Friday, October 21, 2011

Turn the Other Cheek Takes the Backseat: the GOP Debate

The Repub primary season this week received a much needed jolt of energy, with the Nevada GOP debate from Tuesday night.  The remaining Repub presidential contenders became more combative, as talk of tax reform policy took center stage.

The recent surge in popularity of Herman Cain has focused attention on the sine qua non of his campaign platform: the "9-9-9 Plan," which I discussed in a blog post from last week.  Cain's plan, while certainly imperfect and highly contentious, has placed discussions of Federal taxation at the front of this campaign season.  Each of the remaining candidates has been compelled to respond to Cain's plan and, in some cases, offer solutions of their own.

Candidate Michelle Bachmann, joined Santorum, Perry, Paul, and Romney, in directly criticizing Cain's proposal; the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, offered a rather tepid criticism that really focused on his desire to reduce, or extirpate, specific taxes: a zero percent capital gains tax, for example.  Cain was afforded the opportunity to respond to each one of the criticisms (which he did), largely referencing a study of "9-9-9", completed by Fiscal Associates, that's on his site.  Gingrich made the rather sobering point that "9-9-9" is not as simple as it sounds--there are myriad complexities worthy of prolonged assessment.  Among Cain's interesting responses was "apples and oranges," an attempt to dismiss Perry's criticisms of "9-9-9."  Surely the God Father of Godfather's Pizza could've devised a more creative, and politically beneficial, retort.  Or ... maybe not.

BTW: How about focusing on Paul's proposal?  His criticism of "9-9-9" is sound: it's a regressive tax.  Dangerous and sinister.  Enough said.  

On a related note: I love how both Cain and Romney utilized the intro time allotted to emphasize how they spent long (and distinguished) careers in the business sector.  Smart and politically useful.

Considerable attention was also given to Mitt Romney, who has been cruising in a comfortable spot on the media's designated "top tier."  Specifically, Santorum--whose campaign is trying desperately to avoid the abyss--hurled a specific, albeit common, charge at Romney, challenging the latter's purported willingness to dismantle Obamacare: "your plan was the basis for Obamacare."  This led to a memorable, and quite humorous (well, humorous for political pundits), exchange.  Moderator Anderson Cooper tried intervening without much success.  Romney's response did manage to elicit positive (and powerful) feedback from the audience.

Gingrich, to his credit, honed in on a fundamental distinction: top-down solutions vs. bottom-up solutions.  Romney's health care reform in Massachusetts (call it what you will) was, rhetoric aside, a top-down, government imposed measure.  We should not be quick to say that societal/economic problems are only solvable through the heavy hand of government.  Top-down solutions impose unnecessary costs and have odious unintended consequences.  Let us avoid them.  And, to be expected, Romney responded to Gingrich's commentary on Romney's health care reform, which resulted in another memorable exchange.

Hostility abounded.  

Ron Paul opportunity: There are seven candidates in the GOP field and only one of them is a doctor; on health care reform, let us hear from Dr. Paul.  Now there is a novel idea.

The debate was memorable, as the Biblical maxim of "turn the other cheek" yielded to "an eye for an eye."

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