Since its release last week, House Republicans have been touting their “Pledge To America” as a bold policy vision to solve the nation’s problems, which they would enact if they gain a majority after the November elections. However, revealing the pledge to be nothing more than regurgitated rhetoric that ignores critical issues, even conservative critics have slammed it as “meaningless stuff” that fails on “advocacy of long term sound public policy.”
Today on Fox News Sunday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) seemed to concede this point. When host Chris Wallace noted that the Pledge does not even address entitlement spending such as Social Security and Medicare, Boehner countered by saying that its purpose is only to “lay out the size of the problem,” rather than “to get to potential solutions.” This, of course, flies in the face of GOP branding of the proposal, but Boehner explained that he doesn’t think the American people can handle his ideas right now, saying, “Once Americans understand how big the problem is, then we can begin to talk about potential solutions”:
WALLACE: Congressman Boehner, as Willie Sutton said about banks, entitlements are where the money is. More than 40% of the budget. Yet, I’ve looked through this pledge and there is not one single proposal to cut social security, medicare, medicaid.
BOEHNER: Chris, we make it clear in there that we’re going to lay out a plan to work toward a balanced budget and deal with the entitlement crisis. Chris, it’s time for us as americans to have an adult conversation with each other about the serious challenges our country faces. And we can’t have that serious conversation until we lay out the size of the problem. Once Americans understand how big the problem is, then we can begin to talk about potential solutions. [...]
WALLACE: Forgive me, sir, isn’t the right time to have the adult conversation now before the election when you have this document? Why not make a single proposal to cut social security, medicare and medicaid?
BOEHNER: Chris, this is what happens here in washington. When you start down that path, you just invite all kind of problems. I know. I’ve been there. I think we need to do this in a more systemic way and have this conversation first. Let’s not get to the potential solutions. Let’s make sure americans understand how big the problem is. Then we can talk about possible solutions and then work ourselves into those solutions that are doable.
Indeed, Boehner was more than a little off message in saying “let’s not get to the potential solutions.” As his own Pledge states, surveying the proposals laid out in its pages, “We recognize that these solutions are ambitious.” It concludes by affirming that Republicans will fight to “promote and advance solutions.”
But numerous Republicans, including Boehner, have proposed plans to deal with Social Security and Medicare: cut benefits. All of their proposals — from raising the retirement age, to privatization, to declaring the entire social safety net unconstitutional — are deeply unpopular with the American people, hence Boehner’s apprehension to delve into the issue.
Conservatives continually fear monger about the sustainability of these vital social programs, falsely insisting they are “bankrupt” or a “Ponzi scheme.” So Boehner seems to be saying that he won’t lay out his plan to deal with this supposedly imminent danger until he’s had enough time to deceive the American people into thinking his “solutions” are needed.