Contract With America (1994-2001) - RIP
Remember the Contract
With America? If you're like a lot of people, you probably
heard what Newt Gingrich had to say and said to yourself,
"finally! Politicians making sense! Has Hell frozen over?"
You made it a point to go to the polls on Election Day in
1994 so you could turn over Congress to the Republicans thinking
they would put our fiscal house in order and save us from
those mush-brains of the Democratic Party's left wing.
Boy were we sold a bill of goods! For example, we had no
idea the Republicans would use their hold on Congress to pursue
a divisive and counter-productive vendetta against a President
more popular than any of them ever were, a vendetta that culminated
in the ill-fated impeachment proceedings of 1998. This was
an exercise they knew full well they had no chance of success,
but they pursued it anyway as an expression of their twisted
ideology. I remember going home for the holidays and watching
this sorry spectacle at a rest stop near Louisville, Kentucky.
If you all remember, it was a rush job because the Republicans
had just sustained major losses at the polls the month before
as a direct result of this vendetta. It was at that time I
realized that I had become a Democrat.
No one will know to what extent more important legislative
business went by the wayside in favor of the ill-advised attempt
on Bill Clinton's presidency. If the findings of the Gore
Commission are any indication, steps might have been taken
to prevent the sort of terrorism that resulted in the destruction
of the World Trade Center. Who knows. All I knew then was
that I didn't feel very well represented that Christmas of
This week starts a series of articles on the Contract With
America, how it affects us today, what passed and what didn't,
and how Republicans in Congress have been holding up their
end of the deal. Pregnant women and those with heart conditions
might want to skip this section; this is one helluva ride.
Deficit Spending is Back in Style.
Recently, the Bush Administration's budget advisor has admitted
that the federal budget will be in deficit for the remainder
of Mr. Bush's term. Funny, but I thought when Newt Gingrich
and his boys took over Congress, deficit spending would be
a thing of the past. There would be a balanced budget amendment
working its way through the state legislatures, and failing
that, well, they pledged to force themselves to live within
their means just like ordinary Joes have to. It's in the Contract,
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
This was the foundation upon which the rest of the Contract
was built. It was what gave the Contract the aura of sensibility
that convinced voters that change was necessary. Wouldn't
you think, even if they couldn't get a balanced budget amendment
passed, that they would at least be committed to the spirit
of this part of the Contract? Well, this is what former Speaker
Newt Gingrich has to say:
All ten items in the Contract were brought to a vote in
the U.S. House in the first 100 days (the promise was to bring
them to a vote).
This is from Newt's own website,
including the text in parentheses. Apparently, the deal was
that they would bring these bills to the floor for votes,
not necessarily that they were actually going to vote for
any of them. Committment was implied, but not guaranteed,
thus, they could still spend $60 million on a fishing expedition
for dirt on President Clinton, or great wheelbarrows full
of money on pet projects in home districts of certain prominent
Republicans. They can even spend tractor-trailer loads of
money on utter nonsense like the Strategic Defense Initiative.
At the same time, they can pass tax cuts on the richest Americans,
knowing full well that it would throw the budget into deficit.
If that isn't enough, now they want to accelerate the phase-in
of the tax cuts, say it's to help the economy, and that asking
questions about its efficacy is somehow enabling terrorists,
and wind up borrowing even more money. The fiscal irresponsibility
of this flies in the face of common sense, and is in clear
violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Contract
Newt Gingrich waved around seven years ago.
Can you say - hypocrisy?
publishes a political website from the center-left. His homepage
is found at http://www.way2muchsense.com