Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Law of Unintended Consequences Licks Its Chops

Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America having worked so well, the Tea Party movement has come up with something they call the Contract From America, where almost half a million of Sarah Palin’s “real Americans” voted on what’s important to them. No offense, but these are half a million of the dumbest sons of bitches ever to walk the earth. (Granted, calling someone a dumb son of a bitch and prefacing it with “no offense” may be an oxymoron, but these folks aren’t long on a sense of irony.)

Here’s the Contract From America. Voting percentages are in parentheses; my comments in italics.

(1) Protect the Constitution: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does (82.03 percent). Be careful what you ask for. No telling how many things near and dear to you will bite the dust under a strict interpretation of this standard.

(2) Reject Cap & Trade: Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumers prices, and weaken the nation's global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures (72.20 percent). A lot of editorializing here. How about some genuine evidence that Cap and Trade will do all these things? (Or won’t do the things you say it won’t do.)

(3) Demand a Balanced Budget: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike. (69.69 percent) A balanced budget is an admirable goal; requiring one is lunacy. There are times when debt is necessary. State governments are cases in point; look at the problems they have in a recession because they can’t borrow to get them over the hump. Not all debt is created equal. Here’s an example: would anyone involved with this think it’s a good idea for someone to assume debt that amounts to several times their annual income? Pretty much takes buying a house out of the equation.

(4) Enact Fundamental Tax Reform: Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words -- the length of the original Constitution. (64.90 percent). The tax code is an abomination, but a symbolic and arbitrary restriction of its length is a cute gimmick someone thought up because he knew it had the kind of cachet people who act without thinking would enjoy.

(5) Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington: Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the U.S. Constitution's meaning. (63.37 percent) Restoring Constitutionally limited government by making government larger through the creation of this panel—which is, in itself, extra-Constitutional—is delusional. This would, of course, be an apolitical group, right? Or would it be a collection of the most fair and balanced thinkers the Tea Party can find?

(6) End Runaway Government Spending: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (56.57 percent). This, along with the balanced budget bullshit, would make it impossible to respond to emergencies. What would you do in case of a catastrophe or war?

(7) Defund, Repeal & Replace Government-run Health Care: Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn't restricted by state boundaries. (56.39 percent). They saved the best for last here: “free-market health care and health insurance system that isn't restricted by state boundaries.” This is how credit cards work now, where all the companies flock to the state willing to write the weakest regulations. It’s worked so well even Republicans voted to restrict it last year.

(8) Pass an 'All-of-the-Above' Energy Policy: Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs. (55.51 percent). Notice how “all of the above” never seems to include using less of the shit.

(9) Stop the Pork: Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark. (55.47 percent). No money should be spent without being voted on. However, earmarks don’t make up enough of the budget to make much of a difference. In addition, why should this spending be held to a higher standard (2/3 majority) than any other spending?

(10) Stop the Tax Hikes: Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011. (53.38 percent). These aren’t really tax hikes; for the most part, they’re the expiration of tax cuts that were only passable because they had expiration dates. If you really want to go back to the good old days of prosperity and Beaver Cleaver wholesomeness, let adopt the tax rates from the Fifties, where the top rate was around 90%.

H.L. Mencken once said that for every complex problem, there is a simple solution, and that solution is wrong. The Contract From America is living proof. The problems we face didn’t happen overnight, and they are the results of an almost unimaginable number of things working together beyond our control. Most people—me included—don’t want to deal with the subtleties and levels of complexity needed to understand—let alone fix—these problems. At least I’m willing to accept that this is going to be a long and hard struggle, and it’s not going to get any easier because people like the Tea Party want to fix Grandma’s reading glasses with a sledgehammer because they lack the patience and understanding to deal with all those little screws.

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