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Contract with America: The betrayal begins

Democrats In Drag: Third Way Fall From Grace, Part VI

By Steve Farrell
web posted August 27, 2001

Read previous articles in the series: ForewordPart 1. Technology, Sovereignty and the Third WavePart 2. Clinton and Blair's Center-Left DemocracyPart 3. Gingrich, Toffler and Gore: A Peculiar TrioPart 4: Groveling in the Gutter of the GulagsPart 5: Eradicating the US Constitution By Design

On the steps of the US Capitol on September 27, 1994, more than 300 candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives stood, under an unusually warm, sun filled sky and made history. All of them were there, joining hands and rubbing shoulders, with one goal in mind: To help launch a new revolution; the Republican revolution.

This catapult into a new order of things for the US Congress began with the reading and then the signing of a Contract With America, a contract which committed its 357 signatories to a bold 10 point program which promised a "return to the wisdom and brilliance of the Founding Fathers." Including in that context, a promise to return to limited government, individual liberty, free markets, personal responsibility, and the protection of American sovereignty. (1)

What a refreshing vow! And it seemed just in time. For two years American citizens had suffered under the shock wave of a radical new approach to politics under the Clinton Administration.

President Clinton had, in short order, authorized the installment of gays in the military; stood behind a Surgeon General who sought to legalize illicit drugs and teach sex education to five year olds; ordered and then publicly justified the police-state-like tactic of warrantless gun sweeps and immigration sweeps of public housing units; filled traditionally non gun- toting federal agencies, like the FDA, with armed agents who then began conducting raids on such enemies of the state as garlic researchers; condoned the tank led assault on a Church filled with men, women, and children in Waco, Texas; zealously promoted socialist medicine even while the celebration over the "fall" of communism was still echoing in our ears, and aggressively launched America's soldiers into several New World Order commitments, transforming the US military into a busybody welfare agency, that was, for the first time in history, subservient to UN command. And then there were the scandals . . .

Who shouldn't have been alarmed? Conservative action groups flourished, Democratic faithful ran for cover, and the Republican Party leadership seized the moment.

The Contract With America was the result. The overall goals, already alluded to, sounded good. They were: "To limit and hold government accountable, to promote economic opportunity and individual responsibility to families and businesses, and to maintain security both at home and abroad."

Who could argue with that? These goals sounded vaguely conservative and vagueness sells.

Just as vague were the Contract's ten planks or bills which the signers promised to introduce and vote on within the first 100 days, each bill having a catchy conservative title. They were: The Fiscal Responsibility Act, The Taking Back Our Streets Act, The Personal Responsibility Act, The Family Reinforcement Act, The American Dream Restoration Act, The National Security Restoration Act, The Senior Citizens Fairness Act, The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act, The Common Sense Legal Reforms Act, and The Citizen Legislature Act. (2)

With all those commitments to Restoration, American Dreams, and Security, one would think the millennium had arrived, and finally every thing would be as it used to be, and as it should be. But when vagueness gave way to specifics and fine print legislation followed, it became clear enough that this was not to be so. At almost every turn - despite a few noteworthy concessions to conservatives - the proposed and or passed legislation centralized power from the individual to the state, from the states to the federal government, from Congress to the President, and from the United States to the United Nations. The antithesis of what the founders stood for.

More devastatingly, consistent with the Third Way call to radically overhaul or overthrow the US Constitution - the Contract was the genesis for 18 Gingrich-proposed constitutional amendments in the first 6 months of the Republican Revolution. (3) Considering the fact that there were only 16 amendments added to the Constitution following the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, one can confidently say that the Republican Revolution was in fact a revolution, an assault, a revocation of the political wisdom of our forefathers.

Consider some of the Contract's more subtle betrayals:

The Personal Responsibility Act

The Personal Responsibility Act promised to "reduce government dependency, attack illegitimacy, require welfare recipients to work, and cut welfare spending. The legislation's main thrust was to give states greater control over the benefits programs, work programs, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) payments and requirements." (4)

Remembering that the Third Way employs double talk to sway both left and right to the "safe" center, observe:

1. The Personal Responsibility Act denied increased welfare benefits to parents on AFDC (Aid to Families With Dependent Children) who have another child. Denying money to "irresponsible" welfare mothers sounds conservative enough since it saves money and teaches a lesson - but to return to the Founders, one would have had to question the legitimacy of federal welfare and move toward its elimination. This bill did neither. Instead it added a socially provocative, inherently coercive proviso. Think about it. A woman already on welfare gets pregnant with another child. The state won't pay additional money for the new baby. The doctor won't deliver the baby. The state will pay for an abortion - its cheaper!. Thus, the state and the doctor pressure the mother to take the life of the child. The taxpayer rejoices over the decrease in the surplus population and the money saved. Legitimacy for government efficiency, government coercion, and government genocide - in the hearts of conservatives - is won.

Moreover, extend the principle to a nation edging ever closer to socialized medicine, and the question arises, "How soon till tomorrow's "balance sheet bloodletting" of welfare babies, spreads its carnage to middle class babies?

2. The Personal Responsibility Act promised to curb drug and alcohol abuse. Conservative sounding, indeed. The solution? A Clinton-like (5) demand for random drug and alcohol testing for welfare recipients identified as abusers. (6) Again, targeted for an abrogation of their rights are the poor, who apparently, by way of their accepting welfare, are no longer full fledged citizens with all the protections thereof. Moreover, extend the precedent broadly to a nation where more and more people work for the government, are paid by government contracts, and receive government aid (including free education, subsidized loans, and grants of all varieties), and we must ask, who will be next, and how might such tactics be used by unscrupulous individuals in the future?

3. The Personal Responsibility Act promised to deny various forms of welfare to immigrants, legal and illegal. Conservative sounding? Yes. But, as the previous law already denied the right (7) - this legislation denied a non-existent right, and then, audaciously, granted the same "right" in fine print exceptions, exceptions wide enough for an invading army to stroll through in broad daylight.

Who was excepted? A. Refugees - including Castro's worst criminals and agitators. B. Temporary (migrant) agricultural workers (which makes Bush's immigrant benefit plan, but part 2 of the same) C. Any who apply for selective housing assistance programs. D. Any who apply for emergency aid programs. E. Any who apply for non-means tested programs. F. The biggy of all biggies, any and all who have "physical, developmental, or mental impairment." In fact, ever since, thousands upon thousands of immigrants are arriving in America with notes from doctors back home declaring them unfit to work, and thus eligible for every American handout - including SSI benefits. G. To top it off, for any illegal and legal immigrants who might have "been left behind" - throw in the Contract With America's faith-based subsidy program, a program which permits "private" run welfare agencies to hand out public tax dollars with absolutely no check on immigrants. Bush is working to open this door, even more. (8)

If all of this sounds like a Third Way bread and circus/no national boundaries/dregs recruitment scheme to increase minority power, tear down capitalism, and raise up a communist welfare state, you're catching on.

4. Finally, the Personal Responsibility Act's boast that Republicans intended to transfer control of welfare to the states, and peg the distribution of welfare funds to a market based approach, that is to a performance based model akin to free market competition - was ludicrous.

First and foremost, grants, no matter how loose the strings hang initially - equal control, iron chord, iron clad control. Period. To claim otherwise was to perpetrate one of the greatest frauds of all time. This was fraud.

Second, rewards and punishments in a free market operate upon private companies according to their ability to provide a product or a service that the people like, in competition with others. A private company, if its wise, finds a niche, provides superior service, or an unbeatable price, in order to prosper, but regardless is free to walk its own path. But a federal incentive/disincentive that feeds money into programs that are anti-free enterprise, anti-private property, anti-constitutional, means only one thing - the state which does the best job at being efficient socialists, wins the crown.

Further, one has to marvel at the idea that "winners" may take 20 percent of their block grants and use them as they please. (9) An interesting proposition. That is, let the states trickle the money into other state programs formerly free from federal dollars, so that they might get addicted too. Furthermore, narrowly tailored individual grants might be more easily forsaken, if federal abuses arise. Those which come in one great block and impact the state broadly, cannot. What a grand idea to increase the iron grip hold of federal over state power.

5. Finally, The Personal Responsibility Act promised to shrink the size of government by streamlining the number of existing welfare agencies, when in fact, all it did was consolidate agencies, not eliminate their regulatory duties and affects. (10) If you will recall, this Al Gore Third Way modeled streamlining program introduced police powers into agencies who previously had none.

So many "great," constitutionally "conservative" ideas. What were we thinking?

The Taking Back Our Streets Act

The Taking Back Our Streets Act's stated intent was to "stop violent criminals." (11) If this was so, it might have sought to reverse the host of federal court decisions and other federal laws which have hamstrung state and local law enforcement and prosecution efforts for the past 30 years. Not so. Unremarkably, this Republican sponsored act, chose to enhance federal power and expand federal jurisdiction, the exact opposite of what a return to the Founders approach would have done.

The Constitution limits the federal government criminal law powers to a very narrow spectrum: counterfeiting, treason, piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, offenses against the law of nations, crimes committed by foreign nationals, crimes regarding: treason, bankruptcies, patents, copyrights, military members, and citizens of the District of Columbia - as well as appeals from the state courts, and extradition disputes between states. (12) Nothing else. Cut and dry.

Madison noted in Federalist 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce .... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State."

The 9th and 10th Amendments firmed this statement up and made it law. But not to worry, the "Taking Back Our Streets Act," had little regard for such technicalities. Instead, it called for more multibillion dollar federal block grants to the states for the "prosecution of habeas corpus cases;" to "hire, train, or employ [state or local] police officers; to pay overtime to [state & local] police officers; to purchase [police] equipment and technology; [to] enhance school security measures [including closed circuit cameras]; [to] establish citizen neighborhood watch programs; [to] fund programs that advance moral standards (whose, Clinton's?); to build, operate, and expand [state] prisons;" and to convert "old military bases" into "correctional facilities" for "nonviolent offenders."

The act also imposed upon the states truth in sentencing laws, a 'three strikes your out' law, habeas corpus laws, death penalty laws, sexual predator laws, minimum sentencing laws, mandatory victim restitution laws, appeals laws, and parole laws.

Plus, the act federalized an expansive list of crimes, to include much stiffer sentencing for mere possession of a gun during the commission of crime (10 years. first offense), and triple the minimum sentencing if the gun "possessed" was an automatic weapon (minimum 30 years). Strangely, inconsistent with the Founders principle of equality before the law, if the criminal intended to do violence with a knife, with a baseball bat (the growing weapon of choice nationally and internationally), with fire, with chemicals, with one's bare hands or with a car, those are lesser crimes, with lighter sentences. Therefore, a gun, rather than the criminal act itself, is the greater evil. And a gun, that might be used for something other than hunting (an automatic weapon) is the most evil of all. (13)

This then was a blind-side on state rights, local government, local police, and the second amendment right to self defense, masquerading as a conservative-tough-on-crime bill. It swept so much power and so many duties from the local and state governments to the federal, that one American Spectator writer summarized it as one of the greatest federal power grabs in our nation's history. A dramatic step toward a federal police state. He was right.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act

The Fiscal Responsibility Act sought "to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress" via a Balanced Budget Amendment and a Line Item Veto. (14) Again, these appear conservative, and at least in the former case, something many of the founders would have strongly approved of.

However, the proposed balanced budget amendment contained an outrageous provision which gave the President of the United States the new dictatorial power of overriding the balanced budget any time he deemed it necessary under the vague umbrella of "imminent or serious threat to national security." (15) The potential for abuse is enormous, as, in recent years, the economic plight of Mexico, the violence in Somalia, the economic woes in Japan, then later in all of Asia, and the conflicts in Africa, Bosnia, and Kosovo, these, and so many more, we all declared by the President, National Security threats. Even domestic disaster relief, and major industry strikes, have been at times, so classified. Had this passed, this would have been one of the greatest assumptions of power in the history of the Presidency, passed in the name of "reform" and "conservatism."

The Fiscal Responsibility Act, just as radically proposed a Line Item Veto power for the President. (16) Later, declared unconstitutional (17) - again, here was another measure that flat out rejected the founders wisdom and brilliance - which limited executive power, and instead placed within the hands of the President of the United States the new power to legislate law (he's the executive - remember) and with greater ease, to manipulate Congress. The Supreme Court rightly ruled against this Republican bill (which should have been an amendment - but rather chose to side-step the Constitution in its passage) as a dangerous fundamental shift in power from Congress to the President. (18) Conservative? Think again.

The National Security Restoration Act

The National Security Restoration Act demanded that the President "stop putting US troops under UN command [and] stop raiding the defense budget to finance social programs and UN peacekeeping." (19) A very conservative, pro-American, pro-sovereignty goal. Remarkably, once again, the fine print did the precise opposite.

Under the title "Prohibition of Foreign Command of US Armed Forces," the Act reads: "The President may waive this provision if he certifies to Congress that operational control of our troops under foreign command is vital to our national security interests." (20) To the letter, what President Clinton asked for - thus creating a radical new presidential authority (again circumventing the Constitution without amendment) to put US troops under foreign command.

Likewise, even as the act pretends to be a check on the UN and its funding, it asks for the "acceleration of the expansion of NATO," (21) a key subsidiary organization of the UN. It denounces endless expensive UN peacekeeping operations, yet calls for military, financial, and technological assistance to the "former" communist bloc so that they can more easily meet NATO's entry requirements for absorption. (22) Worst of all, it creates a slush fund for the President to "hold advanced funding for . . . [UN] peacekeeping operations." (23) The latter, had it passed into law, would, perhaps, be the most radical step this nation has ever taken to undermine our sovereignty, as a long solicited (and rejected) UN rapid response force would be created, a force whose goal is to deploy anywhere and everywhere, without the consent of the US Congress. (24)

After denouncing the raiding of defense funds for welfare and peacekeeping operation, the bill gives the President the authority to do just that, just so long as the defense department has not supplied written notice and proof that the funds are "vital to national security interests," "30 days" prior to the transfer. (25) Open season begins.

Even the act's salutary proposal for a missile shield defense, to this day, include plans for sharing of that technology with all of our "allies" - including Russia, and perhaps China, both of whom, by some imaginative definition of the word "rogue," are not rogue nations. (26)

The National Security Restoration Act, like everything else Third Way, represents another, unconstitutional upward shift in power, this time from Congress to the President, and from the United States to the UN, even as it masquerades as a pro-sovereignty anti-UN measure.

Summary

The foregoing has been a brief introduction to Third Way betrayals found within the Contract With America, a right of center approach which appealed to the right, even as it legislated to the left, with but one design in mind, to radically alter or replace the US Constitution. Historically, the Contract With America will someday be remembered for what it truly was and is, a blind-side attack on constitutional conservatism, more fittingly catalogued as a Contract On America. It's claim to a restoration of the Founders views were, and are to this day, blatantly false. A return to limited government cannot be achieved by seizing power from the people, the states, and Congress, and placing it into the hands of one man and his friends at the United Nations. The Republican Party elites who pulled off this gimmick to gain power, only reinforced what some, for so long, have felt so strongly, about who these Republicans are - even, Democrats in Drag. ESR

Next week, Steve (back from his vacation) continues his evaluation of the Third Way Republican Contract With America in "Democrats In Drag, Part 7, School Vouchers, GOP Trojan Horse?" Keep your eyes open also, for Missing the Mark With Religion, Part 9, "Thou Shalt Not Kill - a Convicted Murderer?"

Enter Stage Right senior writer Steve Farrell is the former Managing Editor of Right Magazine, a widely published research writer, a former Air Force communications security manager, and a graduate student in constitutional law. Contact Steve at cyours76@yahoo.com. Missed a column? Visit Steve's NewsMax archives.

Footnotes:

1. Gingrich, Newt; Armey, Dick; Edited by Gillespie, Ed, and Schellhas Bob. "Contract With America," United States of America, Times Books/Random House, 1994, p. 4.
2. Ibid., pgs. 9-11
3. Hoar, William P. "The 'Transformational' GOP," The New American, July 24, 1995. Including information from researcher Jeffrey Tucker, Ludwig Von Mises Institute.
4. Contract With America, p. 66
5. It was Bill Clinton who authorized random, warrantless gun sweeps of government housing projects. Speaking in defense of this unconstitutional practice, back in 1994, Bill Clinton dismissed the charge that this violates people's freedom. "The most important freedom we have in this country is the freedom from fear." Apparently "give me liberty or give me death," is irrelevant. Benjamin Franklin noted: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." The Republican dominated Congress was "outraged" when Clinton began the practice, but par for their course of speaking like constitutionalists even while they betray that Constitution, they did nothing. The institution of their own random sweep program to bring about "freedom from drugs," evidenced why.
6. Ibid., 74
7. See, "Personal Responsibility Act of 1995: Fiscal Effect on California "
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Contract With America, p. 37
12. US Constitution
13. Contract With American, pgs. 38-53. See also William F. Jasper's excellent article, "Gingrich’s Constitution Con," The New American, July 9, 1995. And check out "In Brief Analysis No. 153," "Me Too Crime Reform,"  The National Center for Policy Analysis, notes: "The 'Taking Back Our Streets Act'- the crime-fighting plan in the Contract With America - was cobbled together from old Republican proposals intended to marginally improve bad legislation in the old Democratic Congress. It tinkers with the problem and piles conservative activism on top of the existing mess." One example: "Title II federalizes every crime of violence or drug trafficking in which the perpetrator possesses or discharges a firearm. This is a breathtaking and foolish federal power grab." [emphasis added].
14. Contract With America, p. 9
15. Ibid., p. 32
16. Ibid., p. 32-33
17. In Clinton v. City of New York  The Supreme Court ruled that the Line Item Veto violated Articles 1 and 7 of the US Constitution.
18. Ibid., In a concurring opinion, Justice Meyer noted: Separation of powers was designed to implement a fundamental insight: concentration of power in the hands of a single branch is a threat to liberty. The Federalist states the axiom in these explicit terms: "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." The Federalist No. 47 . . . So convinced were the Framers that liberty of the person inheres in structure that at first they did not consider a Bill of Rights necessary. The Federalist No. 84, pp. 513, 515; G. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787, pp. 536-543 (1969). It was at Madison's insistence that the First Congress enacted the Bill of Rights. R. Goldwin, From Parchment to Power 75-153 (1997). It would be a grave mistake, however, to think a Bill of Rights in Madison's scheme then or in sound constitutional theory now renders separation of powers of lesser importance. See Amar, The Bill of Rights as a Constitution, 100 Yale L. J. 1131, 1132 (1991)." Meyerthen scolds Republican lawmakers: "Failure of political will does not justify unconstitutional remedies." They have no right, he continues, "[to] reallocate their own authority" to the President. . . The Constitution's structure requires a stability which transcends the convenience of the moment . . . Liberty is always at stake when one or more of the branches seek to transgress the separation of powers."
19. Contract With America, p. 91
20. Ibid., 101
21. Ibid., pgs. 92, 107-109
22. Ibid., pgs. 107-109
23. Ibid., p. 99. This Contract provision was another proposal by Mr. Clinton that had been rejected by the previous Congress.
24. Kissinger, Henry. "US Foreign Policy: Expanded Edition," New York, W. W. Norton & Company Inc. 1974, p. 249. Here, Mr. Kissinger, restated what was a UN goal from the beginning - bringing an end to the "ad hoc," "impasse," nature of deployments which come because of the resistance of sovereign nations. "The time has come to agree on peacekeeping guidelines so that the United Nations can act swiftly, confidently, and effectively in future crises." The key was and is to create an independent UN army and enhanced powers to the Security Council to act on their own.
25. Contract With America, p. 106
26. Ibid., pgs. 91, 107-109

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