Monday, August 15, 2011

What to make of questionable comments from GOP candidates

Last week was not a good one for GOP sound bites. The leading candidates made a couple of statements that, if interpreted a certain way, could lead one to wonder if the party is careening off an ideological cliff.

First, during the GOP debate, every single candidate said that they would walk away from a deficit deal that had $10 in spending cuts for every dollar in tax increases. That is absolutely crazy. Anyone who would actually veto that deal has no business running for president. It's extremely unlikely that they would get a deal that was even that good. Do they think Democrats are just going to disappear? Do they not realize that those ten dollars in uncut spending will mean higher taxes later on? Would they really turn down a chance to substantially reform entitlements and move closer to long-term fiscal health in exchange for, say, ending the Bush tax cuts?

Like the author of the above article, I think that the mainstream candidates in the debate were most likely lying, and simply pandering to the hard-liners in the GOP base. Their statements are thus mostly an indictment of a primary system that is dominated by the radical wing of each party and forces candidates to throw red meat to their base, whether they truly believe what they are saying or not.

Secondly, Mitt Romney proclaimed at the Iowa State Fair that "corporations are people." Again, there are two ways of interpreting this. It could mean simply that corporations are made up of people, and as Romney said, all the money that goes to corporations eventually goes to people. It could, however, also mean that corporations deserve the same constitutional rights as people, an interpretation which the DNC is already using to attack Romney. This is a policy position that was unfortunately legitimized by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case--in my opinion, one of the most destructive decisions in recent history.

As I stated in my first post, businesses are more akin to governments than to individuals; they are collective organizations which increase overall wealth, security, and efficiency but must be carefully monitored and limited lest they usurp the power of the people. The Citizens United case gives corporations (and unions) undue power over the political process, and Republicans who actually believe that "corporations are people" risk being labeled as protecting corporate fat cats at the expense of ordinary people.


  1. Very interesting comments and I agree that the answer to the 10/1 question was more for the primary than for the general election. However, I also think that many of the candidates believe that, at this point, more debt is like more heroin. They believe the only way to get well is to have cuts with NO increase in the addiction.
    On the point about the legal definition of a corporate "person": I believe Mitt was taking the business definition which I also learned in MBA school. The decision goes back to the 1886 supreme court decision: "Corporate personhood refers to the question of which subset, if any, of rights afforded under the law to natural persons should also be afforded to corporations as legal persons. In the United States, corporations were recognized as having rights to contract, and to have those contracts honored the same as contracts entered into by natural persons, in Dartmouth College v. Woodward, decided in 1819. In the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, the Supreme Court recognized that corporations were recognized as persons for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment.[1][2] the argument goes back to the supreme court decision in 1886"

  2. Maybe they believe that the only way to get well is to have only cuts with no increase in the addiction...but saying "I won't take a 10:1 deal" is completely out of touch with reality. The only way they'll get a spending-cuts-only solution that is meaningful is if the GOP controls the White House and both houses of Congress with a supermajority in the Senate. Even if they did, since the country is fairly evenly divided between liberals and conservatives, a bill that made significant cuts to entitlements with no new revenue whatsoever would probably be quite unpopular and result in lots of Republicans getting kicked out of office.

    It makes sense that corporations should have the same rights regarding contracts, due process, and property. But corporations are not persons for the purposes of politics; they cannot vote or run for office. Giving them the right to unlimited political donations is unfair because large corporations and unions have so much money that they can drown out individuals, while not necessarily representing the views of all of their members.

  3. I agree with both your points with a minor proviso. Either cut off both big union and big corp or allow both. Then I right there with you.

  4. The BIG problem is that a 10/1 or any promise can't be enforced unless you already have control of both houses and the executive and then you don't need a promise. The democrats have made these promises before and NEVER honored them. The most famous is Reagan's 3/1 deal with Tip O'Neil. Reagan honored his part and raised the taxes, but the Democrats NEVER allowed ANY cuts. Reagan said before he left office that he hoped to see the cuts before he passed from this world and that didn't happen either.

  5. Of course cut off both big unions and big corporations. The point is that large moneyed organizations should not be able to have a huge influence on elections.

  6. Of course they said they would reject a 10/1 deal since the democrats would never honor it (they never have before, see other poster's comments on Reagan). What they should have said was that they would accept a deal of 10/1 BUT ONLY if revenue increases FOLLOWED cuts. So for each stepwise set of cuts they would enact appropriate revenue, not necessarily tax rate increases.

  7. Democrats promising 3/1, 10/1 or 100/1 cuts/revenue increases is just like the scorpion promising not to sting the frog as they crossed the pond.