Well, you can't say you don't know what Republicans stand for anymore. After two years during which the party was defined by its opposition to nearly every Democratic initiative, GOP leaders have presented a 48-page outline of their legislative agenda — which will take on new importance next year if Republicans take control of at least one house of Congress. After reading the document, we're pining for the days when Republicans were only the party of "no."
If the "Pledge to America" unveiled Thursday were a genuine attempt to solve the country's economic troubles by living up to GOP principles of low taxation and spending, we might find more in it to like. Instead, it's a manifesto of meaningless bromides served up to please "tea party" activists, disingenuous attacks on Democrats and President Obama, and policy prescriptions that are at best impractical and at worst deeply counterproductive.
Don't look to the pledge for a sober analysis of our country's challenges in such areas as energy, immigration or foreign policy. The document is seasoned with a few chunks of red meat on these issues — it contains a veiled call for more states to follow Arizona's lead by passing laws that circumvent federal authority on enforcement of immigration rules, and a statement of opposition to a "cap-and-trade" climate law — but these are matters that divide the party and don't really get the teapot boiling. What Republicans agree on, based on the key elements of the pledge, is that Obama's healthcare reform law must be repealed and that the economic recovery measures favored by both Obama and President George W. Bush have failed and must be halted.
So if Republicans succeed in repealing the healthcare law, what would they replace it with? Ironically, many of their suggestions build on or borrow from the law they want to eliminate, such as medical liability reform, a ban on insurance company rescissions and the elimination of lifetime spending caps. They do get one thing right — it's true that the healthcare law doesn't do enough to control costs — but they offer no meaningful mechanisms for addressing the inefficiencies and uncontrolled demand that are driving medical costs unsustainably higher.
Meanwhile, their approach to stimulus spending and bank bailouts — to halt payment of billions of dollars in stimulus grants and cancel the Troubled Asset Relief Program — would stall one of the strongest forces sustaining the economy and probably eliminate more jobs than it would produce. And their plan to extend the Bush tax cuts even for the very wealthy, although it might result in a small uptick in business growth, would greatly widen the deficit they claim to want to narrow. If this is the agenda a new Republican congressional majority would pursue, prepare for a bumpy 2011.