GOP Candidates Show Their Extremism

As I keep saying, the Republicans have a serious problem trying to please the Tea Partiers and still look relatively sane to everyone else. During the GOP debate on Friday night, they showed just how far they’re willing to drive the crazy train when Bret Baier asked this question:

“I’m going to ask a question to everyone here on the stage. Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1, as Byron said, spending cuts to tax increases…. Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you’d walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?”

Every single one of them raised their hand. Not a single dissenter. Do they not realize how that’s going to play with independents and sane Republicans? The polls recently have shown definitively that the public wants to bring the debt down through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, running in the high 60 and even 70s in some of the polls. And the Republicans just showed that they wouldn’t even support a 10-1 mix.

This is precisely the problem with trying to pander to fanatics. You can’t ever be pure enough for them. Even the slightest deviation is heresy and is immediately punished. And every one of those candidates knows that they have no chance of winning the Republican primary without winning over the Tea Party. Thus, their unanimous answers to that question.

Steve Benen nails it:

As a policy matter, if a 10-to-1 cuts-to-revenue ratio is considered far too liberal for the Republican Party in the 21st century, we can say with certainty the GOP is obviously not serious about debt reduction. We can also say with certainty Republican leaders haven’t the foggiest idea how to shape a coherent approach to fiscal sanity. But last night wasn’t about coherence or sanity; it was about impressing unhinged activists whose connection to reality is tenuous at best.

Regardless, this moment is a keeper. Anyone wanting to know why compromise has been deemed impossible in 2011 need look no further than these eight clowns raising their hand to reject a debt-reduction deal that’s overwhelmingly tilted in their favor.

To show just how extreme that reaction was, it even drew a furious reaction from Kevin Williamson at the National Review:

very candidate said he would oppose a cuts-taxes plan that contained a 10:1 ratio of cuts to taxes. Chalk one up to the crazies. If Congress wanted to get rid of tax exemptions and exclusions amounting to $100 billion in new taxes in exchange for $1 trillion in cuts, and Republicans turned the deal down, I would personally drive down to Washington and pelt them with rotten vegetables, and possibly with rocks. $100 billion in new taxes plus $1 trillion in cuts balances the budget in 2012.

You know who won the Bachmann-Pawlenty-Romney Tenth Amendment debate? Rick Perry.

Except that Perry would almost certainly have given the same answer. This is the problem with having a primary that will be determined by the most insane elements of your party — every sane person, including their fellow Republicans, flees from the crazy rhetoric.

13 comments on this post.
  1. Freerefill:

    But last night wasn’t about coherence or sanity; it was about impressing unhinged activists whose connection to reality is tenuous at best.

    Beautiful statement. Crafted like fine marble, worthy of the Louvre.

    Just once, before I die, I’d like to see a Presidential election where people have to vote between who is better, not between who is worse. I think Obama, if he runs again, is going to take the next election… mainly because the Republicans are running out of time to find someone who’s sane.

    Stewart/Colbert 2012 – It’s already a joke, so we might as well hire comedians.

  2. Michael Heath:

    Ed:

    The polls recently have shown definitively that the public wants to bring the debt down through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, running in the high 60 and even 70s in some of the polls.

    This point is well-promoted by the left. However where the left fails is to also note the mathematical impossibility of both balancing the budget and getting debt to a manageable level of GDP without increases to revenue (relative to GDP).

    Revenue isn’t merely a function of effective tax rates, it’s also largely a function of income. So while this assertion alone wil go over the heads of the public; the left could follow this assertion by providing some illustrative examples on what the country would like if spending was 15% of GDP and how that effected our income, our jobs outlook, our ability to secure shelter, clothe and feed ourselves, and our ability to pay for our healthcare and education for our children. Driving home the fact that such cuts in spending alone would also significantly increase the burden of debt relative to GDP is also ripe for exploitation with illustrative examples.

    Even the President spends too much time playing the bleeding heart liberal card when in fact the superior argument is to describe how Tea Party friendly policy would result in economic devastation for nearly the entire country if the U.S. federal government cut out all the spending that the Tea Partiers advocate while maintaining our current and rising levels of spending on Defense. This last point is important since just days prior to voting to increase the debt ceiling the Congress passed the FY2011 Defense spending bill which increased Defense spending next year by $17 billion dollars, to $530 billion. Yet the silence and therefore hypocrisy by Tea Partiers went virtually un-reported and un-exploited by the left when it came to asserting that the Tea Partiers’ supposed concern about debt and the effect on future generations is a lie.

  3. Phillip IV:

    And the Republicans just showed that they wouldn’t even support a 10-1 mix.

    And right they were – a 10/1 mix is just obscene! Why would you want to disincentive success when you just managed to cut $9 from the budget? The correct and reasonable reaction to saving $9 from the budget would be giving $2 in tax breaks to corporations, so the candidates showed incredible restraint when indicating that they would go along with a mere 10/0 deal. Corporations might be people, but unlike other people, corporate citizens count. /sarc

  4. No True Colors | Meddling Kids:

    [...] When asked if to raise their hands if they would outright reject a fiscal policy that required a ten to one compromise between spending cuts (the 10) and tax increases (the 1), all eight candidates raised their hands. Yet they all preach fiscal responsibility and the dogma of the balanced budget. There is an excellent commentary on this on Dispatches From The Culture Wars. [...]

  5. Steve LaBonne:

    However where the left fails is to also note the mathematical impossibility of both balancing the budget and getting debt to a manageable level of GDP without increases to revenue (relative to GDP).

    This is not a failing of “the left”, which says these things all the time, but of the media megaphone which simply refuses to amplify voices anywhere to the left of center-right politicians like Obama.

  6. cuttlefish:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2011/08/15/raise-your-hand/

    Someone needs to get Perry’s answer on the record. Preferably in front of a similar crowd.

  7. raven:

    The Tea Party is just nuts.

    If the feds cut spending drastically during a slowdown or recession, it would just make it worse. This is standard Keynesian economics, the current ruling theory.

    It also took 11 years to get to our current state. Most economists date it to the Greenspan era after 2000 of blowing up one bubble after another with low interest rates and money supply increases to prop up the US economy.

    It will take a lot of years to get out of this mess and there is no easy or quick fix.

  8. raven:

    FWIW, there is no good correlation between tax rates and prosperity.

    Of the 15 highest taxed countries in the world, 8 are also the most prosperous with the best quality of life.

    The US is 15th in taxes and no where near the top in prosperity/QOL.

    We could afford to judiciously increase tax rates a little and cut spending more and dig ourselves out of our mess.

    There is no sign this will happen. All the politicians are afraid to actually make some smart and hard decisions.

  9. James Hanley:

    Raven, FWIW, there is no good correlation between tax rates and prosperity.

    Point taken, but that only works within reasonable bounds. An overall tax rate of 100% might have some small effect on prosperity.

  10. daveau:

    I wish to make clear that this is not a Democratic offer for a 10-to-1 cuts-to-revenue deal…

    Reminds me of the Republican primary debate in 2008 with the question being basically “Who is a young earth creationist?” A bunch of hands went up. And that was pre-Tea Party.

  11. SLC:

    Here’s an oped by multibillionaire Warren buffet in todays’ NYT calling for higher taxes on the super rich.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html?_r=1&hp

  12. Pierce R. Butler:

    I don’t have enough remaining brain cells to take the gamble of watching such black-hole-of-stupid events, but I gather that this time nobody asked the question of whether the assembled candidates “believe in evolution”.

    Why not? The blowback in ’08 from “the intelligent, educated segment of the culture” wasn’t enough to hurt any of the three who raised their hands then, was it?

  13. Michael Heath:

    Since SLC’s going to leverage one of my heros, Warren Buffet, here’s another hero in a WaPo op-ed; Pimco’s Bill Gross: http://goo.gl/NWbIE

    If you were a national political official who was genuinely concerned about economic growth and economic security, everyone’s top five most coveted counselor’s would include Mr. Gross. Pimco manages over a trillion in assets (He’s a founder and co-chief investment officer who made this firm what it is).

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