Because I am a glutton for punishment, I watched the GOP debate last night. It was much more “substantive” with less personal attacks. But “substantive” is relative term when Donald Trump is on the stage. Debating Trump on substance is like debating a goldfish: by the time he gets to the end of an answer, he’s forgotten what he said at the beginning. He said Iraq was a mistake but he would send more tens of thousands of troops to hit ISIS. He bashed Democrats for doing nothing about Social Security and then promised not to touch Social Security. He called the Tiananmen Square protests “riots” and refused to denounce violence at his own rallies.
But I’m getting into the weeds. The thing that really jumped out from last night debate was this: the GOP is becoming the Party of Trump, regardless of whether he’s the actual nominee or not.
For example: all the candidates on stage inveighed against free trade. The GOP used to understand that free trade was good for this country. Ted Cruz occasionally tried to make that point again: that the US has few trade barriers and that our trade deals mostly open markets for us in other countries. But the Sanders-Trump axis has latched onto American’s discontent with the economy and persuaded them that free trade is the name of their pain and the reason jobs have gone away.
It isn’t. Most of our manufacturing job losses are because of automation. Unless Donald Trump plans to physically rip robots out of factory floors — not completely impossible — that’s not changing. The real way to boost the job market in America is to make it easier to do business in America. Simplify regulations that destroy hundreds of billions of dollars in productivity and millions of jobs. Overhaul the corporate tax code that is equally damaging. Other countries are doing this; we’re going in the opposite direction, piling regulation upon regulation and tax code upon tax code. End that. Make America a place where it’s easy to do business. And corporations will stampede to do business here.
Trade tariffs are not “protection”. They’re a tax. They make everything we buy more expensive and don’t relocate a single job into this country. But the GOP has abandoned this.
And that was just one issue. On immigration, on foreign policy, on torture, on criminal justice, all the candidates came off as Trump Lite. That’s a mistake. If the voters have a choice between Trump and Trump-Lite, they will go with Trump. But no one on that stage had the gravitas to push back against Trumpism.
Between these two parties, I am convinced that, regardless of who wins the election, we are headed for another lost economic decade. No one outside of Paul Ryan seems to understand how hard it is to do business in this country and how many millions of jobs and billions in wages our tax and regulatory system destroy. No one wants to stand against anti-immigrant and anti-trade hysteria. No one seems to understand that getting more involved in the Middle East is a mistake. No one seems to understand or care about the pending budget crisis. We are caught between one party that wants to blow up the debt with tax cuts and spending and another that wants to blow it up with more spending and more spending.
Maybe the GOP can recover if someone manages to beat Trump. But that’s looking less and less likely. Look, I’m tired and I’m getting over a cold. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic. But watching last night’s debate, desperately hoping to see something to hpoe for after the big government dumpster fire that was the last Democratic debate, I felt like I looked into the abyss. And the abyss tried to sell me steaks.
Update: Rubio’s people today are urging their voters in Ohio to support Kasich so that Trump won’t win Ohio. Kasich (and Cruz) have declined to reciprocate.
I must say, this really impresses me. Rubio is putting the party and the country ahead of himself. Bravo.