I’ve had several of my Republican friends make that remark to me recently. The economy is showing signs of improvement, but overall, unemployment is high, there have been concerns over foreign policy, especially in regards to Iran, and the deficit is soaring. Seems like a recipe for a spirited debate over the future of our country and who the next president should be. If the Republicans would nominate a thoughtful, practical and politically articulate candidate to run against the incumbent, we might have a serious discussion on where we are headed, and what the best policies are.
Instead, we got a plethora of Republican candidates that were more fodder for late night TV joke writers than distillers of serious political discourse. There was a candidate who was involved in trying to “cure” homosexuals and another who didn’t know enough about foreign policy to answer a question about his opinion on our actions in Libya. And now we are left with three candidates still in the race, although New Gingrich is hanging on by a thread and seems to have curtailed most of his campaigning, even though he claims to be in it to the end.
Gingrich is the candidate who most often claims to be carrying the mantle of Ronald Reagan, although if you look at the actions Reagan took while in office, which included raising taxes at one point and closing loopholes to make the tax system fairer, you see a lot of things that Gingrich has sworn to oppose. In fact, the great conservative icon that he was, Reagan wouldn’t have a chance in the climate of today’s Republican Party; he would be considered far too liberal.
Then we have Rick Santorum, the man who was such a good senator that he lost his reelection bid in 2006 by the largest margin of any incumbent in the past 35 years. He is the candidate who is opposed to contraception and has stated that the founding fathers didn’t intend the “separation of church and state” that we adhere to in this day and age. He would bring religion into public life as much as possible. He has stated that he doesn’t approve of the libertarian branch of the Republican Party because they think that people ought to be able to do whatever they want to do, and they think government should stay out of the bedroom. He disagrees with that, and he even compared same-sex marriage to bestiality.
And then we have the man who is the prohibitive favorite to get the nomination, Mitt Romney. This is a man who actually pushed through an innovative and comprehensive health care law when he was governor of Massachusetts, which by most accounts is working fairly well in that state. He also was a pragmatic believer that there may be something to all the scientific evidence that shows the effects of global warming, and that we ought to take at least some small steps toward dealing with that. But as a candidate for president, he has disavowed those positions and taken totally opposite views.
He may have done that for good reason in order to get the nomination he had to cater to the right wing base of the party. But is that what we want, someone who changes positions on major issues in order to get votes as opposed to standing up for what he believes in?
And the tax proposals of both Romney and Santorum are totally unworkable. I realize that they are saying what they think needs to be said to get the nomination, but both of them profess to be vehemently opposed to the large deficits we are running, yet they both propose plans that every noted economist has stated will cause the deficit to blow up due to all the massive tax cuts they are promising to enact. There’s just no way to cut government spending anywhere near enough to make up for the staggering loss of revenue that would come from these tax cuts.
They refute that by saying all the tax cutting would spur the economy, thereby raising tax revenues in the long run and benefiting everyone. Trickle down economics, anyone? It didn’t work in the ‘80s, and it’s not going to work now.
Santorum would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 17.5 percent, and to zero for manufacturers. He would triple the exemption for dependent children, cut the top tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends to 12 percent, and repeal the alternative minimum tax. The plan would also repeal the federal estate tax. I’m all for lower taxes, but how would he cut government enough to pay for all this loss of revenue? He can’t, and if he has any intelligence at all, he knows it. He just pretends to be ignorant about it.
Romney’s tax plan is not much more coherent although it does raise some taxes. Not on anybody that matters, of course, only on the lowest income people. According to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group that studies tax policy, households making under $20,000 would see their taxes increase by more than 60 percent. Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 would get small tax cuts, averaging 2.2 percent, or about $250. People making more than $1 million would get tax cuts averaging 15 percent, or about $146,000. What would you expect from a one-percenter?
Overall, it’s estimated that Romney’s plan would reduce tax revenues by $180 billion in 2015, while Santorum’s plan would lower federal taxes by about $1.3 trillion, approximately a 40 percent cut in revenue, or $900 billion. They don’t say what they would cut to make up for this, yet they say they will reduce the deficit. Any logical person would say these aren’t serious plans.
Are these candidates the best we can come up with? In these times, we need serious candidates who are willing to talk about serious ideas. Come on Republicans, we can do better than this.