Today, we are in, if not an official recession, at least an agonizingly slow recovery. And if Democrats complain that it's unfair for government and public employees to be limited to what they got in 2008, Republicans can reply that an awful lot of their constituents would be very happy to go back to the income levels and the housing equity and the 401(k) balances they had in 2008.
Everyone has been suffering. Why should government be exempt? Wouldn't it function better if it went on a diet?
As for Obamacare, a few months ago Republican leaders were reluctant to call for repeal. They may have feared that Nancy Pelosi and Bill Clinton were right when they predicted the legislation would become more popular when passed. Or they may have been wary of sounding extreme.
But now they're squarely for repeal. It turns out to be a stand most Republican primary voters demand and most general election voters support.
Gingrich's Contract Republicans did not have such a target 16 years ago. Hillycare had already fizzled weeks before they assembled on the Capitol steps. Today, the demand for major reversals in public policy is much greater than it was back then.
One other thing is different. In 1994, Gingrich's Republicans were not sure they would win a majority; conventional wisdom around Washington was they would not.
Today, chances for a Republican House majority seem excellent, if not absolutely certain. But no one knows how big a majority.
Can Republicans really repeal Obamacare and roll back spending to 2008 levels? Probably not. But by taking clear stands, they raise their chances of getting part way there by 2012. And maybe farther later.