For this month's Readers' Review: "Drown" -- the debut collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz. Twenty years ago, Diaz published ten heart-breaking tales about a fragmented family from the Dominican Republic finding their way in 1980s America.
Republican leaders have pledged to make dramatic legislative changes if they retake control of Congress in the midterm elections. The GOP’s plans for tax cuts, deficit reduction, jobs creation and health care.
- Congressman Phil Gingrey Republican, 11th District, Georgia.
- Brian Gaston managing director, government relations practice, The Glover Park Group.
- Naftali Bendavid national correspondent, The Wall Street Journal; author of "The Thumpin': How Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats Learned to be Ruthless and Ended the Republican Revolution."
- Brendan Steinhauser director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks.
MS. KATTY KAYThanks for joining us. I'm Katty Kay of BBC World News America, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is recovering from a voice treatment. Republican leaders have vowed to make major legislative changes if their party regains control of Congress. In their Pledge to America, they've outlined their goals, cut taxes, create jobs and downsized the government. Joining us to talk about the Republican agenda and the evolving influence of the Tea Party movement, Brendan Steinhauser of FreedomWorks, Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal and when he gets out of his traffic jam, Brian Gaston of The Glover Park Group will also be with us. The phone number here is 1-800-433-8850. Do send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on Twitter, of course. Send us a question there and on Facebook as well. We look forward to hearing you. We'll be taking your calls and questions in a few moments' time. But first, gentlemen, thanks so much for joining me.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDThank you.
MR. BRENDAN STEINHAUSERThank you.
KAYBrendan Steinhauser, let's start by looking at the Pledge to America that was unveiled at the end of last week. What's in it? And what does it mean for voters?
STEINHAUSERWell, I think the Pledge to America is an attempt from the Republican Party, and from the leadership more particularly, to say that they have listened to the American people, that they paid attention in the last couple of years, and they have a policy agenda if they are granted the opportunity to have a majority in the House and maybe in the Senate. And looking at this document, certainly the Tea Party movement and FreedomWorks agree with some of the basic principles in the pledge. We see things like talking about the idea of liberty and limited government, talking about federalism, repealing bad policy, replacing it with good policy, putting an end to the bailouts, citing the constitutional authority for legislation. These are a lot of ideas, in general, that we agree with. And, in fact, we believe a lot of this does come from our effort to create a contract from America from the grassroots that we have presented to candidates across the country.
KAYThere was language in the pledge that was -- I think at one point it spoke about we, the governed. It sounded almost revolutionary.
STEINHAUSERIt did. I think they're capturing that sense of what's out there. The themes of the American Revolution and the founding fathers, that's a lot of what makes up this Tea Party movement. When you get into the actual policy, there's certainly -- it's pretty clear that this is an agenda that opposes what's happening in Washington right now. Talking about the health care bill, how they want to repeal this bad law now and replace it with something else with market solutions like tort reform, buying across state lines and these sorts of ideas that have been out there, but that weren't as prominent in the debate over health care.
KAYSo in this scenario, King George is Washington in general?
STEINHAUSERIt sort of seems that way, doesn't it?
KAYAnd meanwhile, Naftali, let's talk about a new poll that's come out from The Wall Street Journal, a Wall Street Journal-NBC Poll, which is showing that actually the Tea Party movement has a substantial amount of support now in the Republican Party. Tell us about the findings of the poll.
BENDAVIDIt does. Yeah, the poll, it showed that 71 percent of Republicans identified one way or another with the Tea Party. That doesn't mean that they go out there and join protests, but it does mean that they have positive feelings about it and are supportive of its candidates. And that's really extraordinary when you think that this is a movement that only came into being less than a couple of years ago, and it was a fringe movement or was seen as such for a long time. But, now, 70 percent of one of the major parties is supportive of the Tea Party. And I think that does explain a certain amount of what we saw in the pledge because the pledge really was an attempt, as Brendan said, to say, we get it. In fact, at the unveiling, John Boehner, the Republican leader, said a couple of times, we get it, we get it.
STEINHAUSERYou know, the thing about the Tea Party is they don't like the Democrats, but they're not really necessarily sold on the Republicans either. And I think this was the Republican leadership's attempt to say, look, we really are with you. Even though we know we've made mistakes in the past, you can count on us to be as revolutionary as your message would have us be.
KAYSo, Brendan, were the elements of the pledge that the Tea Party might have been less happy about? Or were you wholesale in favor of the document?
STEINHAUSERWell, certainly, we thought that they left out some key issues that we would like to see. And again going to back to our ideas -- this 10 plank platform of the Contract From America -- you know, there wasn't really any mention about fundamental tax reform and how that could be a big part of the agenda, a really big bold idea is what people are looking for. I think, in general, a lot of the Tea Party movement will see this document as a political document that, you know, we're going to have to enforce basically. The Tea Party movement is going to have to drive to do things.
KAYYeah, I'd have thought the Tea Party movement with fairly suspicious of political documents in general.
STEINHAUSERCertainly, and again the principles in the document we certainly agree with, but these are the same Republicans, for the most part, that broke our hearts after the Contract with America. So it's really up to us to sort of say, okay, if this is what you believe in, and this is your agenda, we're going to make you live up to it. And also here are our ideas that we're going to drive in the debate as soon as the election is over.
KAYOkay. Brian Gaston has also joined us now. Brian is with The Glover Park Group. And before joining Glover Park, he spent 16 years working for the House Republican leadership. Brian, welcome to the program.
MR. BRIAN GASTONThank you.
KAYWe've been talking about the Pledge to America. But, of course, in conjunction with the Pledge to America, there is also a movement of America Speaking Out. What's the difference between the two?
GASTONWell, the America Speaking Out, that was the whole effort that led to the Pledge to America. What the House Republicans decided to do, was to put a website that was accessible nationwide for people to submit their ideas for what they think needs to be done. And basically, it was that input from millions of Americans across the country that helped craft the Pledge to America, the document that was unveiled recently.
KAYDo you think the document was, in a sense -- as Brendan and Naftali have been suggesting -- the Pledge to America was, in a sense, the Republican Party's response to, or perhaps an attempt to satisfy, the Tea Party movement at a time when the party itself is in a certain amount of uproar? It almost looked to me like it was imposing rules for a party that is in a bit of chaos.
GASTONYeah, there may be an element of that. I -- there is no doubt about that. But at the same time, I think it's also an important document in the sense that for the last two years, we've heard House Democrats, Senate Democrats and the Obama administration saying Republicans have no ideas. And clearly what this document shows is that they have ideas, and there's really not too much, too earth-shattering in there, except there are some important reform things in there -- components to the Pledge to America. But a lot of the policy things that are listed in the Pledge to America are things Republicans have stood for for a while, and they basically are things they've been trying to offer during the last two years as substitutes on the floor, basically to propose their ideas. And this is just sort of a manifestation of all that.
KAYYou spoke, Brendan, about having your hearts broken by the last Republican administration. What did you mean by that? And how -- to what extent does that play into the feeling that conservatives today are still disenchanted with the Republican Party?
STEINHAUSERWell, the Republican Party platform says it believes in limited government and lower taxes and reductions in government spending and waste. And what happened was, the party in power, the Republican Party -- especially in 2005, '06, '07 and '08 -- really lost a lot of its base, a lot of fiscal conservatives and independent voters, when they saw the outrageous spending that was happening under the Republican leadership. And the worst case of all was the TARP bailout in the fall of 2008, which President -- now, President Obama, then candidate -- Obama supported, John McCain supported, and President Bush supported. So what happened, I really believe, is that this Tea Party movement sentiment began with just absolute disgust for both political parties, but especially the Republican Party in power in the fall of 2008. So that's really what launched this revolution.
KAYBut the deficits rose throughout President Bush's time in office, throughout the eight years, and yet we didn't see much sign of a Tea Party movement during that time.
STEINHAUSERThere was definitely outcry from organizations, from intellectuals who were writing books...
STEINHAUSER...talking about the parties who left us.
KAYYou had the Cato Institute. You had libertarians saying that this was not the president they felt truly reflected Republican fiscal conservatism. But you didn't have a broad groundswell, a public movement that we've seen since President Obama was elected.
STEINHAUSERSure. Well, what happened was, it's sort of like turning the temperature up. It took a while to get people actually motivated to get off of their couches. And a lot of people were doing the proverbial yelling at the TV, but what happened was, it really reached that boiling point with the bailout. I think that was sort of the last straw for a lot of these people. And so we were getting petitions out there saying, we'll deliver these petitions against the bailout to both political parties. And FreedomWorks as an organization was able to sort of channel that energy out there and say, no, we're standing with people against these bad policies and big government. And so, I think that that's really when this movement began, was noticing that -- you know, more and more people noticing that both political parties had failed us and that the Republicans really let us down because they ostensibly believe in the principles that we believe in.
KAYLet's talk about, Naftali, about the response from economists and commentators to the Pledge to America because there's been quite a lot of criticism of it in terms of the specifics, that here is a document that both promises to cut taxes, cut spending, create jobs, shrink the deficit. And economists are saying, frankly, you can't do it all.
BENDAVIDYeah, there were a couple major criticisms. One was -- had to -- did have to do with the deficit. You know, it talks in a lot of very strong, sometimes flowery language about the need to cut spending, to cut the deficit. But it includes things that would increase the deficit, like, for example, a full funding of a missile defense system -- excuse me -- or the extending of the Bush tax cuts. And there's a lot of feeling that – well, it talks a lot about cutting the deficit. It really doesn't give any details about how that would be done, and that turned a certain number of people off.
BENDAVIDAnd the other thing is that a lot of people think that the main challenge we have in terms of spending, in terms of the deficit, is Social Security and Medicare. And this document really takes a pass at that. I mean, it has a sentence or two that sort of says, you know, we really got to look at that one. You know, so it offers specifics on popular things like tax cuts and then kind of punts on the more difficult things. And these are issues that are particularly difficult, I think, for Republicans of what to do about the entitlement programs. And so you saw some criticism about both of those things sort of across the political spectrum.
KAYBrian, this gets to the heart of the program, doesn't it? How to have it all?
GASTONUh, it just -- well, no -- I don't think it's actually having it all. I mean, in terms of what the -- the tax cuts, these are tax cuts that are current law. And basically the question's of -- are going to allow them to expire? Or are we going to continue current law? I mean, the issue wasn't that people are not taxed enough. People are taxed enough. The problem is there's too much government spending.
GASTONAnd that's really what we need to focus on, and I think this (word?) ...
KAYBut as Naftali says, the pledge does not focus on the biggest areas of spending.
GASTONWell, I think in terms of what the pledge does, it puts the brakes on what's happening right now. What we've seen the last two years is trillions of dollars spent on Obama health care, which, you know, it's paid for in the first 10 years. But it just blows through the deficit and the out years because it was front loaded with all the pay forwards, but the benefits don't kick in over several years. And once those benefits kick in, it will end up costing money, not saving money. And with the stimulus bill that we saw from 2009, basically that's a trillion dollars of money that has not created one new job -- private sector job in this country. And so, I think, what you'll see this document doing is putting the brakes on new government spending. And you know what? In terms of the -- I don't think we should minimize the -- basically the proposed freeze on discretionary spending. That is a starting point.
KAYBrian Gaston is with The Glover Park Group. Naftali Bendavid is also here. Brendan Steinhauser is here. We're discussing the Republican agenda. Please call us after the show break. 1-800-433-8850 is the number. Stay listening.
KAYWelcome back. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We are discussing the Republican agenda. Of course, they laid out the Pledge to America. We're trying to look at what Republicans would do, what they could do, after the midterm elections assuming they do well in those elections and take over the House or the Senate, but what their agenda is. We're getting a lot of e-mails in, Naftali, from listeners who are saying that they don't really understand what the difference is between the Contract with America and the Pledge to America. Are there any new ideas in this?
BENDAVIDWell, I think that this pledge is a combination of old and new ideas. You know, they had this listening program that you had mentioned earlier, America Speaking Out. And to some degree, they came out with a lot of the same things they were talking about before America Speaking Out even started. So you have things like repealing the health care plan, extending the Bush tax cuts, canceling TARP, canceling the stimulus. Those were all things they were talking about before. They did mix in some things that sounded to me a little newer, and to me and to my mind, those were really things that were a reflection or design to, you know, to respond to what the Tea Party people were saying.
BENDAVIDFor example, there's a line in there that every bill that's passed has to cite what its constitutional authority and basis is. And there's another one that says every bill has to be online for three days before it's brought to the floor. It really is pretty different from the Contract with America, both in terms of its substance and also, I think, in what it's purporting to do to some degree, in the sense that the contract was more openly an election platform. This, the Republicans say, is not an election platform although I have to say it sounds an awful lot like one.
KAYIt certainly does sound like a campaign document. Let's talk a little bit more about the specifics. We were talking before the break about the spending side of the document. I just wanted to read something from The New York Times from David Leonhardt's piece. He writes, "By 2035, the deficit is on course to reach $1.9 trillion according to the Congressional Budget Office. If you reduce domestic discretionary spending to its share of the economy under Ronald Reagan and then eviscerated it an additional 20 percent, you would still only shrink the deficit by all of $100 billion." That's a problem, isn't it? Brendan?
STEINHAUSERIt is, and it simply doesn't go far enough. And so that's really what no one wants to talk about in this election season. That is, what are the hard choices we have to make? And, you know, the Republican leadership will say, well, this is a beginning of that conversation. But I kind of feel like the beginning of this conversation has already started. We really do need to hear more, better ideas, more specific ideas, and, really, both political parties again, have failed the American people on this. I think in the end, we'll be rewarded -- they'll be rewarded if they do the right thing.
KAYYou mentioned entitlements. What specifically would you like the Republicans to be saying about what they would do about entitlement spending?
STEINHAUSERWell, I am a younger worker. I'm 28. And I have no problem taking care of my grandparents and paying into the system. I have no expectation that I'll be able to get any benefits from Social Security. So allowing me to put a portion of my hard-earned dollars into a -- an account of my own, a personal account, is something that I would like to see them talk about. I think you can still take care of those that we've committed to taking care of and do that. But this entitlement crisis is absolutely the biggest fiscal issue that we face with Social Security and Medicare.
BENDAVIDI think what Brendan is talking about is exactly the problem that the Republican Party has. On the one hand, they do want to reach out to Tea Party people. That's where the energy, that's where the enthusiasm of the electorate is.
KAYAs your poll shows.
BENDAVIDYeah, exactly, and they have to bring those people on and have them think positively of the Republicans if they're going to have the success that they want to have in the election. On the other hand, they're a major political party. They have to appeal to independents. They want to appeal to disaffected Democrats. And they're trying to thread this needle. And Social Security is a perfect example. There are a lot of Republicans who support the kind of thing Brendan is talking about. You know, let people put some of their Social Security taxes into an investment account, but that also scares a lot of other people, including a lot of elderly voters. So they didn't want to come out and say that, it seems to me, in this document. And they're trying to walk this path of satisfying the Tea Party people without freaking out some of the independent voters. And I think that's where some of the tension is, not only in this document but in the overall message of the Republican leadership. That's where that tension comes from.
KAYSo, Brian, what will happen if they do take control of Congress, for example? Will they try and satisfy the Tea Party movement by making a real impact on Social Security spending and perhaps even Medicare? Or will they still try to satisfy elder voters and independents and not actually touch entitlements? Can we kind of read between the lines? Are there any tea leaves that can hint us of what the actual agenda would be?
GASTONWell, yeah, there was an effort a couple of years ago under President Bush to reform Social Security, and basically it would end when the Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House. And basically what ended up happening is that the Democrats used that as an opening to basically beat Republicans over the head about how they want to privatize Social Security, scare senior citizens, all this type of thing. And, ultimately, we have to get to the point where we have to fix the Social Security program and the Medicare program, particularly Social Security. And I think it's a huge mistake when we talk about Social Security reform in the context of deficit reduction. It should be talked about in the context of showing up a program to restore its integrity, to ensure that senior citizens will have the benefits, and young people will have the benefits that they were promised under the program, and you reform it that way.
GASTONThe problem right now, when you talk about Social Security reform in the context of deficit reduction, basically what ends up happening, you go back to the old -- if you don't do investment accounts, as was suggested, the problem is that then you start building up this huge surplus in the Social Security -- so-called Social Security trust fund, which is spent for general revenue programs. And I think that's the way you sort of tackle the whole issue of the surplus in Social Security. You basically steer that surplus toward individualized accounts, and you -- so that you don't get this -- I mean, the Social Security trust fund is a bogus thing, which is actually issuing more debt. And when these worthless IOUs are cashed in, we're going to actually issue more debt to pay off the IOUs.
GASTONAnd so, I think, we have to tackle this whole spending issue sort of one step at a time, and right now, Congress has very little credibility in terms of -- on the spending -- controlling spending. And I think you start on the discretionary side. You sort of demonstrate to the American people, deal with the issue of earmarks, wasteful spending. And I think when Congress restores its credibility on that front, they can then move to tackle programs that need to be fixed on the entitlement side like Medicare and Social Security, all in the context of ensuring that the integrity of those programs are upheld.
KAYBrendan, does that satisfy you?
STEINHAUSERNot entirely. I think that this is exactly the kind of -- this is the reason, I think, that we've been revolting, is that it's too hard. It's too hard to just do what's right. And then I think that -- I believe that the Republican Party will be rewarded if it does have big ideas and bold ideas. And there's a lot of young people in this Tea Party movement who feel the same way that I do, people that I talk to and work with. We were kind of the tech-savvy people that started to get the networks going. But there's a ton of elderly people, older people who don't want their grandchildren have to deal with this debt, and they understand that we have to make hard choices. And the people that I talk to in the Tea Party movement who are grandparents, their number one concern is their grandchildren. So I believe it's ultimately up to our generation, the young people in this movement, to talk to our grandparents and say, we have to be in this together. It can't just be about, you know, my benefits or your benefits. We have to fix this for everyone.
KAYSo when you hear Brian talking, you're not convinced that the Republican agenda, as Brian lays it out, is the agenda that you want?
STEINHAUSERNot exactly. And I think one of the glaring omissions of the pledge, for example, is earmark reform. There really wasn't anything about, you know, pork spending. And this is something that's a very tiny, you know, proportion of the budget, but it's symbolic. And it's part of the reason that the Republicans lost in 2006, was earmarks and spending related to corruption. And I think that's something that's a glaring omission although John Boehner has been great on the issue, personally, of earmarks, and some in the caucus have. This is, again -- it just sort of shows us that there's something missing and that they could be a lot more serious.
GASTONI don't want to suggest that, you know, the Republicans -- and I'm not saying that they don't want to make the hard choices. They do. I think you have to be strategic about it because, I think, then we're just sort of back into the same -- to the same soup that we've been in for the last couple of years, and someone like -- particularly with Social Security reform. There was an effort to do something credible under the Bush administration, and I think that really has sort of set us back because it just became -- it became so partisan. And I think when something does get done on Social Security, it almost really has to happen in a bipartisan way unless you have -- your party happens to have the fortune to have all the votes in the House and all the votes in the Senate, and you control the White House -- and you need more than 60 votes in the Senate to do something like that -- and even then there's no guarantee. We've seen that the last two years with the Democrats in the Senate under Harry Reid. But otherwise, I think you just sort of set that whole.
GASTONBut I think what the Tea Party folks want to see, they want to see Republicans fighting to do these things, and I think you're going to see that. Health care reform is a perfect example. I think you're -- over the next two years, if the Republicans win the majority in the House, over the next two years they're going to use every tool at their disposal to repeal the Obama health care law and use every other avenue just to sort of try and peel it back if they can't get a repeal.
STEINHAUSERAnd I think that's what the Tea Party folks want to see, is that we're -- that Republicans are fighting to do that.
BENDAVIDWell, I think there's a few important points we have to make here. It's not going to be so easy for the Republicans. First of all, even if they have a massive sweep in this election, they're not necessarily going to end up with a very big majority in the House, and holding a coalition together is always difficult. It always has challenges. Secondly, the Democrats may well retain the Senate. Thirdly, even if they don't, they'll have the White House. And so I think what you're likely to see over the next couple of years is a lot of real confrontation and possibly stalemate and rifts within the party. And I think it's -- you know, it's not going to be so easy to do these things.
KAYOkay. We can go now by phone. From his Washington office, Dr. Phil Gingrey, Republican -- Congressman Gingrey, Republican congressman representing Georgia's 11th district, is joining us. Congressman, thank you very much for joining "The Diane Rehm Show."
REP. PHIL GINGREYWell, thank you. I'm glad to be with you.
KAYWe've been talking -- I don't know how much of the program you've had the chance to hear, but we've been talking about the Pledge to America, what it means to supporters of the Tea Party movement, what it means to Republicans more broadly. What does it mean to you?
GINGREYWell, it means that we are responding to the American people. As you know, during the entire August recess, and even before then, we rolled out something called americaspeakingout.com website. But, more importantly, we had these (word?) town hall meetings where individuals -- be they Republicans, Democrats or Independents -- could let us know what exactly they were most concerned with. Then they, of course, went to the website and did the same thing. So the Pledge to America was a compilation of input from the American people, so I hope that they're pleased. I certainly have heard criticisms of -- that it's not bold enough, it's too bold, you know, all of that stuff. But I think all in all, the Pledge to America is a pledge based on main street's input to members of Congress through the America Speaking Out (word?) and I think it's -- I'd say a very good balance.
KAYCongressman Gingrey, I haven't heard very many people saying that the pledge is too bold, but we have had in the studio -- Brendan Steinhauser is here. He represents the FreedomWorks, of course, a group that helps organize Tea Party activists. And he has been putting the other point of view that the pledge is not bold enough because, specifically, it doesn't lay out what the Republican Party would do about entitlement spending.
GINGREYWell, of course -- as you know and as he knows -- we, as a conference eight months ago, made a decision that no member of the Republican conference would ask for earmarks in a situation where people were 10 percent of the population unemployed, 16 million people without jobs. And we realized that the American public is so very much opposed to the earmark process. It's so flawed, and it does -- it can create a culture for corruption that we took that pledge. So we have already moved on that, and, clearly, we will continue to make sure if a member (unintelligible) are allowed in the future, that this culture or the potential of culture of corruption will be eliminated, and that the process will be either totally eliminated, or more fairness will be brought to it. So I don't think it's a fair criticism to say that the Republican Party has not addressed that issue.
KAYCongressman, when you're not being a congressman, you're being a doctor. And part of the pledge to America, of course, is a plan to repeal the new health care law. What would you replace it with?
GINGREYWell, there are many things of course. And I told someone just the other day that I think there may be three things that we could have done at the very outset almost two years ago without passing H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act of 2010, which essentially is a government takeover of the health care system. And 61 percent of American people are very much opposed to it and remain opposed even six months after its passage. But to have enacted medical liability reform to absolutely proceed -- and I agree with President Obama on this -- with electronic medical records, it would save lives. It would save money. And then, of course, things like allowing not just groups but individuals to go online and purchase a health insurance policy that's offered in Texas and maybe not larded up with a lot of mandates like one, say in my state of Georgia.
GINGREYWhy shouldn't people be allowed to do that -- the fair tax treatment, a tax deduction, of course, for people that purchase health insurance individually? They'd get the same advantage as someone would get when they get that benefit, and it's not taxed from their employer. So there are a number of things we could have, should have done that truly would have, I firmly believe, bring down the cost of health insurance premiums to everybody. And this bill doesn't do that. I mean, the president's bill failed miserably in everything he promised that it would achieve.
KAYCongressman Gingrey, you wanted to include in the Pledge to America also a pledge of bipartisanship. Yet you yourself actually vote with your party nearly all the time. How do you reconcile that?
GINGREYWell, you know, that is a good point and I did -- I made many suggestions, and, of course, in the 11th hour, I gave three more, and those suggestions were, in addition to a pledge to the American people to work very hard toward governing in a bipartisan way, also to continue to work on earmark reform -- you brought that up early in the interview -- and finally, to work toward a balanced budget amendment, but in the meantime, to balance the budget. We don't have to have a constitutional amendment to have common sense economic principles and balance the budget. So, you know, I feel that, you know, I have worked very hard and will continue to work very hard toward bipartisanship, for sure.
KAYSo what would you vote with Democrats on?
GINGREYWell -- and again, the point -- you point out the statistic that, I don't know, 95 percent of the time that I have voted with my party, with the Republican leadership in the House -- well, that's because 95 percent of the time, I feel like, that we're right on ideas, on principles, on where I live and how I was raised and what I feel like are my personal principles as well as the principles of the Republican Party.
KAYRight. But that doesn't sound -- forgive me, Congressman, but that doesn't sound like a very easy route to bipartisanship.
GINGREYWell -- but it doesn't mean that you can't sit down and work with the other side. And when we get the majority -- and, in fact, I think it's very important that the members of the minority party have an opportunity in the special rule-making process to be able to offer amendments that would make a legislation better or at least let the members hear and let them decide and vote those amendments up or down. And, you know, many members have great ideas on bills that come through committees of which they're not a part, and the rule-making process is their only opportunity. So again, I think the American people are looking for that. They want members that are -- they're firm in their yes's and they let their yes's be yes and their no's be no, but they do it with a smile and not a harshness and a bitterness. You don't have to attack each other personally. And I've tried in the eight years that I've been here to work in a way that fosters civility, and certainly I will continue to do that whether I'm a part of a new majority or whether I continue to be in the minority.
KAYOkay. Congressman Phil Gingrey, joining us from your office in Washington, thank you very much for taking time out of your day to join us, Congressman. You are listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." The number here is 1-800-433-8850. The e-mail address is email@example.com. You can send us a message on Facebook or on Twitter as well. We are going to take a quick break, but after that I'll be opening the phones. And we'll have your questions and your comments for my panel here in the studio. I'm Katty Kay. Stay listening.
KAYWelcome back. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC, filling in for Diane Rehm. You're listening to our program on the Republican agenda. I'm joined in the studio by Brendan Steinhauser. He is director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks, a group that helps organize Tea Party activists. Naftali Bendavid is here. He's national correspondent with The Wall Street Journal. Brian Gaston is here. He is managing director with The Glover Park Group of government relations practice. Before joining Glover Park, Brian spent 16 years working for the House Republican leadership. We will be taking calls in just a second, but there are a lot of e-mails coming in, quite rightly so, on the question of jobs. This is something that all Americans are interested in at the moment. Brendan Steinhauser, how does the Pledge to America and the Republican agenda create more jobs?
STEINHAUSERWell, I do think this gives me an opportunity to say something good about the pledge and going through all the things that they talked about. I mean, this is a platform that understands that the big government crowds out private sector jobs, the stimulus package, the bailouts, the debt, the deficits do nothing to help create private sector jobs. I come from a family of small business owners, and they're looking for certainty. And they want tax cuts to be made permanent. They don't want to see things like the death tax come back. The mandates on small businesses and the health care bill, these are all things that the pledge talks about that would help create a better environment for private sector jobs.
STEINHAUSERAnd then in this new context of a global economy that we've been heading toward for years, we have to remind ourselves that we're in a competition across oceans, across continents. And making the American economy more competitive by keeping tax rates lower and not allowing the unions to get so much power with things like card check, these are things that are talked about in the pledge that I'm proud to support.
KAYOkay. Let's go to Ruth in Burke, Va. Ruth, you've got a question about jobs for my panel.
RUTHYes, I do. It's interesting what the gentleman has just said about jobs. My concern is for job -- for Middle America in creating a manufacturing base within this country. From what I can understand, if you want to continue the Bush tax cuts by giving this tax break to the wealthy, which, to me, allows them -- you've got people making well into the millions. And what will that allow them to do? Will that allow them to keep spending money where they can keep buying what they want and people are servicing them? It's what I see. So in other word, is you have a wealthy person who's going to spend money. Maybe he's going to go buy a Louis Vuitton bag or whatever, so all you've gotten is a job that is low-paying, maybe has no health care. So someone is just serving them, serving them at hotels. To me, that what happens when you give money to the wealthy.
RUTHWhen you talk about small business and how this affects small business -- what you consider a small business -- my understanding, they're of many, many corporations or companies that consider themselves small business that are actually making millions and millions of dollars, and yet you want -- you know, you're saying all small business would suffer. So my concern is keeping jobs -- developing manufacturing jobs within the country. I understand we have a global market, but who will benefit this -- from this? Is it the wealthy corporations who will be able to keep their money, maybe create a few jobs here and send everything overseas? And so that is my concern. As far as FreedomWorks and what is going on in...
KAYOkay. Ruth, I'm going to put your question about the jobs to Brian Gaston.
GASTONWell, I think what Brendan said is absolutely right. In terms of what this document says about job creation is very important. On the tax front, most small businesses or a lot of small businesses, you know, they file individual returns. So they're the ones that are paying the top rates. So if you allow the top rates to go back up, there's a disincentive. You're basically punishing small business owners in this country. Small businesses are a huge creator of jobs, and then they're one of the engines of job growth in this country. And so, I think, just by the certainty of extending the -- all the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, that would be boon to small business owners.
GASTONRight now, if you're a businessman in this country, small or large, all you've heard for the last two years is we're going to raise your taxes. We're going to pass cap and trade and act that into a law. We're going to actually impose more regulation. What is your incentive as a businessman to create a new job? It's actually sort of ironic. This week in the Senate, there was a bill on the floor or an effort to bring a bill to -- on the floor to actually try and prohibit outsourcing of U.S. jobs. It actually -- they had the perverse irony if that bill actually became law, it would actually lead a lot of U.S. corporations to move their operations overseas.
BENDAVIDI mean, I feel like since we don't have any Democrats in this program, I need to mention there is a Democratic perspective -- not mine necessarily, but it's out there -- which says that this bill is absolutely -- this pledge, I guess, does nothing to create jobs, that it's all well and good to cut taxes and regulations. But from the Democratic perspective, you sometimes do have to spend money to create jobs or to help the private sector do so. You know, the Democratic argument would agree with the caller that tax cuts to people who make $250,000 or more are the least stimulative tax cuts that are out there.
BENDAVIDAnd Democrats would also say that they do have done a lot of things to help small business. They recently passed a small business bill over the objection of virtually every -- maybe every Republican in the House and Senate. And so, you know, this, I think, highlights one of the major fundamental differences between the parties, which is, you know, how do you create jobs during a time of great economic struggle. So I just thought we should...
BENDAVID...present that other perspective.
KAY...clearly a balance between the two procedures, and the timing of this is important. (unintelligible) this is the big debate that is going on, not just within America but between countries at the moment about when and how you stimulate an economy in order to create jobs and at what point you have to have fiscal austerity. We've got several e-mails coming in on this. Ross from Richmond, N.H. writes to us, "In reality, doesn't cutting government spending also mean cutting jobs? Is the Tea Party willing to accept a 15 to 20 percent unemployment rate in this country?" We have another e-mail that's come in. "How does the Pledge to America detail creating jobs? If this is based on tax breaks only, what historical data supports that tax cuts creates jobs? Because over the years, from 2008 to -- 2001, sorry, to 2008, over 7.3 million jobs were lost while taxes were cut." Brendan.
STEINHAUSERI think the best answer to this question of jobs is to look at my home state of Texas. I believe, in the last few years, it has created 800,000 new jobs, private sector jobs. It's largest in the country. Look at who's in charge of that state, government. We have a Republican governor, Republican legislature that's been fairly conservative, that's practiced what I'm talking about in terms of keeping spending low, taxes low. It's a very business-friendly environment and we created 800,000 jobs. Then compare it to Michigan. The problem with Michigan is it can't compete with Texas even more than it can compete abroad. The unions have too much power in Michigan. It's run by Gov. Jennifer Granholm who continues this tax and spend agenda, which is a failure. So I think that's the best example in the laboratories of democracy and the states to look at comparisons between policies on the left and on the right. I think that's the most glaring example of this.
KAYLet's go to Karen in Cleveland, Ohio. Karen, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show."
KAYHi, Karen, you're on the program.
KARENYes. I just wanted to comment a little bit on -- I think that everybody really doesn't talk about the real problem which really is corruption. No matter what everybody says, no matter which political party is up there saying what they're going to do, it never seems to happen because someone's always playing games with somebody else. And they don't do what they say they're going to do because it doesn't benefit them. I mean, there is corruption in Congress. There's corruption in the way taxes are being made. You know, rich people really don't pay all that money, really. They write things off. They find lawyers to find loopholes so that they don't have to pay it. Unions -- that started as a very good idea -- they turn corrupt because it's greed and corruption. When will someone, a group, maybe -- why isn't the Tea Party into corruption? Because that's what the problem is. If we could be honest and do what we say we're going to do, if the regulations were being enforced, you know, the wonderful laws that we make, if they're not enforced, what good are they?
KAYWell, Karen has a point. People say anything to get elected, is basically what she's saying, and then they don't fulfill on their promises.
GASTONSure, I'll go back to Lord Acton, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So the problem is that human nature, being what it is -- and our Founding Fathers understood this -- human nature being what it is, we need to limit the power of government at the local, state and national level. If you give government more power, I don't care if it's big business or the unions or any other interest group, they're going to find a way to corrupt the process, human beings being what they are. That is why our whole political philosophy in the Tea Party movement is we need a limited government close to the people so that people can hold those that they elect accountable. And that's the basic premise of this movement.
KAYAt which point, we probably should point out, as Naftali was mentioning earlier, that the head of FreedomWorks, Dick Armey, was of course a Republican in office for a very long time and is very much a Republican establishment figure, which points out some of the dichotomies within your movement. What does the Republican establishment do to win back activists in the Tea Party movement?
GASTONI -- if Republicans win the majority in the House, I think there's a good starting point to demonstrate that. That's part of what this Pledge to America about. I mean, Brendan is actually right. The Tea Party folks -- it's actually been a positive influence for the Republican Party. I mean, 'cause Republicans traditionally support limited government, you know, lower taxes, things like that. And it's basically -- that's sort of why the Tea Party has really thrived in the last two years 'cause they have seen what has happened in terms of more spending, this whole effort to want to increase the size of government, the Obama health care. And I think this will give Republicans the opportunity to (word?) the House to demonstrate that they're committed to sort of going back to this limited government.
KAYBut you face the prospect that after this election you have a bunch of people coming to Washington, both in the House and in the Senate, who have absolutely no allegiance to the Republican Party, in fact, who have distanced themselves from the Republican Party, and in some cases, run against Republican establishment candidates and won. How's the party going to manage that?
GASTONWell, I think probably 90 percent, there's more agreement than there is -- you know, there's more agreement 90 percent of the time, and maybe there's disagreement 10 percent of the time. But I think this whole message of the Tea Party movement in terms of smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, you know, less government interference in individuals' lives, I think it resonates -- it absolutely resonates with most Republicans. I mean, Brendan is right. In the last four years of Republican control in Congress, they basically -- we lost our way. You know, in terms of not mindful to increase government spending and, you know, there's a lot of opposition to, like, expanding the Medicare program through the prescription drug benefit. You know -- 'cause, you know, this is not what Republicans shouldn't have come to Washington to do, to expand entitlement programs and all that type of thing. And I think what you -- I think this has been sort of almost like a cleansing process, I think, for Republicans. This sort of goes back to where we need to be and to be true to ourselves.
BENDAVIDYeah, I think there's another couple of points we can make here. For one thing, I don't think this is a policy discussions taking place in a vacuum in the sense that we're undergoing a very, very difficult economy with great anxiety, with great difficulty for a lot of people. So two years ago, not a long time ago -- just two years ago -- there was a huge resurgence of support for Democrats and the Democratic agenda seemingly and majority swept into Congress and Obama was elected by a pretty decent margin. And now, that same energy is being directed against the Democrats and in favor of Republicans. So I don't think this is just an intellectual sort of argument where people saw what happened with the government, and they realized how much they dislike it. I think the economic anxiety underlying a lot of this is very important.
BENDAVIDThe other point I wanted to make, just in terms of looking ahead, is a real challenge that I think is going to face the Republican leadership, is that the business community is not always on the same page as Tea Party activists. And those are two huge constituencies in the Republican Party that are sometimes going to be at odds and are going to create difficulties. You know, a lot of businesses don't mind government spending as long as it's spending on them. You know, big transportation bills, they love, and all kinds of -- you know, spending bills or sometimes they even like federal government power because it creates a uniformity of regulation, whereas Tea Party activists might like state party power that would, you know, create a patchwork of regulations.
BENDAVIDSo I think the -- you know, brewing conflicts between the business community and the Tea Party community is just an example of the kind of challenges that the Republicans may face looking ahead.
KAYI'm Katty Kay of the BBC. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And if you'd like to join us, please do call 1-800-433-8850, or send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's go to Patricia in Cleveland, Ohio. Patricia, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show."
PATRICIAHello. My name is Patricia. I'm calling from Cleveland. And we send warm wishes to President Jimmy Carter. I have a question. I'm wondering if there is a true spokesman for the Republican Party on these issues. And usually in the past, the Republican Party or the Tea Party has used a feel factor to get their message across. On the other side, is the Democratic Party going to name one particular spokesman, and how do they intend to get their message across against the principles of what the Tea Party and this doctrine is stating or the Republican Party as well? And to make one last comment on jobs, we live in a society where we want everything yesterday. I believe that the administration is trying, and to give it more time and how we as voters should understand that the process does take time, and where these jobs are going to becoming from right now. Thank you very much. I'll take my answer off the air.
KAYPatricia, thank you very much. I'm going to parcel out your question. First of all, Brendan, on the leadership of the Tea Party movement.
STEINHAUSERThere is not one leader, and there shouldn't be. I could point to a number of organizations and individuals even within the Cleveland area that are organized Tea Party groups that are independent but that work together to promote basic economic freedom and limited government. So there are truly thousands of leaders across the country. And this is why this movement is so different and unique in American history. And I hope that it'll stay that way, and I believe that it will.
KAYAnd for the Republicans, Brian Gaston?
GASTONWell, you know, the...
KAYJohn Boehner, is he the new leader of the Republican Party?
GASTONWell, right now, there are multiple leaders of the Republican Party. And because Republicans are in the minority, you know, Democrats control the White House in both chambers of Congress. So and -- someone would argue that, you know, President Obama is the spokesperson for the Democratic Party, and that makes sense. For Republicans, you know, one might argue if the House does get the majority and John Boehner becomes the speaker and, you know, he will probably be viewed as the face and the spokesperson for the Republican Party. But, you know, I think that's -- you know, there's really is -- even in that situation, there's no one spokesman. You have people out there like Newt Gingrich, a lot of presidential hopeful candidates like Romney and McCain, and other types of folks...
GASTON...who are all going to be part of -- are going to basically be the face and the spokespeople for the Republican Party.
BENDAVIDYeah, I think John Boehner is making sort of a play right now to emerge as a leader and to have the support of the Tea Party contingent as well as, you know, other parts of the party. He's made a lot of speeches that are, you know, purporting to be these large policy addresses. He's clearly trying to position himself to be speaker. I think the Democrats are helping him to some degree because President Obama has taken to mentioning him by name. You know, when you run a campaign, it helps to have somebody to vilify as well as somebody to support. And they've, I think, settled on John Boehner as somebody that they can hold up, just like the Republicans hold up Nancy Pelosi. I'm not sure that's going to work because I don't think John Boehner is well known enough yet, but that's clearly a dynamic that's happening.
KAYI think you're right. I suspect a lot of American say, John who, when they hear that. They weren't very aware of him. We have just a minute left on the program. Brendan, I want to get the last word from you. Brian seems to be suggesting that all the groups in the Republican Party can work in harmony over the next couple of years if they take the majority in the Congress or the Senate. What do you think?
STEINHAUSERI definitely think that's a possibility. I, for one, have been having a lot of fun taking on the GOP establishment all year and getting the Tea Party movement to encourage a hostile takeover of the GOP. But the bad news for the Democrats is that we are uniting and presenting a united front to kick them out of power on Nov. 2, and Nov. 3 is even more important than Nov. 2. That's when this movement really starts to flex its muscles.
KAYBrendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns of FreedomWorks, a group that helps organize Tea Party activists. Naftali Bendavid has always been here. He's national correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. Brian Gaston's been here. He's with The Glover Park Group. We've been discussing the Republican agenda. Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining me.
KAYI'm Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you all so much for listening.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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