Congressional Republicans deserve praise for passing the 2003 rate cuts on income, dividend and capital gains taxes, which have been an unquestionable touchdown for the economy. Unfortunately, Republicans have allowed the obstructionist Democrats to divide them on the issues of making the tax rate cuts permanent, and completely eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax and estate tax.
The Republicans began their reign as the majority party with the support of the public and a mandate for change. They seized majority status in 1994 following their promise, under the Contract with America, to restore accountability in the Capitol and lessen the burden of government on U.S. citizens.
Under the leadership of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, the Contract was successful because it inspired the public to believe that significant policy changes were possible. Speaker Gingrich was a leader who communicated to the public that the Republicans were not going to squander their new majority status.
Though Republicans still hold the majority of seats in Congress, they ceased playing political offense too soon after achieving the Contract’s early policy victories. The popularity of the Contract forced Democrats to go on offense, and Gingrich was out of Congress by 1998. His departure has left a leadership void that to this day has not been replaced.
This century’s Republican leaders in the House, Senate and White House can hardly claim to share the conservative ideology that energized the public and won victories in 1994, 2000 and 2004. Congressional Republicans since Gingrich’s departure have wasted too many opportunities to maximize their potential by not using their majority clout for an aggressive political offense. Defensive strategies may win football championships, but forsaking your offense in the political arena is a sure-fire game plan for defeat.
Recent polling data clearly proves the public’s disappointment with the Republican’s recent performance. An April 20 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found 25 percent approval for the job Congress is doing, while 52 percent disapproved. President Bush fared slightly better, with just 33 percent approval.
The president and Congress must find solutions to fighting the war on terrorism, restructuring Social Security, overhauling our burdensome income tax code, securing our borders and putting an end to skyrocketing spending. Our elected leaders are shirking their duty to our nation and its citizens by ignoring these serious challenges to our future.
We the people – the owners and general managers of our government – must demand more from those we send to Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, too many of our elected representatives receive most of their coaching from lobbyists and special interests, which causes them to lose focus and forget the “fans” who put them there. Many of them will not wake up until this fall’s elections, and re-election will not be their bonus.
Herman Cain is the National Chairman of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute. He is the former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Inc., and currently is CEO and president of T.H.E. New Voice, Inc., a business and leadership consulting company.
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