A par­ti­san ‘pledge’

Los Angeles Times - - Opinion -

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 Repub­li­can con­gres­sional ma­jor­ity would pur­sue, pre­pare for a pos­si­bly bumpy 2011.

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