Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why the G.O.P. Candidates Don’t Do Substance

John Cassidy, The New Yorker

“Maybe I missed it,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet on Friday morning, “but we just had an entire #GOPDebate on economics and #TPP was never mentioned.” Haass was referring, of course, to the recently agreed upon Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement encompassing twelve Pacific Rim countries. He also could have cited numerous other economic phenomena that received cursory attention, at most, during Wednesday night’s Republican debate, which CNBC aired from Boulder, Colorado: the lingering effects of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate, the economic slowdown in China, the size of the budget deficit, the United States’ poor performance in math and science, the state of America’s physical infrastructure.

Rather than focussing on topics like these, the ten candidates spent much of their time attacking CNBC’s moderators (my colleague Amy Davidson has more on this) and competing with each other over who could offer Americans the lowest tax rates. In response to a question about whether he was running a “comic book” campaign, Donald Trump said, “We’re reducing taxes to fifteen per cent.” Ben Carson mentioned the same figure. Rand Paul said that he would offer the zero option for payroll taxes: abolishing the contribution that workers make.

Did any of the candidates detail how they would pay for their huge tax giveaways? Of course not. Relying on the discredited arguments of supply-side economics, a few of them did say that reductions in tax rates would produce a much higher rate of economic growth, which would boost tax revenues. Carson talked vaguely about eliminating some tax deductions. Carly Fiorina said that she would reduce the mammoth U.S. tax code to three pages. Ted Cruz said that his plan would allow people to file their tax returns on a postcard.

(More here.)

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