Debate Three: CNBC Faceplants

I was carving pumpkins and doing other things last night, so only caught bits of the debate. So only a few thoughts:

First, it’s time to winnow the field. It’s been nice having this big collection of politicians around. But it’s time to end the silly fantasies and cut the field down to, at most, seven candidates.

Second, the biggest cheers were for attacking the moderators. The moderators did do a poor job and kept interrupting each other and the candidates. Going after them is a cheap cheer, but a fun one.

Third, my impression of the candidates? Trump is still a joke. Carson is nice but has little clue about policy. Fiorina can debate but has yet to advance a coherent policy platform. Bush is sinking rapidly. I don’t care for Cruz or Huckabee. And I’m unclear on what Kasich, Paul and Christie are still doing around. Rubio still crosses me as the best candidate.

One final point I want to make: I am sick of all these bullshit tax cut plans. Every candidate, it seems, has some plan to massively cut taxes. And they are all huge steaming piles of excrement.

Not a single one of those plans is likely to happen. And they never should happen because we are still running a deficit with huge obligations for Social Security and Medicare bearing down on us. If the Republicans cut spending far enough to start running a surplus, then we can talk about tax cuts. Until then, this talk of trillion dollar tax cuts is a good reason to not take any of these guys seriously. It’s a good reason to hope for divided government.

Revenue-neutral tax reform would be fine. In fact, you could actually have tax reform that increases revenue but benefits the economy by eliminating the deadweight loss of our tax code (e.g., Reagan’s 1986 tax reform). I am all in favor of a massive overhaul of our tax system. But not one that blows trillion dollar holes in our finances.

When I raise this point, the usual responses are that “the tax cuts will pay for themselves” or “we need to starve the beast”. The former is only true when tax rates are extremely high — 70-90%. Just ask Kansas. To makeup the revenue of these tax cuts, we would need growth rates in excess of 10%. No one thinks this is going to happen.

I have addressed the later theory before:

Starve the Beast was the theory that if we cut taxes, it would force the government to cut spending because the resulting deficit would be unsustainable (this was before people decided that the Laffer Curve was, in fact, the Laffer Line and that all tax cuts paid for themselves). Starve the Beast sounded tempting, especially to faux conservatives who were big on tax cuts and not so big on cutting spending. But it ran aground on several rocks:

First, spending cuts don’t just fall from the sky. You have to actually cut spending at some point. And the people who had to cut spending were the same people trying to force themselves to cut spending. It was like trying to lose weight by eating a box of doughnuts hoping that will force you to go the gym.

Second, the lesson Congress learned from Starve the Beast wasn’t that they couldn’t tolerate big deficits. The lesson they learned was that they could. As a result, we’re now enjoying our fourth straight year of trillion dollar deficits.

Third, and this is a point I keep harping on, Starve the Beast made spending painless for the taxpayer. This was especially true in the Bush years when we started two wars and put in a prescription drug program while removing millions from the tax rolls. The impression given to the taxpayers was that wars and drug programs were free, or at least were paid for by somebody else (somebody rich). It has continued in the Obama years, with spending and taxes being manipulated so that Obamacare appears to decrease the deficit when it, in fact, does not and tax hikes only acceptable if they hit the dreaded rich.

I keep saying this and I am going to keep saying it: the most important aspect of any government budget is that spending should hurt. Spending should hurt either in cutting other services or in raising taxes. If you aren’t doing either of those things, you are giving people government on the cheap. And they will have no incentive, none whatsover, to support spending cuts.

Would you turn down services that are discounted 40-100%?

One of the problems we face in balancing the budget is that spending cuts are popular in general and unpopular in detail. When you ask people what spending they support cutting, the only thing that even gets 50% is foreign aide. But a big reason for that is that, for most Americans, government spending doesn’t hurt them. They can support all these wonderful things confident that the money for it will come out of somebody else’s pocket.

Until one of these guys puts forward a concrete plan to cut spending and balance the budget, I’m going to ignore their NeverNeverLand tax cut proposals. And I’m not going to take them seriously as responsible conservatives. A responsible conservative balances the budget first. Then … maybe … he talks about tax cuts.

Comments are closed.

  1. Section8

    Hal a few weeks ago…

    “Huckabee had a decent night but is rapidly becoming my least favorite candidate. He supported Kim Davis and made a bizarre comparison to prisoners at Guantanamo. He brought out the ridiculous Fair Tax again. And I simply can not embrace his far Religious Right views.”

    http://right-thinking.com/2015/09/17/debate-two/#comments

    You voted for Gary Johnson correct? May I ask why given his proposal for a Huckabee “ridiculous” Fair Tax? Johnson also proposed cutting spending by 43%. While we apparently both agree spending should be cut (at least I do, who knows with you), I could only imagine your commentary on a 43% reduction proposed by any Republican candidate.

    http://www.ontheissues.org/2012/Gary_Johnson_Tax_Reform.htm

    So which LP candidate are you hoping will get the nod this time around and why? If Johnson is still pushing a Fair Tax, we can assume he’s off your list? For the other candidates, what’s their experience in politics that compels you to feel comfortable voting for them? Here’s the link so you can brush up on who they are if needed.

    http://2016.libertarian-party.org/

    So given that when a Republican proposes something and it’s ridiculous, how can it not be ridiculous when an LP candidate proposes it, and why would you actually vote for it?

    Since I doubt you’ll answer, my guess would be you know voting LP is truly fantasy, and given that you can get your brownie button and not have to worry about defending it down the road it’s a safe choice. In reality though, if there’s even a slightly higher than snowball’s chance in hell, it’s time to run. Right Hal? As usually, I don’t expect a answer back to any of these questions because of course you can’t provide any.

    A note to the vast viewership here, I’m not anti-LP, and actually was a member at one time. I don’t agree with them on everything, such as immigration, but in reality the fight will have to be at the GOP level, and the more candidates the better in my view. Also, good for America to finally demand more than the status quo and are staying on the politicians asses even though the establishment still isn’t budging. Hal’s not to happy about it because in the end, he’s a bullshit bitcher about the status quo, who loves the status quo. He’s no conservative, and he’s no LP warrior. I think that’s pretty obvious though.

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  2. Hal_10000 *

    Oh, look:

    Not surprisingly, the latest faddish website to identify your ideal candidate shows me aligned with Gary Johnson. Probably the biggest disagreement I have with him is on the Fair Tax, which I oppose.

    I made it clear that I disagreed with Johnson on plenty (include a 40% spending cut which would never happen no matter who was President). The difference is that Johnson had some redeeming features: opposing the War on Drugs, opposing aggressive overseas foreign policy, moderately pro-choice, legalized sex work, gay rights, criminal justice reform, etc.  Huckabee has no such redeeming features.  He is and always has been a big government conservative who thinks the government should be in our bedrooms AND our boardrooms.

    (Note something else as you look through Johnson’s platform. In 2012, most of his view were outside the mainstream.  They aren’t any more. Almost all of the Republicans have taken a Federalist stance on pot.  Criminal justice reform is now big with both parties. Gay marriage is now the law of the land (Obama opposed it in 2012). THAT is why I voted Libertarian. Because the third parties are the ones driving the conversation.)

    So, nice try. But you’re going to have up your trolling game a bit.

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  3. Section8

    First off, this isn’t about Huckabee. The key feature of my post was about the Fair Tax, which Huckabee happened to be the one of many candidates with “ridiculous” tax plans. The Fair Tax matched up with Johnson’s, so hence the connection. Had it been someone else, I would have put their name instead. See how that works? Since you just did a post about how you wouldn’t take ANY of the candidates seriously based on their tax plan ALONE AND REGARDLESS OF OTHER FEATURES, it’s funny you’d STILL vote for someone regardless of their tax plan and spending (the biggest issues there are) based on other redeeming features (so long as they didn’t have a shot in hell of winning in the first place). It’s all or nothing with ANY GOP candidate, but plenty of wiggle room if voting for someone who doesn’t have a shot in hell correct? Nice match with Obama policy on the link you provided by the way. Maybe you should just come out of the closet and stop bsing yourself. So why even criticize Obama now in the first place? Oh wait that will stop closer to election time when you pump the Democrat side regardless of the Dem candidate. Typical though. Forgive two glaring problems that would have you toss out and ridicule ANY GOP candidate such as 43% spending cut and Flat Tax, but go ahead and just live with it if you know the person won’t get elected anyhow. Brownie points :)

    As for my pointing out your hypocrisy, that’s trolling now? Oh my, but you don’t want this place to be an “echo chamber” now do you?

    So which LP candidate do you hope will win? The “spiratual advisor”? How about the guy dressed for war in 1840? I mean why not post more on who you’re voting for and why?

    To your credit though, you did respond which was surprising. Thanks for that at least.

     

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  4. Section8

    “They aren’t any more. Almost all of the Republicans have taken a Federalist stance on pot.  Criminal justice reform is now big with both parties. Gay marriage is now the law of the land (Obama opposed it in 2012). THAT is why I voted Libertarian. Because the third parties are the ones driving the conversation.)”

    These are all social issues which is great, and it’s great gays can get married. Fantastic. There are bigger issues out there though than the fashionable designer ones, such as fiscal issues which you oppose any that involve any fight for fiscal conservatism outside of theory. As I’ve said you’ll find fault every time no matter what. So that just leaves you with social issues. How does this make you a conservative of any stripe again? As for the gay marriage, that was a court decision.

     

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  5. richtaylor365

    Hal, a few questions for you;

    1)In general, do you think taxes are too high and should be lowered,or, to put it another way, what percentage do you think is fair for “the rich” to pay?

    2)Do you think the size of the federal government (and the dollars needed to feed that beast)is too big and could be reduced with minimal impact of the folks?

    3)What priority would you like the next president to have in reducing government expenditures, and addressing the fiscal solvency of this nation?

    4)Should the debt limit be raised ad infinitum (whenever), and isn’t the simple fact that it keeps getting raised an accurate reflection on this governments ability to spend within it’s means?

    5) The Sequester, was it a good idea, and is it a good idea now for both party’s to do everything in their power to circumvent it?

    Third, my impression of the candidates? Trump is still a joke. Carson is nice but has little clue about policy. Fiorina can debate but has yet to advance a coherent policy platform. Bush is sinking rapidly. I don’t care for Cruz or Huckabee. And I’m unclear on what Kasich, Paul and Christie are still doing around. Rubio still crosses me as the best candidate.

    I agree with most of that, with a few caveats; Given Trumps charisma, energy, and lead in the polls, I keep listening to him in the hopes that he will gain substance, each time I am disappointed. Carson, as much as I like him, is a milquetoast, he is not articulate, he stammers and appears unsure of himself, hope that changes. Fiorina was my early favorite, she would stand the best chance in a debate with Hillary, for obvious reasons. Her “policy platform” from what I’ve heard, is just fine, it is her business history that I can’t get past. Being an HP investor I followed her rise to stardom and her downfall. Sure, she spins it very favorably (and given how fast she was fired tells me more about her fighting instinct, look at Marissa Meyers of Yahoo, she should have been canned years ago but she does not push back like Fiorina did). But as Patton said (in the form of George C Scott) ,”America loves a winner”.

     I am sick of all these bullshit tax cut plans.

    Why? Doesn’t our tax code need amending? Would you prefer someone going in to want lower taxes for the folks, or would you prefer an Obama/Clinton/Sanders type who views those successful as lottery winners and wants income redistribution to punish the successful and reward those (for whatever reasons) that aren’t?

    Revenue-neutral tax reform would be fine. In fact, you could actually have tax reform that increases revenue but benefits the economy by eliminating the deadweight loss of our tax code (e.g., Reagan’s 1986 tax reform). I am all in favor of a massive overhaul of our tax system. But not one that blows trillion dollar holes in our finances.

    Our fiscal solvency is the issue, but given the proper motivation and will I can see taxes and spending lowered in tandem.

    One thing I’ve been mulling around (and I have not heard or read about it anywhere else) is a Budget Czar. Someone like a Tom Coburn,  he would be the country’s CFO, his job would be to look at Everything  under the microscope of antiquation, duplication, and cost effectiveness. All government agencies get a review with the singular goal of ,”What can we cut, what can we eliminate”, with a firm view of the Ninth Amendment.

     

     

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  6. Hal_10000 *

    1) In general, yes, taxes are too high.  But you don’t cut taxes until the budget is balanced (and actually, I wouldn’t cut them substantially until the debt is reduced).  I think the current amount that the rich are paying (which tops out at about 30% total) is more than enough.  This is the dirty secret of the Democrats.  As I’ve noted before, the European welfare states they so love have less progressive taxes.  That’s the only way you can pay for big welfare states. That they keep talking about bullshit tax hikes for the “rich” show how unserious they are and why I will never vote for a Democrat.

    2) Yes. We’ve shown that over the last four years as government has shrunk relative to GDP without any problems.  The main places I would cut are the big items — Social Security, Medicare and defense. I would also revert a lot of anti-poverty spending back to the states.

    3) See (2)

    4) The debt limit should not exist. It’s an artifact of an earlier time when debt has to be specifically authorized. It has had zero impact on controlling our finances and it never will. The only thing it could ever do is trigger a default.

    5) The sequester wasn’t the best idea but it was better than nothing. And it has kept the budget under control.  Spending as a percent of GDP is almost back its historic average (and could go lower if we left it in place).  I posted earlier this week that I am unhappy with decision to circumvent it.

    Tax reform is a great idea. But the plans being through around are not just tax reform.  They are huge tax <i>cuts</i>.  Unless a candidate is talking about huge spending cuts, that’s basically garbage.  Paul Ryan has a plan to cut spending to balance the budget. None of the candidates on stage do.

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  7. Hal_10000 *

    S8, I will try to explain this again. And I’ll use short words so that maybe you’ll understand.

    The purpose of voting for a third party candidate is not that they’ll win. It’s that when third parties collect votes, it drives the agenda of the major parties.  We would NEVER have balanced the budget in the 90’s had it not been for Ross Perot, who made that his principal issue, scared the bejesus out of the major parties and set the stage for the ’94 revolution. The major parties watch third party votes very closely because they know how a third party can tip an election.  So the purpose in voting Libertarian is not necessarily to enact their agenda (even if they were elected; they’d face opposition in Congress).  It’s to drive the agenda of the major parties.  And it works.  Historically, almost all the idea in our political system have come from outside the two-party scrum.

    When I’ve voted GOP in the past, by contrast, it’s because I supported that candidate and wanted him to become President.  That’s a different kettle of fish because I can’t ignore huge problems, especially when they have Congress on their side.  I ignored those problems in 2000 when I voted for Bush II.  And we all got burned by a dangerously irresponsible set of policies.  I’ve learned my lesson.  I wouldn’t vote Republican in 2008 and 2012 because I didn’t trust the GOP with a united government.  The GOP has to earn my vote and my support.

    One of the problems with the GOP candidates right now is that they are advancing a big tax cut agenda with no plans to cut spending. Unlike Johnson, there is a chance they will get elected and a chance they will then pass this tax cut and a chance it will blow a huge hole in our finances.  Just ask Kansas.

    That’s not the only problem I have with them, but it’s the one problem I have with almost all of them.

    I mean why not post more on who you’re voting for and why?

    The election is a year away.  I haven’t decided yet.  Last year, I put up five long posts in July explaining my thinking about who to vote for.  You can read this one explaining why I voted third party and why I think elections are not the most important part of having a functional Republic. I will certainly do another post like that as we get closer to the election.  I’ve stated before that I could possibly see myself voting for Rubio but we’ll have to see what happens.

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  8. Section8

    “The purpose of voting for a third party candidate is not that they’ll win. It’s that when third parties collect votes, it drives the agenda of the major parties.  We would NEVER have balanced the budget in the 90’s had it not been for Ross Perot, who made that his principal issue, scared the bejesus out of the major parties and set the stage for the ’94 revolution.”

    Good example. Now show me the LP revolt that has changed anything? What did they get last election a whopping 1%? Where are all your posts about how the LP has turned the major parties around? I mean I wouldn’t blame you at all if you were to promote it. I would.

    “I ignored those problems in 2000 when I voted for Bush II.  And we all got burned by a dangerously irresponsible set of policies.  I’ve learned my lesson.”

    This may be breaking news to you, but the entire nation is aware of what happened, including and especially the Republican voter. More of the same Jeb (not even he will go by the name Bush) is running at single digits despite the big donors who want business as usual. The revolt is already happening and has been happening, and it didn’t take a third party. Shakeups are going on in Congress (finally), not against Democrats, but the business as usual Boehners, McCains and McConnells. The Republican voter wants more of this because they ARE aware of the problem. You should be happy about this revolt, but given that you’ve expressed here that any aggressive tactics by GOP members either against the Democrats, or the same as usual Republicans is extreme, I’d have to call bullshit on just how serious you are about not wanting the same, so that you can bitch about the same. I’m pretty sure I’ve expressed this multiple times.

    “The GOP has to earn my vote and my support.”

    And how would any of them do this exactly when you’ll ultimately look for a way to find fault regardless of tactic and regardless of ideology? Note: This is the key to your bullshit.

    “Unlike Johnson, there is a chance they will get elected and a chance they will then pass this tax cut and a chance it will blow a huge hole in our finances.”

    Right, my point of you exactly. Thanks for using short words to repeat what I already said. As long as there is not a chance in hell… Brownie points! :)

    As far as them getting exactly what they propose, we all know that’s not gonna happen anyhow. People aren’t that stupid. What they do want though is people that can at least accomplish something, anything, of their initial proposal as long it reflects the overall agenda to head in the right direction. What they do not want, and have now made clear in no uncertain terms is to vote someone in who will run on one set of principles and govern under another. Perhaps you haven’t noticed that change in voter attitude, but I don’t know how you could miss it. This isn’t the same atmosphere of 2000. The next GOP person in office won’t have it so easy if they choose to pretend instead of perform. The voter is well aware they aren’t going to get 100% of everything, whether it’s a wall, tax breaks, or anything else. Just even a meaningful nudge down the right path would be nice at this point. That change in attitude didn’t come from you voting 3rd party, in fact, I haven’t see any evidence you’re even happy about this change in attitude.

    “I’ve stated before that I could possibly see myself voting for Rubio but we’ll have to see what happens.”

    You won’t. In fact, I’ll tell you exactly what you’ll do. If he has a shot you’ll find something, anything for an out. He’ll have to be absolutely 100% perfect, and since perfection is subjective with politics, you’ll get your out. I promise.

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  9. Section8

    Per your link, I had commented on it back then. Here’s what I wrote at the time. Basically the same as I’m writing now. I was a little more polite back then as the persistent bullshit you spew wasn’t as overwhelming as it is now.

    ……

    Hal if Johnson had a shot at winning, I mean if it was close would you really vote for him? Don’t get me wrong you’ve had some great posts over the years, but it seems like when crunch time comes you kind of flip flop around to a predictability you could calibrate an atomic clock with.

    I mean on the one hand you say the GOP won’t do anything, which you may very well be right, but at the same time you’ve defended Snowe and Collins over the years saying the GOP needs them while they helped stonewall Social Security reform, then you say the GOP did nothing to reform. When Ryan wasn’t running you were praising him, now he’s Obama lite. Considering you were praising him just a year ago which was after his vote on Tarp, why is that now an issue, and why wasn’t it then? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy about it either. You know who didn’t vote for Tarp was Ron Paul, and as “nutty” as he is why not more backing of him during the primaries? I know you praise Huntsman, but his record regarding spending wasn’t really any better than Bush’s, and if he were the one selected, I’m sure you’d have a whole laundry list about why he isn’t all that great. Of course maybe he had your backing because you knew he didn’t have a shot in hell and you wouldn’t have to worry about backtracking later?

    Basically it seems when the situation is one where no action could be done even if one wanted to, you’re all for the battle to stop the left, and then when crunch time comes it’s all about whoa wait a minute…

    Keep in mind Romney sure as shit isn’t my first choice, but the populace is different this time around, and may be more active in persuading Romney to take issues like debt seriously.

     

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  10. West Virginia Rebel

    Rubio was able to take advantage of a cheap shot by Jeb and distinguish himself from his former mentor. Rubio has come across as knowledgeable on policy issues even if he is a bit on the wonky side. And I agree-ideas like the flat tax that have been talked about since God knows when are going nowhere; a serious candidate would be talking about reforming needed programs and cutting others, including military pork (the runaway blimp comes to mind.)

    The problem for the Republicans is, as they keep losing Presidential elections, the pool of serious candidates will grow increasingly smaller as the voters become increasingly fed up with the party leadership. If you think this year’s crop is weak, imagine what it might be like if Hillary wins and serves two terms.

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