1995: Beyond the Contract with America

Woody Jenkins’ address to Council for National Policy, February 1995, in Rancho Mirage, California.

The election of November 8, 1994, may well be considered a turning point in American politics.

Not only did the Republicans win a majority in the United States Senate and House of Representatives, but they did so by “nationalizing” the election. National issues were made more important than local political concerns. The people of the nation spoke clearly that they wanted the country to move in a very different direction.

A centerpiece of the Republicans’ efforts to nationalize the election was the “Contract with America” — a platform of modest conservative change.

Today, the United States House of Representatives has passed 33 items in the Contract. Yet only four of these items have become law. All the rest are lingering in the United States Senate or in conference committees.

The simple reality is that the Republicans have only 53 votes in the Senate — seven short of the 60 votes needed to pass ordinary legislation.

The election on November 5, 1996, will determine whether the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 was a true revolution which results in meaningful change or whether 1994 was an aberration which will have few lasting results.

Going into the November 8, 1994, elections, Americans were angry. Small businessmen were fed up with high taxes and burdensome regulation. Retired people on fixed incomes were upset about the high cost of living. Working people were angry that so many people were on welfare and paid for not working. Families were concerned about the moral decline of our country and afraid of what might happen next.

The landslide victory of November, 1994, gave us hope that we can indeed build an America where we can once again live in freedom and opportunity, a nation without the oppressive hand of government bearing heavily down on us, a land where individual rights are respected, a land free of crime and violence, a nation which is a good place to raise children, a country where the family is the strongest unit of society, a nation where dreams can indeed come true.

The year 1996 will be an exciting time to be alive. We’ve learned that where men and women live in freedom, rapid technological advances can occur. We’ve learned that where people work hard and are free to enjoy the fruits of their labor, prosperity will result.

One of the most dramatic things I have ever witnessed is the fall of the Berlin Wall. But the truth is that here in America, we have our own Berlin Wall. It’s called big government, and it threatens to destroy our liberties. That’s why the historic victory on November 8th was so important. It was the first step in tearing down — brick by brick — big government in America.

On September 27, 1994, 300 Republican Congressmen and candidates for Congress met to endorse a bold, common sense agenda offering real change for America — the “Contract with America.” It promised to force the House of Representatives to live under the same laws that individual Americans and businesses have to live under. It called for the passage of dozens of bills to limit government and hold government accountable. It put into writing what Republican candidates stood for and served to make the election truly national. A contract is supposed to be a meeting of the minds. It is a commitment, an obligation, a solemn promise. The “Contract with America” set an agenda. It set up milestones of meaningful progress. It got us moving in the right direction. And there was a wide consensus in the nation that these things should be done.

Perhaps the weakness of the “Contract” is that, because this was a consensus document which incorporated the views of moderate and liberal Republicans, it is not nearly as strong as it could have been.

However, one thing the “Contract” did was to put the left on the defensive. They did not know where to focus their fire, because there was so much going on every day. Committees and subcommittees were meeting simultaneously all over the Capitol on many different topics. Neither the media nor the liberals in the Congress knew where to start in combating this agenda.

There are ten points in the “Contract with America” — term limits, fiscal responsibility, deterring crime, welfare reform, strong families and children, family and middle class tax cuts, strengthening defense, senior citizen reforms, economic opportunity and regulatory reform, and common sense legal reforms.

Beyond the Contract

Since its announcement, many members of the Council for National Policy have made suggestions on improving and expanding the “Contract with America.”

Defense. Most Council for National Policy members agree that the “Contract” should include a national antiballistic missile defense system. If we are to defend America from the threat of nuclear attack or nuclear accident, this must be one of our high priorities. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), promoted by our colleague, the late Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, is the most important single deficiency in our defense capability.

Balanced Budget Amendment with Tax Limitation. The “Contract with America” promised a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget with tax limitation. You’ll notice the clause “with tax limitation.” But tax limitation was taken out in the House, and the Balanced Budget Amendment which passed that body and failed by one vote in the Senate had little to commend it. It would not take effect for seven years, and even then it only required a 60 percent vote of each house to have an unbalanced budget. It already takes a 60 percent vote to end a filibuster in the Senate. So whether the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment would have been effective seems doubtful. Ironically, some of the liberals continue to fight this amendment, even with its watered-down approach.

Most Council for National Policy members favor the simple, immediate step toward balancing the federal budget of imposing a freeze on federal spending. This would result in a balanced budget very quickly. As a matter of fact, if we limit federal spending to a two percent annual increase, then we would have a balanced budget by the year 2002 without a constitutional amendment.

We must continue to work for tax limitation. Balanced budgets are important, but not if they are balanced by raising taxes. The Tax Limitation Constitutional Amendment would protect citizens against raising taxes and would require a two-thirds vote for future tax increases.

Requiring a Balanced Budget. Most states require a balanced budget and have no exceptions in their constitutions. The Balanced Budget Amendment should require a balanced budget every year. The only exception justified in the federal constitution would be in a time of war, and then with a super majority of both houses.

Abolishing Federal Departments. Conservatives have proposed we abolish some federal departments and agencies: Department of Commerce, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Education, and Department of Energy. We do not favor the formal abolishing of a department while the people and programs are redistributed to other agencies. That’s not the answer! We want to do away with the programs, the bureaucrats and the cost of these agencies.

Other Agencies to Abolish. Most conservatives also favor abolishing the Legal Services Corporation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Endowment for the Arts. We want to stop all funding for Planned Parenthood. In fact, we favor defunding all non-profit organizations which lobby and propagandize the citizens of our country. They should raise their own support — not rely on the taxpayers to subsidize their efforts.

Line Item Veto. Even with a liberal President in office, we must adopt the line item veto. It will give a future conservative President a tool to cut federal spending.

Family Middle Class Tax Cuts. There’s no question that small business is angry in America. Middle America, and all Americans, want immediate and dramatic tax cuts. The real problem for most people is that government at all levels takes half of what we earn. The cost of government is the largest item in most families’ budgets. We favor cutting marginal tax rates and abolishing the capital gains tax.

Many conservatives favor a flat tax with deductions, and many favor abolishing the income tax and the Internal Revenue Service and moving instead to a national sales tax administered by the states.

Senior Citizen Reforms. Young people today would like a choice when it comes to Social Security. They favor having the right to opt out of Social Security because they know that if their money is set aside in a private investment plan, an equal dollar amount could produce a secure retirement. We must, must create a new Social Security system based on the private sector which will have a real trust fund and on an actuarially sound basis.

Restoring Balance to the Federal System. We must protect the rights of our citizens and the power of our states by getting the Congress and the federal courts to recognize through appropriate legislation the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For example, in Louisiana, we feel we are a sovereign state — not a colony of the federal government — and we don’t intend to act like a colony.

Traditional Family Values. Ironically, family values were left out of the “Contract with America.” Most conservatives believe we must protect the right to life. That battle starts with prohibiting federal funding of abortion and includes the Human Life Amendment to recognize the personhood of the unborn child. Conservatives also agree with the need to permit voluntary prayer in public schools. We do not favor a state-sanctioned prayer or a non-sectarian prayer. But this nation should guarantee that, when students themselves initiate prayer on a voluntary basis, the state through the principal or the teachers should not interfere or stop them from praying, whether in class, on the school ground, during school activities or at graduation ceremonies.

The Test of the “Contract”

The first real question about the “Contract with America” was this: Will Congress have the guts to do what they said they would? The answer is that House Republicans — who signed the “Contract” — did exactly as they said. But Senate Republicans, who did not sign the “Contract” and who do not have the required 60 votes in their chamber, have been less than successful with the “Contract.” In the election of November, 1996, it will be important for Republicans running for the United States Senate to announce their own “Contract with America.” Without such consensus, the revolution of November 8, 1994, will not be fulfilled.

Dangers on the Horizon

There are dangers on the horizon. We saw flaws in the Republican armor in the manner GATT and WTO were ratified and problems in the refusal by Congress to stop the Mexican bailout. The American people will not long stand still and watch our government use trade agreements against our interests or allow our government to subsidize bankers who have foolishly lent money to corrupt foreign governments.

A Personal View

In Washington today, dramatic changes are occurring. But the tide of collectivism, which has confiscated our earnings, taken away our incentive to work and be productive, threatened our liberties and undermined our defense, cannot be rolled back in one election. It will take more elections and more new leaders to move us from where we are to where we need to be.

And it will take more than elections and it will take more than new leaders. It will take millions of us working together to make America of the 21st century a nation worthy of its own heritage.

We face a political crisis. Voters have lost confidence in our political leaders.

We face an economic crisis caused by decades of fiscal irresponsibility.

And worst of all, we face a moral crisis. More than 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Illegitimacy is rampant. Crime is an epidemic. Drug abuse and alcoholism are destroying our youth. Pornography is commonplace. Much of television and motion pictures are degrading. Gambling in many states like my own has become a cancer. And our children find their heroes in all the wrong places.

If we expect politics and politicians to change all of those things, then we greatly overestimate what government can do. The reality is that you and I must start with ourselves. Our problems are much deeper than politics. We must be the kind of people we know we should be.

Somebody said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a good man in the White House?” And it would. But wouldn’t it be even better to have a good man in your house and in my house? We must rebuild the American family. We must uphold marriage and the family as the greatest and most sacred of all institutions.

The overwhelming majority of our crime, illegitimacy, drug abuse and dependency occurs in homes where the man is no longer physically present, where the man has abandoned his obligations. Perhaps our greatest single need today is for men — men who will be good husbands, men who will be good fathers, men who will respect and honor women, men who will love and care for their children, men who will be real men.

What is really wrong with America?

I used to think we had a political problem. We just needed to elect the right people and our problems would be solved. I don’t believe that anymore.

I used to think we had a spiritual problem. If we could just have a spiritual conversion, that would solve our problems. And I do think we need a spiritual conversion, but I don’t think that will solve all of our problems. And let me tell you why. I see all around us Christians who are good men and women, whose children are into drugs or illegitimacy, whose children commit acts of delinquency, whose children have become peer-dependent.

We must look back at the history of our nation to see what has happened to us. We came here as immigrants, people searching for a chance to breathe free, people who risked everything, who gave up the security they had in Europe and elsewhere, gave up the homes they had there to cross treacherous oceans, looking for a chance to own land, to have their own home, to be their own boss, to pursue their own dreams. And they arrived here. They became farmers and small businessmen. But do you realize that they all, virtually all of them, were the masters of their own destiny?

As late as the year 1900, the majority of Americans owned their own businesses, which in most cases was a farm. People lived on farms. They had their own dreams. There were no limits. They were not employees. Employment was a rare thing. Americans viewed employment, in their historic memory, much like serfdom.

There was something special about being a farmer. The mother would raise the boy until he was five, six or seven years of age. Then the boy would go with the father to plow the fields, to work with the animals. They were together all day, hour after hour, year after year. And the father would talk to the boy and share with the boy everything he believed. He’d tell the boy what to think about God, what to think about his country and its political leaders, what to think about other men, and what to think about women and how to treat them. Over the years, the boy would come to believe everything the man believed.

For generation after generation in America, we had great stability because we passed down, from one generation to the next, the wisdom of the past.

Then the Industrial Revolution came along and the man, facing all of the risks of being a farmer, knowing the crops could fail, insects could ravage him and that there was the chance of losing everything every year, had a chance to go to the city and take a job. He didn’t want to do that. He didn’t want to give up his dream, but it seemed like the right thing to do. So, by the millions after the year 1900, we flooded to the cities and factories to become employees. Today over 80 percent of Americans are employees.

Left behind was the boy. He didn’t have a man to tell him all day what to think about God, what to think about the country and its leaders, what to think about other men and how to relate to and how to respect and treat women. He was left with the mother who had already taught him the womanly things she had to teach him.

Big business had to do something about that right away. So we saw the public schools formed mainly to get the boys off the streets and give them something to do.

In 1960, when I was 13, few women with children were in the work force. Most mothers were there for the boys when they came home from school. Today the vast majority of women with children are in the work force.

And do you know who’s raising the boys? It’s not the fathers. It’s not the mothers. It’s not that wonderful Christian school or the public school or the parochial school. It’s not the philosophy of the church or the school board.

The boys are in kindergarten, day care centers, preschools and schools of all kinds. But who’s raising the boys?

It’s the other boys — from age two and above — who transmit to the boy their knowledge and information and world view. Telling him what to think. Someone has our children by the throat — it’s the other children! We see boys and girls 14 and 15 years of age who are peer-dependent. But the peer-dependency didn’t start then. It started when they were two, three, four, five and six years of age — when they were institutionalized at an early age and turned over to the other children.

Here’s what has happened. We’ve broken the vital chain. No longer is the wisdom of one generation passed on to the next.

If you want to have influence with a boy, you have to spend time with him. The more time, the more influence. The less time, the less influence.

I believe this with all my heart: The only way we will save America, the only way we will turn around America, is once again to make the home the center of living, of work and of education. Only then will our values and our wisdom be transmitted to the next generation.

Today in America, we have nearly 25 million homes where the husband and wife live and work at home. And the number is growing daily. Fortune had a cover, “The End of a Job.” The story said jobs are being destroyed in America. You know what’s being put in their place? Other jobs? No. Jobs are being destroyed. What we are seeing is the growth of self-employment and a new entrepreneurial class.

What we need in America is not more jobs — we need more entrepreneurs. Because entrepreneurs will create all of the jobs we’ll ever need. We must build entrepreneurship. We need dreamers and risk takers.

So we must take the burden off those who would be entrepreneurs. Only then will the great American dream blossom.

I believe you and I should serve as examples of people who want to build the American dream, to give every person, no matter what his race or creed, no matter what his background, the chance to own his own home, own his own land, own his own business, be his own boss if he desires to be. Where every boy and girl can have that chance.

To do that, we must restrain the power of politicians by limiting the size and power of government. We ought to start with taxes, because they’ve reached confiscatory levels. At the national level, the income tax has become a terrible burden. The bureaucracy which administers it is a threat to our liberties. In my opinion, we should reduce or repeal the federal income tax and replace it with something fairer, simpler and less costly.

I think of you who are receiving these words. You are mothers and fathers who love this land with all your hearts, who want this nation to be great once again. You are veterans who risked their lives so our children could breath free. You are businessmen and businesswomen, political leaders, pastors, activists, writers and scholars who work every day to make this country what it ought to be.

Thank you for caring so much. Thank you for making November the 8th and the “Contract with America” possible.

Now let’s complete the job!

We’ve only just begun. The tide is turning. The challenge lies before us. This is our chance to make a difference, to seal our nation’s destiny for greatness.

This address was delivered to the Council for National Policy in Rancho Mirage, California in February, 1995.

 

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