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Last night, CNN hosted a GOP primary debate in New Hampshire (rush CNN transcript here). The Republican presidential contenders were Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain. After watching this debate, I'll say this right up front - I'd vote for any of them over Barack Obama in 2012 (though I'm not much of a Santorum fan). While I don't agree with these Republicans on everything, their views on the economy, jobs, and debt put them far ahead of Obama in my eyes, and those are the issues that matter most in this election cycle, along with America's foreign policy (three wars, along with bombings in Pakistan and Yemen. We've been at war in the Middle East for nearly a decade. Enough is enough already. Time for a big policy change there).
The candidates covered a number of topics, and I'm going to highlight some of Q&A I thought was notable. One of the disadvantages of these types of debates is, the candidates only have one minute to answer a question, and followup comments by other candidates to the same question are limited to thirty seconds. It's almost impossible for the candidates to provide detailed policy answers in such a short time frame. The CNN narrator, John King, was constantly interrupting the candidates and trying to cut them short due to time considerations, which was irritating.
Here we go:
Q: Governor Pawlenty, answer the critics -- and as you do so -- who say 5 percent [economic growth] every year is just unrealistic. And as you do so, where's the proof -- where's the proof that just cutting taxes will create jobs? If that were true, why during the Bush years, after the big tax cut, where were the jobs?
PAWLENTY: Well, John, my plan involves a whole plan, not just cutting taxes. We're proposing to cut taxes, reduce regulation, speed up this pace of government, and to make sure that we have a pro-growth agenda.
This president is a declinist. He views America as one of equals around the world. We're not the same as Portugal; we're not the same as Argentina. And this idea that we can't have 5 percent growth in America is hogwash. It's a defeatist attitude. If China can have 5 percent growth and Brazil can have 5 percent growth, then the United States of America can have 5 percent growth.
And I don't accept this notion that we're going to be average or anemic. So my proposal has a 5 percent growth target. It cuts taxes, but it also dramatically cuts spending. We need to fix regulation. We need to have a pro-American energy policy. We need to fix health care policy. And if you do those things, as I've proposed, including cut spending, you'll get this economy moving and growing the private economy by shrinking government.
I love how Pawlenty shattered the illusion that America is destined to mediocrity. It's not our destiny that our best days are behind us, it's our POLICY that dooms us. If I was Pawlenty, I would have pointed out that unemployment during the Bush years was mostly in the 5% range, and we did have several years of significant uninterrupted job growth after the Bush tax cuts, until the housing crisis led to an economic meltdown and wiped them out. Obviously, marginal tax rates had nothing to do with that meltdown. It's also pretty obvious to me that raising taxes in a weak economy would only further suppress demand by removing money from people's pockets, thereby making the recession worse.
Q: As a journalist who's written frequently about health care and medicine for both newspapers and for corporate publications, I'm very concerned about the overreach of the massive health care legislation that was passed last year. My question is, what would each candidate do? What three steps would they take to de-fund Obamacare and repeal it as soon as possible?
BACHMANN: I was the very first member of Congress to introduce the full-scale repeal of Obamacare. And I want to make a promise to everyone watching tonight: As president of the United States, I will not rest until I repeal Obamacare. It's a promise. Take it to the bank, cash the check. I'll make sure that that happens.
This is the symbol and the signature issue of President Obama during his entire tenure. And this is a job-killer, Sylvia. The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office has said that Obamacare will kill 800,000 jobs. What could the president be thinking by passing a bill like this, knowing full well it will kill 800,000 jobs?
Senior citizens get this more than any other segment of our population, because they know in Obamacare, the president of the United States took away $500 billion, a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare, shifted it to Obamacare to pay for younger people, and it's senior citizens who have the most to lose in Obamacare.
Okay, but the Republican plan that passed the House, Paul Ryan's plan, which Michelle Bachmann voted for, will cause seniors to pay more for their health care starting in 2022. There is also a cost to seniors under the GOP plan. We have to acknowledge this instead of playing partisan ping-pong with the issue.
PAUL: Well, under these conditions, [Medicare is] not solvent and won't be solvent. You know, if you're -- if you're an average couple and you paid your entire amount into -- into Medicare, you would have put $140,000 into it. And in your lifetime, you will take out more than three times that much.
So a little bit of arithmetic tells you it's not solvent, so we're up against the wall on that, so it can't be made solvent. It has to change. We have to have more competition in medicine.
And I would think that if we don't want to cut any of the medical benefits for children or the elderly, because we have drawn so many in and got them so dependent on the government, if you want to work a transition, you have to cut a lot of money.
And that's why I argue the case that this money ought to be cut out of foreign welfare, and foreign militarism, and corporate welfare, and the military industrial complex. Then we might have enough money to tide people over.
But some revamping has to occur. What we need is competition. We need to get a chance for the people to opt out of the system. Just -- you talk about opting out of Obamacare? Why can't we opt out of the whole system and take care of ourselves?
People provide for their own health care ? Why, Dr. Paul, that's just so, so,...radical. Where'd you ever get the crazy idea that people could take care of themselves ? What do you think we are, adults or something ? Sheesh.
While we're on this subject, what about Obamneycare, as Governor Pawlenty called it the other day ? What say you, Mitt ?
ROMNEY: You know, let me say a couple things. First, if I'm elected president, I will repeal Obamacare, just as Michelle indicated. And also, on my first day in office, if I'm lucky enough to have that office, I will grant a waiver to all 50 states from Obamacare.
Now, there's some similarities and there are some big differences. Obamacare spends a trillion dollars. If it were perfect -- and it's not perfect, it's terrible -- we can't afford more federal spending.
Secondly, it raises $500 billion in taxes. We didn't raise taxes in Massachusetts.
Third, Obamacare takes $500 billion out of Medicare and funds Obamacare. We, of course, didn't do that.
And, finally, ours was a state plan, a state solution, and if people don't like it in our state, they can change it. That's the nature of why states are the right place for this type of responsibility. And that's why I introduced a plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a state-centric program.
PAWLENTY: Well, the issue that was raised in a question from a reporter was, what are the similarities between the two? And I just cited President Obama's own words that he looked to Massachusetts as a blueprint or a guide when he designed Obamacare.
ROMNEY: ...my guess is the president is going to eat those words and wish he hasn't -- hadn't put them out there. And I can't wait to debate him and say, Mr. President, if, in fact, you did look at what we did in Massachusetts, why didn't you give me a call and ask what worked and what didn't? And I would have told you, Mr. President, that what you're doing will not work.
It's a huge power grab by the federal government. It's going to be massively expensive, raising taxes, cutting Medicare. It's wrong for America. And that's why there's an outpouring across the nation to say no to Obamacare. And I'm delighted to be able to debate him on that.
That's a lot better answer than I expected from Romney. I'd like to hear that debate between Romney and Obama myself. Hopefully, the courts will strike down ObamaCare and save Republicans the trouble.
Back to jobs:
Q: Well, for the candidates I'd like to know how they plan on returning manufacturing jobs to the United States.
BACHMANN: Well, the United States federal government and the states have done numerous job training programs over the year with mixed results. This is what we need to do to turn job creation around and bring manufacturing back to the United States.
What we need to do is today the United States has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world. I'm a former federal tax lawyer. I've seen the devastation. We've got to bring that tax rate down substantially so that we're among the lowest in the industrialized world.
Here's the other thing. Every time the liberals get into office, they pass an omnibus bill of big spending projects. What we need to do is pass the mother of all repeal bills, but it's the repeal bill that will get a job killing regulations. And I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.
Michelle, you had me at "second highest corporate tax rate in the world". Not only is this anathema to job creation, it also gives the government too much power to pick winners and losers in business by granting favored businesses tax credits. The market should decide the winners and losers in business, not the government. Get rid of the corporate income tax for businesses that provide American jobs. The employees of those corporations will send plenty of revenue to the government. And if you want to know how Bachmann is correct about the EPA killing jobs, see my last post.
Q: Where do you fall on right to work and would you support a federal right-to-work law?
PAWLENTY: We live in the United States of America and people shouldn't be forced to belong or be a member in any organization. And the government has no business telling you what group to be a member of or not. I support strongly right-to-work legislation.
GINGRICH: ...one of the things the Congress should do immediately is defund the National Labor Relations Board which has gone into South Carolina to punish Boeing, which wants to put 8,000 American jobs in South Carolina by fundamentally eliminating right-to-work at the National Labor Relations Board.
That's a real, immediate threat from the Obama administration to eliminate right to work. And I think that it is fundamentally the wrong direction. I hope that New Hampshire does adopt right-to-work. I frankly keep it at the state level because as each new state becomes right to work, they send a signal to the remaining states, don't be stupid.
Why you want to be at California's unemployment level when you can be Texas's employment level? Or North Dakota's?
CAIN: ...I agree with the speaker and the others who believe that if the federal government continues to do the kinds of things that this administration is trying to do through the back door, through the National Labor Relations Board, that's killing our free market system, and the free market system is what made this economy great. And we have to keep the free market system strong.
When I hear the phrase "right to work" brought up as if the idea is even debatable, it makes my head spin. This is the United States Of America. Unless you're an illegal immigrant, EVERYBODY should have the right to work without having to pay dues to someone else. This ain't mob rule. It's supposed to be a free country. I'm sure I read that somewhere.
There's a lot more I could cover, but this post is getting rather long, so I'll stop here. Maybe I'll write a followup tomorrow.
I was wondering...in the last election cycle, Obama ran on 'Hope And Change'. Since that's obviously not going to fly this time around, what will his new slogan be ? I'd suggest....'Hey, At Least It's Not The Great Depression !!!". Very inspiring, and it's pretty much what I hear Obama say every time he talks about jobs and the economy. 'Why heck, America, I know 9.1% unemployment is bad, but unemployment could be 40% !! Ya ever think of that ? And we could be $50 trillion in debt !!! But I saved you !!!". Gee, thanks for next to nothing, Mr. President. Or should I say, Mr. One-Term President ? I sure hope so.
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