The Killer Question Republicans Couldn’t Answer Tuesday Night

Source: Huffington Post

Tuesday night’s Republican debate was devoid of flashy moments. Nobody said anything particularly embarrassing. Nobody said anything particularly memorable. Even Donald Trump failed to stand out.

But the debate did have one moment that may loom large when the voters cast ballots a year from now. It was a question to Carly Fiorina from moderator Gerard Baker, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal. Here’s the critical part:

…in seven years under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month. Under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. Under George W. Bush, it was only 13,000 a month. If you win the nomination, you’ll probably be facing a Democrat named Clinton. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?

The question was arguably harsher than anything from the infamous CNBC debate that Republicans and their supporters found so offensive. And that’s because it called into question not just a single Republican argument, but a basic premise of the party’s case for taking over the White House.

After sharing an anecdote about a voter she had met, Fiorina responded with a generic pitch for smaller government, lower taxes and fewer regulations — a strategy, she promised, that would boost growth, create jobs and raise wages. It was the same argument that other Republicans made, in different forms, throughout the evening. And it was consistent with their economic policy proposals, which consist primarily of massive tax cuts that would mainly benefit the wealthiest Americans.

But neither Fiorina nor her counterparts could explain away the premise of Baker’s question. After all, George W. Bush reduced taxes on the wealthy, while Clinton and Obama raised them. Bush did his best to roll back Clinton-era regulations; Obama introduced the Affordable Care Act and moved aggressively to reduce carbon emissions. In short, Bush tried the preferred Republican strategy while Clinton and Obama tried the opposite — yet job growth under Bush was the worst and the numbers aren’t even close.

Of course, this correlation between Democratic administrations and stronger employment doesn’t prove that one caused the other. Clinton benefited mightily from the internet boom of the 1990s. But there are other reasons to question the Republicans premise that their strategy — particularly their focus on large tax cuts for the wealthy — will deliver the economic results they promise.

Some of it comes from other countries. Historically, the highly taxed countries of Western Europe have performed no worse than their American counterparts. On the contrary, many experts consider the Scandinavian economies, where taxes gobble up more than half of national incomes, a prototype for balancing strong growth with widely shared prosperity.

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Categories: United States

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