Contract With America: The Betrayal Begins

By Steve Farrell

Democrats In Drag, Part 6

On the steps of the U.S. Capitol on September 27, 1994, more than 300 candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives stood under an unusually warm, sun-filled sky and made history. All of them were there joining hands and rubbing shoulders with one goal in mind: to help launch a new revolution — the Republican revolution.

This catapult into a new order of things for the U.S. Congress began with the reading and then the signing of a Contract With America, a contract which committed its 357 signatories to a bold 10-point program promising a “return to the wisdom and brilliance of the Founding Fathers.” And speaking of returns, included in that context was a promise to return to limited government, individual liberty, free markets, personal responsibility, and the protection of American sovereignty. (1)

What a refreshing vow! And it seemed just in time. For two years American citizens had suffered under the shock wave of a radical new approach to politics under the Clinton administration. Who could ever forget? President Clinton had, in short order, authorized the installment of gays in the military; stood behind a surgeon general who sought to legalize illicit drugs and teach sex education to 5-year-olds; ordered and then publicly justified the police-state-like tactic of warrantless gun sweeps, and, later, immigration sweeps of public housing units; filled traditionally non-gun-toting federal agencies like the FDA with armed agents who began conducting raids on such enemies of the state as garlic researchers; condoned the tank-led assault on a church filled with men, women and children in Waco, Texas; zealously promoted socialist medicine even while the celebration over the fall of communism was still echoing in our ears; and aggressively launched America’s soldiers into several New World Order commitments, transforming the U.S. military into a busybody welfare agency that was for the first time in history subservient to U.N. command.

And then there were the scandals …

Who shouldn’t have been alarmed? Conservative action groups flourished, Democratic faithful ran for cover; and the Republican Party leadership seized the moment.

The Contract With America was the result. The overall goals already alluded to sounded good. They were “to limit and hold government accountable, to promote economic opportunity and individual responsibility to families and businesses, and to maintain security both at home and abroad.”

Who could argue with that? These goals sounded vaguely conservative, and vagueness sells.

Just as vague were the Contract’s 10 planks or bills, which the signers promised to introduce and vote on within the first 100 days, each bill having a catchy conservative title. They were: The Fiscal Responsibility Act, The Taking Back Our Streets Act, The Personal Responsibility Act, The Family Reinforcement Act, The American Dream Restoration Act, The National Security Restoration Act, The Senior Citizens Fairness Act, The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act, The Common Sense Legal Reforms Act, and The Citizen Legislature Act. (2)

With all those commitments to Restoration, American Dreams and Security, one would think the millennium had arrived, and finally everything would be as it used to be and as it should be. But when vagueness gave way to specifics and fine-print legislation followed it became clear enough that this was not to be so. At almost every turn – despite a few noteworthy concessions to conservatives – the proposed and/or passed legislation centralized power from the individual to the states, from the states to the federal government, from Congress to the president, and from the United States to the United Nations.

The antithesis of what the founders stood for.

More devastatingly, consistent with the Third Way call to radically overhaul or overthrow the U.S. Constitution, the Contract led the way in giving birth to 18 Gingrich-proposed constitutional amendments in the first six months of the Republican Revolution. (3) Considering the fact that there were only 16 amendments added to the Constitution following the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, one can confidently say that the Republican Revolution was, just that, a revolution, or a radical assault, indeed, by way of its goal to sweep away so much, so quickly, a revocation of the political wisdom of our forefathers.

Consider some of the Contract’s more subtle betrayals:

The Personal Responsibility Act

The Personal Responsibility Act promised to “reduce government dependency, attack illegitimacy, require welfare recipients to work, and cut welfare spending. The legislation’s main thrust was to give states greater control over the benefits programs, work programs, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) payments and requirements.” (4)

Remembering that the Third Way, and later Compassionate Conservatism, employs double talk to sway both left and right to the “safe” center, observe:

1. The Personal Responsibility Act denied increased welfare benefits to parents on AFDC (Aid to Families With Dependent Children) who have another child. Denying money to “irresponsible” welfare mothers sounds conservative enough, since it saves money and teaches a lesson – but to return to the Founders, one would have had to question the legitimacy of federal welfare and move toward its elimination. This bill did neither. Instead, it added a socially provocative, inherently coercive proviso—limit the size of your family, or we’ll leave you out to dry.

Think about it. A woman already on welfare gets pregnant with another child. The state won’t pay additional money for the new baby—’and why should they,’ you are thinking. And so, under this plan, the doctor won’t deliver the baby. Amen. But wait a minute. The state, however, will pay for an abortion;—its cheaper—and will continue to provide, if the bloodletting goes forward, for those family members who were alive before the baby to be, was born. Thus, the state and the doctor pressure the mother to take the life of a child—and if you or one of yours are ever caught on welfare, perhaps your child, or perhaps your grandchild—will be dead, dead, dead as a doornail dead. The taxpayer, however, being the conservative he is, being the penny pinching Capitalist that he is, rejoices over the decrease in the surplus population and the money saved. And so here’s the catch: Legitimacy for government efficiency is won on the one hand, via a ploy which wins legitimacy for government coercion and government genocide. And who has bought into it? The conservatives, and the libertarian. The same people who supposedly are against big government, against socialism, against state control of the family, and for a return to the wisdom and brilliance of our Founding Fathers. In the name of saving money, they’ve sold their soul to Karl Marx and the Devil.

Moreover, let’s think this through. Extend the principle to a nation edging ever closer to socialized medicine, and the question arises, “How soon till tomorrow’s “balance sheet bloodletting” of welfare babies spreads its carnage to middle-class babies and then upper class babies?

2. The Personal Responsibility Act promised to curb drug and alcohol abuse. Conservative sounding, indeed. Who is not in favor of that. But what’s the solution? A Clinton-like (5) demand for random drug and alcohol testing for welfare recipients identified as abusers. (6) And so again, targeted for an abrogation of their rights are the unpopular poor, who apparently, by way of their accepting welfare, are no longer full-fledged citizens, no longer human beings and children of God endowed with inalienable rights and all the protections thereof. But let’s not stop there. Let’s use common sense and a bit of vision. Extend the precedent broadly to a nation where more and more people work for the government, or are paid by government contracts, or receive government aid (including those who receive free education, subsidized loans, and government grants of every variety) and we are left to ask again, who’s rights will fall next, and how might such tactics be used by unscrupulous politicians, parties, and persons in the future?

3. The Personal Responsibility Act promised to deny various forms of welfare to immigrants, legal and illegal. Conservative sounding? Indeed. But, as the previous law already denied the right, (7) this legislation, therefore, denied a non-existent right and then, audaciously, granted the same “right” in fine-print exceptions, exceptions wide enough for an invading army to stroll through in broad daylight.
Here they are:

  • Refugees – including Castro’s worst criminals and agitators.
  • Temporary (migrant) agricultural workers (which makes Bush’s immigrant benefit plan, but part 2 of the same).
  • Any who apply for selective housing assistance programs.
  • Any who apply for emergency aid programs.
  • Any who apply for non-means tested programs.
  • And the biggy of all biggies: any and all who have “physical, developmental, or mental impairment.” Ever since, thousands upon thousands of immigrants are arriving in America with notes from foreign doctors, declaring them unfit to work and thus eligible for every American handout—including SSI benefits.
  • To top it off, for any illegal and legal immigrants who might have been “left behind” – throw in the Contract With America’s faith-based subsidy program, a program which permits “privately” run welfare agencies to hand out public tax dollars with absolutely no check on immigrants. (8) President Bush worked to open this door even wider.

If all of this sounds like a Third Way, Conservative Futurist, Compassionate Conservative, bread and circus/no national boundaries/dregs recruitment scheme to increase minority power, tear down capitalism, and raise up a communist welfare state, you’re catching on.

4. The Personal Responsibility Act’s boast that Republicans intended to transfer control of welfare to the states and peg the distribution of welfare funds to a market-based approach – that is, to a performance-based model akin to free market competition – was ludicrous.

First and foremost, grants, no matter how loose the strings hang initially – equal control, iron chord, iron-clad control. Period. To claim otherwise is to perpetrate one of the greatest frauds of all time. This was fraud.

Second, rewards and punishments in a free market operate upon private companies according to their ability to provide a product or a service that the people like, in competition with others. A private company, if it is wise, finds a niche and provides superior service or an unbeatable price in order to prosper, but regardless is free to walk its own path. But a federal incentive/disincentive that feeds money into programs that are anti-free enterprise, anti-private property, anti-constitutional means only one thing – the state, which does the best job at being an efficient socialist, wins the crown.

Further, one has to marvel at the idea that “winners” may take 20 percent of their block grants and use them as they please. (9) An interesting proposition. That is, let the states trickle the money into other state programs formerly free from federal dollars, so that they might get addicted, as well. Furthermore, narrowly tailored individual grants might be more easily forsaken if federal abuses arise. Those which come in one great block and impact the state broadly, cannot. What a grand idea to increase the iron grip hold of federal over state power.

5. Finally, The Personal Responsibility Act promised to shrink the size of government by streamlining the number of existing welfare agencies, when in fact all it did was consolidate agencies, not eliminate their regulatory duties and effects. (10) If you will recall, this Al Gore Third Way modeled streamlining program introduced police powers into agencies that previously had none.

6. By way of addition, the welfare roles which initially, did in fact shrink because of a few good ideas, are once again growing, because, by the way, government agencies are good at finding ways to expand, even when their initial charge is to shrink the role of government. Here’s the lesson: If you want to get rid of cancer? Purge it out, cut it out, burn it out, but, don’t ever think you can preach reform to it and it will fade away.

So many “great,” constitutionally “conservative” ideas. What were we thinking?

The Taking Back Our Streets Act

The Taking Back Our Streets Act’s stated intent was to “stop violent criminals.” (11) If this was so, it might have sought to reverse the host of federal court decisions and other federal laws which have hamstrung state and local law enforcement and prosecution efforts for the past 30 years. Not so.

Unremarkably, this Republican-sponsored act chose to enhance federal power and expand federal jurisdiction, the exact opposite of what a return to the Founders’ approach would have done.

The Constitution limits the federal government criminal law powers to a very narrow spectrum: counterfeiting, treason, piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, offenses against the law of nations, crimes committed by foreign nationals, crimes regarding: treason, bankruptcies, patents, copyrights, military members, and citizens of the District of Columbia – as well as appeals from the state courts and extradition disputes between states. (12) Nothing else. Cut and dried.

Madison noted in Federalist 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. … The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments firmed this statement up and made it law. But not to worry – the “Taking Back Our Streets Act” had little regard for such technicalities. Instead, it called for more multibillion-dollar federal block grants to the states for the “prosecution of habeas corpus cases”; to “hire, train, or employ [state or local] police officers; to pay overtime to [state and local] police officers; to purchase [police] equipment and technology; [to] enhance school security measures [including closed circuit cameras]; [to] establish citizen neighborhood watch programs; [to] fund programs that advance moral standards [Whose? Clinton’s?]; to build, operate, and expand [state] prisons”; and to convert “old military bases” into “correctional facilities” for “nonviolent offenders.”

The act also imposed upon the states truth-in-sentencing laws, a ‘three strikes you’re out’ law, habeas corpus laws, death penalty laws, sexual predator laws, minimum sentencing laws, mandatory victim restitution laws, appeals laws, and parole laws.

Plus, the act federalized an expansive list of crimes, to include much stiffer sentencing for mere possession of a gun during the commission of a crime (10 years for first offense) and triple the minimum sentencing if the gun “possessed” was an automatic weapon (minimum 30 years). Strangely, inconsistent with the Founders’ principle of equality before the law, if the criminal intended to do violence with a knife, with a baseball bat (the growing weapon of choice nationally and internationally), with fire, with chemicals, with one’s bare hands or with a car—those are lesser crimes, with lighter sentences! Therefore, possession of a gun, rather than committing the criminal act itself, is the greater evil. And a gun that might be used for something other than hunting (an automatic weapon) is the most evil of all. (13)

Beyond the above, the present compassionate conservative administration has sought to expand all of the above, but above and beyond this, has flooded money and controls into the states in its efforts to fight terror, that is, even while it has frustrated, openly and furtively, common sense efforts to arm every pilot, and tighten up our borders against illegal immigration.

This, then, coming from the “conservative” party, in what appears to be a conservative tough on crime bill and agenda, was and is a blind-side on states rights, local government, local police and the Second Amendment right to self-defense—call it, a veritable masquerade. It swept so much power and so many duties from the local and state governments to the federal that one “American Spectator” writer felt compelled to summarize “The Taking Back Our Streets Act,” as one of the greatest federal power grabs in our nation’s history, a dramatic step toward a federal police state.
He was right.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act

The Fiscal Responsibility Act sought “to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress” via a Balanced Budget Amendment and a Line Item Veto. (14) Again, these goals appear conservative and, at least in the former case, something many of the Founders would have strongly approved of.

However, the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment contained an outrageous provision which gave the president of the United States the new dictatorial power of overriding the balanced budget any time he deemed it necessary under the vague umbrella of “imminent or serious threat to national security.” (15) The potential for abuse is enormous as, in recent years, the economic plight of Mexico, the violence in Somalia, the economic woes in Japan, then later, the economic woes of all of Asia, as well as the conflicts in Africa, Bosnia and Kosovo—these and so many more were all declared by the president to be “national security threats.”

Even domestic disaster relief and major industry strikes have been, at times, so classified. Had this amendment passed, this would have been one of the greatest assumptions of power in the history of the presidency, passed in the name of “reform” and “conservatism.”

The Fiscal Responsibility Act just as radically proposed a Line Item Veto power for the president (16) that was later declared unconstitutional. (17) Again, here was another measure that flat-out rejected the Founders’ wisdom and brilliance, which limited executive power, and instead placed within the hands of the president of the United States the new power to legislate law (he’s only the executive, remember) and, with greater ease, to manipulate Congress. The Supreme Court rightly ruled against this Republican bill (which should have been an amendment, but rather side-stepped the Constitution in its passage) as a dangerous fundamental shift in power from Congress to the president. (18) Conservative? Think again.

The National Security Restoration Act

The National Security Restoration Act demanded that the president “stop putting U.S. troops under U.N. command [and] stop raiding the defense budget to finance social programs and U.N. peacekeeping.” (19) A very conservative, pro-American, pro-sovereignty goal. Remarkably, once again the fine print did the precise opposite.

Under the title “Prohibition of Foreign Command of U.S. Armed Forces,” the Act reads: “The President may waive this provision if he certifies to Congress that operational control of our troops under foreign command is vital to our national security interests.” (20) That is what President Clinton asked for, to the letter – thus creating a radical new presidential authority (again circumventing the Constitution without amendment) to put U.S. troops under foreign command.

Likewise, even as the act pretends to be a check on the U.N. and its funding, it asks for the “acceleration of the expansion of NATO,” (21) a key subsidiary organization of the U.N. It denounces endless expensive U.N. peacekeeping operations, yet calls for military, financial and technological assistance to the “former” communist bloc so that they can more easily meet NATO’s entry requirements for absorption. (22) Worst of all, it creates a slush fund for the president to “hold advanced funding for … [U.N.] peacekeeping operations.” (23) The latter, had it passed into law, would be perhaps the most radical step this nation has ever taken to undermine our sovereignty, as a long-solicited (and rejected) U.N. rapid response force would be created, a force whose goal is to deploy anywhere and everywhere in the world, without the consent of the U.S. Congress. (24)

After denouncing the raiding of defense funds for welfare and peacekeeping operations, the bill gives the president the authority to do just that, just so long as the defense department has not supplied written notice and proof that the funds are “vital to national security interests” “30 days” prior to the transfer. (25) Open season begins.

Even the act’s salutary proposal for a missile shield defense, to this day, includes plans for sharing of that technology with all of our “allies” – including Russia and perhaps China, both of whom, by some imaginative definition of the word “rogue,” are somehow not “rogue nations.” (26)

The National Security Restoration Act, like everything else Third Way, represents another unconstitutional upward shift in power, this time from Congress to the president, and from the United States to the United Nations, even as it masquerades as a pro-sovereignty anti-U.N. measure.


The foregoing has been a brief introduction to Third Way betrayals found within the Contract With America, a right-of-center approach which appealed to the right even as it legislated to the left, with but one design in mind, or so it seems, to radically alter or replace the U.S. Constitution. Historians will someday remember the Contract With America for what it truly was and is, a blind-side attack on constitutional conservatism, which might more fittingly be catalogued as a Contract On America. Its claim to a restoration of the Founders’ views was and is to this day, blatantly false. A return to limited government cannot be achieved by seizing power from the people, the states and Congress, and placing it into the hands of one man and his friends at the United Nations. The Republican Party elites who pulled off this gimmick to gain power only reinforced what some, for so long, have felt so strongly: these Republicans are Democrats in Drag.

Read more from “Democrats In Drag: Foreword; Part 1, Technology, Sovereignty, and the Third Wave; Part 2, Clinton and Blair’s Center-Left Democracy ; Part 3, Gingrich, Toffler, and Gore: A Peculiar Trio; Part 4, Groveling in the Gutter of the Gulags; Part 5,  Eradicating the U.S. Constitution by Design; Part 6, Contract With America: The Betrayal Begins; Part 7, Using Jefferson as a Cloak for Revolution; Part 8, Term Limits and the Citizen-Legislature Scam.

Steve Far­rell is one of the orig­i­nal pun­dits at Sil­ver Eddy Award Win­ner, (1999–2008), the author of the highly praised inspi­ra­tional novel “Dark Rose,” and edi­tor in chief of Self-Educated American.


1. Gingrich, Newt; Armey, Dick; Edited by Gillespie, Ed and Schellhas, Bob. “Contract With America,” United States of America, Times Books/Random House, 1994, p. 4.
2. Ibid., pp. 9-11.
3. Hoar, William P. “The ‘Transformational’ GOP,” The New American, July 24, 1995. Including information from researcher Jeffrey Tucker, Ludwig Von Mises Institute.
4. Contract With America, p. 66.
5. It was Bill Clinton who authorized random, warrantless gun sweeps of government housing projects. Speaking in defense of this unconstitutional practice back in 1994, Bill Clinton dismissed the charge that this violates people’s freedom. “The most important freedom we have in this country is the freedom from fear.” Apparently “give me liberty or give me death” is irrelevant. Benjamin Franklin noted: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The Republican-dominated Congress was “outraged” when Clinton began the practice, but par for their course of speaking like constitutionalists even while they betray that Constitution, they did nothing. The institution of their own random-sweep program to bring about “freedom from drugs” evidenced the reason.
6. Ibid., p. 74.
7. See “Personal Responsibility Act of 1995: Fiscal Effect on California.”
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Contract With America, p. 37.
12. U.S. Constitution.
13. Contract With America, pp. 38-53. See also William F. Jasper’s excellent article, < href=>”Gingrich’s Constitution Con,” The New American, July 9, 1995. And check out In Brief Analysis No. 153: “Me Too Crime Reform.” The National Center for Policy Analysis notes: “The ‘Taking Back Our Streets Act’ – the crime-fighting plan in the Contract With America – was cobbled together from old Republican proposals intended to marginally improve bad legislation in the old Democratic Congress. It tinkers with the problem and piles conservative activism on top of the existing mess.” One example: “Title II federalizes every crime of violence or drug trafficking in which the perpetrator possesses or discharges a firearm. This is a breathtaking and foolish federal power grab.” [emphasis added].
14. Contract With America, p. 9.
15. Ibid., p. 32.
16. Ibid., pp. 32-33.
17. In Clinton v. City of New York the Supreme Court ruled that the Line Item Veto violated Articles 1 and 7 of the U.S. Constitution.
18. Ibid. In a concurring opinion, Justice Meyer noted that separation of powers was designed to implement a fundamental insight: Concentration of power in the hands of a single branch is a threat to liberty. The Federalist states the axiom in these explicit terms: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” (The Federalist, No. 47) So convinced were the Framers that liberty of the person inheres in structure that at first they did not consider a Bill of Rights necessary. (The Federalist, No. 84, pp. 513, 515; G. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787, pp. 536-543, 1969). It was at Madison’s insistence that the First Congress enacted the Bill of Rights. (R. Goldwin, “From Parchment to Power,” pp. 75-153, 1997). It would be a grave mistake, however, to think a Bill of Rights in Madison’s scheme then or in sound constitutional theory now renders separation of powers of lesser importance. (See Amar, “The Bill of Rights as a Constitution,” 100 Yale L. J., pp. 1131-1132, 1991).” Meyerthen scolds Republican lawmakers: “Failure of political will does not justify unconstitutional remedies.” They have no right, he continues, “[to] reallocate their own authority” to the President. … The Constitution’s structure requires a stability which transcends the convenience of the moment. … Liberty is always at stake when one or more of the branches seek to transgress the separation of powers.”
19. Contract With America, p. 91.
20. Ibid., p. 101.
21. Ibid., pp. 92, 107-109.
22. Ibid., pp. 107-109.
23. Ibid., p. 99. This Contract provision was another proposal by Mr. Clinton that had been rejected by the previous Congress.
24. Kissinger, Henry. “U.S. Foreign Policy: Expanded Edition,” New York, W. W. Norton & Company Inc. 1974, p. 249. Here Mr. Kissinger restated what was a U.N. goal from the beginning – bringing an end to the “ad hoc,” “impasse” nature of deployments which Result from the resistance of sovereign nations. “The time has come to agree on peacekeeping guidelines so that the United Nations can act swiftly, confidently, and effectively in future crises.” The key was and is to create an independent U.N. army and enhanced powers to the Security Council to act on their own.
25. Contract With America, p. 106.
26. Ibid., pp. 91, 107-109.