© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Commentary: A new GOP pledge

I have long believed that we should instruct our politicians:

Ask not what programs you can enact to burnish your legacy -
Ask what programs you can repeal to set our people free.

The recent dust up over the extension of unemployment benefits has given me an idea.

Over the past couple years Congress has been extending unemployment benefits to help workers through the Great Recession. When it was recently time for another round the Democrats solemnly assembled for a press conference. With gaunt faces they announced that they, and only they, cared about working people, and that they, and only they, despite heartless Republican opposition, would use their large majorities in both houses to pass the unemployment benefits extension. The Republicans muttered and sputtered about the need to control spending, and once or twice hollered about cutting something else to make things even, but then they just gave up and watched it go through.

(Although I vote Republican, I have to give the Democrats credit. Watching them operate is like watching a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Charlie Brown).

Anyway, the Republicans could and should have said something else.

The Republicans could and should have said that unemployment benefits and similar programs, while good for the individual recipients of the benefits, are going to seriously harm the recovery. The recovery will be harmed because tax revenues are down, and so the government can pay for these programs only by borrowing money or inflating the currency. If we borrow the money, we will burden ourselves with debt that will hurt our recovery. If we inflate the currency, our business people will lose confidence, which will again hurt our recovery. Either choice slams the private sector, which is the only realistic source of long-term growth and employment. So our unemployed citizens must face short term pain in exchange for our common good.

But the Republicans are genetically incapable of saying anything like that. Years ago Nancy Reagan ginned up the slogan: "Just Say No." I can't remember whether her objective was to stop kids from having sex or to stop everybody from enjoying a joint, but that doesn't matter. Either way the slogan's failure perfectly matches what our politicians just can't do. Politicians just can't bring themselves to tell voters, particularly voters living though a crisis, that the government isn't going to take care of them.

But I have an idea for the Republicans - one that might provide them with some backbone. This idea happens to nicely dovetail into Missouri's recent sweet 71 percent percent thumping of ObamaCare.

The idea is for every Republican candidate for the House and the Senate to sign a pledge saying that upon assuming office he or she will immediately vote to repeal ObamaCare. Years ago the Republicans ginned up something called the "Contract for America." It was about 10 points long, and when the Republican took over they enacted pretty much none of it. This idea is better because its singularity will focus their minds.

If all the Republican candidates sign the "Repeal ObamaCare Pledge," they might actually keep their word. Please note: This has to be a straight repeal - not a "gee, let's look it over and keep the good parts." I am talking about the entire bill, all 2,000 incomprehensible pages. Good-bye. That's it. No give backs or do-overs.

My hidden agenda is at the top of this column. If the "Repeal ObamaCare Pledge" idea catches fire, maybe we can start a trend.

The problem with political compromises for the past 100 years is that each compromise has been over whether we are going to have a "really big" program, or a "kind of big" program. So the outcome has been a "pretty big program."

A better approach would be to get Congress in the habit of repealing programs, so the compromises will be over whether to repeal "lots of really big" programs or only "many really big" programs. Perhaps, over time, we can repeal "most of the really big" programs.

This is consistent with the core American promise: The American promise is that our government will protect our rights to life, liberty, [property] and the pursuit of happiness. After that we figure it out for ourselves.

Thus the GOP's ineptness in responding to the unemployment benefits extension, even as the Democrats rub their hands with glee, could turn things around.

As always, Trust the People.

Bevis Schock is an attorney in private practice in Clayton.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.