The seventh Republican debate took place without Trump, and that was helpful. The Republican candidates could focus more on the issues and less on name calling and thus the audience could learn more about the candidates (click here for the debate and click there for fact checking the debate). And the following is some of what I learned.
First, all of the Republicans in the debate said they want both small government and fiscal responsibility. But at the same time, most, if not all, of the Republican candidates claimed that we need to rebuild the military because of the damage Obama has allegedly visited on it.
We should note that a damaged military was also the complaint of the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. In his 2012 campaign, Romney compared our then current size of the Navy with its size in 1917. Such comparisons are not as revealing as some would hope since advances in technology have greatly increased the power of each ship compared to their 1917 counterparts. This is true for any non recent year the Republicans would want to use in a comparison.
But there are other problems with the Republican emphasis on rebuilding the military. One of them has to do with the fact that the US under Obama still spends more on its military than the other top 7 to 9 other nations spend combined. In addition, the Navy now has roughly the same number of active ships as it did under President George W. Bush between the years of 2005 to 2008 (273 compared to 278 to 282, click here and there for documentation). In addition, a new generation of surface ships is being tested now as exemplified by the USS Zumwalt. The Navy has reduced the number of Zumwalt type ships from in the 30s to 2 because of the cost of each ship as well as concerns over its stability at sea (click here). In addition, there is a new class of aircraft carriers being currently produced. This is the Gerald R. Ford class carrier with two being constructed at this time and a third one is planned for the near future (click here).
But there is another issue as Republican candidates promise to both reduce the size of the government while rebuilding our military. Since the military is part of the government, to increase the size of the military is to increase the size of the government. In addition, to increase the size of the military also increases government spending unless compensatory cuts are made elsewhere.
The only proposed cuts made during the debate was Governor Christies guarantee that he would cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood if elected. Now it seems unlikely that cutting funding to Planned Parenthood's could make up for the increased military spending promised by the candidates. So one key and unanswered question becomes this, where will the Republicans cut the budget in order to keep their promise to be fiscally responsible? Will it be in Social Security which is not only self-funded, it is the largest holder of federal debt? Will it be in Medicare? Will it be in the EPA and, if so, how can the EPA plan to protect our environment from those corporations that pollute its surroundings? Will the EPA become impotent like the SEC was during the housing bubble days of George W. Bush?
In addition, to increase spending in order to rebuild the military, these Republican also want to hire more federal agents to patrol the border. And unrelated to spending, most of the Republican candidates want to incease the surveillance capabilities of the NSA as well as to take the handcuffs off of the military as it attacks our enemies overseas. The problem with this last proposal is that some of those handcuffs are made by International Law. So not only do these Republican candidates complain about the deficit and debt while proposing to rebuild the military, they promise a less intrusive government than Obama's government while most of them want to both maintain or expand NSA surveillance and remove the restraints that Obama has placed on the military--note that this is Obama the drone President.
While promising a smaller, less intrusive government at home, most of these Republican candidates seem trigger happy to increase or reassert Amerian power abroad to combat terrorism. And they do so with the same short-sightedness as they have in their approach to controlling illegal immigration. For in the immigration part of the debate, the problem starts with too many immigrants illegally entering our nation. Not once during the debate, did the Republican candidates even speculate why so many immigrants have been stealing their way across our borders for around 30 years.
Here we should note that, as measured in 2012, the top 4 nations from which illegal immigrants come are nations where either American trade agreements or foreign policies have had a significant detrimental effect on the country. These top 4 nations consist of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras with the latter replacing the Philippines ranking in 2012 (click here). And whereas the effects of NAFTA and Mexico along with past American interventions in El Salvador (1980s) and Guatemala (1954) are well documented, US participation in the 2009 coup in Honduras and/or its aftermath has been speculative. However, US participation in at least the aftermath, if not the coup itself, has been confirmed by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton's own testimony (click here).
Of course, the Republican candidates tie their harsh immigration rhetoric to terrorist threats and ISIS. However, just as with the immigration problem, their genesis account of our battle against terrorism starts with what is done to us and excludes what we may have done to precipitate the attacks. This practice goes back to George Bush and his claim that the 9-11 terrorists attacked us because of our freedoms, not because of our foreign policies. This is despite the fact that those policies included overthrowing democratically elected governments, supporting tyrants, supporting terrorists, and maintaining an unbalanced support for Israel against the Palestinians.
So without recognizing any accountability for what has caused our problems with immigration and the new terrorist threats posed by groups like ISIS, the GOP candidates are looking for more money and power to solve these problems. In the meantime, any discussion on new regulations needed to prevent the illegal actions of our financial sector which crashed the world economy in 2008 was never placed on the table in this or other debates.
All of this is quite disturbing. While dressing in the sheepskin of small, less intrusive government, a majority of Republican candidates claim that a larger military and less rules for those with wealth and power are what the doctor is prescribing for a healthy future. And the only reason why their claim can seem credible to those remaining Americans who vote is the conjunction of our two-party system and the formidable failures of the Democratic Party.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10