It's not exactly a manifesto...it's not a constitution...people aren't completely sure what it is. The Contract from America, envisioned by young conservative Ryan Hecker and organized and promoted heavily by FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Patriots, and various other conservative groups, will provide a statement of principles to be loosely adhered to by the Tea Party movement that will be unveiled April 15, when the tea partiers come back out for another round of nationwide Tax Day protests.
It's a crowd-sourced document--people can go online and vote for their favorite principles. The list of principles is being whittled down from the 21 listed below.
Don't expect this document to necessarily be adopted by the tea party movement as a whole: the groups promoting this document represent a broad and influential faction within the tea party movement--but it is a faction. FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, and their allied groups don't typically get along with other groups like Tea Party Nation and Tea Party express. Other groups like SmartGirl Politics straddle the lines of affiliation.
For what it's worth, Newt Gingrich, who engineered the original Contract with America, likes the idea of the Contract from America and said as much on-stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in DC, where some tea partiers were in attendance.
Here are the principles tea partiers (and anyone, really) can vote on, the top 10 of which will make up the first semblance of a tea party declaration:
DEMAND A BALANCED BUDGET
Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike. (Proposed by: Erik Carter, San Diego, CA)
STOP THE TAX HIKES
Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.
COMMIT TO REAL GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY
Every bill, in its final form, will be made public seven days before any vote can be taken and all government expenditures authorized by any bill will be easily accessible on the Internet before the money is spent. (Proposed by: Steve Kulik, Gonzales, Texas; and Steve Hollis, San Francisco, CA)
PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION
Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does. (Proposed by: Brooke Storrs, Midland, MI)
PASS MARKET-BASED HEALTHCARE & HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM
Make health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn't restricted by state boundaries.
ENACT FUNDAMENTAL TAX REFORM
Adopt a fair and simple single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words--the length of the original Constitution.
END RUNAWAY GOVERNMENT SPENDING
Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth (Proposed by: Mark Meckler, Sacramento, CA).
LET US SAVE
Allow young Americans the choice of opting out of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, creating both real financial security in retirement through the freedom to own your personal retirement savings, and reducing the long-term unfunded liabilities of the federal government
PROTECT INTERNET FREEDOM
No regulation or tax on the Internet. (Proposed by: Andrew Ian Dodge, Harpswell, ME)
GIVE PARENTS MORE CHOICES IN THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN
Improve American education by reforming the broken federal role through eliminating ineffective and wasteful programs, giving parents more choices from pre-school to high school, and improving the affordability of higher education.
PASS AN "ALL OF THE ABOVE" ENERGY POLICY
Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition.
PROTECT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
Prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in any form, including requiring "localism" or "diversity" quotas. (Proposed by: Lori Roman, Annapolis, MD)
RESTORE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & CONSTITUTIONALLY LIMITED GOVT
Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states. (Proposed by: Benjamin Tessler, Washington, DC; and Douglas Mainwaring, Potomac, MD)
PROTECT PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS
Block state and local governments that receive federal grants from exercising eminent domain over private property for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues. (Proposed by: R.M. House, Woodstock, GA)
REJECT CAP & TRADE
Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation's global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures. (Proposed by: Jan Heinricks, Spring, T
STOP THE PORK
Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the process is fully transparent, including requiring a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
AUDIT THE FED
Begin an audit of the Federal Reserve System. (Proposed by: Judy Pierorazio, Parkville, MD)
NO MORE BAILOUTS
The federal government should not bail out private companies and should immediately begin divesting itself of its stake in the private companies it owns from recent bailouts. (Proposed by: Mike Ware, Mountain View, CA)
STOP CAREER POLITICIANS & CURB LOBBYIST POWER
Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require Congressional term limits. (Proposed by: Marylou Petriccione, Raleigh, NC)
SUNSET REGULATIONS & ENACT FUNDAMENTAL REGULATORY REFORM
Sunset all regulations in order to eliminate those that are wasteful, unconstitutional, and ineffective, and place strict limits on the ability of agencies to create regulations. (Proposed by: Jim Armstrong, Morgantown, WV)
LET US WATCH
Broadcast all non-security meetings and votes on C-SPAN and the Internet. (Proposed by: Matthew Lewis, Alexandria, VA)