Republicans keep promising us “Constitutional conservatism.” At last night’s debate, sadly, neither the Constitution — nor the Declaration of Independence giving rise to it — were much in evidence.
Donald Trump wants to lower or eliminate the corporate income tax. But he wants to increase taxes on hedge fund managers. Under capitalism, you do not punish some groups while rewarding others. You simply treat everyone the same, and when people earn different amounts of money, you leave them alone. Trump wants to retain a progressive income tax, because he feels it’s “fair” for those who earn more money to pay higher percentages. How high? Eighty or ninety percent, as Bernie Sanders and possibly Hillary Clinton think? Trump does not say. What we do know: Trump does not fully understand or appreciate capitalism.
Chris Christie acknowledges that Social Security is insolvent. His solution is not to privatize it for future generations while trying to keep it going for the current one. (An insolvent program will privatize itself, by eventually collapsing.) His solution is to somehow make it solvent by continuing to force wealthy people (the level of wealth not defined) to pay into the system while getting no returns for it. Trump agrees. This is not capitalism. This is not justice or fairness. And for that reason, it will not work. You cannot fix the unfixable, which Social Security and Medicare fundamentally are.
Ben Carson opposes the progressive income tax (whereby you pay higher tax rates when you make more) because it’s socialism. How refreshing to hear a presidential candidate call it like it is! But when asked whether the minimum wage should be raised, he replied “probably or possibly.” By what logic do you reject the progressive income tax because it’s socialism, while supporting the minimum wage? By the way, if you read up on Carson’s proposal for health care, he wants to turn medicine into a “public utility” run by the government. This is not a free market; it’s economic fascism, which is a form of government control quite similar to socialism.
Rand Paul made eloquent statements about following Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy model — utilizing peace through strength to defeat the Soviets, while refraining from engaging in unnecessary and unwinnable ground wars. But he also implied we can and should do business with Iranian mullahs who vow to wipe Israel and ultimately the United States off the map. Despite the obvious weakness of unfreezing assets to Iran and taking them at their word in a peace treaty, Paul states he would not rip up Obama’s peace treaty once in office. Paul does not fully grasp or appreciate peace through strength; not if he wants to do “business” with the Iranian totalitarians.
Mike Huckabee forcefully stands up to the Iranian mullahs and ISIS, referring to them at one point as religious dictators. In this respect, he’s one of the most eloquent of the candidates. Yet he turns around and asserts that religious freedoms and “religious rights” are the most fundamental of all. Tell that to the Iranian mullahs and ISIS. How does Huckabee plan to morally and militarily fight off those religious totalitarians while claiming that religious rights are the most fundamental of all? Or does he mean that religious freedom is more applicable to Christians than to people of other religions, or no religion at all? Huckabee opposes the right people for some of the right reasons; but in the end, either he has no grasp of what individual freedom actually is, or does not care.
John Kasich is basically a Democrat, except for his opposition to abortion and gay marriage. You can get the religious conservatism from most of the other Republican candidates; and you can get his foreign policy and economic views from the Democrats. The only reason he’s in the race is because he assumes he can win Ohio for the Republicans (not a sure thing.). Even if he does — to what end? He’s living in the 1990s, when the Democratic Party viewed it as necessary to engage in compromises with Republicans, as Bill Clinton sometimes did. Those days are gone. Obama is not merely a partisan, but an actual villain, arguably an enemy of the country and a traitor. Kasich is living in the contradictory absurdity of a fool’s paradise if he thinks he can “negotiate” and “do business” with contemporary Democrats.
All of the candidates support securing America’s border (with or without a wall) and enforcing immigration laws. Obama has been so lawless on this subject it’s amazing we even have to make this point. However, none of the candidates made even one reference to the most important problem: The existence of the welfare state. If there were no welfare state, immigration would not be a problem. We would welcome and need the types of people who would come to America where people are fully free and fully responsible for themselves. None of the candidates — not one — proposed limiting or eliminating the welfare state, if only for immigrants, to ensure we draw the right kind of people into the country. You do not expect Democrats to take such a position, since hooking people on the government dole is their whole reason for existing; but you would think that at least one of these many Republicans would name the real cause of the problem with immigration.
All Republicans claim to agree on the 10th Amendment, which states that anything not specified as powers for the federal government in the Constitution are reserved for the states, or the people. Rand Paul correctly pointed out Chris Christie’s hypocrisy on the subject, by supporting federal intervention against Colorado for its legalization of marijuana. Rand Paul asked for consideration of state’s rights. All agreed upon “state’s rights” when it came to gay marriage or abortion. But what about the rights of the individual? Don’t those ultimately trump the “right” of either a state or federal government to do whatever it pleases to the individual?
The phrase “individual rights” came up on only one subject: gun ownership. Although most of the candidates tried to have it both ways on this and many other subjects, they at least grasp that the individual does have a moral and political right to defend himself, including owning a gun. This is much more than the Democrats offer; but it’s not nearly enough.
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio made some compelling points. Cruz is at his best in his determination to take down Iran and ISIS. It’s still unclear what he would do for the economy, aside from repeal Obamacare. Rubio appears to have some grasp of the legitimacy and value of limited government. But both appear to have trouble concretizing and articulating their points, although Cruz is the much stronger of the two. And the problem with Cruz, particularly — as ultimately with all Republicans — is that when religion or individual rights conflict, the tendency will be usually (if not always) to go with religion.
Jeb Bush was all over the place. Carly Fiorina is a commanding debater, and appears quite impressive under pressure. But like Trump, she appears to better grasp business than capitalism. Capitalism is the only moral or practical social system ever conceived. The reason? It’s the system which protects the absolutism of private property and, more fundamentality, the rights of the individual to be free from force (including government coercion). While it’s refreshing to consider a candidate like Trump or Fiorina who appreciates and understands the importance of business, it’s even more important to have a candidate who appreciates and understands the necessity and legitimacy of capitalism. It’s not at all clear that we have even one candidate like that.
Chris Christie pointed out that 71 percent of the federal budget is now devoted to Social Security and Medicare. These are the programs driving spending, taxes and unsustainable debt upward. These are the programs that make immigration a crisis, and not merely an issue. Yet these programs were barely mentioned in the whole debate. Ditto for the debt. What’s really important to these Republicans? What fires them up? And if it’s not these things — why not?
I’m not expecting a perfect candidate. I’m not expecting someone who will agree with me on most things. But I am expecting at least a Republican candidate or two who appreciates the value of capitalism, private property and — first and foremost — the moral and political right of the individual to be sovereign over his or her life.
Those principles are vanishing. But they’re needed more desperately than ever before. Human survival and flourishing require them.
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