By Justin Sink
Newt Gingrich's new "21st Century Contract With America" would allow people to opt of of Social Security and Medicare and opt-in to a flat tax.
Gingrich, who is to unveil his proposals Thursday in Iowa, would allow people to keep the health insurance, income taxes and retirement plans the way they are now structured, or opt into programs more aligned with conservative principles.
Under Gingrich's proposal, taxpayers could either continue to pay income taxes under the current system, or opt into an optional flat tax rate. He approaches other challenges similarly — seniors could continue to get coverage under the current Medicare program, or opt to purchase their own health insurance from a private company, with the government reimbursing them for some of the premiums. Younger Americans could choose to continue paying into Social Security, or instead create a private investment account.
Gingrich said he hopes the contract will ignite his campaign, much as the original document in 1994 propelled House Republicans to their first majority in more than 40 years. He has set high expectations for the plan, saying his ideas will be “very big, and they’re exactly what Abraham Lincoln would have campaigned on.”
A Fox News poll released Wednesday shows Gingrich within striking distance, garnering 11 percent of Republican voters. His high showing is a promising sign for a campaign that was initially besieged by mismanagement and the mass resignation of much of his top staff.
In some cases, Gingrich delegates federal programs to the states. For instance, he endorses Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) plan to reform Medicaid as a block grant program that states would be able to implement however they wanted. That Gingrich endorsed the plan is particularly notable, considering he dismissed Ryan's budget as "right-wing social engineering" in May of this year.
But Gingrich underscored that this document was meant to be discussed, revised and negotiated throughout the coming year.
"Developing and then implementing the 21st Century Contract With America will be a team effort of millions of Americans," Gingrich wrote to supporters. "I'm asking Americans to be with me, not just for me, because it will take all of us, working together, to change Washington and save our country."
Other pillars of the plan include repealing the healthcare reform law championed by President Obama, repealing environmental regulations and reforming the Federal Reserve. Gingrich also suggests requiring those receiving unemployment benefits to undergo job training programs and a balanced-budget amendment.
“A pledge is something you’re going to try to do. With a contract, you’re obligated. This is what you commit to. The American people, when they elected Barack Obama, they thought they were getting all these things and in turn they didn’t," said campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond to the Des Moines Register, which obtained a full copy of the document.
Some areas are better defined than others — while Gingrich lists a series of executive orders he would sign immediately upon assuming the presidency, he solicits supporters for suggestions about how to "restore the proper role of the judicial branch."
The Contract With America could play well with conservative voters, who are re-evaluating the candidates after a shaky debate performance last Thursday by presumptive front-runner Rick Perry. In addition to being Gingrich’s greatest political achievement, the Tea Party co-opted the name to write a Contract From America in 2010 for congressional candidates to sign on to.