Republican candidates debate like there’s no tomorrow

In his closing statement at this week’s Republican presidential debate (transcript here), Ben Carson gave no policy specifics but instead painted a picture of America in deep crisis: “In the two hours of this debate, five people have died from drug-related deaths, $100 million has been added to our national debt, 200 babies have been killed by abortionists, and two veterans have taken their lives out of despair.” 

I don’t want to treat suicide lightly, especially given that it seems to be a major cause of the rising death rate among white Americans with less than a college education (the new demographic backbone of the Republican Party). But the four Republican debates so far could have plunged anyone into despair, as the candidates have unceasingly talked about the hellish landscape left by the Obama administration—and the even bleaker future that awaits if Hillary Clinton becomes president and kills the tax cuts that can save us all.

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Marco Rubio, while hardly rising to the breeziness associated with Ronald Reagan, has stood out in the debates by denouncing the Democrats without going overboard in apocalyptic descriptions of present-day America. This tactic makes him seem more electable than most of his rivals, as the small number of voters torn between the two parties are not as likely as stalwart Republicans to see government as a kind of gangrene on the verge of destroying America for good. This week Rand Paul tried to expose Mr. Rubio as a phony conservative, and it’s true that Mr. Rubio is supplanting his obligatory call for lowering top tax rates with a kind of stimulus spending by the government in the form of higher defense spending and a $2,500 child tax credit—which would likely be spent, rather than saved, by its recipients.

Mr. Paul objected that a “welfare transfer payment” is “not very conservative,” but Mr. Rubio tried to reach beyond Republican primary voters with his answer: “Here’s what I don’t understand. If you invest that money in a piece of equipment, if you invest that money in a business, you get to write it off your taxes. But if you invest it in your children, in the future of America and strengthening your family, we’re not going to recognize that in our tax code?”

Mr. Paul’s chances of being the GOP nominee probably evaporated when he started talking about racial disparities in our criminal-justice system, but his view of government as an always-destructive force makes him part of the consensus among the Republican candidates, and one of the biggest obstacles to a Rubio nomination may be the suspicion that he doesn’t think the country is being “crushed” by government, to use Carly Fiorina’s favorite word. (The other is that he won’t rule out a path to citizenship, or “amnesty” as Ted Cruz calls it, for undocumented migrants.)

Mr. Rubio did have his litany of problems in America, but he did not ascribe them all to Big Government and, indeed, suggest that the United States is not muscular enough in its foreign policy: “We have a society that stigmatizes those that hold cultural values that are traditional. We have a society where people, millions of people, are living paycheck to paycheck. …For the first time in 35 years, we have more businesses dying than starting, and around the world, every day brings news of a new humiliation for America, many the direct consequence of decisions made when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state.”

Fiorina wins the dystopia debate

Of all eight candidates on stage, Carly Fiorina was the most focused. Despite claiming to be the strongest possible opponent against Hillary Clinton, she seemed to be auditioning for the role of running mate, someone who won’t go wobbly when the GOP presidential nominee has to tack a bit to the center. She denounced government (“Republican and Democrats alike”) for encouraging homeownership and thus creating a real estate bubble. Reversing the premise of a question about higher job growth under Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama than under Republican George W. Bush, she said, “Yes, problems have gotten much worse under Democrats. But the truth is, this government has been growing bigger and bigger, more corrupt, less effective, crushing the engine of economic growth for a very long time.”

Ms. Fiorina came back several times to the image of government as a lumbering beast destroying everything in its path. She said, “innovation and entrepreneurship is crushed by the crushing load of a 73,000 page tax code. It is crushed by regulatory thicket that is so vast we don’t even know what's in it anymore.” Later: “Obamacare is crushing small businesses, it is not helping the families it was intended to help.” And: “Imagine a Clinton presidency…. The rich will get richer. The poor will get poorer. The middle class will continue to get crushed.”

Ben Carson attempted to answer a question about whether large banks should be broken up by saying, “we should have policies that don’t allow them to just enlarge themselves at the expense of smaller entities.” That out of the way, he pivoted to a more comfortable theme: “what we’ve done now is let the creep of regulation turn into a stampede of regulations, which is involved in every aspect of our lives.”

Donald Trump continued to be the personification of a TV commercial, describing some intractable problem and its awesome solution all within a few seconds: “We are a country that is being beaten on every front economically, militarily. There is nothing that we do now to win. We don’t win anymore. Our taxes are too high. I've come up with a tax plan that many, many people like very much. It’s going to be a tremendous plan. I think it’ll make our country and our economy very dynamic.” Similarly, he warned,  “We have to stop illegal immigration. It’s hurting us economically. It’s hurting us from every standpoint.” A few seconds later: “We will have a wall. The wall will be built. The wall will be successful. And if you think walls don't work, all you have to do is ask Israel. The wall works, believe me.”

Jeb Bush was, once again, a low-key debater, forgotten whenever he wasn’t on screen. As for John Kasich, he seemed to be the favorite of viewers who would never vote Republican for president. He repeatedly bragged about his fiscal conservatism and record of balancing budgets, but he also said, “I’ll tell you about Wall Street: There’s too much greed.” And he cited Catholic author Michael Novak to argue, “free enterprise is great, profits are great, but there have to be some values that underlay it, and they need a good ethics lesson on Wall Street.” This was not a big applause line.

But even Kasich, considered Mr. Reasonable by many pundits, had to inject a little despair into his closing statement: “ladies and gentlemen, if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders were to win this election, my 16-year-olds, I—I worry about what their life is going to be like.” Mr. Kasich was the only one heartily booed at the debate, though it’s not clear why. (It was either the implication that he would bail out “too big to fail” banks or his promise that he would somehow rescue “the hard-working folks who put those money in those institutions” as opposed to “people who can afford” losses.) If the Ohio governor had suggested that America will muddle through no matter what happens next November, he probably would have been pelted with rotten fruit.

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Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 1 month ago
Ms. Fiorina…said, “innovation and entrepreneurship is crushed by the crushing load of a 73,000 page tax code." Demographics gives a different perspective on innovation. Seven of the top ten most innovative states are liberal dominant states; the ten least innovative are all (except one) conservative dominant states.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 1 month ago
Chuck - you are always making comparisons at the state level, without ever sourcing your comments, and ignoring the plight of the poor in Democratic-run cities. But, as to Ms. Fiorina's comment, is it your argument that a 73,000 page tax code is the right size? Would you not prefer a smaller one, to improve transparency?
Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 1 month ago
The US president, the US Senate, the House Representatives and two state legislatures account for perhaps 80% of government’s impact on the plight of the poor. In some instances, economic conditions dictate a city’s fate. For example, the international steel market would impact US Steel which in turn would impact US Steel’s home city of Gary, Indiana. Gary’s mayor, Richard Hatcher could do nothing to head off the decline of US Steel. Yet Hatcher, as mayor, presided over the disastrous social costs of US Steel’s decline. See innovation by state at: http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/best-and-worst//most-innovative-in-u-dot-s-states. A state with at least 58% of the popular vote going to Obama or Romney can indicate the dominant party. A generally agreed upon measure of a landslide election is when the winning candidate beats his opponent by at least 15 percentage points in a popular vote count. Under that scenario a landslide would occur when the winning candidate in a two-way election receives 58 percent of the vote, leaving his opponent with 42 percent. Using 55% instead of 58% still typically means a majority in both state legislatures, a majority in the House of Representatives, the Governor and both US Senators are from the dominant party. There are thirty states where Romney or Obama received at least 55% popular vote; for 58% of the popular vote, there are twenty-two states. My comments are based on 55% of the popular vote which includes Texas and Illinois. The tax code for Form 1040EZ may fit on a postage stamp. The remaining 72,999 pages, perhaps authored by lobbyists, allow some major corporations and some .01% individuals to pay little or no income tax.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 1 month ago
Chuck - this is much better. Thanks for the details. So, we agree on some things, such as the ridiculously high number of pages in the tax code that are used to finagle with the system (by the rich). When it comes to International Trade forces, the Mayor of Gary, Indiana is probably in a similar situation to the Republican leaders of Indiana. However, when it comes to crime, law and order, local city taxes, innovation & enterprise zones, the mayor can play a dominant role. According to here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mayors_of_Gary,_Indiana), the Democrats have been running Gary since 1943. It is one of the worst cities for crime (http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Gary-Indiana.html), although nearby Chicago (another Democratic city) is even worse. Isn't it time for a change in leadership, since the regimes of the last 60 years have obviously failed? As to determining party dominance by Presidential vote, that is probably too blunt and too personality-driven. Much better to compare states with a party trifecta (those where the Governor, House and Senate are in the same party) or Trifectas with Supermajorities (see link above) and for a reasonable timeframe, say 12 or more years. For example, the next President will inherit a $20+ trillion deficit, the largest % people ever not working (33%), over 12 million illegal immigrants, a weakened and retreating military and a surging ISIS & Russia.
L J
2 years 1 month ago
Bill & Hillary Clinton, as well as Chelsea Clinton's "Clinton Foundation" knows more than most about corporations getting kickbacks from the Federal Government If you hire Hillary to speak at your parish, she would be welcome to tell you about these feats. She might not charge you less than $500K but I'm certain she would forgo her expensive latte and bottled water. Hurry up and contact her b/c she will be busy wiping clean her server...with a cloth hopefully I have shown how utterly dumb it is to use partisan methods on denigrating people. As if Jesus, Joseph and Mary attended the DNC or RNC convention as delegates. reminds me of Fundamentalists quoting from the KJV Bible and declaring Jesus spoke in Elizabethan English sheesh
Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 1 month ago
The article notes, “…the rising death rate among white Americans with less than a college education (the new demographic backbone of the Republican Party). Demographics also shows four of the five highest firearm fatality rates are in conservative dominant states. The rates are more than four times higher than states (all liberal dominant) with the five lowest firearm fatality rates.
L J
2 years 1 month ago
The poor White suicidal group to which you cast aspersions are the Deep South types who are registered Democrats. The States with the most poverty and the worst schools are led by Democrats Does this myopic commentary (since it isnt logic) have a point, other than more divisiveness and polarization?
Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 1 month ago
Five of the ten states with the highest suicide rates are conservative dominant states. None of the states with the ten highest suicide rates is in the Deep South. Eight of the ten states with the lowest suicide rates are liberal dominant states. The suicide rate for the ten highest states runs twice that of the ten lowest states. High school graduation rates are nearly the same in both liberal dominant and conservative dominant states. Poverty rates run 25% higher in in conservative dominant states. Demographics suggest “liberal dominant government” perhaps can provide a path out of the “hellish landscape” depicted in the Republican debates.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 1 month ago
Chuck - How do you define liberal dominant states and what is the timeframe, since it appears to be shrinking? Do you mean the 7 states where Democrats control the Governorship, House & Senate (the trifecta) vs. the 24 states where Republicans do? The NYT reports that since Obama became president, Republicans have gained control of the US House and the US Senate, and gained 11 Governors (now 33) and 816 (55%) State legislature seats (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/12/opinion/campaign-stops/a-lost-generation-of-democrats.html?ref=opinion). It seems the Democrats are losing at home as fast as they are retreating abroad. Except the cities - they still control most of the cities. here is a link for the state of the states now http://ballotpedia.org/Gubernatorial_and_legislative_party_control_of_state_government
L J
2 years 1 month ago
The State with the highest suicide is Montana (Democrat Governor). Alaska is governed by an Independent. Poor white Americans are found in highest numbers in the Deep South, and they are Yellow Dog Democrats But you might have a point if you do some work. Heres what you need to do The suicide report data was taken from the years 2000-2013. Do an analysis of those ten states (Montana, Alaska, etc) for each year, plot a chart with each political governor and their political affiliation, and then do a statistical analysis. Then use a chi square, f or t test against your data, and see what you get. Follow these by an excel spread sheet and use the statistical analysis feature in Excel. Call Microsoft Help if you are unfamiliar with these. If these do not prove your ad hominem partisan point, then return to each state and break each down county by county. Youll have to use the political affiliation for the mayor of each county, sherriff or county commissioner. If these are not available then use the corner farmers market owner For those counties that did not have running water, had a power outage or a chicken was killed crossing the street, then your data is not totally lost, though Im sure youll agree it will be skewed Just like your posts: completely and unequivocally skewed. I dont think a Pearson r test will help you but you could try anyways Have fun and report back to us your findings Tongue firmly placed in Right/Left/Center cheek
L J
2 years 1 month ago
I watched the debates while reviewing medical studies and appreciated the alternative views each candidate offered. Marco Rubio seemed to be the most passionate and given his youth, Latino-ness and Catholicism, we find him to be the more formidable. Curiously enough, Bernie Sanders is truly the doom and gloom candidate, while Hillary cant seem to say anything that is believable, and when she does speak of anyone outside her circle, she is attacking. Thankfully Carly shows more class. Given that Sullivan failed to mention these, in the interest of fair and balanced reporting, my comments will be alligned with his "piece".
Rick Poster
2 years 1 month ago
Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton took part in the Republican debate? I don't remember them being there. Maybe that is why Mr. Sullivan didn't mention them. Following the next Democratic debate should his "piece" mention Marco Rubio's passion and Carly Fiorina's class "in the interest of fair and balanced reporting?"
Mike Evans
2 years 1 month ago
I was seriously dismayed by the easy references to war and enlarging our military as well as threartening postures against both friends and those with whom we disagree. Then the economic plans, senseless pandering to the rich will still extract substantial middle class and lower middle class taxes while giving corporations and asset speculators an almost free ride. This will be an outright transfer of even more wealth to the 1% while eviscerating the entire budget for housing, social programs, veterans, education, and helping the poor. It is completely the opposite of Pope Francis' emphasis on taking care of our brothers and sisters. The opposition to immigration and desire to "round them up and ship them back" violates every notion of fairness and compassion. And their desire to dismantle all regulations will open the door wide to resource exploitation, severe wastage of land and water, and another whole series of environmental disasters. The GOP as a body is insane, selfish and evil minded.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 1 month ago
What a crazily false comment. The Catholic preferential option for the poor, is not, as Democrats seem to assume, a preferential option for Government. It is certainly not a preferential option for bad & wasteful government. And even less so an insolvent government that owes $19 trillion in debt. To steal from the next generation and waste the money is selfish and evil minded, to use your words. America is the most generous nation on earth (http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/09/africa/world-most-generous-countries-index/index.html) and Republicans tend to support charities more than taxes as their preferential option, since so much less is wasted that way, and gets directly to those in true need. We have had 7 years of a Democratic Administration, and even Bernie Sanders is complaining about the worsened plight of the poor. Nearly every major city, where the poor mostly reside in, has been under the thumb of Democratic administrations for decades. We have spent trillions of dollars on the war on poverty and Democrats keep saying the situation of the poor is getting worse. where did all the money go? As to war, the sins of omission of the current Presidency are far worse than the sins of commission of the Bush one. All through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we never had millions of innocent refugees forced to take the deadly trip out of the war zones. Isis didn't exist before Obama moved out of Iraq, claiming victory. They are now in 12 countries. Death and destruction follow everywhere Obama retreats from (and the Russians move in to the vacuum we make). Surely, Democrats need to wake up to the abject failures on their watch. The world is on fire.
L J
2 years 1 month ago
I think both parties are lost and no where near the Gospel. No where in the Scriptures nor Catholic Tradition is it taught that the government should care for our brothers and sisters. We are to care for them: Tim, Chuck, Mike, me, etc etc etc have the mandate and not the government If anything the more the government attempts (and fails) to care for people, the more it gives Tim, Chuck, Mike me, etc etc an excuse not to do their part. Sorry but the Democrats nor the Republicans own a piece of the Gospel. And several Popes have already taught definitively on the evils of Socialism. Sanders politic is out of touch with the Gospel
Carlos Orozco
2 years 1 month ago
But don't worry, closeted neocon, staunch PP supporter, ISIS godmother and Wall Street darling Hillary Clinton is all about reason, compassion and amending past mistakes.

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