Economic Debate Thoughts

Perry failed to redeem himself in any discernable way, Romney came out looking just fine and Cain did well but failed to make any significant in-roads on Romney.

Mitt Romney talked for about an hour and yet still managed to deflect most direct questions with smooth catch-phrases or non-answer answers about other things. Rick Santorum wants to start a war with China. Michelle Bachmann said what all the Christian conservatives have been thinking. Santorum and Bachmann managed to get their plug for family values in at the end of the debate.

I was mostly right about the Mormon thing not coming up – Huntsman raised it in a joking way when the candidates were asking questions of each other by saying, “Governor Romney, I promise this won’t be about religion. Sorry about that, Rick.”

Everybody got to bash Obamacare and argue over the best way to get rid of it. One of the reasons Romney got so much time was that several of the other candidates attacked him during the period where candidates got to ask each other questions. Cain went after Romney’s economic plan as too complicated and Gingrich questioned the capital gains cut for people making under $200,000 (since those poors don’t need it anyway and don’t invest any of their hard earned money). Huntsman asked about his private sector work and his record in Massachusetts (he compared two different data sets to make his state number one and Mass. 47th). Perry asked about Romneycare.

None of these questions were effective – they bounced right off. Cain’s question gave Romney a chance to clearly explain the main components of his economic plan. Gingrich gave him an opening to paint himself as pro-middle class and unconcerned with the wealthy. Huntsman gave him a chance to talk about his record and Perry gave him an opening to jab at the Texas governor’s poor health care record.

This gem, where the moderator tries to get Romney to admit that the distinction between ‘preserving the financial system’ and bailouts of individual institutions is sheer semantics is a nice example of Romney’s skillful deflection. Of course, he first just tried to deflect the entire question by saying the potential collapse of the European economy was purely hypothetical:

 I’m not interested in bailing out individual institutions that have wealthy people that want to make sure that their shares are worth something.  I am interested in making sure that we preserve our financial system, our currency, the banks across the entire country, and I will always put the interest of the American people ahead of the interests of any institution.

MS. GOLDMAN:  But — so would you — so would you or would you not be open to another Wall Street bailout?

MR. ROMNEY:  Well, no one likes the idea of a Wall Street bailout.  I certainly don’t.  Asset — asset —

MS. GOLDMAN:  But you said in 2008 that it prevented the collapse of the financial —

MR. ROMNEY:  There’s no question but that the action that President Bush and that Secretary Paulson took was designed to keep not just a collapse of individual banking institutions but to keep the entire currency of the country worth something and to keep all the banks from closing and to make sure we didn’t all lose our jobs.  My — my experience tells me that we were on the — on the precipice and we could have had a complete meltdown of our entire financial system, wiping out all the savings of the American people.  So action had to be taken.

Was it perfect?  No.  Was it well-implemented?  No, not particularly.  Were there some institutions that should not have been   bailed out?  Absolutely.  Should they have used the funds to bail out General Motors and Chrysler?  No, that was the wrong source for that funding.

But this — but this approach of saying, look, we’re going to have to preserve our currency and maintain America and our financial system is — is essential.

[…]

MR. ROSE:  And as far as you’re concerned, there’s no institution — no financial institution that’s too big to fail.

MR. ROMNEY:  Well, no, you don’t — you don’t — you don’t want to bail out anybody.  The idea of trying to bail out an institution to protect its shareholders or to protect a certain interest group: that’s a terrible idea, and that shouldn’t happen.  You do want to make sure we don’t lose the country, and we don’t lose our financial system, and we don’t lose American jobs, and that all the banks don’t go under.  So you have to take action very carefully to make sure that you preserve our currency and preserve our financial system.

But bailouts of individual institutions?  No one has interest in that, I don’t think.

So he wants to preserve the financial system without bailing out individual institutions. Logically impossible, since the system is made up of individual components. But, you know, it’s politics.

There was also a nice discussion about trade with China. Jon Huntsman pointed out what a terrible idea trade wars during a period of slow economic growth period are (although really, that’s usually when trade wars happen). Santorum…

I want to beat China.  I want to go war with China

Yes, there was more context. The preceding sentence had the words ‘trade war’ in them. But still! I can just imagine this being translated by the Foreign Affairs division of the Chinese government and the context getting lost and China deciding to increase their stockpiles of weapons… Not realistic, I know. They probably have more and better translators from English to Chinese than we have for Chinese to English.

Romney somehow thinks the WTO will solve all our problems with China and that this is a new idea.

There was a funny moment when Charlie Rose almost skipped over Romney to go to Santorum and Santorum helpfully explained the alphabet.

I think we can all forgive Charlie Rose, since Romney had been speaking for the last four minutes anyway.

Michelle Bachmann… didn’t do all that badly, really. Sure, she reiterated the whole nonsense about government making decisions on your health care. Except no one will remember anything except:

And one thing I would say is, when you take the 9-9-9 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil’s in the details.

MARK OF THE BEAST! Everyone’s been thinking that for awhile, right? So glad somebody finally decided to clear the air.

So there were really no new ideas introduced but there were plenty of old lies repeated and some more talk about the Fed and China. I recommend glancing over the Washington Post’s Fact Checker if you feel up to it.

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