A New Contract With America

Remember the Contract with America? That was the pact that Newt Gingrich and some of his pals put together during the campaign of 1994. Some people think it won the Republicans the House that year. Why? Chiefly because it demonstrated an awareness of fiscal reality that had been missing in Washington.

I thought about the Contract while digesting the news of Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget.  That’s the president’s extra lean, no frills, cut-to-the-bone budget. It projects a deficit of $1.6 trillion dollars next year, something close to that the year after, and who knows how much in the years following.

Has the penny dropped yet? “Wealthy Face Tax Increases” warns an article in The Wall Street Journal. But it’s not just the wealthy. It’s also the middle-class, folks struggling to pay their mortgage and educate their children. In fact, just about everybody who pays income tax (all 50-odd percent of us) will see their taxes rise, and rise substantially. There have been many stories about “back door” and “stealth” taxes. Hope and small change.  Get used to it: you will be poorer.

Is it all part of Obama’s plan to “fundamentally transform the United States of America”? (Don’t forget: that was his promise—his warning?—just a few days before his election in 2008.”) Even The New York Times is getting worried:

“His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.”

And it’s not just money. Or rather, the money isn’t only about money. It is also about some of the things money represents: national security, for example. “Deficit Balloons Into National-Security Threat,” reads a headline today.  You’ll be reading that headline often in the months and years to come. Not only will you be poorer because of Barack Obama and his spendthrift allies in Congress, you and your children will be less secure.   Here’s Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations: “We’ve reached a point now where there's an intimate link between our solvency and our national security. What's so discouraging is that our domestic politics don't seem to be up to the challenge. And the whole world is watching.”

It is easy to be alarmed by what’s happening around us. Alarm, if it issues in appropriate action, is a good. What’s not good is a fatalistic acceptance of our national impoverishment and eclipse.  Too many conservatives, I believe, have embraced a Paul-Kennedyesque spirit of declinism. They accept as a given what is only a possibility. A more valuable response is enshrined in the spirit of the “tea parties” that are sweeping the country. Can they make a difference? Ask yourself this: Can a Republican win a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states? (How do you spell “Scott Brown”?)