Thursday, November 19, 2015

241. GOP debates have been a bit of a fiasco

I think it was John Kasich who said in one of the earlier debates that some of his Republican counterparts were living in a fantasy world. He might be right.

I have watched all of the Republican debates thus far and it’s been a bit of a fiasco. From Trump’s repeating rants to the whole lot of them complaining that the questions were unfair, the debates have made for good reality television.

As I mentioned previously, my choice for president is Bernie Sanders. If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, I will probably vote for her. But I am still interested about who will win the Republican nomination. They could earn my vote, but I also want to know where the country is headed if one of them is elected president.

Despite my strong values and opinions, I enjoy the discussion of important issues. I get to test my beliefs and sometimes even change them. I like considering the arguments.

But some of the arguments. Sheesh.

Most want to repeal Obamacare, but other than a “free market system,” nobody seems to offer a solid alternative. A free market healthcare system is ridiculous—this system is so big, convoluted, confusing and intertwined with the protected interest of so many powerful organizations and the government (Medicaid and Medicare) that it could never work. There is only one rational alternative and that is national healthcare. It’s not perfect, but my preferred option.

Of course, any talk of the government getting bigger segues to socialism, a favorite topic in the debates. I am pretty convinced that Republicans still don’t understand what socialism really means (Carly Fiorina kept using crony capitalism and socialism in the same answer) and their political exaggerations only damage the conversation. Several candidates want to cut the size of government (and presumably put lots of people out of work) by cutting departments like the IRS and Chamber of Commerce, while increasing the size of the military.

The military talk is quite frankly a bit frightening. Only Rand Paul called out the conflicting notion of conservatism and small government while increasing defense spending. The “tough talk,” is getting annoying, plays on the fear factor and it seems like further conflict is inevitable. With a military budget that dwarfs the rest of the world (four times larger than China, the next biggest and about eight times the size of Putin’s Russia), I am not sure how much bigger it needs to get.

Taxes. Republicans understand the flat tax as well as they understand socialism. In a flat tax system of 10 percent, clearly it is comprehensible that paying $5,000 on a salary $50,000 has far more of a quality of life impact than paying $1 million on $10 million in earnings. Surprisingly to some, our progressive system is much more fair, everyone pays the same amount of taxes based on earnings—there are just too many loopholes and too low a tax rate on high wage earners. A three-page tax form is a nice thought, but more fantasy—it’s never going to happen. Lower taxes are a great message, I would love less taxes with the same government services—trouble is, as usual, the disagreements are about what to cut.

As for the candidates themselves, the stump speeches are getting repetitive. Donald Trump, who got off to a strong start and has a dedicated base, is clearly starting to stumble. He is vague and rude, and probably lives in the biggest fantasy land of them all. Billions of dollars can do that to a man. He’s becoming a farce and would have done better with a short primary season. I am disappointed in Jeb Bush and sometimes feel sorry for him in the debates. He seems out of his element. For someone so connected and who had two immediate family members serve in the White House, he is surprisingly ambiguous. I would expect that he would lead the conversation with details and experience—as John Kasich has done.

Ben Carson is an interesting person with obvious intelligence. But he also believes some weird stuff and there are legitimate questions about his past. The line about asking what he said in tenth grade was great and applicable, but he still makes me nervous. The vetting process is going to get much more intense. I thought Chris Christie would be more of a factor, but his obsession with Hillary Clinton means it is time for him and the others on the preliminary stage to drop out.

Carly Fiorina may have some talent, but I don’t think she has the demeanor or qualifications to be president. She would do well with some time in a lesser elected position before running for president. Ted Cruz seems to be improving but is another with some weird positions. I think Rand Paul is the most consistent, though conservative, of the candidates— and I respect that.

My prediction is that the nomination is going to Marco Rubio. Although there are some concerns, he has the charisma and preparedness to win the nomination. He reminds me a bit of Barack Obama and his quick rise in the Democratic party. Sometimes less is more and that Rubio doesn’t have a lengthy record to defend might help him. Others are starting to attack him, so he seems to have gotten their attention. As the field shrinks (and let’s hope it does), Rubio is going to get more time to speak and I think will outshine the others.