Hoping to revive his flagging bid for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is calling for an overhaul of the way Americans pay taxes, buy health care and contribute to the Social Security system.
Gingrich mapped out the 10-point plan, which he's calling The 21st Century Contract with America, in a speech at a Des Moines insurance company Thursday. Key elements include repealing President Barack Obama's health care plan, giving taxpayers the option of paying a flat tax and allowing young people to opt out of Social Security.
Gingrich is putting the new Contract with America at the core of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, betting it will set the tone for the campaign discussion going forward.
"This is the essence of, hopefully, the next 10 years," Gingrich said. "It shows you the direction, I think, the country has to go, it shows you how I think we can get there."
Gingrich's floundering presidential bid has fractured what was once a rock star Republican image. Not long ago he was the sought-after intellectual guru of the GOP. Now, all but broke, he's finding himself fighting for air time _ if not respect _ at Republican presidential primary debates. Polls have generally put him toward the back of the pack, although he ran third in a recent CNN poll behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Gingrich conceded Thursday he doesn't have the money that Romney and Perry can muster, so he said he will compete in the marketplace of ideas.
Voters are so worried about the condition of the country that they are demanding detailed solutions from candidates, Gingrich said.
"I think this is going to be a unique election in which people really are worried and really want to know what would you do and how would you do it and why should I believe you," said Gingrich.
In addition to giving taxpayers the option of picking a flat tax, Gingrich said he would give young people the option of dropping out of the Social Security system. He also called for boosting domestic energy production, easing government regulation of businesses, bolstering medical research to combat diseases like Alzheimer's and curtailing the power of the courts.
"There is no judicial supremacy," Gingrich said. "We are going to have a big, big fight about the role of the judicial branch.
He detailed his package in a one-hour speech to about 350 people gathered at the Principal Financial Group, which is sponsoring a series of town hall-style meetings with presidential candidates in a state where precinct caucuses traditionally launch the presidential nominating season.
Gingrich also condemned the way the mainstream media are conducting the debates, drawing applause from the crowd.
"The level of cynicism on the part of some of the people asking the questions is disheartening," said Gingrich. "It's not worthy of the United States of America. Your first challenge is to get the elite media to give up on gimmickry."
Much of the package Gingrich offered was Republican orthodoxy: easing taxes and regulation of those who are well off, and he defended that approach.
"Why not allow people who are successful to have a choice," Gingrich said. "We want businesses which are successful to be focused on job creation and not tax avoidance."