Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Issue Report

Sorry I've been away.  Getting away from the horse race stuff, what does the Republican presidential debate look like on the key issues of Medicare, Social Security, and health care policy generally?  Here are my impressions after watching the first six Republican debates and the Freedom Forum thing in South Carolina:

Medicare - Almost nothing after the first debate.  Rick Santorum mentioned the benefits of a premium support model for Medicare in the first debate and I think several candidates mentioned that they supported the Ryan Medicare reform proposal.  That is about all I've heard.  Gingrich mentioned his snake oil about cutting fraud in one debate too.  Reforming Medicare is an enormous fiscal issue and will probably be THE key battleground over whether we move to a higher tax, more statist, more centralized direction or a (comparatively) lower tax, more market-oriented direction.  The early Republican debates have done nothing to advance public understanding this issue or any particular Medicare reform proposal.  I haven't heard Perry say anything about this issue. 

As usual, Romney is the antimatter of political courage.  His Medicare proposal in his economic plan is short and to no point.  Romney writes "the plan put forward by Congressman Paul Ryan makes important strides in the right direction by keeping the system solvent and introducing market-based dynamics. As president, Romney's own plan will differ, but it will share those objectives."  Or as Reason magazine described Romney's plan "Does Romney support Ryan's plan, or its basic framework? Not...exactly. "As president, Romney's own plan"--wasn't this supposed to be Romney's plan?--"will differ, but it will share those objectives." The same. But different."  What a waste.

The best that we can hope for are that Perry and Romney are hoping to get elected and then throw America a Medicare reform surprise party.  Worst case, we are headed for the rocks.

Social Security - So far it has been mostly attitudinizing from the two frontrunners.  Perry and Romney aren't actually that apart on substance - in the sense that neither has much just yet.  They both want Social Security to remain unchanged for current recipients.  They both want the system to be reformed so that it will be there for younger workers.  And neither has committed to any actual reform proposals.  So that leaves posturing.  Perry has done a lot of big talking and writing that Social  Security is an unconstitutional Ponzi scheme monstrous lie that maybe should be run by the states.  Running on such a platform would probably be political suicide so Perry isn't advocating moving Social Security into a state-run program.  But he can neither fully embrace nor fully reject his previous statements.  So he ends up defending his past statements while denying that they will form the basis for forward-looking policy.  And when that fails, he just starts talking about Romneycare regardless of whether it makes sense in the context of the discussion. 

Meanwhile, Romney is busy pretending that Perry would try to destroy Social Security.  Reality check:  If we repealed the 22nd Amendment and Rick Perry served three terms as President, Perry would leave office with Social Security being a federal-level program of intergenerational transfer and/or forced savings.

The only candidate who has had anything real to say on Social Security has been Herman Cain with his proposal of moving to Chilean-style private accounts.  The problem is that Social Security is suffering a medium-term funding shortfall.  The amount coming in from payroll taxes isn't going to keep up with benefits.  Diverting the payroll tax contributions of younger workers into private investment accounts only makes that shortfall worse over the next several decades.  That means the shortfall has to be made up with either greater government borrowing, higher taxes, lower benefits for retirees or some combination of the above.  What am I missing?  This isn't even getting into the political problem of selling private accounts after the stock market gyrations of the last eleven years.

Health care policy - All the Republican presidential candidates hate Obamacare.  I heard some stuff from Perry about tort reform.  Romney mentioned something about interstate purchase of health insurance.  If you were just the average voter, you had little idea what either of them were talking about or how you might benefit by the weird-sounding policies they passingly mentioned.  Not one of them can produce a coherent and concise critique of Romneycare  Romney is (amazingly) getting away with hiding the policy similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare.  Perry's explanation of Texas' high rate of uninsured residents is that the dog Washington ate his Medicaid waiver.  Not one of the candidates has mentioned (for instance) how moving more of the working age population to system of HSAs/catastrophic coverage might maintain health care security while increasing worker take home pay,  At the presidential debate level, the quality of the Republican message hasn't improved even a little bit over 2008.  All we have done is seen "stop socialized medicine" replaced with "repeal Obamacare."  This issue (along with Medicare) is where Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan are missed the most.     
Categories > Politics

Discussions - 12 Comments


Michael Barone says Republicans are still looking for a candidate. I sure am. "Anyone but Obama" really doesn't mean that anyone can win the presidency in the next election. Quite right, no one running has a good answer for all of the key issues mentioned above, which is why it is hard to take any of those candidates seriously. I keep telling myself it is early days, yet, but if we get to January and I am still saying that, it won't feel at all ... healthy.

Right. The healthcare one in particular has been annoying me at these debates. I'm pretty sure we all know that they want to repeal Obamacare. It would then be nice to see how they plan to address the healthcare problem.

And I know I'm biased in my interest, but when the only talk of foreign policy is between neocon Santorum, pragmatist Huntsman, and non-interventionist Paul, there's a problem. Iran, Israel, the Arab Revolutions, Iran, China, Kim Jong-Il, Iran, Cuba, free trade agreements, the START treaty with Russia, Iran, Pakistan, the Mexican Drug War, Taiwan, our current wars, the American role in Libya, and Iran should all be thrown out there at them. Or at least some of that list. Especially the Iran one. These are very real issues, some of which will have very large consequences for us. So far the only ones whose foreign policies seem to be crystal clear are Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul, while Ambassador Huntsman's seems mostly measurable. Nothing from anyone else. I find that uncomfortable.

What was that guy's name who won the Florida Straw Poll?

Herman Cain! Free Godfather's pizza swag all around!

To celebrate Cain's victory Godfathers pizza announces that all Pizza's will come standard with peperoni, made with a 50/50 blend of cured pork and beef, to resist sharia compliance!

My blunt opinion is that based upon what I have seen, this is not at the present time a nation that will ever make tough choices until forced to, because the soft middle of the electorate (upon whom elections are starting to increasingly turn) just will not take their responsibilities seriously enough, the media is still powerful enough to bias the game to the left, and aside from the Tea Party types, I've seen very few politicians willing to go die on a hill for reform.

Therefore, I think the ultimate solution to this, to be forced on us by time and economic reality coming home and that leave no other choice, is that the percentage of the GDP that combined federal and state governments can take is going to be capped (perhaps via a Constitutional amendment), probably at the 25% level or so; that the social programs of Social Security and Medicare will have a set percentage of that amount, and that both will be basically limited in some way, most likely by age (i.e., the oldest get in, perhaps with means-testing, and when someone dies another person gets into the program, and even if you have a need, if there is no room there is no room.) It will take an unfortunate economic reality suffered by all of us to make this happen, but that is my likely guess right now of what is going to happen--and the mutual economic suffering is what will cause the majority to shout down those who want to feed at the trough.

Therefore,if this occurs, the only way to have more people get into the programs will be to grow the economy--which is how these program became feasible in the first place. There is no way 1820s America could have possibly thought of something like this, as there simply wasn't enough excess wealth. It took the Industrial Revolution to do that. Today there is excess wealth, but not to the levels necessary to pay out what we want to pay out. We simply need a bigger economy to sustain what we have today--a bigger economy relative to the number of people we have today--thus we need a higher GNP per capita. Thus, that which does not support a growing economy relative to the current population is that which is, at the end of the day, anti-thetical to social welfare programs. Not to mention a growing economy reduces the need for those programs in the first place.

In my view, this is probably going to be the end state, but it is going to take a lot of pain and shouting to get there. Of course, I'd be delighted to be proven wrong.

My method will also mean that every dollar spent on pork or "stimilus packages" or is loaned to Solyndra is a dollar that cannot go to defense or welfare programs, because the funds available will be capped. I promise you, you cap the total amount that state and federal governments can skim off of the economy, you will moderate the worst effects of poverty, will make Americans where the true emphasis of our efforts to make this nation better for all should be (economic growth), and will limit the out-of-control nature of our present Leviathan, because the funds simply won't be available to do so without cutting bone elsewhere.

In Good Grammar land, the following sentence:

"will make Americans where the true emphasis of our efforts to make this nation better for all should be (economic growth)"

would read more as:

"will make Americans see where the true emphasis of our efforts to make this nation better for all should be (economic growth)"

Good Grammar land--I hope to get there someday. I hear it's not just a nice place to visit...

Cain has common sense, unlike the idiot in the White House, and knows that there is no such thing as a free lunch - even if its Godfather's pizza.

Given that sharia law is not favorable to women (where are all those liberals protesting sharia law's discriminatory practices against women - maybe out having GodFather's Pizza) I support beef and pork pizza.

Hey, speaking of Social Security, check this out - it's a real hoot.

Charles Koch encouraged Friedrich Hayek to sign up for Social Security.

Wow, you're right. I can't believe guys like Ryan want to get rid of Social Security. Oh wait, Ryan has proposed moving Social Security (in the Roadmap) and Medicare (in his PTP) in a more downwardly distributive direction.

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