WASHINGTON, August 7, 2015 – The first GOP debates produced some winner. High marks go to Chris Christie for his handling of the economy, Mike Huckabee for his poise and policy integrity, and Carly Fiorina, though not in the prime time debate, for her response to the Iran nuclear deal.
The other candidates, though not disappointments, failed to live up to expectations.
Some made statements that may have lost supporters. Rand Paul, for example, has what some see as a worrying stance on eliminating the Federal Reserve, the independent body supervising the U.S. monetary system The reason that the Fed was created, and every nation has a Central Bank, was to eliminate the politicizing of monetary policy. If Sen. Paul wants to manipulate the money supply, he should utilize his constitutional right as a U.S. Senator and adjust it through fiscal policy.
The mandate of the Fed is to take a long term, non-political, view of the monetary system. To be the only country without a Central Bank would be disastrous. One could argue that the current economic climate is enough to call into question the effectiveness of the Fed. However, the counter-argument is that the fiscal policies of state and local governments are as much to blame for the economic situation as the Fed is. When both monetary and fiscal policy levers are adjusted in sync the results are positive. If, however, those levers are pulled in opposing directions, i.e one decreasing the money supply with higher taxes, while other tries to increase it with a lower lending rate, the net effect is stagnation, or grinding of gears to put it in automotive terms.
The U.S. is roughly 18 Trillion dollars in debt, and with GDP, the measure of production, growing at a relatively anemic rate, two percent, it is uncertain that we can bring the debt to GDP ratio back to a reasonably sustainable level. This makes the economy and overall government spending a key policy issue, not just for conservatives. This is the one question everyone can wholeheartedly agree that Christie got right. New Jersey’s unemployment rate is now down to 6.1 percent, only a few points above the national average.
Donald Trump did little to convince the audience that his run for president is anything more than a ploy for financial gain. Maybe it is his admitted use of underhanded business techniques, or his emphasis on tough talk over policy specifics. He has lofty ideas but not specific policy related plans. He remains defiant and stubborn, raising questions about his ability to work within the constitutional structure to formulate tenable rational solutions to this country’s social an and economic problems. His name recognition puts him high in the polls, and many like his business savvy and unwillingness to compromise.
Trump has not, however, shown a seriousness about public policy outside of the salesman like approach to dealing with the news media. He has novel ideas. Bringing those ideas to fruition in a legislative context, however, does not seem like something he wants to be good at.
Ben Carson made some interesting remarks on modifying the tax code . Imagine the complexity of the bill it would take to repeal the existing tax code. Even if legislation were enacted that simply stated the existing code is inactive, and that moving forward we will be governed by a flat tax, all the other elements of the tax code tied to state funding mechanisms, business programs and the like would be affected. Any mention of any element of the then repealed tax code would have to be re-written. It would be far easier to modify one or more elements of the tax code, than to repeal the entire tax code.
Mike Huckabee displayed why he is a long time favorite of the GOP. His poise and articulation merit serious attention. From a policy stand point, he is the person to beat. He is not just a guy with different ideas, there is serious thought to implementation as well. This is the one thing candidates like Trump and Carson lack. Nevertheless, it is still early, and his inability to clench the nomination in the past may play against him.
The field almost certainly will narrow as the race goes on, as tension becomes short and resources get pulled in different directions. In many ways, this race is a relay, with each candidate energizing the next. Only one will get to cross the finish line.
Despite the occasional pushing and shoving this was the most interesting debate on television.