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GOP Pledge Beats Democrats' Delays

A Commentary by Debra J Saunders

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The House Republicans' "Pledge to America" calls for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for all; a rollback of government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels; "strict budget caps," an end to the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the rest of the Obama stimulus package. What's not to like?

Having been asked what they would do differently if they ran the House, the Republicans came up with an answer.

Meanwhile, the Democrats run the House but they are not acting as if they are in charge. They haven't passed a budget. They're putting off a vote to extend all or some of the Bush tax cuts until after the Nov. 2 general election. They're acting like lame ducks before they become lame ducks. They can't seem to get much of anything done, except deflect attention from their fecklessness to gaps in the GOP pledge.

Liberal pundits have hit the Repubs for not presenting specific spending cuts and not sufficiently tackling the federal deficit.

On the right, RedState Editor Erick Erickson dismissed the document as a series of "compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes."

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who helped draft the GOP pledge, doesn't agree that it's light on spending-cut specifics. "We roll it back to pre-stimulus" spending levels, McCarthy noted, which means cutting the Department of Labor and other non-security budgets.

Sure, parts of the pledge are too gimmicky for my taste. To wit: "read-the-bill" language that would require that any bills be posted online for three days before they come up for a vote. Didn't President Obama make a similar promise, which he readily discarded?

The pledge fails to address the looming entitlement crisis -- that is, it doesn't get into thorny issues likely to offend have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too voters -- and includes a 20 percent tax deduction for small-business owners that likely won't help the deficit.

But it's beats the anything-goes status quo.

Speaking of which: On "Fox News Sunday," House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer cravenly charged that the GOP plan would "create another $4 trillion in debt." You'd never guess that Democrats want to extend most of the Bush tax cuts even though it will add to the deficit.

Somehow, they've erected this construct where they can extend most of the Bush tax cuts and increase the deficit by more than $3 trillion over a decade, and that's responsible. Whereas, if Republicans want to add earners who pay the highest taxes -- increasing the tab by another $700 billion in an effort to save jobs -- they're irresponsible hypocrites.

Hoyer "doesn't want to cut any of the spending in Washington," McCarthy marveled. "He wants to continue the growth of spending in Washington." So who is Hoyer to hit Republicans on deficit spending, when his party has no plan to curb spending?

In the wake of a behavior-changing recession, the economy is not producing jobs. Small businesses are waiting for a signal to nudge them into action. When a vote to extend all of the Bush tax cuts could give would-be employers a sense of certainty, the Democrats are dithering.

Clearly, the Dems feel no sense of urgency to jump-start the economy.

They can't talk up their accomplishments; they can't brag about their fiscal responsibility, so they point at the GOP and yell "deficit."

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