Congress needs new draft picks

Posted: May 02, 2006 8:05 PM
The recent National Football League draft provided each team and its fans optimism that this is the year they move one step closer to the championship by drafting the nation’s top collegiate talent. In November of this year, voters will once again go to the polls to select the men and women they believe will move them one step closer to big solutions to our nation’s biggest problems. The problem this year for the majority team’s fans – Republican voters – is that their team is failing to live up to the optimism that followed the 1994, 2000 and 2004 elections.

Not all of the 255 college football players selected in the recent professional draft will receive big bonuses or have an immediate positive impact on their new teams. Some will have stellar careers, but many will greatly disappoint their new teams and fans with poor performance.

Congressional Republicans have similarly disappointed their supporters over the past five years. For example, from the beginning of his first term, President Bush has made restructuring the broken Social Security system a priority. Yet few of his fellow Republicans have even acknowledged the facts found by his Social Security Commission and the Social Security Trustees – that the system is headed for sure bankruptcy under its present funding structure.

Bush was the quarterback on the issue of restructuring Social Security, and his team – the Republican majority – had the opportunity to go on offense and score a touchdown for our future. The problem was, Bush’s team wouldn’t even take the field with him, and the opposition creamed him.

Congressional Republicans are increasingly indistinguishable from the big government, tax-and-spend Democrats. They passed the disastrous Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, whose projected 10-year cost is a moving target approaching $1 trillion.

Republicans have further wasted their majority status by barring U.S. companies from tapping domestic sources of energy, and by not easing the regulatory burdens on constructing new nuclear energy facilities. They have been derelict in aggressively securing our borders, which continues to propose a national security threat. Many Republicans in the past five years have shown that their mascot is not the elephant, but the RINO – Republican In Name Only.

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.