The Contract Benefits America

by Laura Zachman | 6/29/95 5:00am

I knew little about the Contract With America before I began my internship with my congressman in Washington, D.C. last term. I associated those three words with cutting student aid, overhauling social programs and dismantling Democratic legislation regardless of content.

Most editorials and "objective" news items pronounced disaster in the wake of the Republican revolution. But as I witnessed the passage of the Contract and the progress of the Kasich budget proposal, a plan to rapidly balance the budget, fact replaced myth. The Contract passed by the House of Representatives did not resemble the one denounced in the media and in conversation. The new Republican majority had indeed engineered a "Contract" that planned a radical shift of power.

However, power would not be shifted from Democrats to Republicans or from poor to rich, but from federal to state government. What was at stake was not the status of our social programs, but the status of our federal system.

The passage of the Contract sent Democrats into dizzying sermons on the eventual suffering of the middle class. Certainly, programs from Stafford loans to Medicare will be scaled back, but the core of the Contract and the budget process is not elimination of programs. For example, the media insisted that the "evil" Republicans were stealing school lunches from children.

In truth, the increase in the plan was to be decreased. In other words, the money will continue to increase. This is not true of all programs. Some are in fact being eliminated, but these programs are few and far between. The point of this illustration is that the media grossly exaggerated the reality of the proposal to improve the school lunch program.

The core of the 10 provisions of the Contract With America is the elimination of government waste, namely, the bloated federal bureaucracy. By returning decision-making power to the states, our government will run efficiently.

Who better to spend tax dollars -- paid federal bureaucrats or state government? The notion that Washington knows what is best for Kansas better than Kansas knows what is best for Kansas is ridiculous. The government will adopt practices that are standard in the business world. Most importantly, the Contract plans a system that will be more directly responsive to the people, not the political careers of its elected representatives.

After the Contract was passed, the Republicans moved to the second phase of their plan -- balancing the federal budget. Although it might be true that our country continues to function with yearly deficits, our practice of spending more than we make cannot continue indefinitely. Medicare will be bankrupt in 13 years and Social Security not long after.

In fact more teenagers think that they will see a UFO than believe they will ever see a Social Security check. Additionally, the cost of paying the interest on the debt is a drain on our tax revenue. What an individual spends to pay the interest on the debt in his life is a third of what his child will spend. The Republicans are forcing our government to do what ever family in America does -- live within its means.

As Washington redefines its role and balances its checkbook, the worst thing we can do as students and as citizens is to see only what we have to lose in the process. While programs lose typically five percent of their federal aid, we gain a future that will not see the bankruptcy of the Medicare and Social Security system, not to mention the economy as a whole.

When I left Dartmouth, I could only think about the threat to my Stafford loan and the loss of funding to academics and artists alike. As I sat in meetings with the press secretary and read the mass of paper that flowed through the office, I learned the truth of the state of the social programs that I had believed were soundly planned.

At the end of my time working in 208 Cannon House Office Building, I asked myself the same question that my congressman had to ask himself as he voted on Contract legislation and the budget proposal, "Do I want my five percent now or do I want a secure future for myself and for my children?" Suddenly, a potential decrease in my Stafford loan didn't seem so catastrophic. And yet, I still open the paper or turn on the television, am confronted by the same headlines and doomsayers, and wonder if the myths will ever be dispelled.

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