Democratic Underground

The Contract With America (1994-2001) - RIP
December 21, 2001
by Why

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 1998.

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, right here:

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.

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?

Why publishes a political website from the center-left. His homepage is found at

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