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The McCain-Hayworth-Deakin Debate

So I got around to watching the Arizona Republican senatorial debate on youtube.  Whoa.  Here is my snarky summary,

Moderator:  Have at it gentlemen.

Hayworth:  I'm a consistent conservative

McCain:  I'm a Reagan conservative

Deakin:  Neither of you are conservatives.  Get back to the Constitution.  And repeal the Sixteenth Amendment.

Hayworth:  You were for amnesty and are making mean personal attacks.

McCain.  I was never for amnesty and you appeared on an infomercial for free government tax money.

Deakin:  Hi.  I'm Jim Deakin.

Hayworth:  You sponsored earmarks.

McCain:  No you sponsored earmarks.

Moderator:  Senator McCain, didn't you sponsor an amnesty bill in 2007?

McCain: These are not the droids you're looking for.

Hayworth:  McCain's amnesty will cost 2.6 trillion dollars in health benefits for illegal aliens.

Moderator:  So health care.  Whats up with that?

Deakin:  Get government out of Medicare and make it state-by state [so help me God thats what he said].

Hayworth:  I love Medicare.  Vague, one sentence mention of market based reform that is totally incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't have a very clear memory of the bill establishing Medicare Part D.  John McCain's amnesty is bad for Medicare.

McCain:  Obamacare will destroy Medicare.  No cuts in Medicare.

Moderator:  And specific policy proposals for improving health care policy?

Crickets: Chirp, chirp.

Moderator: So what about working across the aisle?

Hayworth:  You won't see me at any Georgetown cocktail parties hanging out with network news anchors.

McCain:  I'm really against earmarks.  I'm the anti-Ms. Congeniality sheriff of being against earmarks. That will get us the trust of the American people.

Deakin:  Both of you guys voted with the other party to impose capital gains taxes on songwriters and bring light rail to Arizona.

Moderator:  So what about taxes and the deficit?

McCain:  I was against the Bush tax cuts because I wanted spending to be under control first.  Spending isn't under control and I'm against repealing the Bush tax cuts.  Also cut corporate taxes and hold off [presumably cut] payroll taxes.

Hayworth:  McCain is a Bush tax cut flip flopper.

Deakin:  They both love the PATRIOT Act better than the Bush tax cuts and that is why the tax cuts aren't permanent.  Cut taxes more and get rid of free trade agreements.

Moderator:  So what about defense cuts or other cuts to reduce the deficit?  What would you cut?

Hayworth:  Here is what I won't cut.  Fight terror, especially on the southern border.  Stop Obamacare, and use unspent TARP and stimulus funds for the deficit.  And no amnesty.

McCain:  Stop overruns on defense programs.  And there will be lots of jobs for defense industry firms in Arizona.  Just say no to pork.

Deakin:  Don't have military bases in countries just because it feels good to have them there [I'm not kidding.  He said that.].

Moderator:  So what about unemployment and job creation?

McCain:  Extend unemployment benefits based on a clean bill.  Cut corporate taxes.  I'll make sure Arizona military bases and defense industry firms get plenty of federal money.

Deakin:  Don't extend unemployment benefits.  Cut regulations [no specifics] and end free trade agreements.

Hayworth:  Did I mention that I voted for the Bush tax cuts?

This debate was really sad.  McCain's positioning on domestic policy is utterly cynical.  He barely even bothers to come up with plausible explanations for changing his positions in whatever directions his consultants tell him to go.  He is ripe for a populist, principled conservative challenger.  The problem is that you can listen to Deakin and Hayworth and have no clue how, in any specific way, their policies (drawn from their principles) will improve people's lives in any meaningful way.  How much (if any) would their tax plans save you?  What policies will slow the growth of health insurance premiums?  How much does McCain plan to cut corporate taxes and how will that change corporate behavior?  It is all cliches, buzz words, and signaling to people who are already broadly familiar with the conservative narrative.  The problem is that it is just patter (Reagan, tax cuts, earmarks, Obamacare etc.) and McCain can deploy it too.  About the only place the debate got down to the human level, was when McCain was talking about bringing home government bucks to Arizona bases and defense companies.

Ross Douthat wrote last week that one of the great vices of the contemporary right is the "blithe conviction that "true conservative" good intentions trump policy substance and deep expertise."  I'm not totally on board with that.  I would say that a great vice is too many politicians who market themselves as conservatives tend to try to win over voters far more by posturing and trying to show cultural affinity (I'm a Reagan conservative, I'm a consistent conservative) than by articulating relevant policies that are based on shared principles in a way that the consequences of those policies are understandable to the average somewhat-but not-very-involved voter who isn't just looking to cheer on a team.

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 1 Comment

Technically I think McCain was on the right side of things in opposing the Bush tax cuts.

Here is why:
Under Bush you have:
War in Iraq: stimulus
War in Afghanistan: stimulus
Tax Cuts: Stimulus(opposed by McCain)
other increased spending Fannie and Freddie homeownership as part of the ownership society(parts of which opposed by McCain): Stimulus
Financial bailout: Stimulus
Record low interest rates: Stimulus

Under Obama you have:
War in Iraq: stimulus
War in Afghanistan: stimulus
Tax Cuts: stimulus
other increased spending as part of the green(Chevy Volt), new GM/new foundations economy, cash for clunkers: stimulus (parts of which opposed by McCain)
Financial bailout: stimulus
Record Low Interest rates: stimulus

A lot of these record deficits were forcast in the days of Bill Clinton, which is why he said the age of big government was over, especially once we got the republicans in power to hold his feet to the fire. Clinton helped the future viability of the welfare regime.

In terms of lower taxes Bush delivered on a conservative promise. If you like conspiracy theories Bush also destroyed the future viability/possibility of the welfare state by growing deficits with unecessary over stimulation, that deprived the welfare state of necessary bullets during recession.

Now the funny thing with Obama is that he knows that the age of big government is over....but in the short to medium term the age of big government must remain alive in a recession. We can get out of Afghanistan when the cyclical boom in inventory replacement in aerospace that will keep Boeing and Lockeheed alive starts with full force. We can get out of Iraq and trim defense spending once this isn't one of the few healthy legs of the economy. As it is I actually think that just on a fiscal note Obama isn't going to do anything in Afghanistan that hurts the defense industry. He can't deprive himself of economic stimulus that has republican support. (McCain support at least)


So now McCain is for tax cuts and for all sorts of stimulus, but this is really the policy recommendation for recession. It is perfectly sensible to be in favor of lower taxes during a recession, but not during times when government is already doing deficit spending(when McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts). The only problem is that there aren't that many bullets left in the gun....Bush shot them all, the fed already was low...taxes already were cut, and the fact that the Bush tax cuts might expire under Obama is a big problem for Obama if he is listening to even liberal Robert Reich.

Had the bush tax cuts never existed there wouldn't be this overhang going into 2011...the deficit wouldn't be so bad, and obama would probably have made even more middle class tax cuts at this juncture, along with more spending and maybe less deficit spending overall (since he could do more on a relative basis, but even then he would be seeing all too clearly and first hand what Clinton saw on the horizon....that horizon is now)

Look a conservative wave is comming, but a lot of waves are comming because the entire welfare state regime is about to die(or at least this is a common popular view.)

I think from the perspective of a sort of pro-welfare state(powerfull america) Neo-Keynsian/McCain type view...Bush will be remmembered as the president who over projected american power, over stimulated, over spent, and thus created conditions where credibility of stimulus tools to invigorate animal spirits were no longer present looking foward given the elephant in the room deficit.

Obama will be seen as the president whose ideological spending would have came at the right time in a disciplined neo-keynesian welfare regime.

There is no disputing that Obama got a bad hand dealt, that he will have to own the hand and play it, but that at some point the deficit became like exposed aces in the burn pile. If two aces are showing in the burn pile and two are on the flop, Obama can't bluff. Bernanke made clear that he wants more government spending, that he especially wants tax cuts(and the bush ones) but that he is also really worried about the deficit. That is even if Obama can magically get the unemployment to the overly optimistic fed figure of 7.1% by Jan 2012...Jan 2013 won't look much better...the deficit overhang going foward almost regardless of political climate means increased taxes, reduced spending and a combination of both in larger and larger proportions. (In fact if Obama can get unemployment to 7.1% and get re-elected he will have to promise to increase taxes and cut spending and end the war, and 7.1% will be the low out to 2016.)

With the Macro picture being what it is I don't think McCain would have done much better or worse (so to a great extent I accept that his inability to articulate economic policy apriori doesn't matter than much...he isn't Bernake) plus it is really politicians who didn't realize the full weight of the Clinton/Gingrich outlook who spent too much time winning votes by promising tax cuts and fighting a good war and other government spending. If anything Cheney and Kristol should be taking it on the chin, for saying: "Deficits don't matter" Or hailed as heroes if you are a certain type of conservative. Deficits do matter....but perhaps in a way if the tax cuts had not been handed out to the people the money would have simply been spent by washington... except that the money was spent by washington anyways...because the system can sustain times when deficits don't matter....thus the liberal democratic neo-keynesian welfare state is remarkably stable and stabilizing provided it is ran like Germany.

I don't mind if you identify McCain as something other than a conservative. I think he is a pro liberal democratic welfare state neo-keynesian neo-conservative.

You guys seemed to never try to understand his policy consistency.

And you tried to sell him by packaging him with Palin which did and does make for policy travesty and incoherence.

But you could have gone with coherence and packaged him with Leiberman.

Also one problem I have is that once I start chearing for a team, since I am not paid to do so... I continue doing so, especially if I am cheering for a reason I see is underserved or slightly different.

Also McCain was never pro-amnesty, but he was also never anti-immigration. Even now he isn't anti-immigration.

While there is a lot of conflicting information, I think the weight of the evidence stands behind the view that immigration is a net positive. The CBO(congressional Budget Office) said so in 2007. According to pro-nafta Clintonomics immigration was a good thing. Actually I wonder if some of the voices on the right that Clinton co-opted(it is hard to sort out what is true clinton and true gingrich) didn't really push pro-immigration to the left. Stephen Moore(a true Reaganite?) was recently on CNBC talking up a study showing that immigrants add much more to the economy than they take away. You can still find some support at Cato and Heritage...

In any case this is a hot issue in Arizona, and I hope arizone voters don't get too caught up in what the "right" position is, whatever it is.

Maybe McCain is just too old and doesn't understand the new conservatism.

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