The Grand Old Tea Party Platform
Urged on by Newt Gingrich, a coalition of Tea Party groups last week unveiled their so-called "Contract from America." Now, Congressional Republicans including Eric Cantor (R-VA), Mike Pence (R-IN) and Pete Sessions (R-TX) are also hoping to mimic Gingrich's winning 1994 gambit with their own "Contract with America." But after reading the Tea Party's 10-point manifesto, a new GOP "Contract" seems like an exercise in redundancy. After all, the data show Tea Partiers are Republicans. And virtually everything the Tea Baggers are promoting was either already in the 2008 Republican platform or actively being promoted by leading lights of the Republican Party.
As Politico reported, House Republicans are split about their new Contract. "The catch," Jake Sherman wrote, "They don't agree yet on what should be in it."
For openers, they might as well as begin by doing a copy-and-paste from the Tea Bagger encyclical.
As it turns out, six of the 10 pillars of the Tea Party Contract are part and parcel of the 2008 Republican platform John McCain rode to defeat. Like the Tea Party document, the Republican National Convention called for a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution and "supermajority requirement in both the House and Senate to guard against tax hikes." (3) Both call for "an immediate moratorium on the earmarking system." (9) And in its platform plank titled, "The Democrats Plan to Raise Your Taxes," the GOP like the Tea Party demanded making the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, "including those to the income, capital gains and death taxes." (10)
The duplication hardly ends there. With its "drill, baby drill" mantra, the 2008 Republican program echoed the Tea Baggers' call for an "all-of-the-above energy policy." (8) The Republican platform the Tea Party Contract and the original 1994 Contract with America all called for an independent audit of federal agencies for "for waste, fraud or abuse." (5)
As for the tax code itself, the Tea Party Contract and Republican proposals past and present are not that far apart. The new flat-taxers went for the dramatic flair in their item #4:
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.
Later echoed by Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan's "Road Map for America's Future," the McCain platform should have been music to Tea Partiers' ears:
Over the long run, the mammoth IRS tax code must be replaced with a system that is simple, transparent, and fair while maximizing economic growth and job creation. As a transition, we support giving all taxpayers the option of filing under current rules or under a two-rate flat tax with generous deductions for families.
(If that's not quite Steve Forbes' vision of a flat income tax, Mike Huckabee, Jim Demint and others often a different single rate alternative to kill the IRS. Their wildly regressive national sales tax (a.k.a. the "Fair Tax") would replace the income tax altogether.)
Two other Tea Party favorites not included in the 2008 GOP platform have since become Republican orthodoxy. In June 2008, presidential candidate John McCain announced, "I have proposed a new system of cap-and-trade that over time will change the dynamic of our energy economy." But a year later, the one-time maverick joined the Tea Baggers in their call to "reject cap and trade." (1) And when it comes to rolling back health care reform (7), the Tea Party was merely regurgitating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's 2010 GOP campaign slogan:
"I think the slogan will be 'repeal and replace', 'repeal and replace,'" Mr. McConnell said. "No one that I know in the Republican conference in the Senate believes that no action is appropriate."
As for the remaining codicils of the Tea Party agreement, they, too, have long been floating around the Republican ether. That's especially the case with their sixth demand to "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." That's just a restatement of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) long pushed by Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform. It's also the same formula that wrought fiscal havoc in Colorado.
As Politico, TPM and others noted, the question now is not whether the Republicans will roll out their Contract with America 2.0 after Labor Day, but how they'll spin it. House GOP leaders like Cantor, Sessions and Pence want a document with specific legislative proposals, while document chairman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) doesn't want items which could potentially alienate independent voters "written out." And while Tea Party Contract from America signer Newt Gingrich lauded the movement as "the militant wing" of the GOP, Texan Pete Sessions said the only thing that matters is winning a House majority. Anything less, he insisted, "is a warm bucket of spit."
Or, in the case of a new Republican Contract with America, a warmed over bucket of spit.