollars?

    The same goes for a 10-year “sunset” on all regulations. “All” is too broad. It’s hard enough to pass consumer protection legislation without having to fight the corporate lobbyists again every ten years. Don’t sunset anything until the role of corporate lobbies and campaign cash has been brought under control. Otherwise the whole USA will be like Mexican maquiladora country before you know it.

    There are good ideas on this list, but the ones I mentioned would be dangerous to the people. There’s a big difference between limited constitutional government and powerless government. If we established powerless government, we wouldn’t like it for very long.

    • February 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm

      Some very good, well thought out points.
      On #1: I agree the cap is the first step. I also agree with the balanced budget amendment. I do think that it is the difference in philosophy between Liberals and Conservatives that drives tax increases. Liberal philosophy tends to lean toward an endless stream of Govt benefits which then lead to tax increases to even come close to paying for them, however, they never do come close. Conservative philosophy is about having a base of logical Goverment, basically infrastructure, Police and national defense, and a less pronounced “Hand up” for people down on their luck. The argument could be made that the Bush administration did not express a Conservative philosophy on many points, spending without merit, and I agree. But Bush is not a Conservative, he was a center right President.
      I do believe the biggest expenditure, rather than the military, is entitlement programs.

      #2: I believe anything that slows Congress down can only benefit our pocketbooks. It would seem logical that either party that was to consider a bill would also consider this. Trying to pass a bill that has no Constitutional merit would be debated to death, and would die. I think most moderate legislation would not be debated highly, as it would be considered Constitutional by both parties.

      #3: I agree, while I would like a “flatter” tax code, it might be problematic to enact a complete flat tax. I am more of a believer in tax code simplification. Right now, if you have enough money for an accountant and tax atty. you have a step up on the average regular Joe. Simpler is usually fairer.

      #4: It is possible what you say is correct. But the truth is that it is the freedom of he individual to make these choices. Right now, Social Security is a pyramid scheme that you and I will never get benefit from. It is going bankrupt. Our dollars subsidize those already on the program, and little more.

      #5: Some regulation will always be necessary. But, right now the EPA is damaging our economy. The purposed restrictions on CO2 do nothing but hamper economic growth. CO2 is not a damaging gas, regardless of the fraudulant assertions of people like the incompetant Al Gore. It has been found that a 100% increase in CO2 increases crop yields by up to 40%. Also, many of the regulations are leading to years of legal wrangling before something can be built, be it a water plant, refinery, or Nuclear power plant. Also, historically, the EPA is behind the banning of DDT, a pesticide that has never been found scientifically to be harmful (a leading DDT advocate would begin his speeches by drinking a glass of it straight up) but have killed millions of the poorest people in the world due to malaria. So, in some respects the EPA is one of the biggest killers in the world. I sympathize with your feelings concerning your mother’s condition, but I think it is the particulate levels that should be restricted rather than CO2.

      #6: The 10 year sunset. Of course, the 10 year sunset may not be correct in all situations. But, it would force congress to reexamine the value of all regulations one by one, and they could vote to reenact those regulations if they see fit. The problem right now is that once a regulation is in place, it is there forever. Sure, congress could repeal regulations, but they do not do so. Today we are so heavily regulated that it puts us at a disadvantage to China and India, and this is costing us jobs. I don’t think we will ever be as dirty as they are, because common sense regulations would be put back in place.

      Thank you for your impressive comments!

  3. alarob
    February 17, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    To expand on #5: Of course CO2 is not a damaging gas in itself; plants depend on it the way animals depend on oxygen. That’s why more CO2 tends to enrich vegetation.

    The problem is that adding CO2 to the atmosphere also increases average temperatures, the amount of moisture in the air, and has unpredictable effects on weather patterns — in other words, climate.

    Predicting climate change is an inexact science because weather is an open system of incredible complexity. But when you separate the scientific debate from the political one, there are reasons to be concerned about coming changes. My only wish is that we were planning for the likely consequences rather than insisting our opponents are absolutely wrong. Anyone who claims to know what is going to happen re climate, unless his name is God Almighty, is either lying or delusional. There has been too much focus on the UN and the U. of Essex as if they represented all the climatologists on earth.

    We cannot shut down all the coal and oil burning industries, or slaughter all the methane emitting cattle, without causing widespread suffering and loss. That’s obvious. It should also be obvious that we don’t have to keep increasing our consumption of fossil fuels in order to maintain prosperity. In fact we would be far wiser to cut back. Even if all the climate science turns out to be wrong, we would still see undeniable benefits from burning less gunk from underground. (ExxonMobil and Saudi Arabia obviously have a different view.)

    As for DDT, it was not banned in the belief that it was toxic to humans, so drinking a glass of it proves nothing (although I wouldn’t do it myself, knowing that the human body can’t metabolize it). It was banned because it persists in soil and in animal bodies for a very long time, becoming concentrated in predator species such as raptors. One of the consequences in the USA was that raptors, notably the bald eagle, were bearing non-viable offspring and were in danger of extinction. As a direct result of the DDT ban in America, eagle numbers have rebounded since the 1960s.

    Exposure to DDT is suspected of affecting reproductive health in humans, but this has not been thoroughly studied AFAIK.

    I have read the claims about DDT and death by malaria, and I find them completely irresponsible. (I wrote a brief post about the weird campaign to portray Rachel Carson as a mass murderer.) It’s hard to know where to begin in identifying the logical fallacies in this claim, but the straw man, the false consequent, and the out-and-out lie are prominent among them. For a thorough discussion of DDT and malaria, past and present, you could begin with this section of the Wikipedia article on DDT. I learned a lot from it.

    I have never regarded anti-environmentalism as conservative. If conservatism promotes personal responsibility, that ought to extend to how our actions affect others. And if it’s conservative to protect the unborn, we ought to give thought to what kind of world future generations will inherit from us. Our grandchildren shouldn’t have to pay our debts or live in our mess. I see it as our duty to them, and anything less is the opposite of conservative.

    • February 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm

      Again, some very good points, Alarob. I could tell when I came to your blog that you were a smart individual.
      On CO2: Current revised scientific data (as you know, East Anglia U/Dr Phil Jones were doctoring the data) shows that Co2 may only have 1/7 of the “warming” capability once thought. And considering that once you factor in global warming trends over time, this current area is nothing more than a warming “blip” with other era’s (pre industrial) being much warmer and lasting much longer. So, basically my point is that I doubt CO2 levels are even a problem regarding warmth.

      On DDT: I agree, what I meant is that just like Global warming, DDT was at one time thought to be the root of all evils both medical and environmental. This has always been on shakey ground, just like Global warming. I have heard that data shows both that DDT can and cannot thin egg shells in avian species. Is it a wash? Did we see huge numbers of bird species going extinct during that period? I will look more into it for a future article.
      On the death of millions, it is pretty clear. DDT was incredibly effective in countering malaria. It effectively kills mosquitoes, and as you mention it has incredible tenacity when applied to the surfaces of homes, floors, in ponds, ect.
      Since we know that millions have died from malaria since DDT was banned, it is pretty clear that a large number of those lives may have been saved with it’s use–it is that effective.

      On Anti-environmentalism: I agree, I am a Conservative, but also a sportsman and naturalist. And we do very much to preserve and protect the environment. What we are seeing from the Left is not the same thing; It is the use of radical environmentalism to promote a world money making scheme on the backs of the world’s people. I agree we need to have a clean environment, and we are one of the world’s cleanest countries. I do notice that most lawsuits against business are basically anti-capitalist rather than pro-environmentalist.

      Thanks again, your comments are invaluable–please visit and comment when you can. I truly enjoy speaking with someone the caliber of yourself. Thanks!

  4. February 18, 2010 at 3:47 am

    Correction: “U. of Essex” should be “U. of East Anglia.”

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