Why the GOP candidates are avoiding the Real Issues

As the GOP candidates swing hard to the right to win over voters in the primary elections, they are totally avoiding the real issues of America – and for good reason! The problems are just too hard to solve in sound bites and stump speeches.  Partisan issues of birth control, abortion, religion, gay marriage and elite media tactics are at the forefront of the discourse because they provide fodder to galvanize the base. Other topics such as the bad state of the economy (hard to make the argument at the moment), the rising price of gas (hard to do anything about) and a hawkish foreign policy (more reckless spending) still provide  sources of red meat for the electorate so they are a staple of every interview, debate or speech. It’s just a way to attract and distract the voters.

But what about the national debt, budget deficits, and job creation. Where are the solutions to these problems?? No where! It’s as if they don’t even exist. Yes, lip service is paid to these issues, but no solutions are offered. Nor will they be offered any time soon (well, except for Ron Paul, but his solutions of $1T of spending cuts immediately and a sound money policy are not workable in the near term and he won’t win the nomination anyway).

Let’s start with the Debt. The biggest misconception is that Obama is running up the national debt like no other President in history. It’s heading towards $16 trillion and it’s his fault. But is he really responsible for that, or is something else going on here? Ever since Ronald Reagan (and even before him), every President has taken their turn to crank up the national debt. But Bush II deserves the real credit for breaking the bank, not Obama. In fact, the “Yes We Can” President has tried to cut some spending and increase taxes on the rich and some corporations with no luck due to the “No You Can’t” republicans in Congress. The budget deficit each year inherently leads to more debt. If you don’t fix that, then it will only get worse. Most of the Debt is held by the public, the social security trust fund and other trusts, government reserves, and foreign countries (China, Japan, Britain, etc.).

Consider the analogy of a typical household finances: Let’s say you have a house mortgage payment, a car payment, a number of utility bills and a security system bill every month.  Add to that your federal, state and local taxes, as well as a minimum payment on your credit card bills. Assume that it adds up to 80% of your income. You must pay for all of these or else you will have no where to live, no way to get around, no electricity or gas, no credit cards, no safety in your home and the IRS at your door. They are loosely equivalent to the federal government’s budget for social security, medicare, medicaid, military spending and paying interest on the national debt. Now, with 20% left, you have to pay for food, clothing, gas, entertainment, repairs, etc.  But, if the bills added up to $100K per year and your family income is only $75K per year, you will run up a debt of $25K per year which goes on the credit card. In the case of the US, the budget is $4 trillion and the revenue is $3 trillion, so guess what – the deficit is $1 trillion per year.  It’s a structural deficit that directly adds to the debt — it’s built into the system unless you cut spending or increase revenue. There’s no other way to solve the problem!

But what do you cut out of your family budget? The big ticket items are immovable objects, and the small ticket items don’t make much of a difference. It’s the same for the US Gov’t. No one has a debt or deficit reduction plan  because it’s too hard to figure out what to cut in the budget and what to do with $16 trillion dollars on the credit card. When Obama came into office,  the debt was around $11 trillion. Note that under Bush, the two wars, the prescription drug bill and the tax cuts for the rich amounted to $4 trilllion!!  Now Obama is being blamed for another $5 trillion. But almost $4.2 trillion is due to the budget decificits and holdovers from the Bush administration. Only about $800B can be charged to Obama due to the stimulus plan and other programs (tax holiday, Obama-care, etc.).  Under Clinton, there were surpluses, although they “borrowed” from the Social Security trust fund to balance the budget whenever needed, and that added to the national debt. Newt Gringrich keeps referring to 4 balanced budgets but forgets to mention that they robbed social security to do it! So really, everyone is to blame for almost all of the national debt. Yes, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II – not just Obama! If anything, he’s probably had the least impact on the Debt!

To top it all off, every Republican plan for the economy and job creation is a tax plan that increases the Debt year after year, and the foreign policy plan is a war with Iran to further add to the Debt. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum would add trillions to the Debt over 10 years with their tax reduction plans (but don’t tell the voters!). Anyway, how does a tax plan create jobs while reducing the deficit, and how does a war reduce the Debt? They don’t! When will a viable GOP candidate step forward and offer ways to bring in more revenue, make tough spending cuts on the entitlements and military to balance the budget, and stop fighting undeclared wars so that a major dent can be made in the Debt? Not anytime soon, so don’t hold your breath!!

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Rick Santorum’s Debate Debacle and Fall from Grace

The unexpected rise and soon to be the expected fall of Rick Santorum has been largely due to his own folly. He was the undisputed front-runner after sweeping MN, MO and CO in one night. He had done what no pundit had predicted – he defeated Romney in all three states! This trifecta propelled him into the national spotlight where the glare was too much for him to handle, even on the night he pulled off this upset.  His lack-luster victory speech was not presidential, nor inspirational, and he seemed nervous about being ahead in the race. That was a sign of things to come.

What did Santorum do with this lofty position of front-runner? The same thing that all the others did before him – he bungled it so badly that within a couple of weeks he will have talked himself out of contention.  Take for example the CNN debate (Wed Feb 22, 2012).  While Perry had a “oops” moment last fall that eventually caused him to drop out of the race, Santorum had a “oops” debate.  The problem is that he can’t lie, or even use creative truth-telling like other politicians. He just lays out the facts, explanations and excuses to justify what he did but just end up shooting himself in the foot. He did that over and over in the debate every time he was challenged by Romney or Paul. His long voting record in the House and Senate has betrayed his social and fiscal conservative positions that he has proclaimed all along the campaign trail.

He voted for contraception, abortions, debt increases, earmarks and large-scale spending programs, as well as two wars that have incurred a significant loss of life and treasure. This does not jibe with his rhetoric on the campaign trail. You’re right Ron Paul, he is a fake.

Now he’s decided that women should not serve on the front lines in war because they are “emotional”, defends an abstinence program from the federal government (which costs money), is against gays and gay marriage, believes that college is for snobs, and does not want a separation of church and state (although he does want separation of mosque and state, synagogue and state, or any other religion and state). Whatever happened to the freedom and liberty that he quotes in every speech? All of these things restrict freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Oh well, more campaign red-meat and rhetoric for the uneducated masses.

Consider, for example, the “No Child Left Behind” question from the CNN debate, which is very telling. Here’s what he said and a “translation” into simple English:

Santorum: “…I have to admit, I voted for it…against the principles I believe in…”

Translation: I am unprincipled in my voting.

Santorum:“I took one for the team…look, politics is a team sport”

Translation: I voted based along party lines, not based on what was good for my state which I represent or for the country that I believe in,  but whatever the party decided was right, which makes me a typical Washington insider.

Santorum: “It was a mistake.”

Translation: I make mistakes by voting without thinking it through because it seems like the right thing to do to support the President’s program.

Santorum: “It was a bad idea…for all the money that was put out there…”

Translation: I’m not a fiscal conservative since I spend taxpayers dollars without worrying about debts or deficits.

Santorum: “I will repeal No Child Left Behind”

Translation: I was for it before I was against it.  Oops!

When your votes contradict every position you take in your campaign speeches as a candidate for President, you lose all credibility.  Sorry Rick, your fifteen minutes are almost up!

The Romney Playbook

Remember the book entitled “How to succeed in business without really trying”?  There must be another book somewhere called “How to run for President without really trying” now being used by Mitt Romney as the basis for his campaign.  The initial paragraph of the book probably reads something like this:

“Congratulations on the purchase of this book! It is your first step to a successful run as the party nominee and eventually the presidency.  This guide book will provide you with enough information to win the nomination of your party and defeat an incumbent President who stands in the way of your rightful place in the White House. Let’s get started.”

Throughout the book, there are undoubtedly lots of do’s and don’t’s for use along the campaign trail. Do look Presidential, Don’t give a lot of interviews (if any!), Do use negative attack ads, Don’t admit to any flaws, mistakes, or flip-flops in the past, etc. Somewhere in the book, there must be a section describing how to construct a stump speech that the candidate will have to give over and over, except for a change in the name of the city or state being wooed.

Stump Speech Outline:

o Start by pointing to random places in the audience during the initial applause as if you know everyone there and then thank the state for its warm welcome (make sure you remember which state you are in!) and mention a whole bunch of local politicians in the audience to make it look like you have lots of endorsements from the state

o Tell a heart-warming story about immigrant parents who came to this country with a dollar in their pocket and a promise of a better life, and sacrificed a lot so that eventually you and your ego could run for president

o Then attack any rivals in the primary with exaggerated statements about their minor offenses as the main mechanism to influence the crowd to vote for you. Lots of mud-slinging is encouraged since some of it may stick for those not following closely, which is most of the voting public

o Throw out a lot of applause lines, sound bites, red meat and vitriolic statements that tend to pander to the audience. These portions will show up on the 24-hour news channels and increase your visibility in the media, effectively getting free air time.

o Attack the incumbent president on all partisan issues and say you’ll do better. Tell them what a lousy job the administration is doing and that the country is headed in the wrong direction. But NEVER say exactly how you will do better. Keep them guessing. Otherwise, they will find some flaw in your approach. NEVER let them pin you down on any issue so keep specifics out of the speech. In fact, do not let them know where you stand on any issue so that it cannot be debated in the media, or anywhere else.

o Wrap yourself in the flag, the constitution and religion, as you recite various portions of the Declaration of Independence. Sing God Bless America, America the Beautiful and the National Anthem – even if you can’t sing. Remind the crowd that you want your country back, that you are fighting for the soul of America and that the government is by the people and for the people. Toss in a line about keeping the military strong and remind everyone to “Support our troops at home and abroad” to seal the deal. None of this means anything but voters will eat it up like hogs at a trough!

o End with the fact that America’s best days are still ahead, and it’s the last best hope for the earth as the shining city on the hill. Now smile and wave like you just gave the best speech in recorded political history! Start glad-handing with the folks on stage and then in the audience, while keeping the smile pasted on your face and an ample supply of hand sanitizer in your pocket.

With this type of speech, repeated over and over like a broken record, you will win over a large segment of the GOP population. Make sure you stay on script every time you give the speech; otherwise, you might inadvertently say what you mean, rather than not meaning what you say. Although you’ve said absolutely nothing of substance in the speech, everyone will walk away thinking that you are the right person to lead the nation to glory.

Commentary: Isn’t it about time for Romney to re-work his entire stump speech so that it has some content, some vision, some positions on key issues and most importantly – solutions? It’s getting tiresome listening to the same old uninspiring talk everyday. It’s not working! And while he’s at it, he should stop following the guide book and start working on a real campaign than can excite the GOP electorate!!!