I have noted before that the contemporary GOP seemed to be AWOL in the war of ideas, citing John Boehner’s recent remarks in Cleveland as exhibit A. Now it appears that the GOP is attempting to shake its recent label as the “Party of No” by releasing a 20 page document entitled A Pledge to America (draft text here) presenting a host of reforms that a Republican controlled Congress would pursue (see a brief overview at Politico).
This certainly is an improvement over the overly general statements of the past. There are some interesting ideas here and I think the electorate is well served when parties provide a unified front and make commitments to relatively specific proposals. I am concerned that the Pledge promises to reduce the deficit largely through caps on non-security related discretionary spending (everyone knows that the engine of growth is and will be entitlement spending). And on entitlement spending, the Pledge is overly vague:
Reform the Budget Process to Focus on Long-Term Challenges: We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations. That means requiring a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, setting benchmarks for these programs and reviewing then regularly and preventing the expansion of unfunded liabilities (p. 11).
I suppose in an electoral season, this is about the best that one can hope for. Anything more specific would give rise to a geriatric revolt.
There are a number of promised reforms in process, including allowing members of any party to offer amendments on any bill that would reduce spending. Assuming that parties are procedural cartels that control access to the agenda (see Cox and McCubbins, Setting the Agenda) and given the recent history when the GOP as majority party used rules rather ruthlessly to control business in Congress (see Hacker and Pierson, Off Center), I can’t imagine that this promise will be realized.
There are a few nods to social conservatives (e.g., “We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values” in the preamble). But this document seems to be driven by fiscal conservatives with hopes of appealing to the Tea Party independents.
Undoubtedly, few will read the Pledge (it is far too convenient to listen to the talking heads spinning a document that they too have never read). But I recommend it to Pileus readers and look forward to any reactions.