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Author Topic: The Way Forward for the American Creed  (Read 76867 times)
Power User
Posts: 31326

« Reply #700 on: September 26, 2014, 09:50:01 PM »

Reflections on the Contract with America – 20 Years Later
Originally published at

On Wednesday I had the privilege of meeting with S. Ganbaatar, a member of the Mongolian Parliament.

When he entered the room, Ganbaatar walked up excitedly to examine a framed document that has hung for years in my offices. The document is a list of commitments to the people, signed by dozens of candidates for public office who promised to vote on a specific policy agenda if they were elected to office. It's framed alongside a picture of the candidates who signed and campaigned on it. Many of them went on to be elected in a historic vote that tossed out a party that had held power since the 1920s.
Ganbaatar was looking at a framed copy of the 1996 "Contract with the Mongolian Voter." That contract was, as the Washington Post reported the next year, "the most widely distributed document in Mongolian history." The Mongolian voters -- with a 91% turnout -- elected the democratic opposition, which four years earlier had held just six seats. With a program of "private property rights, a free press and the encouragement of foreign investment," they defeated the Communist Party that had ruled since 1921.

Ganbaatar, who was elected to Parliament as an Independent in 2012 and is already one of his country's most popular politicians, recounted emotionally how the Contract with the Voter was a watershed event in modern Mongolian history. The ideas in that document, he told me, "gave us our freedom."

Mongolia's peaceful, democratic transition of power from the communists to a republican government was one of the few hopeful stories to come out of the former Soviet states in the early years after the Cold War.
It was fitting, but only a coincidence, that Ganbaatar visited just a few days before the 20th anniversary of the Contract with America, the inspiration for Mongolia's Contract with the Voters.

On September 27, 1994, more than 350 candidates for Congress gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to sign a pledge to the American people, a promise to vote on 10 key reforms if we won a majority in the House of Representatives. That campaign, which I helped organize, earned Republicans control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

The Contract was a campaign document. It laid out a common-sense program that was designed to earn the support of the broadest possible range of Americans. Its assortment of policies included everything from changes to how the House did business to items on the budget, welfare and tax policy.

But more than any particular proposal, the important thing about the document was its form: It was a contract, a real commitment to reform and accountability and renewal. It sought above all to "restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives."

We knew Americans deserved a clear and unambiguous account of what we planned to do, and believed reform required their explicit support -- and that if we broke faith with them, we wouldn't deserve to hold power. So we invited people to vote us out again if we didn't follow through.

But we did follow through -- in an extraordinary first hundred days that kicked off one of the most productive Congresses in American history. In addition to being a campaign document, the Contract was a management document that told us how we would govern. It led directly or indirectly to all of the achievements that would soon follow, including four straight balanced budgets, welfare reform, and the largest capital gains tax cut in American history.

In retrospect, it's clear that the Contract also marked an enduring political realignment. When the Republican House majority was sworn in in 1995, there was only one Republican in the House (Bill Emerson from Missouri) who had ever served under a majority -- and he had done so as a page. Two years later, we became the first Republican majority that had been reelected since 1928. And since the Contract, Republicans have held the House for 16 of the past 20 years, and should continue to hold it for the foreseeable future.

As a detailed commitment to passing specific bills, the Contract was the first document of its kind in American history. It has now been replicated in other countries, like Italy and Mongolia, not because of its policy content, but because it expressed a hope in the heart of every voter -- an aspiration that, in the case of the U.S. -- didn't end with the election of 1994 and certainly did not begin there.

The Contract was, quite literally, a renewal of a pre-existing commitment, one that had not been honored. It was the commitment that elected representatives of the people remain accountable to the people.

This social contract is essential to self-government, but too often, our leaders abandon it once they join the political class. They forget about who put them there, they contrive to shield themselves from "tough votes," and they stretch further the restraints on their powers under the law.

There's nothing like a visit by a legislator from a place where, for the better part of the last century, lawlessness reigned, to remind you that the contract between the people and their representatives must be constantly renewed and ardently defended.

Your Friend,
Power User
Posts: 31326

« Reply #701 on: Today at 04:38:24 PM »

Free People, Free Markets
The lessons from 125 years show how to revive American prosperity.
Updated July 7, 2014 9:32 p.m. ET

Surveying a century and a quarter of journalism is a bracing exercise—at intervals depressing and inspiring. Depressing because bad ideas never die. But inspiring because a free society can rescue itself from periods of decline and despond not unlike the current moment. This is one lesson of 125 years of Journal editorials that promote free people and free markets.

It won't surprise our long-time readers that the debates over principle have changed little over the decades even as events have. We opposed high tariffs when they were the patent medicine of the Republican Party in the 1920s as much as when they are now the resort of labor Democrats. We endorsed cuts in marginal tax rates when Andrew Mellon and Calvin Coolidge proposed them in the 1920s, when Walter Heller and JFK did the same in the 1960s, and when Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan did it again in the 1980s. Each tax cut was followed by renewed growth.
Related Video

A look back at the role of Opinion over the past 125 years and the lasting effects the editorials have had on The Wall Street Journal and the world.

There have been mistakes along the way, notably the endorsement of Hoover, whose austerity program turned recession into Depression. We would also not repeat the too-easy counsel of retreat from Vietnam we offered in 1968. The lesson we draw from that conflict and those in Iraq and Afghanistan is not to start wars you don't intend to fight vigorously enough to win.

Another lesson is how the political pendulum swings between freedom and equality, those competing poles of Western political thought. These columns emphasize liberty, but on occasion those who prize equality can provide a necessary corrective. The best example is the civil-rights movement, which used federal power to break the government-enforced tyranny of Jim Crow.

Yet those who promote freedom typically do better by equality than the progressives who elevate equality do by freedom. The progressive project invariably descends into subsidy and mandate to coerce men and women who resist the commands of those in power. See ObamaCare.

And what of the current moment? Seen through 125 years of setbacks but generally forward progress, it looks all too familiar. The bubble and bust of the last decade gave progressives a renewed chance to govern, this time with a rare supermajority. President Obama and Nancy Pelosi turned to the old nostrums that government spending can conjure growth, that regulation can productively steer investment, and that equality should be the main goal of economic policy.

The results have been predictable: An historically slow recovery now going on five years, declines in real household income except for the rich, the slowest pace of startups in decades, and a barnacled leviathan state that botches a website in the era of Amazon and lies about its waiting lists for veterans.

Perhaps worst of all has been the impact of these failures on American comity and confidence. Gridlock is built into the American Constitution, but the current rancor and paralysis reflect a deeper anxiety about U.S. governance. The public has begun to believe that the country's best days are past and the future belongs to others—perhaps China.

This pessimism contributes to a zero-sum politics that on the right becomes a hostility to immigrants, and on the left a disparaging of the successful. Both impulses lead to policies—income redistribution, rejection of human talent—that compound economic decline. And decline in turn leads to an inward-looking mood that pretends that if America ignores the world's disorders they will somehow leave America alone.

One particular challenge today that wasn't evident a half century ago is the entitlement burden—fiscal in its demand for ever-higher taxes, but also psychological in sapping the incentive to work and succeed. The Reagan restoration saved us from Europe's welfare fate for a time but Mr. Obama's progressive reversal has revived the danger of an entitlement state that is too big to afford but also too big to reform.

Yet for all our current ill temper, the lesson of 125 years is that the national direction can turn, and quickly. Experts said the aftermath of World Wars I and II would be depression, but government shrank and America boomed. In the 1970s the successive failures of Vietnam, Watergate, the energy crisis and inflation led many American elites to wonder if democracy was capable of defeating Communism. A decade later, amid the Reagan boom that added a Germany to U.S. GDP, those anxieties had washed away and the Soviet empire had disintegrated.

The answer to our current slow growth and self-doubt isn't a set of magical "new ideas" or some unknown orator from the provinces. The answer is to rediscover the eternal truths that have helped America escape malaise and turmoil in the past.

These lessons include that markets—the mind of free millions—allocate scarce resources more efficiently and fairly than do committees in Congress; that the collusion of government with either big business or big labor stifles competition and leads to political cynicism; that government will be respected more when it does a few things well rather than too many poorly; and that innovation and human progress spring not from bureaucratic elites but from the genius of individuals.

Above all, the lesson of 125 years is that whatever our periodic blunders Americans have always used the blessings of liberty to restore prosperity and national confidence. A free people have their fate in their own hands.
Power User
Posts: 4097

« Reply #702 on: Today at 06:21:10 PM »

"This pessimism contributes to a zero-sum politics that on the right becomes a hostility to immigrants, and on the left a disparaging of the successful. Both impulses lead to policies—income redistribution, rejection of human talent—that compound economic decline."

Typical of the WSJ.

The rest is ok.
Power User
Posts: 31326

« Reply #703 on: Today at 09:08:15 PM »

That it can be, and is, often used disingenuously does not mean that it is without merit.  Wisely selected immigrants can bring much benefit to America.
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