The Republican “Pledge to America” rolled out on Thursday is being criticized across the political spectrum for including nothing that can re-boot the economy and even for possibly damaging the GOP election effort itself.
The new “pledge” is loaded with old schemes congressional Republicans have been bandying about for almost two years: Continue the Bush tax cuts for the rich, repeal the health care overhaul that became law this year and freeze federal spending at 2008 levels.
“Off the top, their plan is a trillion-dollar giveaway to the rich – at everybody else’s expense,” declared OurFuture.org’s Richard Eskow. He described the Republican proposal as a “pledge to rob the middle class” and a pledge to “create no jobs, eliminate health care and destroy what is left of the nation’s economic security.”
Many analysts say the document, which calls Democrats and President Obama an “arrogant and out of touch government of self-appointed elites,” isn’t likely to sway moderate-leaning undecided or independent voters and could actually reverse some of the GOP inroads with those groups.
“It’s designed to stoke up the tea party, connect with the tea party, to say, ‘We’re with you,'” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virgina’s Center for Politics, told the McClatchy Washington Bureau.
“It’s a public relations document,” said Robert Reich, a liberal economist at the University of California-Berkeley who was President Clinton labor secretary. “If you take seriously their planks of cutting the deficit, balancing the budget, removing government, that is Herbert Hoover economics. And what’s likely to happen if they actually implement that, is a double dip back into recession. There is no demand.”
The Washington Post’s Dan Balz said the GOP “campaign blueprint shows that if it takes control of the House, it will become ‘the party of stop.'”
He and other commentators noted that the program calls for stopping President Obama’s economic stimulus, stopping finance reform, stopping health care reform and stopping the president’s efforts to end tax cuts for the rich.
Republican Minority Leader John Boehner claimed Thursday that the GOP pledge would save $100 billion in the first year alone without having to cut Social Security, Medicare or veteran’s benefits, programs that have solid support across the nation.
Nowhere in the pledge, however, is there a list of items the GOP would cut – the number of space programs, for example, or the number of national parks or other facilities that might have to be shut down.
“It’s a pledge to make the deficit bigger,” noted Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist. “The document repeatedly condemns federal debt – 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade – about $700 billion more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals.”
“The numbers don’t remotely add up,” said MSNBC commentator Eugene Robinson. “The document is such a jumble of contradictions that it’s hard to imagine it could possibly pass muster with anyone who survived eighth grade arithmetic.”
Many commentators noted that the document’s “pledge” to repeal health care reform would also increase the deficit. “They want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but how will they pay for it?” asked Time Magazine’s Kate Pickert. “The Congressional Budget Office says the law will reduce the deficit by $140 billion over 10 years, so repealing the law will add to the deficit.”
Pickert said the GOP call for medical malpractice reform “isn’t necessarily a bad idea” but would “reduce overall health care spending by about 1 percent, not exactly a silver bullet.”
The “Pledge to America” has already embarrassed to some Republicans on the campaign trail.
Polls show that, when the law is broken down, there are many parts of the Affordable Care Act that Americans strongly support. There is almost universal support, for example, for a provision that went into effect yesterday – prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
Yesterday, MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell asked Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, if the GOP’s “pledge” to “repeal and replace” the health care law would eliminate all of the new provisions that went into effect yesterday and if he approved of the new benefits.
Thornberry initially refused to say if he supported prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and charging co-pays for certain preventive services. He implausibly claimed that Republicans would repeal all of these benefits and then restore some of them.