Friday, March 5, 2010

Time for a Spending Cap With Teeth


Fiscal storm clouds are upon us. In five years, federal spending has skyrocketed to 24.7% from 19.9% of our economy. That's the highest level since World War II. Borrowing has ballooned the national debt to $11.9 trillion from $7.3 trillion, a five-year increase equal to the accumulation of debt between President George Washington and President Bill Clinton.

Unfortunately, the long-term fiscal picture is worse. As the Baby Boom generation retires and the cost of health care continues to escalate, entitlement programs will cause federal spending to rise to 40% of our economy, double its post-World War II average. This is assuming that spending does not increase even further, an assumption that the trillion-dollar "stimulus" bill and the 84% increase in nondefense discretionary spending President Obama signed into law argues against.

The situation is dire, but don't take our word for it. "U.S. fiscal policy is on an unsustainable path to an extent that cannot be solved by minor tinkering," Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf said recently. Former Comptroller General David Walker called the rising costs of government entitlements a "fiscal cancer" that threaten "catastrophic consequences for our country."

Can we tax our way out of this problem? No.

In order to pay for what we are on track to spend under current law, taxes would have to double. This would crush our economy and condemn future generations to a far lower standard of living. That is not an option.

Can we grow our way out? Unfortunately, no. Although pro-growth policies like simplifying the tax code and lowering rates are critical components of any solution, they alone are insufficient. Mr. Walker estimated it would take double-digit economic growth every year for the next 75 years in order to close the fiscal gap.

Can we continue to borrow our way out of the problem? Borrowing of that magnitude would drive up interest rates to unimaginable levels, crowding out borrowing opportunities for families and businesses. As Greece and other European countries like Spain and Portugal face default for their excess spending, and China lectures us on our fiscal irresponsibility, the idea of borrowing at still higher levels seems inconceivable.

Without spending discipline only one option remains: monetizing the debt, also known as inflation. Although Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has repeatedly said that this will not happen on his watch, many think it's inevitable. If we do monetize the debt, inflation could be so high we may look back upon the Carter era with nostalgia.

Winston Churchill once said that "Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted." We've exhausted the possibilities. Now it's time to do the right thing.

That is why we are proposing a Spending Limit Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment would limit spending to one-fifth of the economy (our historical spending average since World War II). The limit could only be waived by a declaration of war or by a two-thirds congressional vote.

As with other constitutional amendments, Congress would be given the authority to enforce and implement it. But for the first time, the federal government would have a limit on its size and scope. The Spending Limit Amendment does not promise a particular spending plan about what programs to restrain and by how much. Rather, it puts a legal constraint on lawmakers present and future.

Some will say it should not be done now. But if not now, when?

Our spending problems are tantamount to generational theft and fundamentally alter the American ethic. We cannot have both unlimited government and unlimited opportunity.

This amendment is an effort to allow "We the People" the opportunity to fundamentally define the size of our government. Passing it would save future generations from lives of fewer opportunities and less freedom.

Mr. Hensarling, a Republican, is a congressman from Texas. Mr. Pence, a Republican, is a congressman from Indiana.

What the Tea Party Movement Is Not — A Short Primer

By David Bozeman

Columnist Kathleen Parker recently called tea partiers "the noisiest sector of the GOP." She chided members of the movement for attacking newly elected Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, who voted with Democrats in supporting a cloture motion on their $15 billion jobs bill. Brown, who conceded that the bill was imperfect, added that he hoped his vote would be "a strong step toward restoring bipartisanship in Washington."

Parker did kindly note that most tea partiers are "not weird." Kathleen, you are too kind. Such obligatory politeness softens the blow to come (and preserves her stature — such as it is — as a conservative columnist). She proceeds with: "But some are at risk of flying off into the blood-red zone of wing nuttery" and "the growing libertarian strain [within the party] combined with an anti-RINO (Republican In Name Only) attitude is making life increasingly difficult for moderates such as Brown."

We can only hope!

Most tea partiers are reserving judgment on Senator Brown, but there are a few points about the Tea Party Movement that Ms. Parker and the senator should bear in mind.

First, this is not a top-down movement, fueled by charismatic personality and silky baritone oration, a la Barack Obama. Most tea partiers are motivated by their adherence to such principles as smaller government, less spending and lower taxes. While leadership, particularly in government, certainly matters, leaders tend, as often as not, to disappoint, so their actions are viewed somewhat skeptically. Still, most activists are confident that the right leader will present his or her self in due course for 2012. Until then, the real fun, a guiltier pleasure than a reality TV drama, is watching the growing fissure between President Obama and Democrats running for re-election in moderate and conservative districts.

Second, tea partiers do not send leaders to Washington to achieve bipartisanship. To Democrats who want to support any plank of the conservative agenda — welcome aboard. To the rest, tea partiers seek your defeat. Since liberals have grown their power incrementally, bipartisanship usually works to their advantage. Conservatism advances by holding to principle, thus tea partiers shun such banal fashion statements as 'civility' and the current already-worn-to-death 'reconciliation.'

Finally, tea partiers do not do nuance. Not to sound anti-intellectual, but big-government elites have granted themselves enough rhetorical wiggle room to near effortlessly increase spending (called 'investing') and raise taxes on middle-income earners and business owners (i.e., 'the rich'). While tea partiers need not be confrontational, they are at least direct. While the movement may have attracted some "wing nuts," maybe Ms. Parker would like to detail how the GOP has been served by the nauseatingly conciliatory tones of John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

Rangel the Chair

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GOP Spending Limit Amendment a Good Start

By Bill Wilson

This week, the House Republican Conference, represented by Congressmen Jeb Hensarling, Mike Pence and John Campbell, presented a solution to the U.S. sovereign debt crisis that promises to finally bring the federal government's unbridled spending out of the red.

The problem, of course, is well-known: Congress spends far, far beyond its means, as ALG News has previously reported. In 2010 alone, the budget deficit will total $1.556 trillion, all of which will be piled atop the mounting federal debt, currently at $12.4 trillion. As a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — currently at $14.461 trillion — the debt could top 100 percent in 2013 by the White House's own estimates, if not sooner.

Compare that with Greece, for example, whose national debt now will grow to 121 percent of GDP in 2010. With its credit downgraded, its ability to sustain unbridled government expansion has been reduced. In the U.S., the nation still has a choice whether to restrain government by choice, or whether the markets will do it by force.

As stated in the Republican plan, "[W]e propose a Spending Limit Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to limit spending to one-fifth of the economy—the historical average for spending since World War II. The limit could only be waived if a declaration of war was in effect or by a two-thirds vote of Congress."

Although the plan does not explicitly provide for a balanced budget, by mandating that spending be no more than a fixed 20 percent of the economy as a whole, debt service payments would actually outpace deficit-spending. How?

According to the proposed amendment, "Total outlays shall include all outlays of the United States Government, except for those for repayment of debt principal." This is a critical provision, because it means that interest payments will remain on-budget. Thus, Congress would be constitutionally required on an annual basis to service the national debt out of revenue.

Debt repayment, on the other hand, occurs through the sale of new treasuries off-budget, and through the application of surplus revenue on-budget. The latter rarely happens, but under the proposal, would become much more likely if supply-side tax policy is applied to enable the economy to sustainably grow. The goal would be to make certain the economy grows faster than the debt.

Under the proposal, in 2020 for example, spending would be limited to 20 percent of the $24.323 trillion projected GDP: $4.865 trillion. Believe it or not, that's real progress: It is $848 billion less than Obama's proposed $5.713 trillion budget for 2020.

Even better, it would only result in a $155 billion deficit for that year, compared to Obama's proposed $1.003 trillion budget deficit. In Washington, that's a good start. It would eliminate the current crowding-out effect the current budget deficit imposes upon the economy.

Now, compare the $155 billion deficit to the interest owed on the debt for that year, which will total $840 billion, a difference of $685 billion. That is highly significant because it would mean the debt will mature faster than it grows.

Under Obama's budget, on the other hand, in 2020 the debt will grow by $1.003 trillion, faster than it is being serviced by $163 billion. That is simply unsustainable.

There is another way: the Spending Limit Amendment. Under the proposal, out of a total, constitutionally-limited budget of $4.865 trillion, $840 would be dedicated to interest payments, leaving $4.025 trillion that Congress could spend on defense, entitlement, and other programs. Government would actually be forced to pare back and prioritize its spending for a change within the constraints of keeping up with the nation's financial obligations.

Importantly, because spending would be limited as a fixed percentage of the nation's ability to pay for it, the economy will finally be afforded the space to grow faster than the debt.

This is the critical point: under the proposal, the national debt would be significantly reduced as a percentage of the GDP. Under the proposal, in 2020, while the economy would grow at 4.3 percent, the debt only would grow by 3.1 percent.

As time moves on, the distance between those two numbers would only grow. Again, that's a good start — and way better than the alternative.

It's the difference between pulling back from the brink — or driving off the precipice.

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

Dwyane Wade Scores 27 as Heat Defeat Lakers in Overtime 114-111

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, right, defendS in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game in Miami, Thursday, March 4, 2010

by Associated Press

MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade had 27 points and 14 assists, Quentin Richardson scored a season-high 25 and the Miami Heat found a way to overcome a huge effort by Kobe Bryant to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 114-111 in overtime Thursday night.

Carlos Arroyo scored 17 points, Jermaine O'Neal scored 13 and Udonis Haslem had 12 for Miami, which won the NBA's most wildly back-and-forth game all season -- with a season-high 31 lead changes.

Bryant scored 39 points, including the overtime-forcing jumper for the Lakers, who got 14 points from Derek Fisher and 13 points from Lamar Odom.

O'Neal had the defensive play of the night with 18.7 seconds left in overtime, drawing his team-leading 19th charge of the season -- on Bryant, no less, who drove the left side of the lane looking to tie the game.

Instead, Arroyo made two free throws 0.3 seconds later, and Miami held on for the victory.

Haslem finished with 11 rebounds for the Heat. Andrew Bynum scored 12 points for the Lakers, who got 10 apiece from Ron Artest and Pau Gasol.

Miami led by nine with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, and still held a 92-84 edge when Wade hit a 3-pointer with 3:40 remaining. The defending champion Lakers weren't bothered by it.

They answered with a 9-2 run, capped by Fisher's 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:56 left in regulation, and from there turned almost exclusively to Bryant. He made two free throws in the final minute to give Los Angeles a 97-96 lead, and after Richardson put Miami up 99-97 with his seventh 3-pointer of the night with 11.1 seconds remaining, the stage was Bryant's.

Naturally, Bryant delivered, just as he did with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Miami at Staples Center earlier this season.

He drove right on Wade, pulled up and coolly made a jumper with 3.3 seconds left. And when Wade couldn't get a good look at the buzzer, to overtime it went, knotted at 99.

It was tied five more times in the extra session, and Haslem's jumper with 37.3 seconds left put Miami up 111-109.

From there, Miami found a way.

Now at 31-31, the Heat moved 1 1/2 games clear of the Charlotte Bobcats in the race for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race and within 1 1/2 games of the Toronto Raptors for the No. 5 spot

Video: Brittney Griner punches Jordan Barncastle

Women’s College Basketball got a bit more interesting last night when Baylor player Brittney Griner punched Texas Tech’s Jordan Barncastle in the face during a game.

Baylor was winning 55-39 with just over nine minutes on the clock when Barncastle intially fouled on Griner. In the clip below, you can see Barncastle “fling” Griner, who responds with a swift punch to the face. Barncastle can be seen later laughing about the injury on the bench, her right nostril packed with gauze. The game was halted for ten minutes while officials reviewed footage of the on court smackdown.

Griner was ejected from the game, and further discipline was meted out to another Baylor player and the “Texas bench” for going out onto the court immediately after the fracas.

Turkey warns US over Armenian genocide vote

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey warned the Obama administration on Friday of negative diplomatic consequences if it doesn't impede a U.S. resolution branding the World War I-era killing of Armenians genocide.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey, a key Muslim ally of the U.S., would assess what measures it would take, adding that the issue was a matter of "honor" for his country.

A U.S. congressional committee approved the measure Thursday. The 23-22 vote sends the measure to the full House of Representatives, where prospects for passage are uncertain. Minutes after the vote, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to the U.S.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

President Barack Obama's administration had been silent about the resolution until shortly before the vote when it said it opposed its passage. Turkey wants stronger action to block the resolution.

"The picture shows that the U.S. administration did not put enough weight behind the issue," Davutoglu told reporters. "We are seriously disturbed by the result."

"We expect the U.S. administration to, as of now, display more effective efforts. Otherwise the picture ahead will not be a positive one," he said. He complained of a lack of "strategic vision" in Washington.

Massive methane release sparks global warming fears

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, a team of researchers lead by two scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks have made a surprising discovery about methane emissions arising from a large area of sea floor beneath the Arctic Ocean. Scientists previously thought that the East Siberian Arctic Shelf was not emitting any of the potent greenhouse gas, due to a shielding layer of permafrost, but the team's recent research indicates that millions of tons of the gas are indeed escaping. Because the amount of methane being emitted is so large, and the source has never been taken into consideration, this new information has the potential to change worldwide climate projections. Lest anyone start freaking out, one of the researchers was sure to put the discovery into context: "Our paper’s raised more questions than it answered.” Read more here.

Multiple people killed in bus crash near Phoenix

PHOENIX — Rescuers are breaking out windows to get to victims on a passenger bus that crashed on an Interstate south of Phoenix.

Multiple people were killed in the accident early Friday morning. Television reports said the bus appears to be a tour bus.

Details of the accident are unclear. The westbound lanes of Interstate 10 south of Phoenix are closed.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety reports multiple deaths and serious injuries.

A triage location has been set up as medics treat the injured.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PHOENIX (AP) — Multiple people have been killed near Phoenix when a bus hit a semi.

Details of the accident Friday morning were unclear. The westbound lanes of Interstate 10 south of Phoenix were closed.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety reports multiple fatalities and serious injuries.

Television reports said the bus appears to be a tour bus.

Mencken on Merchants of Idiotic Ideas

By Don Boudreaux

Last night, driving back from teaching my wonderful Principles of Microeconomics students, I heard on a DC radio station an interview with an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi approvingly repeat Pres. Obama's insistence that, once those Americans who now oppose Obamacare actually get that care, they'll grow to love it.

This outcome is unlikely – or, rather, it would be unlikely if all the problems with collective decision-making (as identified by public-choice economics) didn't distort political perceptions.

As H.L. Mencken observed

"The kind of man who demands that government enforce his ideas is always the kind whose ideas are idiotic.*"

Being sensible, sensible ideas seldom must be imposed by force. Sometimes sensible ideas are adopted gradually, as practices with widespread advantages displace less-advantageous practices and become part of customary behavior. Sometimes sensible ideas are adopted consciously and quickly, through the art of persuasion or the rigors of scientific demonstration.

In contrast, idiotic ideas have nothing going for them. Most people who voluntarily adopt idiotic ideas in their private lives soon abandon them if these ideas hamper their ability to thrive in the real world. The only way to implement an idiotic idea widely and surely is through force – which is the root of Obamacare.

Obama "Reaches Across the Aisle," Demands ObamCare Vote Within Weeks

By Kaitlyn Czajkowski

"Reconciliation" and "bipartisanship" are the buzzwords of the day. Today, Barack Obama delivered his latest incarnation of ObamaCare, wherein he green-lighted the use of the budget reconciliation process, as reported by the Daily Caller. He even made a pretense of "reaching across the aisle" to include some of the "best ideas from Republicans" on how to reform the system.

"Democrats and Republicans agree that this is a serious problem for America," Obama said in his prepared remarks. His attempts at "reaching across the aisle" include a proposal to allegedly expand health savings accounts and allowing insurance companies to sell high-deductible policies.

But is this truly bipartisanship? In his assessment of the situation, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) scoffed at the so-called "bipartisan" efforts. "You can't add a couple of Republican sprinkles on the top of a 2,700 page bill and claim it's bipartisan," he said on Wednesday, as reported by Fox News.

He's right. If "bipartisan" is what anyone calls the President's feeble attempts at grafting a few Republican suggestions into a bill nearly 3,000 pages long — I don't see much stretching across the aisle going on. In fact, I don't even see a handshake.

Obama's statement continued, "I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform. We have debated this issue thoroughly, not just for a year, but for decades… I have therefore asked leaders in both of Houses of Congress to finish their work and schedule a vote in the next few weeks."

The Daily Caller called it "a green light for reconciliation. Obama didn't use the word, but Democratic leaders agreed Wednesday that they would go ahead with the procedure."

The Caller confirmed the claim, quoting a senior Democrat aide who said, "We are prepared to move forward using reconciliation."

Reconciliation is a procedure which would allow for a simple up-or-down vote in the Senate, thus enabling a health-care overhaul with just a simple majority, rather than the filibuster-proof 60 votes.

According to Senator Tom Harkin, the House will pass the Senate bill after Senate leaders demonstrate to House leaders that they have the votes to pass reconciliation in the Senate.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele had harsh words for Democratic plans to attempt reconciliation. This "plan has already received three 'up-or-down' votes: rejections from Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts," Steele said.

"What President Obama really wants to do is ram through his government takeover of health care with reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that Senator Obama once said was 'the wrong place for policy changes.' The fact is reconciliation wasn't designed to be and has never been used as a partisan political tactic to force wildly unpopular policies on America," Steele said.

According to one Capitol Hill source, Democrats in the House plan to move first — and fast — adopting the Senate bill by March 19th. This assumes, of course, that pro-life Democrats can even be persuaded to vote in favor of the bill with its abortion-funding based on the promise that those problems with the bill will be corrected later.

"The first step is with Speaker Pelosi and so I will let her decide what it takes in the House," said Senator Durbin, as reported by Politico, confirming the Capitol Hill source's assessment.

As reported by that source, if successful, the House will then pass the reconciliation package by March 23rd, and the Senate will take the reconciliation bill and pass it before Easter. Without any Republican support, it should be noted.

Reconciliation and bi-partisanship? They're nice words, but also a very thin veneer to cover the hypocrisy in passing a measure already soundly rejected by the American people.

As GOP Chairman Steele pointed out, Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts already voted "no" on this reform. Meanwhile, over half of Americans also oppose the plan proposed by the President and Democrats — opposition that has not wavered since September, according to Rasmussen Reports.

Democrats would do well to reconsider their frenzied approach to the passage of their health care takeover, an act that will not only nationalize over one-sixth of the economy, but through the elimination of the filibuster also set a precedent to weaken and potentially destroy the nation's two-party system.

Kaitlyn Czajkowski is a contributing editor to ALG News Bureau.

Democrats Must Lose Rangel, or Lose

By William Warren

He may be taking a "temporary leave of absence" from chairing the House Ways and Means Committee, but Charlie Rangel took a "leave of absence" from ethics a long, long time ago. It's a shame that people — and by "people", I mean his fellow Congressional Democrats — are only taking action now against the biggest cheater in Washington.

In the wake of a formal "admonishment" last week from the House ethics committee regarding his improper usage of donations to fund two Caribbean vacations, Charlie Rangel is finally stepping down and hitting the penalty box. The pressure to take him out of the game has simply gotten too intense — and it's coming not just from those on the right.

It makes sense that Rangel's colleagues would take action now, of all times. For the horde of vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this fall, removing Rangel might help to "un-gruntle" their disgruntled voters back home. And for the rest of the Democrats, purging the unethical filth from their ranks might help boost their historically filthy poll numbers.

After all, Nancy Pelosi promised to run the most ethical Congress in history, remember? At least ousting Rangel would be one small step towards honoring this horribly unfulfilled campaign promise. As one particular aide of an embattled Democrat remarked, "If Democrats want to be taken seriously on accountability and transparency, he has to step down."

However, can voters really expect Charlie Rangel to take his lumps, step down, and simply go away? The Harlem Congressman has become as iconic in Washington, D.C. as is traffic on the Beltway — and equally as frustrating, for that matter. He's been successfully avoiding his judgment day for a long time and it's doubtful he'll acquiesce now.

Perhaps he'll lay low for a while and wait until the media and the press have moved on (intentionally or otherwise) to other issues… like the fall elections. Perhaps Rangel will come crawling out from under his rock then and quietly reassume his chairmanship under the chaotic din in November? All he will need is a simple approval from the House and he'll be swept back to his post.

That being said, Truth be told — and it has been told, numerous times by numerous sources — Rangel's recent ethical "admonishment" is merely the tip of the iceberg.

He may have been formally caught for misusing private corporation donations to fund his Caribbean flings, but what about his failure to pay taxes on his villa in the Dominican Republic? Or his improper fundraising methods for his namesake education center at City College of New York? Or his failure to report over $1 million in outside income and $3 million in business transactions? Or his breaking of state laws by claiming three primary residences and maintaining four rent-controlled apartments?

The list goes on and on (and can be read in its entirety at ALG's online petition,

These pending inquiries and outstanding allegations are serious. So Democrats, take a hint: You better dump Rangel before the rest of Rangel's garbage is dumped on you.

The proper game plan may be a tough one for the Democrats to implement. Simply put, Charlie Rangel needs to be permanently removed from his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. To consider a "temporary leave of absence" a fitting punishment would require Congressional Democrats to take leave of their senses.

On top of that, it's high time the Attorney General stepped in and opened an investigation on Mr. Rangel.

Congressmen and all elected officials ought to be held to a higher ethical standard and, consequently, taken to task when they fail to measure up. The fact that Rangel has been allowed to carry on these crimes in perpetuity is an embarrassment not just to Democrats, but the American representative system of government as a whole.

If necessary, Mr. Rangel must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for any and all illegal conduct. Jettisoning him from his Congressional seat—and not just his committee seat—must be considered. The House even has the Constitutional authority to expel its own members by a two-thirds vote.

So what's it going to take, Congressional Democrats? The ball is in your court when it comes to Charlie Rangel. The longer he stays in the game, the more likely the GOP is going to score — and score big time.

Lose Rangel or lose. It's your call.

William Warren is the Creative Director of ALG News Bureau.

GOP: "Contractually-Bound?"

By Howard Rich

Seeking to capitalize on the righteous indignation voters are feeling toward President Barack Obama and his Congressional allies, a group of Republican politicians is dusting off an old playbook.

Led by former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich – Washington's preeminent "Reformer in Name Only" – this group's plan is to bring back the "Contract with America," the 1994 policy platform that helped propel Republicans to majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate in 1995. In unveiling his first draft of such a document, Gingrich spoke of "the clarity, the positive focus, and the election results of the 1994 contract."

He obviously wasn't able to speak about the post-election results of the contract, because those are frankly few and far between.

Nonetheless a second contract, according to Gingrich, "would be a powerful unifier for all those who are tired of the corruption and waste of Washington and the alien views of the secular-socialist coalition seeking to radically change America."

Well, well. That's tough talk — but once again, it's all pre-election. And while Republicans are great at campaigning on limited government talking points, they've proven positively awful when it comes to governing according to those principles.

After all, the "corruption and waste of Washington" didn't stop when Gingrich and his Republican Revolutionists rode into town, far from it in fact. And as for the "secular-socialist coalition," didn't Gingrich recently endorse a secular socialist (over a limited government Conservative Party candidate) in a New York Congressional race?

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

That should be America's response to a "second contract."

Gingrich's 1994 plan was actually dead before arrival, meaning that the Speaker and his committee chairmen broke their balanced budget promises early on in their first appropriations process — literally days after arriving in the capital.

"We got our people into leadership," the late Paul Weyrich, a long-time Gingrich ally, complained in 1996, "but we are not getting different policies."

Indeed the two signature "accomplishments" of the Republican Revolution were partisan distractions — a politically-motivated government shutdown and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. And of course after Clinton came the big government era of "Bush Republicanism," which has been an unmitigated fiscal disaster.

Also, remember how the Gingrich contract was going to replace career politicians with "citizen legislators?"

Well more than a decade-and-a-half later, there are still nearly two dozen Republican members of the class of '94 serving in the U.S. House. Six others have gone on to become U.S. Senators, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a staunch supporter of Obama's "cap and trade" energy tax.

Gingrich's "second contract" doesn't mention a word about term limits, incidentally.

"The Republicans have stopped being reformers," former congressman John Kasich lamented shortly after the GOP was routed from power in 2006. "They're practicing politics as usual."

"We had succumbed to the temptation of things that we had criticized the Democrats for," U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren added.

Indeed, Democrats won control of Congress in 2006 by pledging to restore fiscal sanity in light of Republican budget excesses — and Obama won the presidency in 2008 by promising tax cuts to the middle class.

Clearly, these "bread and circus" centrist diversions (neither of which the Democrats were ever serious about implementing) masked a sinister socialist agenda, but should Republicans be the ones we trust to make a course correction? And more importantly, can America afford the consequences of another aborted "Republican" revolution?

Much more promising a reform effort than Gingrich's top-down contract, in my opinion, is a grassroots movement by tea party activists to create a Contract From America — a document springing up in cities and towns across America rather than originating from the corrupt centers of power in Washington, D.C.

Or for that matter the Mount Vernon Statement, which challenges candidates to pledge their allegiance to the fundamental foundations of Constitutional governance.

Ultimately, though, Republicans and Democrats alike will be judged not by their promises but by their votes — which will either protect taxpayers and promote their liberties or continue down the same bipartisan path of excess and interventionism.

Howard Rich is the chairman of Americans for Limited Government.