Mike Kueber's Blog

April 25, 2010

The Tea Party and a Contract from America

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:02 pm

Nearly 100 years ago, Will Rogers said, “I belong to no organized party.  I’m a Democrat.”  Rogers was joking, but today a Tea Party member can say that with a straight face.  The Tea Party, which started in early 2009 and has experienced explosive growth, prides itself on being decentralized and disorganized. 

Consistent with its core values, a group called Tea Party Patriots recently completed the year-long development of a Contract from American (which is a play on words with Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America).  Based on suggestions, feedback, and voting by hundreds of thousands of supporters on a specialized website, the Patriots identified the Tea Party’s ten best ideas for a return to a individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.  I have listed the ideas below, along with my two cents on their merits. 

Contract from America

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%)

Mike Kueber – This provision makes less sense than any other provision in the contract.  Any bill sponsor will easily identify the specific empowering constitutional provision, and that will leave us arguing about whether the Supreme Court has correctly interpreted the Constitution.  I took the position in my congressional campaign that, under our system of government, we need to let the Supreme Court interpret the Constitution, and if we don’t agree with that interpretation, then we need to change the Constitution.  The U.S. Supreme Court is not an institution that is supposed to be lobbied and pressured by public sentiment.

2. Reject Cap & Trade

Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures. (72.20%)

Mike Kueber – I agree that most cap & trade proposals would be expensive to the American economy and would do little to affect global temperatures.  But I suggest that we seriously consider Mitt Romney’s tax-swap proposal, which would entail taxing some forms of energy use (e.g., gas) and concurrently reducing other taxes.  This sort of tax swap would encourage energy conservation without increasing the tax burden in America.

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%)

Mike Kueber – This provision makes sense, except it needs to allow for deficit spending with a two-thirds majority.  Federal deficits can be helpful in times of war or economic emergency.

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%)

Mike Kueber – Simple and fair is fine, but it is too simplistic to think that a tax code can be written as briefly as a constitution.  Furthermore, I believe a “fair single-rate tax” is an oxymoron; a fair rate must be progressive.

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 US Constitution’s meaning. (63.37%)

Mike Kueber – As I noted in Provision 1, the U.S. Supreme Court determines constitutionality in America, not a Blue Ribbon taskforce.  However, there is nothing that stops the federal government from voluntarily declining power that the Supreme Court would allow it.  So this is a good idea, especially if the recommendations of the taskforce are given up-or-down votes like the BRAC commissions.  

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%)

Mike Kueber – This provision will lock-in the size of government at its current size.  That is bad because we may want government to take on some additional responsibilities.  Also, the provision is probably unnecessary because of Provision 3 – the balanced-budget provision.  If gov’t. has to pay for what we spend, I think it will quit spending so much.  And finally, a statutory cap will probably be ineffective because it could be simply changed with another statute.

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%)

Mike Kueber – I agree that Obama’s government-run health insurance needs to be replaced by a more competitive free-market system.  But I don’t this provision goes far enough to bring down the cost of health insurance and it fails to address availability for 40 million uninsured Americans.

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%)

Mike Kueber – The title to this provision is sound strategy, but the verbiage amounts to nothing more than more drilling and less regulations.  I think the federal government needs to be pro-active in developing alternative, renewable energy sources and in creating incentives for energy conservation.

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%)

Mike Kueber – I have never heard a defense of earmarks that makes any sense.  I don’t understand why only 55.47% of the people placed this provision in their top ten.

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%)

Mike Kueber – I think the issues of taxing and spending should be considered together, not separately.  And both issues are adequately addressed in the balance-budget provision.  I think critics of the Death Tax would change their position if they were required to replace the lost revenues by increasing taxes from some other source.  I think the Death Tax on huge estates is the best tax in America because it is virtually harmless and creates a more level playing field for the rest of us.

1 Comment »

  1. […] expressed my disappointment with the Tea Party’s Contract from America in a blog entry – https://mkueber001.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/the-tea-party-and-a-contract-from-america/.  I was especially disappointed with its focus on constitutional arguments because I think […]

    Pingback by The Republican legislators’ Pledge to America « Mike Kueber's Blog — September 27, 2010 @ 2:41 pm | Reply

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