WASHINGTON (TheStreet) -- With unemployment still hovering around 9%, job creation stagnating, the national debt climbing and budget spending in question, the Republicans sure could use someone with experience dealing with such things to spearhead the 2012 campaign.Too bad they just laughed him out the door.
|As speaker of the House during the Clinton administration, Newt Gingrich had successes that seem to elude the current crop of elected Republican politicians.|
This was back when vetoes weren't the end of the world, but a negotiating tactic. President Bill Clinton nixed two previous reform efforts, but in 1996 Gingrich worked with Clinton face-to-face on the third version that replaced the open-ended Aid To Families With Dependent Children program with the more conditional Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, enforced recipient work requirements, tightened food stamp eligibility standards, reduced immigrant programs, limited federal responsibility and increased states' control of welfare programs. Even after the "Republican Revolution" that took the House in 1994, pushing this kind of program through and getting a Democratic administration to sign off on it is no less impressive. 2. A balanced budget
While the newly elected members of the House look down every time someone says "government shutdown" to see if any of their party's tea has leaked into their laps, Gingrich remembers shutting down the whole works with gusto in 1995 and 1996 when the Republicans' plan to cut spending conflicted with Clinton's plans to fund Medicare, education, public health programs and environmental initiatives. When the budget question came up again in 1997, Clinton and Gingrich's Congress actually got together, talked it out and agreed on $150 billion in Republican-sponsored tax cuts over five years and a restructuring of Medicare to save another $115 billion -- while still funding welfare-to-work programs and health care for poor children. It would be the first of four consecutive balanced budgets and it would help the nation add nearly 8.4 million jobs by 1999, drop the unemployment rate from 5.6% to 4.2% and slow the growth of year-over-year government spending to 2.9%. It also led to an acknowledgement by Gingrich that a country divided enough to re-elect Gingrich and company into office and re-elect Clinton in the same year made it possible. "It was their political will that brought the two parties together," he said at the time. Imagine that. 3. Cutting the capital gains tax
What, you thought tax cuts for big spenders were something new? The difference from Ryan's proposals is that Gingrich was actually able to make it happen: Ratcheting up the tax exemptions on the sale of a personal residence and requiring the seller to live there for only two of the past five years. For folks who inherited vast tracts of land and wanted to unload them, this was a godsend. It was also a compromise that neither Clinton nor Gingrich's Republican pals liked, which meant it was likely the best solution on the table. 4. Addressing political accountability
It's funny how there was so much talk about the "fat cats in Washington" leading up to the 2010 midterms, but not so much about slimming down those cats afterward. Gingrich's crew romped in the elections in 1994 and had the Congressional Accountability Act -- a pillar of the Contract With America -- signed into law by January 1995. If you think Congress is detached now, you should have seen it when neither the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nor the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 applied to them. This didn't mean the Gingrich House was always great at self-policing; it tore up a piece of the Contract by striking down 12-year term limits for House members, but it took its position on government accountability far more seriously than its contemporaries.