GOP Candidates Disappoint On Economy

I watched the MSNBC replay last night of the GOP presidential debate on economic issues, which was held in Dearborn, Michigan.  For me, it was the most disappointing of all the debates.

Significantly, with the notable exception of Rudy Giuliani (and to a lesser extent Tom Tancredo), all of the candidates agreed with the liberal media's false portrait of the American economy as being riddled with unemployment, stagnation, poverty, and the slow extinguishing of the American Dream.  What nonsense!  The American economy is the largest and strongest in the world.  Our GDP is larger than the GDPs of Japan, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada combined.  Unemployment is low.  Interest rates are even lower.  Home ownership, despite the so-called subprime mortgage crisis, is at historically high levels.  Americans in all income brackets enjoy a standard of living equal to or better than their peers in Europe and Asia, with larger homes, more cars, more air conditioning, more food, and more entertainment.  Moreover, substantial economic mobility remains one of defining characteristics of this country.  That's why strivers from all over the world want to move here if they can.

Does this mean that the law of scarcity -- i.e., that there are more needs and wants than can ever be satisfied at current levels of production -- has been repealed?  No.  Does this mean that all Americans are "rich"?  No, although depending on one's point of reference, most Americans are richer than any other human beings in history.  Does this mean that millions of Americans are not facing tough economic times?  Of course not.  But it does mean that we live in an incredibly wealthy society, that we should appreciate and be grateful for the enormous bounty that we have created in this country (through our commitments to private property and free enterprise) -- and that we should be confident, not pessimistic, that the future will bring even greater material rewards for more and more Americans.

Yet listening to the Republican debate last night, this is not the impression one came away with.  Instead, most of the candidates, especially Mike Huckabee, sounded indistinguishable from Democrats on economic issues.  They spoke of problems and crises and diminishing expectations and, always, the need for "the government" to do something.  Just like the Democrats.  For John McCain, it was guaranteeing workers who are "displaced" by foreign competition an income subsidy equal to the difference between their former higher-paid and current lower-paid jobs.  Ridiculous.  For Mitt Romney, it was encouraging the states to adopt collectivized health care systems, as Massachusetts did.  Romney apparently believes that being conservative means supporting socialism at the state level.  For Duncan Hunter, it was erecting trade barriers and retreating into an economic "Fortress America." 

Hunter, along with several other candidates, also whined incessantly about economic competition from China.  Twenty years ago, the fear was that Japan was going to eclipse us economically.  Now the "yellow peril" comes from China.  What rubbish.  It is hardly befitting someone who wants to be President of the United States to display such abject cowardice towards one of our most dangerous rivals.  

Only Rudy Giuliani sounded like he truly believed in the free market, in the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the people of this country, and in the ability of the United States to retain its economic leadership far into the future.  Giuliani also was the only candidate who acknowledged that there are limits to what the president personally can achieve in the economic arena.  This is an important point that usually is overlooked in the rush either to blame the incumbent for bad economic conditions, or to promise that a new candidate will bring "change" to Washington.  George Stephanopoulos stated that he thought Giuliani won the debate.  I completely agree. 

But even Giuliani was unwilling to address the problem of middle-class entitlements -- Social Security and Medicare -- head on.  A few of the candidates, including Fred Thompson, spoke openly of the need to "reform" these programs.  But none of them identified the untenable, and frankly immoral, nature of the ponzi scheme underlying these programs, whereby a shrinking number of younger workers are taxed to pay for a growing number of older workers' retirements.  In a nation dedicated to individual liberty, personal responsibility, and self-reliance, each worker and his or her family should be primarily responsible for their own retirement, supplemented, as needed, through private charity and local governmental action.  The idea that one group of citizens should be taxed to pay for another group's retirement, and that millions upon millions of Americans, in essence, should be on welfare, should be anathema to "conservatives."  Even the so-called libertarian Ron Paul never challenged the collectivist nature of these programs. 

Why have Republicans completely eschewed President Bush's concept of the "ownership society"?  This was a major part of his 2004 re-election campaign -- which he won!  Who would have thought that President Bush would be more "right" on economic issues than the other leaders of the party?

In my opinion, the big loser of last night's debate was Fred Thompson.  Thompson displayed surprisingly little charisma, demonstrated only average speaking ability, and offered no interesting ideas.  Is there anything to Thompson's candidacy, other than the hopes of many conservatives that he will be a superior alternative to Giuliani, Romney, and McCain?  If so, those hopes should have been dashed after last night's lackluster performance. 

Giuliani, for all his personal and political flaws, remains the only serious choice among the current slate of candidates.

Steven M. Warshawsky 
I watched the MSNBC replay last night of the GOP presidential debate on economic issues, which was held in Dearborn, Michigan.  For me, it was the most disappointing of all the debates.

Significantly, with the notable exception of Rudy Giuliani (and to a lesser extent Tom Tancredo), all of the candidates agreed with the liberal media's false portrait of the American economy as being riddled with unemployment, stagnation, poverty, and the slow extinguishing of the American Dream.  What nonsense!  The American economy is the largest and strongest in the world.  Our GDP is larger than the GDPs of Japan, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada combined.  Unemployment is low.  Interest rates are even lower.  Home ownership, despite the so-called subprime mortgage crisis, is at historically high levels.  Americans in all income brackets enjoy a standard of living equal to or better than their peers in Europe and Asia, with larger homes, more cars, more air conditioning, more food, and more entertainment.  Moreover, substantial economic mobility remains one of defining characteristics of this country.  That's why strivers from all over the world want to move here if they can.

Does this mean that the law of scarcity -- i.e., that there are more needs and wants than can ever be satisfied at current levels of production -- has been repealed?  No.  Does this mean that all Americans are "rich"?  No, although depending on one's point of reference, most Americans are richer than any other human beings in history.  Does this mean that millions of Americans are not facing tough economic times?  Of course not.  But it does mean that we live in an incredibly wealthy society, that we should appreciate and be grateful for the enormous bounty that we have created in this country (through our commitments to private property and free enterprise) -- and that we should be confident, not pessimistic, that the future will bring even greater material rewards for more and more Americans.

Yet listening to the Republican debate last night, this is not the impression one came away with.  Instead, most of the candidates, especially Mike Huckabee, sounded indistinguishable from Democrats on economic issues.  They spoke of problems and crises and diminishing expectations and, always, the need for "the government" to do something.  Just like the Democrats.  For John McCain, it was guaranteeing workers who are "displaced" by foreign competition an income subsidy equal to the difference between their former higher-paid and current lower-paid jobs.  Ridiculous.  For Mitt Romney, it was encouraging the states to adopt collectivized health care systems, as Massachusetts did.  Romney apparently believes that being conservative means supporting socialism at the state level.  For Duncan Hunter, it was erecting trade barriers and retreating into an economic "Fortress America." 

Hunter, along with several other candidates, also whined incessantly about economic competition from China.  Twenty years ago, the fear was that Japan was going to eclipse us economically.  Now the "yellow peril" comes from China.  What rubbish.  It is hardly befitting someone who wants to be President of the United States to display such abject cowardice towards one of our most dangerous rivals.  

Only Rudy Giuliani sounded like he truly believed in the free market, in the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the people of this country, and in the ability of the United States to retain its economic leadership far into the future.  Giuliani also was the only candidate who acknowledged that there are limits to what the president personally can achieve in the economic arena.  This is an important point that usually is overlooked in the rush either to blame the incumbent for bad economic conditions, or to promise that a new candidate will bring "change" to Washington.  George Stephanopoulos stated that he thought Giuliani won the debate.  I completely agree. 

But even Giuliani was unwilling to address the problem of middle-class entitlements -- Social Security and Medicare -- head on.  A few of the candidates, including Fred Thompson, spoke openly of the need to "reform" these programs.  But none of them identified the untenable, and frankly immoral, nature of the ponzi scheme underlying these programs, whereby a shrinking number of younger workers are taxed to pay for a growing number of older workers' retirements.  In a nation dedicated to individual liberty, personal responsibility, and self-reliance, each worker and his or her family should be primarily responsible for their own retirement, supplemented, as needed, through private charity and local governmental action.  The idea that one group of citizens should be taxed to pay for another group's retirement, and that millions upon millions of Americans, in essence, should be on welfare, should be anathema to "conservatives."  Even the so-called libertarian Ron Paul never challenged the collectivist nature of these programs. 

Why have Republicans completely eschewed President Bush's concept of the "ownership society"?  This was a major part of his 2004 re-election campaign -- which he won!  Who would have thought that President Bush would be more "right" on economic issues than the other leaders of the party?

In my opinion, the big loser of last night's debate was Fred Thompson.  Thompson displayed surprisingly little charisma, demonstrated only average speaking ability, and offered no interesting ideas.  Is there anything to Thompson's candidacy, other than the hopes of many conservatives that he will be a superior alternative to Giuliani, Romney, and McCain?  If so, those hopes should have been dashed after last night's lackluster performance. 

Giuliani, for all his personal and political flaws, remains the only serious choice among the current slate of candidates.

Steven M. Warshawsky