As an independent voter, I probably should refrain from watching the Republican debates. I must confess they did ask better questions this time around, yet it is the answers and rock star like applause that troubles me most. I don’t mind people clapping in agreement as that is more than fine. What I don’t like is people clapping for answers that are irresponsible or don’t address the issues.
If you have read enough of my posts, you know that I am in favor of a balanced view on trying to solve problems. The specific example I have in mind is the US deficit and debt. At the last reckoning, our expenses are roughly 24% of GDP while our revenues are at roughly 15% of GDP. The revenue is the lowest it has been 50 years relative to GDP. This 9% budget gap in GDP cannot be reduced by expenditure cuts alone. The math simply does not work. We have to raise tax revenue as well.
Last night. Mitt Romney said we had tax rates that were too high. In fact, our tax rates are lower than those in most of the first world countries. And, as I noted in my last post, Paul O’Neill, President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary was asked to resign when he opposed the tax reductions we did not need back in the early century citing his concern over the future deficits. This opinion was voiced at that time by Warren Buffett. In case you are wondering, Mr. O’Neill was correct in his prediction.
Yet, last night when the question was asked directly to the candidates as to what tax rate they would like to see the country at the responses were very illuminating. Rick Perry said quickly a 10% flat tax for all was the solution. Newt Gingrich noted a 15% tax rate, only to be topped by Ron Paul who said we should strive for 0%. Rick Santorum noted a two tier system at 10% and 28% and Mitt Romney said 25%, but at least leave it at 35% now on the upper end.
Beginning with Messrs. Paul, Perry and Gingrich, you three can go home now. At a time, when we have the deficit issues we do, to say you want to take the tax rate to that level is the height of irresponsibility. You are overtly pandering to the crowd with something we cannot do. Of course, they clapped. Yet, one of my pet sayings is “any dumb ass can get elected touting tax cuts.” That is what people want to hear, but in this case that is not what they need to hear. We have serious problems and we need people with serious solutions to help us solve them,
Santorum and Romney were much better on the topic, with Romney at least acknowledging an inability to do anything now, yet I found their answers incomplete. However, the others just are so off base that they should not be taken seriously. That is why I support the Bowles-Simpson plan as it does get at the tax rates, but eliminates the deductions, so the tax revenue increases. The Bowles-Simpson plan is a reasonable approach to the problem and is a bipartisan effort which we need more of.
At the end of the day, we do need to step up and pay for something. We can and should make cuts, but be smart about the process.