Yesterday’s GOP debate: Minimum Wage, Balanced Budget, Economy, Taxes, Immigration, ACA, Military, Trade

A transcript of yesterday’s main GOP Debate in Milwaukee, WI will be found here. I mention this at the outset so those who desire can read the candidates’ comments unfiltered by media reports.

Following are several snippets from the debate:

  • Carson: “Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.”
  • Rubio: “If you raise the minimum wage, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine. And that means all this automation that’s replacing jobs and people right now is only going to be accelerated.”
  • Bush: “Hillary Clinton has said that Barack Obama’s policies get an A. Really? One in 10 people right now aren’t working or have given up altogether, as you said. That’s not an A. One in seven people are living in poverty. That’s not an A. One in five children are on food stamps. That is not an A. It may be the best that Hillary Clinton can do, but it’s not the best America can do.”
  • Fiorina: “Well, first Obamacare has to be repealed because it’s failing… [applause]…it’s failing the very people it was intended to help, but, also, it is croney-capitalism at its worst. Who helped write this bill? Drug companies, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, every single one of those kinds of companies are bulking up to deal with big government. See, that’s what happens. As government gets bigger, and bigger — and it has been for 50 years under republicans and democrats alike — and business have to bulk up to deal with big government.”
  • Paul: “No. I don’t think we’re any safer — I do not think we are any safer from bankruptcy court. As we go further, and further into debt, we become less, and less safe. This is the most important thing we’re going to talk about tonight. Can you be a conservative, and be liberal on military spending? Can you be for unlimited military spending, and say, Oh, I’m going to make the country safe? No, we need a safe country, but, you know, we spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined?”
  • Cruz: “You know, I mention that the 25 programs that I put today, that I would eliminate them. Among them are corporate welfare, like sugar subsidies. Let’s take that as an example. Sugar subsidies. Sugar farmers farm under… [bell ringing] …under roughly 0.2% of the farmland in America, and yet they give 40% of the lobbying money. That sort of corporate welfare is why we’re bankrupting our kids, and grandkids. I would end those subsidies to pay for defending this nation…”
  • Trump: “The TPP is horrible deal. It is a deal that is going to lead to nothing but trouble. It’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone. It’s 5,600 pages long. So complex that nobodies read it. It’s like Obamacare; nobody ever read it. They passed it; nobody read it. And look at mess we have right now. And it will be repealed. But this is one of the worst trade deals. And I would, yes, rather not have it. With all of these countries, and all of the bad ones getting advantage and taking advantage of what the good ones would normally get, I’d rather make individual deals with individual countries. We will do much better. We lose a fortune on trade. The United States loses with everybody. We’re losing now over $500 billion in terms of imbalance with China, $75 billion a year imbalance with Japan. By the way, Mexico, $50 billion a year imbalance.”
  • Kasich: “Well, look, in 1986 Ronald Reagan basically said the people who were here, if they were law-abiding, could stay. But, what didn’t happen is we didn’t build the walls effectively and we didn’t control the border. We need to. We need to control our border just like people have to control who goes in and out of their house. But if people think that we are going to ship 11 million people who are law-abiding, who are in this country, and somehow pick them up at their house and ship them out of Mexico — to Mexico, think about the families. Think about the children. So, you know what the answer really is? If they have been law- abiding, they pay a penalty. They get to stay. We protect the wall. Anybody else comes over, they go back. But for the 11 million people, come on, folks. We all know you can’t pick them up and ship them across, back across the border. It’s a silly argument. It is not an adult argument. It makes no sense. [applause]”

How Trump Exposed the Tea Party

The proof is in: the GOP base isn’t small-government libertarian; it’s old-fashioned populist.

Trump has said:
“Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that.” “As far as single payer [health care], it works in Canada, it works incredibly well in Scotland. … You can’t let the people in this country, the people without the money and resources, to go without healthcare.” “People as they make more and more money can pay a higher percentage” of taxes.
By Michael Lind

Here are some of the things that have been said by the guy who has galvanized the GOP’s Tea Party base and taken the lead in the Republican presidential race:

“Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that.”

“As far as single payer [health care], it works in Canada, it works incredibly well in Scotland. … You can’t let the people in this country, the people without the money and resources, to go without healthcare.”

“People as they make more and more money can pay a higher percentage” of taxes.
Only one of two conclusions can be drawn here. Either the Tea Party base—which the media would have us think mainly consists of angry libertarians inveighing against taxes and runaway big government—hasn’t really been listening to Donald Trump, who made all the above statements, or, alternatively, most of the media have read the Tea Party and its true aims and ambitions entirely wrong.

I suggest the latter is the correct answer. The success of Trump’s campaign has, if nothing else, exposed the Tea Party for what it really is; Trump’s popularity is, in effect, final proof of what some of us have been arguing for years: that the Tea Party is less a libertarian movement than a right-wing version of populism. Think William Jennings Bryan or Huey Long, not Ayn Rand. Tea Partiers are less upset about the size of government overall than they are that so much of it is going to other people, especially immigrants and nonwhites. They are for government for them and against government for Not-Them.

This is what explains a lot of what’s going on now. After all, according to the commentariat, the Summer of Trump was supposed to have been the Summer of Rand Paul. It seems like only yesterday that the media were interpreting the rise of the Tea Party as a triumph of anti-statism and predicting that Paul, with his libertarian views on national security and data privacy, represented the future of the American right.

But Paul has all but disappeared from view, polling in the low single digits, while Trump has soared into the lead, and nothing he says, no matter how outrageous, seems to sour the right-wing base on him. Trump is no libertarian; quite the opposite. He is a classic populist of the right who peddles suspicion of foreigners—it’s no accident that he was the country’s leading “birther” raising questions about Barack Obama’s citizenship—combined with a kind of “producerism.” In populist ideology, society is divided not among rich and poor but among producers and parasites.

Populists are suspicious of unearned wealth, including the interest charged by bankers who manipulate “other people’s money” (to use the phrase of Louis Brandeis). And populists the world over are hostile to the idle or undeserving poor who allegedly live on welfare at the expense of productive workers and capitalists. Populists tend to attribute the existence of large numbers of the idle rich and the idle poor to government corruption. In the words of the 1892 People’s Party platform: “From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires.”

To anyone paying attention, it should have been clear from the 2010 elections onward that Tea Party voters were at odds with the libertarians in the Republican donor class and Beltway think tanks. Further confirmation came when David Brat, an obscure college professor, defeated Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 Republican primary in a shocking upset. Cantor was punished for supporting more legal immigration and amnesty for illegal immigrants, something favored by Republican elites but opposed by conservative voters. Of immigration, Brat told Fox News: “It’s the most symbolic issue that captures the differences between me and Eric Cantor.”

The hostility of the Republican right to illegal immigration is usually attributed by establishment pundits to pure racism, no doubt correctly in many cases. After all, according to traditional free-market libertarianism, open borders are good (“There shall be open borders,” was the mantra of the late Robert Bartley of the Wall Street Journal, summarizing the credo of the free-market right). But in the moral universe of populists, illegal immigrants of any race are classic “parasites” preying on hard-working producers. To begin with, they are all cheaters by definition, violating U.S. immigration laws, unlike legal immigrants who obey the law and wait in line for limited quotas. In addition, according to recent data, 51 percent of immigrant households receive some kind of welfare, compared with 30 percent for native-led households. Reflecting differences in education and income, welfare use is much higher for immigrants from Latin America than from South Asia, East Asia and Europe. Inasmuch as the populist right in the U.K. is galvanized in part by opposition to “Polish plumbers,” it is a mistake to attribute the opposition of populists solely to racism. Populist fears that the country is becoming a welfare magnet for the foreign-born poor also play a part.

Trump has catered to these fears while alienating the Republican establishment by delivering xenophobic putdowns of Mexicans and saying he wants to build a wall along the Mexican border: “I want it to be so beautiful because some day they’re going to call it the Trump wall.” When it comes to trade, Trump is an economic nationalist who has called for tariffs on imports from China and Mexico.

In domestic policy, Trump’s rejection of orthodox conservatism is just as dramatic. The establishment right supports cuts in Social Security and the voucherization of Medicare; Trump does not. No apostasy on Trump’s part is more unforgiveable to the conservative elite than his heresy on taxes. Conservative orthodoxy holds that the rich—no matter how they make their money—are by definition “wealth creators” and “job creators” and that the best way to grow the economy is to lower their taxes further. Trump, however, favors progressive taxation and despises “paper-pushers” on Wall Street: “The hedge fund guys didn’t build this country. These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky…. But a lot of them—they are paper-pushers. They make a fortune. They pay no tax. It’s ridiculous, ok?”

A Marist poll of April 18, 2011, proves that Trumpist populism was a fully fledged worldview among Tea Party voters years before Donald Trump announced his run for the Republican presidential nomination. In the survey, 81 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters opposed raising the federal debt ceiling. But majorities of Tea Party supporters also favored reducing the federal debt by raising taxes on those with incomes over $250,000 (53 percent) and opposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid (70 percent).


It was the Great Recession that catalyzed the contemporary Tea Party movement. Like Occupy Wall Street activists, but from the right, Tea Party conservatives objected to the federal government’s bailouts of what they perceived as the rich parasites of the financial sector.

The famous on-air rant on February 19, 2009, by Rick Santelli of CNBC that helped to inspire the movement targeted a second group of parasites or moochers or takers—the potential beneficiaries of a proposal to bail out some homeowners threatened with losing their homes because of their inability to pay their mortgages. In classic producerist fashion, Santelli denounced the unfairness of bailing out “losers” while other hard-working Americans had to struggle to make their mortgage payments:

Government is promoting bad behavior. … Do we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages? This is America? How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage? President Obama, are you listening? How about we all stop paying our mortgages? It’s moral hazard.

A further clue to the values of the Tea Party right was provided by Representative Rob Inglis (R-S.C.), who was reportedly told by a constituent, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” This was widely interpreted by snobbish progressives to indicate that Tea Partiers are too stupid to understand that Medicare is a government benefit. But in fact Tea Party populists are being consistent, if selfish, in favoring universal, earned benefits that benefit people like them, while opposing means-tested welfare, which they suspect is encouraging laziness among the “idle poor.”

Trump’s establishment rivals, like Jeb Bush, accuse him of not being a true conservative. That is true, if conservatism is defined by the beliefs of the Republican Party’s elite donors and the think tank experts whom they subsidize. But if conservatism is defined by what the voters who make up the conservative base actually believe, then it is the deviations of the GOP establishment from right-wing populist orthodoxy that must be explained.

For years the Republican elite has gotten away with promoting policies about trade and entitlements that are the exact opposites of the policies favored by much of their electoral base. Populist conservatives who want to end illegal immigration, tax the rich, protect Social Security and Medicare, and fight fewer foreign wars have been there all along. It’s just that mainstream pundits and journalists, searching for a libertarian right more to their liking (and comprehension), refused to see them before the Summer of Trump.

(Michael Lind is a Politico Magazine contributing editor and author of Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics.)

Here Are 21 Policy Highlights From the First 2016 Republican Debate

The Daily Signal By Melissa Quinn and Natalie Johnson, News Reporters 8/7/15 The 2016 primaries are in full momentum following months of build-up, officially kicking off on Thursday night in prime-time as the ten leading Republican candidates squared off for … Continue reading

Medicare expected to pay for end-of-life talks

The provision recalls the “death panels” discussion during the initial battles over Obamcare (sic).
By Joanne Kenen

Advocates for better end-of-life care expect Medicare to soon announce that it will start paying physicians for having advanced-care planning conversations with patients — reviving the widely misunderstood provision that gave rise to “death panel” fears and nearly sank the Affordable Care Act.

The new policy could be part of an annual Medicare physician payment rule, which could be released any day. Advocates say they expect it to be included, but they note that it’s no sure thing and that they’ve been disappointed before.

Such a policy shift would come six years after former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s wild charges of “death panels” triggered near-hysteria that bureaucrats might begin to withhold medical care from older Americans. Polls showed that the charges stuck, and the ongoing uproar in the summer of 2009 almost derailed Obamacare. The same fears have shadowed the law ever since.

It’s not clear whether a decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to pay Medicare physicians for those difficult and time-consuming discussions with patients and families would spark another round of recriminations.

With an aging population and growing public awareness that high-tech interventions are often futile at the end of life, doctors have encouraged private insurers to cover advanced-care conversations. Some state Medicaid programs already do so.

Many states have passed laws making it easier to document end-of-life care goals in medical records, and in Congress, bipartisan bills in both the House and the Senate have called for physician reimbursement for such conversations. No bills have made it to floor votes, however.

The Obama administration tried to implement a similar policy in 2010 — after it was dropped from the ACA — but eventually reversed course in response to continued political outcry.

Advanced-care planning doesn’t mean shunning aggressive care or specifying a “do not resuscitate” order. People can also state in their care directives that they want “everything done.”

Last year, the American Medical Association developed billing codes for these consultations to nudge CMS toward reimbursement.

Commentary: Reagan’s gift of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy

Commentary: Reagan’s gift of Kennedy
By Michael Leppert

Ronald Reagan was posthumously vital to a landmark week in America.  It has been commonplace for some time for some Republicans to refer to themselves as “Reagan Republicans.”  Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has now established the standard for that descriptive.

It’s weeks like these that should inspire Americans to study exactly how the U.S. Supreme Court has been assembled.  The politics of it are fascinating and have taken nearly 30 years and five presidents to implement.  I will admit that even as someone who has worked in politics for 20 years, only in recent time have I been able to even name the nine members of the high court.  After the rulings on the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality this week, I am pretty sure that shortcoming of mine has ended forever.

The court is currently made up of five members appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats.  That would imply that conservative members of the public should be happy with this court.  Obviously that is not the case.  In Thursday’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee, joined the four Democrat appointees in the landmark decision.  The next day, Kennedy joined the Democrats again on the marriage equality decision, writing the majority opinion which will be quoted and cited repeatedly for the foreseeable future.  It really is that good.

In the partisan climate of today, it seems awkward to some, and maddening to others, to have a Republican appointee to the court side with the Democratic appointees so often and so prominently.  But the nation’s path through the nomination process in 1987 and 1988 to replace retiring Justice Lewis Powell is a vital episode in history that calls for a review this week.  Justice Kennedy was President Reagan’s third nomination to fill that vacancy, and while he was confirmed by the Senate 97-0, it marked the end of a dramatic stretch of D.C. politics that is worthy of a book or two.  Actually, I think there are more than a couple of books on it.

So who remembers Robert Bork?  Oddly, I do.  I also vividly remember the process and fight that Judge Bork went through in his attempt at being confirmed following his nomination to the high court.  It was three weeks of high drama highlighted by a controversial floor speech by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy blasting Bork’s qualifications.  But in today’s context, it is ironic that the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which leads the confirmation process, was none other than our eventual and current vice president, Joe Biden.

Bork came from the Nixon administration and played a vital role in the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, the illegal firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.  When Nixon ordered his attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to fire him, he resigned instead.  The order then fell to Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus, an Indiana native, who also refused to carry out the order and resigned as well.  Next up was Bork, who did fire Cox, leading to Nixon’s private promise to nominate him to the court.  Nixon resigned before he could deliver on that promise.  But 14 years later, Reagan nominated him, even though politically he shouldn’t have.  To say Bork had baggage would be an understatement, and the Senate defeated the nomination as Democrats had promised, on a 58-42 vote.

Reagan followed this up with his nomination of Douglas Ginsburg (no relation to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), but his nomination was withdrawn nine days later after controversy stirred over his public admission to marijuana use.

After all of that came the nomination of Anthony Kennedy.  There was some concern in Washington that the Senate was not going to confirm any nomination made by Reagan in his last year in office.  But Kennedy won the support of conservatives and liberals as being fair and balanced.  He has gained a reputation of looking at international law for guidance on certain issues such as human rights and has been given the label of a “swing vote” on the panel, a nickname he hates.  Until this week, my favorite quote of his came from a 2010 Associated Press interview when he said that “an activist court is a court that makes a decision you don’t like.”  How fitting that quote seems this week.

The point is that the process of becoming nominated and confirmed as a Supreme Court justice is rigorous and appropriate.  Politicos of all types, who had hoped for different outcomes this week, have been suggesting that this “activist” court, Kennedy in particular, should be held to some different process.  There are presidential candidates talking about impeachment and disbanding the court.  Now all of those suggestions are just silly.  Our process is not broken and the results this week were not wrong.

President Reagan needed to fill the vacancy before he left office and in this case, the third time was the charm.  In reading and relearning some of the positions Reagan held all of those years ago, I expect that our former president would be far from disappointed in his last appointee’s recent landmark opinions.  Of course, that suggestion might agitate conservatives a little as well.  In any case, thank you Mr. President, you picked a good one this time.

The ACA decision was a big one.  But I can’t remember any court decision in my life that has caused a celebration like the marriage equality one.  It was a decision that took a long, long time to be made starting with the assembly of a court that seems to have a clearer vision of America today than our current Congress does.

During our celebrations in the days that follow, please don’t forget how this group of nine people were assembled.  In the case of Reagan and Kennedy, we should be particularly appreciative.  Only a nominee that was historically special could have answered the call to serve that was made to him in late 1987.

Sometimes in politics the most important things that ever happen are not obvious.  The date of the marriage equality decision will appear on high school history exams.  Justice Kennedy’s path to the court should be a part of the same lesson.

(Michael Leppert is a public and governmental affairs consultant in Indianapolis and writes his thoughts about politics, government and anything else that strikes him at

House and Senate Budgets “…envision a significant campaign to cut spending, with much of the savings coming from Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and welfare…”


Associated Press
By David Espo and Andrew Taylor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Making good on last fall’s campaign commitments, Republicans advanced conservative budgets in both houses of Congress on Wednesday, setting up a veto struggle over the fate of the health care law and promising a whopping $5 trillion in spending cuts to erase deficits by the end of the coming decade…

…Both budgets envision a significant campaign to cut spending, with much of the savings coming from Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and welfare…
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