The “Pledge for America”

John Boehner wants to cut my Social Security benefits while leaving his benefits intact.

John Boehner wants to cut my Social Security benefits while leaving his benefits intact.

House Republicans are releasing today they’re “Pledge for America,” a new model version of the Contract for America that was apparently put together under the auspices of one Brian Wild “a House staffer who, up till April 2010, served as a lobbyist for some of the nation’s most powerful oil, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies.”

I haven’t had time to read and process the whole thing, but from what I can glean this morning it does in fact reflect the core elements of today’s conservative agenda—whining about the deficit, deficit-increasing tax cuts, additional whining about the deficit, and deficit-increasing promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But there’s also lots of good stuff in their for the business lobbyist community in terms of making it much harder to regulate anyone or prevent any kind of misconduct.

Perhaps the most telling thing about where the modern conservative movement is now, however, is their pledge on spending which says that “with common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.” Of course once you except Social Security, Medicare, and defense from cuts you’re talking about not touching the government’s three largest programs. So notwithstanding all the rhetorical flourishes throughout the document about small government, liberty, etc. that try to paint a portrait of broadly conflicting philosophical visions about the size and scope of the federal government you actually see a rather narrower difference of priorities. Are they pledging to cut spending while leaving intact programs that support the poorest Americans? No. Are they pledging to cut spending while leaving intact the most effective programs? No.

Instead it’s a plan that says we’ll cut spending on children, the poor, and the next generation’s infrastructure in order to ensure that taxes can be cut on the rich while protecting our own base constituencies—old people, defense contractors, veterans—from the scythe. But by the same logic of “cut spending but not on people who vote Republican” do we really think the authors of this document would pare back other, smaller initiatives that help favored constituencies? Are Customs and Border Patrol and the rest of federal law enforcement going to be cut? Farm subsidies? Timber subsidies? Rural telecom subsidies? We already know that Senate Republicans when given a chance to cut taxes on small businesses and pay for it by reducing oil and gas subsidies chose to mount a filibuster.