Wednesday, October 19, 2011

After Another Debate

Several presidential debates have gone by without my commenting on them. So here’s what’s been happening: questions are asked of candidates who agree almost entirely that Obamacare must be repealed, economic policies must return to free market, government needs to be smaller, spending and the deficit need real cuts, and faith and integrity are essential. There is no point in debating those ideas; we can save that for debates with the sitting president who disagrees on every point.  

So the debates tend to concentrate on separating these very good alternatives to the status quo from one another. Where there are differences in specifics, I find that I always understand better when the candidate has a forum where he/she can express the thought process more fully. The sound bites that come in short debate answers offer this differentiation very poorly. People who agree that we need to protect our sovereign border shouldn’t be accused of being against that idea because of a specific that requires further explanation. People who all agree that nationalizing health care is an abomination (“Obamanation”) should not be accused by their colleagues, again and again, of lying about their views. Having a colleague turn to you and say, “No, that’s not what you believe; you believe this and this” is not only a ridiculous waste of time, it’s offensive.  

In just about every debate, Newt Gingrich has reminded us that we don’t really disagree with each other; we disagree with the current administration and its direction. If he’s in the race for no other reason, I appreciate that. 

Nevertheless, there were a few gems from last night’s debate that I’d like to share. Some for entertainment; some for enlightenment. 

This first is an exchange between Mitt Romney and Herman Cain. Some day maybe I’ll take a closer look at Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. I have many reservations, but I also like the idea of simplifying and flattening the tax system. (Michelle Bachman pointed out that that concept was something all agreed on.) So the exchange here is only entertaining. Cain is talking about only changing the federal tax system, doing nothing to individual state plans. And Romney is pointing out that the complaint is the discomfort people have adding 9% sales tax on top of something like an 8% state and/or local sales tax. They don’t really disagree. But the apples and oranges thing is funny.  

Romney (to Cain): Are you saying that the state sales tax will also go away?
Cain: No. That’s an apple. We’re replacing a bunch of oranges.
Romney: So, then, Governor Perry was right.
Cain: No, he wasn’t. He was mixing apples and oranges.
Romney: Well, but, will the people in Nevada not have to pay Nevada sales tax, and in addition pay the 9% sales tax?
Cain: Governor Romney, you’re doing the same thing that they’re doing; you’re mixing apples and oranges. You’re gonna pay the state sales tax no matter what.
Romney: Right.
Cain: Whether you throw out the existing code and you put in our plan, you’re still gonna pay that. That’s apples and oranges.
Romney: Fine. And I’m gonna be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it, ‘cause I’m gonna pay both taxes. And the people of Nevada don’t want to pay both taxes. 

If there ever were a national sales tax on top of state and local sales tax, I think the item should be marked to show the retail cost, plust the cost with each of the taxes, so there's an awareness of the taxes being paid, and no sudden shock at checkout.

Newt Gingrich followed up with a concern I have about Cain’s plan. He credits Cain with opening up the conversation on a major reworking of the tax system. But he says there are a lot of details that need to be handled; it’s not as simple as Cain describes. And something that complex takes time. 

Gingrich: I favor very narrow, focused tax cuts such as zero capital gains, 100% expensing, because, I think, as Governor Romney said, jobs are the number one challenge over the next two or three years. Get something you can do very fast. Change on this scale takes years to think through, if you’re gonna do it right. 

Rick Perry made a good case for using our own resources for energy independence, and since he’s from Texas, where energy is a major industry, I believe he could do it. 

Perry: We’ve got 300 years of resources right under our feet. Yet we’ve got an administration blockading our ability to bring that to the surface, whether it’s our petroleum or our natural gas or our coal. And 1.2 million jobs could be put to work, Americans who are sitting out there listening to this conversation tonight, somebody wants someone on this stage to say, “Listen, we’ve got an idea here how to get you to work and take care of your family and have the dignity of a job.” And that’s exactly what I did with my plan—laid it out where Americans understand, we don’t have to wait on OPEC anymore. We don’t have to let them hold us hostage. America’s got the energy. Let’s have American energy independence. 

Romney didn’t disagree, but extended energy policy to the larger economy, in a way that, if you don’t see them as rivals, but as allies on the same side, would be very positive. 

Romney: He’s absolutely right about getting energy independence and taking advantage of our natural resources here. We’re an energy rich nation that’s acting like an energy poor nation…. But there are also a lot of good jobs we need in manufacturing and high tech jobs, and good service jobs, and technology of all kinds. America produces an economy that’s very very broad, and that’s why our policy to get America the most attractive place in the world for investment and job growth encompasses more than just energy. It includes that, but also tax policy, regulatory policy, trade policy, education, training, and balancing the federal budget. And that starts with repealing Obamacare, which is a huge burden on this economy. 

Ron Paul is generally good on economic issues—and just about as out of the mainstream on foreign policy. But I liked his discussion about getting medicine back to free market choices. 

Paul: There’s been a lot of discussion about medicine, but it seems to be which kind of government management is best. But our problem is we have too much. We’ve had it for 30, 40 years. We have Medicare. We have prescription drug programs. We have Medicaid. And what we need, I mean, there’s pretty good support up here for getting rid of Obamacare because it’s a Democratic proposal, and we want to opt out. I think we’d all agree on this. But if you want better competition and better health care, you should allow the American people to opt out of government medicine…. Let people opt out, pay their bills, get back to the doctor-patient relationship…. When the government gets involved in an industry, prices always go up. We have tort laws to deal with. And we need more competition in medicine. But the most important thing is letting the people have control of their money and get it out of the hands of the third party. 

The issue of attracting Latino voters came up. I liked Gingrich’s comments, and I think this is yet another idea all of the candidates agree on. 

Gingrich: There are hundreds of different groups that come to America. As Governor Romney said, I think anybody who understands America has to be proud of our record as the country which has been the most open in history to legal immigration. But the truth is most Latinos in the United States aren’t immigrants. Most Latinos in the United States now have been born in the United States. And the fact is they want virtually exactly what everyone else wants. They want an economy that’s growing…. And they want to have a chance that their country is going to work to give their children and their grandchildren a better future. I think we have to have the same message for every American of every ethnic background—that we want to make America work again. And you’ll know it’s working because you will have a job, and you’ll have a chance to take care of your family. 

I want to like Rick Santorum. I think he’s at a disadvantage in this strong field, but he often speaks well on the values that contribute to civilization. He tends to try to make it a contrast between himself and the others, and I think that’s a mistake, because there is so little actual disagreement; it makes him look petty. But when he actually speaks on family and faith, he says it well. This comment was following up about attracting the Latino community, which he pointed out is very interested in strong families. 

Santorum: The basic building block of society is not the individual; it’s the family. That’s the basic unit of society. And the Latino community understands. They understand the importance of faith and marriage. They understand that bond that builds that solid foundation, and that inculcation of faith and religious freedom. And I think the Latino community knows what’s at stake in this country. There’s a lot going on right now that’s eroding our religious freedom, that’s eroding the traditional values of marriage and family. And there’s one candidate up here that consistently sounds that theme. Look, I’m for jobs too. I’ve got an economic plan; I agree with everything that’s been said. But we keep running roughshod over the fact that family in America, and faith in America, is being crushed by the courts and by our government, and someone has to stand up and fight for those institutions. 

Have the debates convinced me yet who to vote for? No. I’m not fully decided. But I’m getting closer, I think. I’ve written off Paul and Huntsman (didn’t miss him last night). And I don’t think there’s much hope for Santorum or Bachman this time around, or Gingrich ever again (although I’m still glad he’s there saying what he’s saying). I think I could live with any of the top three as a candidate. But doing the research away from the debates is a better way to find out who they really are and who is worth getting behind.

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