House Republicans on Thursday unveiled the “Pledge to America,” their plan for what Congress will do if they take charge. Most of the pledge is familiar: cut taxes, reduce government spending and repeal much of the legislation passed under the Obama administration. What is still missing is a plan to actually accomplish these things.
National polls show voters favor giving Congress back to the Republicans. Polls in individual races differ. Whether those in Maine’s 1st District want to replace Democrat Chellie Pingree with Republican Dean Scontras and those in the 2nd District want to replace Democrat Mike Michaud with Republican Jason Levesque remains to be seen. Those inclined to vote Republican must ask the GOP challengers some direct questions and demand clear answers.
Will a Republican Congress, in response to the public’s worries about ballooning deficits, take a hands-off approach to the economy? That is, will they no longer consider directing infusions of money through unemployment benefit extensions, aid to states or infrastructure work? Or will they do their stimulating of the economy through tax cuts to businesses, which have had dubious results in the past?
And what about that deficit? Will a GOP Congress work to lessen it by quickly winding down U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan to reduce those costly drags on the federal budget? Will they make deep cuts in military spending, which accounts for about half of the federal tax dollar? If, as they pledge, they extend the Bush tax cuts — another large contributor to the deficit — isn’t that counter to their “cut the deficit” mantra?
One promise many GOP congressional candidates have made is to repeal the sweeping health care changes enacted earlier this year by the Democratic Congress and the Obama administration. That pledge will win support from a public that remains wary of the new law. But voters must ask Republicans if they will replace the law with any new version of health care management. And if so, with what? Health care spending represented one-sixth of the economy and is on its way to becoming one-fifth. The Republicans had the White House and Congress for six years and did nothing of substance to address those escalating costs. Will they start in 2011?
The Democratic Congress and the Obama administration also enacted banking and finance industry reforms, provided broad consumer protection from abuses by credit card lenders and moved student loans to the public sector to cut costs. Will Republicans reverse these gains? The Democrats also tried to pass an energy bill that moves the nation away from reliance on foreign oil and the resulting climate change. Is this also dead in the water?
Though voters are embracing the “we’re mad as hell” ethos, they ought to look before they leap. And if Republicans want to close the deal, they should offer a clear agenda of what they will do to fix the serious problems of the economy.