A Business Contract with America

A Business Contract with America July 6, 2012

Hugh Hewitt is not only a nationally syndicated radio host with Salem; he’s also a brilliant law professor and practicing attorney, an accomplished author, and a true leader in the conservative movement.  He’s been a good friend to me, and we spent 30 minutes on his show discussing my book on the faith and athletic life of Jeremy Lin — and then I spent most of last week with him at a conference held by the Alliance Defense Fund, where Hugh was a terrific host and moderator for the media sessions.

When Hugh speaks, conservatives should listen.  And in a 4th of July blog post he writes:

[I]t is clear the GOP doesn’t yet get the enormous, urgent need to lay out a detailed timeline for repeal, one that not only underscores the resolve of the party but which promises accountability.  Governor Romney, Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell would harness the powerful energy of the grassroots in a way not seen in years if they appeared together in the near future and unveiled just such a plan, one replete with the specifics of how repeal is accomplished and the target dates for getting it done, target dates that don’t accept the “Washington way” of doing things but instead convey their collective resolve to act as though the economy really and truly needed repeal.  Such a plan would in essence be a “Contract with America” with only one promise, but the one that matters most right now: Repeal by a date certain, a date that is in black and white and backed up by the pledge of the nominee and the leaders of the party on the Hill, a repeal that would remove the cloud and by necessity be accompanied by a budget that tackles the entitlement issues.

There are advantages to focusing like a laser on this issue.  What I would recommend, though, is a Business Contract with America, where the first point is the kind of detailed commitment to repealing Obamacare that Hugh describes, given the massive burden that Obamacare will place on our national economy in the years to come.  The second part would be Romney’s plan to get the economy humming again, and the third part would be entitlement reform.  One could also include energy and immigration reform as the fourth and fifth parts of the plan, but the Romney campaign and leading Republicans on the Hill (since they would inevitably, regardless of what their plans actually said, be painted as hating brown people and wanting to destroy the planet) may prefer to focus on the first three issues.

Among the advantages of a “Contract” approach are:

  1. That voters get to vote for plans and not just principles.  Keep them simple but specific, with measurable goals and means of accountability.  Voters see something very concrete and pragmatic, as opposed to the gaseous bloviations that too often pass for political speechmaking.
  2. A “Contract” approach, as we saw with Newt in 1994, nationalizes every Congressional race.  When you vote for the candidate who signed the contract, you’re voting now just for that candidate and his local concerns but also for the contract.  It also communicates that merely electing Romney is not enough; one must also win both houses of Congress in order to see the Contract put into action.  In other words, it holds the voters accountable to do everything they can to support Republicans.
  3. It clarifies the issues at stake in the election.  The country feels adrift.  The Obama administration spent its capital and has no real solutions.  Setting forth a plan, agreed upon across the party, puts to rest the “Party of No” accusations and shows the Republicans have clear solutions to offer.

There is, to be sure, some risk in a Contract approach.  The people might not like your contract, it commits you to specific goals your opponents can attack, and it holds you accountable to, well, you know, do what you actually said you would do.  But the time is ripe for a Business Contract with America; Republicans can focus on the most necessary and popular measures; and without a Contract approach, where every local race is dominated by local issues, it’s extremely difficult to win a commanding majority in both chambers of Congress.

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  • Basil

    Having health care costs spiraling out of control are a burden on our economy. The Affordable Care Act is a first step to bending that cost curve down, by making health more universal — so that sickness can be treated earlier, when it is less expensive, and by putting regulation and competition into the health insurance sector, so that they are forced to compete on a uniform minimum standard of coverage, while making the insurance market more transparent. These are good free-market capitalist approaches. Right now, we have a opaque, and rigged market for health insurance, which allows insurers to charge astronomical premiums, deny coverage, and basically screw individuals and businesses. That is one of the primary burdens on our economy, and the Affordable Care Act goes some way towards fixing it. It is not perfect, it is not the complete answer, but it is a significant first step.

    As for costs, the Affordable Care Act costs $1.7 trillion. According to the Congressional Budget Office, who studies these things (and is non-partisan), the ultimate result is that this bill will REDUCE the yearly deficit by $210 billion (by lowering health care costs over time). By the year 2021, the bill will actually have paid itself and started bringing in more money than it cost.

    Here is an excellent layman’s rundown of the law (if you are actually interested in the fact-based universe):


    Repeal would increase deficit. So how does repealing a law that brings free market competition to our health insurance sector square with “conservative” “small government” values? Answer: It doesn’t.

    Repeal would cause more people to lose insurance coverage, and make health insurance more expensive for the rest of us. Friends and relatives of mine who have gained access to health already because of this law would lose access to health care (in one case, it may be fatal). So how does denying health square with religious obligations of helping those in need, and of the example of Christ healing the sick? Answer: It doesn’t

  • I agree with the idea of a Business Contract With America, but what bothers me is that if Obamacare is to be repealed, what alternative can be offered? It isn’t enough to just do away with it…the health care industry does need reforms badly. For example, the ability to sell policies across state lines, the ability to prevent companies from declining coverage based on pre-existing conditions, limits on lawyers fees, etc. (tort reform), etc. Nature hates a vacuum, and Republicans will have egg all over their face if they don’t come up with some solid proposals for how to not just repeal Obamacare, but to replace it with something that is much more practical and feasible.

    • John Haas

      The GOP has not been the party of health care reform. The last big push (before the current) was the Clinton plan in 1993. A bundle of ideas were proposed as an alternative, but they went nowhere nationally (but became the basis for Romney’s reforms in Massachusetts and for Obamacare). Those GOP-reforms have now been repudiated by a somewhat different GOP (than even existed three years ago).

      Would there be any will to dive back into the fray of positive policy-making once Obamacare is repealed? The gap between when the Clinton plan was proposed and passage of Obamacare was nearly two decades. Republicans had several opportunities to push reform during that period but–other than some spear-rattling about tort reform and a politically advantageous expansion of Medicare–preferred tofocus on other matters.

      It’s hard to believe history isn’t about torepeat itself on this. As Mitch McConnell put it in a recent interview for NationalReview, “job one is to replace Obamacare in its entirety, clean up the health care we’re already responsible for, and then we’ll see where we go from there.”

      • Sdb

        Why must healthcare be solved at the federal level?

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Personally, I think allowing healthcare shopping across state lines would be helpful, and that would require some adjustments at the federal level. But your point is well taken. Mitt actually came away from the Massachusetts health care reform experience convinced that the states were the best positioned to be creative and craft solutions particular to each state. So if you’re a federalist when it comes to health care, I think Mitt’s your man.

          • John Haas

            Now, if we could only get all those uninsured people to stay in their own states when they get sick or injured . . .

          • Basil

            The reason that purchasing insurance across state lines is a BAD idea is because there is no federal regulator of insurance (health, property, life, etc…). NONE. It is a real weakness in our financial system — we can see that by the bailout of AIG which cost over a hundred billions dollars — AIG is regulated by the insurance commission of the State of Nebraska, which just did not /does not have the capacity to regulate AIG’s playing on global derivatives markets (where they got into big trouble). There were some attempts to create a federal insurance regulator in Dodd-Frank, but the insurance industry defeated that — although we now have a Financial Stability Oversight Council (I think that is their name)y which is supposed to look at risk across the financial system (including insurance) and which can act on things that fall through the cracks.

            If you allow unregulated interstate commerce, you will basically get an instant race to the bottom. All the insurance companies will move the state which promises to allow them to do whatever they want — basically act like casinos.

            Econ 101: Free market capitalism requires a strong government hand to regulate industry to ensure fair competition, and to ensure minimum quality and safety standards. If you are into the Russian mafia-style capitalism — then by all means, push for rollback of all that regulating government “overreach”, but have no illusions about the consequences.

            The Affordable Care Act provides some degree of regulation of health insurance — setting minimum standards and forbidding some of the most egregious abuses of market power by insurance s***wing over their customers (both individuals and businesses). It also introduces some competition, which last I checked, is a good thing if you believe in capitalism. If you prefer oligarchy, corruption and needless deaths from treatable illnesses of uninsured Americans — then by all means, push for a repeal of “Obamacare”.

    • Timothy Dalrymple


  • Tim

    How does this Contract envision the poorest, most vulnerable one’s receiving manna in the form of health care? I understand that you do not believe in the Obama legislation. We know that what has been in place hasn’t worked.

    I worry that this proposal replaces the Democrat Golden Calf with a Republican Golden Calf. Why is one idolatrous ideology better than another?

  • Tim

    Isn’t believing in the magic of the Free Market a kind of idolatry, just as trusting in Socialism, or even Democracy? The problem is human sin.

  • L.W. Dickel

    And then Jesus came upon his disciples and said, [Editor: I think I’ll pass on the remainder of this comment. Try again without the obscenities and I’ll let it go.]

  • L.W. Dickel

    And then Jesus said, “Even I wouldn’t vote for a f*cking Mormon!! “–Jesus H. Christ, up in the sky.

  • Frank Weathers

    A little more discussion on this issue can be found here: A Business Contract With America? It’s Not Enough.

  • LaurelhurstLiberal

    You know the Congressional Budget Office says that Obamacare pays for itself, right?
    If you really want to repeal it, I think the Christian thing to do would be to propose a replacement to cover all those uninsured kids — you could call it Repeal and Replace. That was Republican policy until pretty recently, so it shouldn’t be hard to dust off.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      It takes some extremely fuzzy math and some absurdly optimistic projections to make that so. Bear in mind, the CBO is constrained, when scoring something like this, to the presuppositions the legislators (the majority at the time) give it. For one thing, the notion that Obamacare pays for itself is based on roughly $500B in new taxes and $500B in medicare cuts. The likelihood that both will actually happen is remote, in the first place. But the projection that Obamacare pays for itself is only for the first ten years, and the Congress structured it so that the income would start flowing before the outflows. When you compare 10 years of revenue against 6 years of costs, with rosy scenarios about economic growth and tax receipts, with the supposition that there will be $500B cut from medicare and $500B in new tax receipts, then you can just about get the ledger to balance.

      Even at the time, more realistic projections pegged the cost of Obamacare at a bit less than a trillion dollars. But as time goes by, and you start looking at 10 years of revenue against 8 years of costs (instead of 6), and eventually at 10 against 10, and as the rosy scenarios don’t pan out, then you start to see something that will cost $2T, $3T or more. Also bear in mind that medicare was originally projected to cost something like $12B in 1990, but actually cost $110B that year. These kinds of things have a way of expanding as legislators gather new powers to themselves and start doling out the pork. This could be a huge, huge strain on our economy.

      • Tim

        Preexisting conditions- out
        Lifetime caps- out
        Mandates- a tentative, imperfect attempt at expanding coverage

        That’s what I see Obamacare trying to do.

        I’d like to see a positive, constructive proposal from your “business contract” perspective

        I’d like to see the Jesus value where everyone receives his/her daily bread: food, clothing, dignified work, housing, education, and health care. Any system that privileges some over others seems to fall short of the Kingdom. Where does manna living as opposed to Pharaoh domination (the few with all the wealth) play out in your vision?