Americans falling into Democrats’ credibility gap

Rep. Buck McKeon Contributor
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Many empty promises have been made to the American people in the past year and half, starting with a promise for “Change in Washington.” Unfortunately, what they’ve seen happening for the past 15 months isn’t the change people were bargaining to see.

It can be frustrating as a Republican in Washington, D.C., because we clearly don’t have the votes to pass our legislation. Essentially, we are forced to watch the Majority cram a variety of sweeping new policies through Congress. While using parliamentary strategy and other thoughtful opportunities at our disposal to slow Democrats’ absolute “haste” in passing far-reaching bills such as a national energy tax, a government intrusion of health care, and a permanent bailout system for Wall Street, some have tried to describe us as ‘obstructionists’ for our efforts. Truth be told, Republicans have responsible alternatives to every issue facing our nation; but perhaps our proposals are too realistic to be popular. My intuition tells me, however, that once the majority of Americans start to see the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” they will see the empty promises they were handed and will find that our questions held merit.

As the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on ABC News in late April, “Pick an issue. Whether it’s the Stimulus, the debt, health care, bailouts – you name it – the concerns Republicans raised are being validated. And Democrats have the nerve, in this debate, to say that we’re the ones who are being dishonest.”

There is a credibility gap between what Speaker Pelosi and her disciples having been saying and what is actually happening. Unfortunately, Americans are falling into that chasm for decisions being made in D.C., which in many cases means more debt.

Let me begin with health care. Democrats sounded off two clear promises as they moved their reform bill to the President’s desk for a signature: (1) that it would lower costs and (2) that if you liked your health care plan, you could keep it. Just about a week ago, the independent Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) determined that the new law will increase the nation’s spending on health care over the next 10 years by $311 billion. As for Americans keeping health plans they like, it isn’t so. For instance, this week the owner of small California business, GET Engineering Corporation, visited my D.C. office to explain how the health care legislation has already negatively impacted his business, thus stripping away their current plans. The business owner, who employees 25 workers and provides very substantive health benefits, just received a revised quote to reflect new laws and was hit with a 58% increase. With increased financial burdens such as that, how can this be called anything other than a job-killer? Democrat proposals are crushing employers with higher costs, burdensome regulations, and restrictive mandates.

And the stimulus Democrats passed through Congress with heavily laden promises of “jobs, jobs, jobs” has fallen flat. They promised 3 million new jobs, but the reality is 4 million Americans have lost their jobs since the stimulus passed over a year ago and over 7 1/2 million jobs since the Democrats took control of the House in 2006. Recent findings from the Pew Research Center indicate the majority of Americans don’t believe the stimulus helped to create jobs, with just 33% saying it has. The nation’s unemployment rate remains near 10 percent, with California still at 12.5 percent unemployment. To summarize, that was $787 billion of taxpayer dollars wastefully spent, which is now adding to and compounding the national debt, and is being financed by foreign countries, all of which is greatly endangering the futures of our children and grandchildren.

The credibility gap continued to reveal itself again this week with the Majority’s creation of language which would codify “too big to fail, thereby creating a permanent bailout system for Wall Street. The House-passed version would establish a $150 billion prefunded bailout fund and the Senate version contains a $50 billion prefunded bailout fund. Rather than address the real problems, Democrats also aim to create a new “council of regulators.” I’m not surprised they opted to grow the federal government even more, but I am deeply concerned. Why not really hold Wall Street accountable by requiring greater transparency, address the deceptive practices of the mortgage companies that started the problem, and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? It’s dangerous to so closely link taxpayer dollars to high-risk private industry. There should be no more “too big to fail” slippery slopes. The financial regulatory enforcement structure must be streamlined, while also allowing for innovation within the free market system.

But rather than make necessary reforms and tough budgetary cuts, the Majority continues to make lofty promises without a dose of reality. Our current spending trajectory is unsustainable. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that under the Majority’s current spending course, coupled with the President’s policy proposals, they will be adding an additional $1.5 trillion to our deficit in 2010.

It’s no wonder that over 70 percent of Americans distrust Congress in Washington, D.C., based on an April 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center. There is a gaping hole in the credibility of the Majority and that Majority faces little to no checks and balances.

In an electronic survey sent from my office two weeks ago, results showed that the number one priority for constituents receiving Congressional updates was for substantive information on legislation being crafted in D.C. This was very revealing. It shows that Americans, Californians, and constituents in the 25th Congressional District want real information and want to read legislative language for themselves. Clearly, distrust is skyrocketing. It’s time we listened to the American people, rein in the out-of-control spending, and slow the creeping growth of the federal government. Let’s force closure of the credibility gap to ensure the empty promises come to an end. It’s going to take work to prosper, but with common-sense reform and buckling down on spending, it can be done.

Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, a Republican, represents the 25th District of California in the U.S. Congress. He is the leading Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, a senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, and a member of the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group.