Taxes in America are too high and so are wages. America's best days are gone for good: The Republican TV debates have so far been astoundingly fact-free.
“The Magnificent Eight” found themselves in dismal surroundings: too much regulation, the markets bogged down, the nation's capital like the Augean stables, its people in dire straits. On top of that, taxes are too high, and Vladimir Putin's finger is on the trigger. And last but not least, America's best days are behind it. At least that's how the Republican presidential candidates painted the nation's portrait during their fourth television debate in Milwaukee, former beer capital of the world.
What else could they do? After almost seven years of Obama and faced with the possibility of President Hillary Clinton, they pulled out all the stops and prayed the Republican catechism for salvation. Since the debate was organized and moderated by the Fox Business Channel, economic subjects were given priority, but the gaggle of candidates insisted on belaboring the immigration and foreign policy issues in their gloomy landscape, for which they felt Obama had to answer.
According to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the “Washington Cartel” controls everyone except him and his supporters. It's a given for Sen. Marco Rubio that a generational change at the top — with him as president, naturally — would herald a new golden era for America. Everyone wanted to get into the picture in Milwaukee, including Donald Trump. After his tirade about China's alleged piratical tactics concerning the new Trans-Pacific trade agreement, Sen. Rand Paul calmly pointed out that China is not included in the agreement.
Trump: ‘American Wages Are Too High’
But the Republican debates have been thus far amazingly fact-free — such as when retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, like the character Chauncey Gardiner in Jerzy Kosinski's novel “Welcome Mr. Chance,” comments on the Middle East or rejects raising the minimum wage with the argument, “Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.” That is pure fiction, but none of the moderators in Milwaukee bothered to point that out.
Donald Trump also rejects raising the minimum wage, saying taxes and wages are already too high. His idea to deport 11 million illegal aliens to Mexico ran into opposition. Ohio Gov. John Kasich — again the voice of reason in Milwaukee — called that proposal “silly.” Jeb Bush also opposed that proposal. The tottering Bush-dynasty crown prince can nevertheless say that he showed up and even scored a few points. But he failed to make a convincing argument for his candidacy.
That honor went again to Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush's fiercest competitor, who is planning an energetic campaign against Bush. In Milwaukee, however, the two avoided one another and touted their respective plans for reviving the U.S. economy. The crux here is that all candidates from former CEO Carly Fiorina to Ted Cruz plan to cut taxes without explaining to the American people how they intend to cover the resultant budget deficits. They're all relying on increased economic growth, but Ronald Reagan already failed with the same plan.
’Gangster' Vladimir Putin
Cruz believes his proposed tax cuts would result in unbelievable economic growth. Bush promised his cuts would result in a 4 percent economic growth rate, while Rubio promised both guns and butter like Lyndon Johnson did at the time of the Vietnam conflict: Lower taxes for all, including additional tax benefits for families, plus an American military force capable of showing its strength around the world.
Libertarian Rand Paul, a critic of U.S. intervention and involvement in wars, demurred: “I want a strong national defense, but I don't want us to be bankrupt.” The Florida senator, however, reflected the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Republicans when he called Vladimir Putin a gangster and called for a tougher line when the U.S. deals with its opponents.
Rubio: ‘More Welders and Less Philosophers’
Milwaukee demonstrated that barely three months before the first primary votes are cast, the electability of the Republican candidates isn't as much a determining criterion for nomination as is their adherence to the Republican credo, along with a vague feeling that this or that candidate is more or less conservative than another. When Marco Rubio says in this context that the nation needs more welders than philosophers, Republicans may like the sound of that, but it gets them nothing.
Now the Republican gaggle can enjoy a break until December when the next debate takes place. But it takes place a mere six weeks before the Iowa primary. And somewhere in there, the electability of one of the Republican candidates will be determined. Seen in that light, those two hours in Milwaukee may have decided exactly nothing.