10 Missing Questions from the Fox News GOP Debate
Two days before the critical Republican Florida straw poll on Saturday, the 2012 GOP White House hopefuls will square off tonight in the Fox News debate in Orlando. With frontrunner Rick Perry under fire from all sides as his negative ratings rise, interest is surging among conservative voters. But while Fox News viewers have already submitted 20,000 questions for Thursday's debate, doubtless few of them will expose the Republican candidates' shocking extremism to general election voters.
Here, then, are 10 missing question from Thursday's Fox News GOP debate:
1. Republicans have decried modest increases in taxes on America's so-called "job creators" as "class warfare." Do you agree, even though the United States created far more jobs when their tax rates were higher?
At a time of when the federal tax burden is at a 60 year low and income inequality at an 80 year high, more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who need them least seems hard to justify.
Not, that is, to Republicans. In unison, they called President Obama's debt reduction program "class warfare." Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman echoed the House Republican "Plan for America's Job Creators" by proposing to slash the income tax rate income tax rate from 35% to 25% for the people John Boehner described as "the top one percent of wage earners in the United States...we expect to reinvest in our economy."
If so, those expectations were sadly unmet under George W. Bush, whose tax cut windfall for the wealthy produced only one million jobs in eight years. And the last time the top income tax rate was 39.6% and capital gains rate was 20% during the Clinton administration, the United States enjoyed rising incomes, 23 million new jobs and budget surpluses. Under Bush? The worst job creation performance since Hoover.
2. Do you believe that tax cuts pay for themselves?
President Bush confidently proclaimed, "You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase." As it turned out, not so much.
After Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt with his supply-side tax cuts, George W. Bush doubled it again with his own. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 drained $2.5 trillion from the U.S. Treasury during their first decade and, if extended, would siphon off $4 trillion more during the next. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found that the Bush tax cuts accounted for almost half of the mushrooming deficits during his tenure. As another CBPP analysis forecast, over the next 10 years, the Bush tax cuts if made permanent will contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession put together.
For a party newly concerned about the national debt, Republicans don't act like it. The Ryan budget backed by House and Senate Republicans includes $4.2 trillion in tax cuts, Mitt Romney's plan $6.6 trillion and the proposal from the late, great Tim Pawlenty over $11 trillion.
3. Do you agree with Governor Perry that Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme?" If you support private accounts for younger workers, how would you replace the trillions of dollars diverted from current beneficiaries and added to the national debt?
Texas Governor Rick Perry has decried Social Security as "bankrupt", a "monstrous lie" and a "Ponzi scheme." Politifact declared Perry's slander "false" and with good reason. With simple changes to benefits, eligibility and most importantly, funding, Social Security can easily be made sound for generations to come. Citizens for Tax Justice and the New York Times each estimated that extending the payroll tax to income over $250,000 a year (as candidate Obama and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders proposed) would deliver about $50 billion annually in new revenue for the Treasury.
Nevertheless, and despite the risks to retirees exposed by the 2008 meltdown on Wall Street, most of the Republican candidates have followed in the footsteps of George W. Bush and John McCain in calling for allowing younger workers to create their own private accounts. More than a decade after George W. Bush first proposed them, there's no escaping the fact that private accounts would divert trillions of dollars from Social Security and thus build a new mountain of federal debt.
Matthew Yglesias summed up the problem for the would-be Republican reformers:
What privatizers want to say is that current retirees will keep getting benefits and future retirees will be okay despite our lack of benefits because we'll have private accounts. But current retirees can't get benefits if my money is in a private account. And my account can't be funded if I'm paying benefits for current retirees.
And by diverting money to private accounts from the Social Security trust-fund, Republicans also can't keep their born-again promises to lower the national debt. In 2005, James Horney and Richard Kogan of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities totaled up the fiscal hemorrhaging that would ensue from the privatization plans of President Bush and other Republicans:
The President's plan would create $17.7 trillion in additional debt by 2050. This additional debt would be equal to 19.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 2050.
4. Do you join the 235 House Republicans and 40 GOP Senators who supported the Ryan plan to privatize and ration the government Medicare program even though costs for private insurers have risen much more sharply?
Even Michele Bachmann is getting cold feet, announcing in May that "I put an asterisk on my support" of the Ryan bill she voted for because "I'm concerned about shifting the cost burden to seniors."
As well she should be.
As Paul Krugman explained in June:
We don't have a Medicare problem, we have a health care cost problem. And Medicare actually does a better job of controlling costs than private insurers -- not remotely good enough, but better...
If Medicare costs had risen as fast as private insurance premiums, it would cost around 40 percent more than it does. If private insurers had done as well as Medicare at controlling costs, insurance would be a lot cheaper.
Back in March, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post made much the same point. "The private health-insurance market has exacerbated cost growth in Medicare," he corrected noted, adding, "Medicare's costs have grown more slowly than private health insurance and Medicare's premiums are about 20 percent lower than private health-care insurance." And that gap has grown even more pronounced in recent years. But you don't have to take Ezra Klein's word for it that "the GOP outsources Medicare to private insurers and gives senior citizens checks that cover less and less of the cost of insurance every year." In April, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued the same dire warning, concluding that "by 2030, the beneficiary's share would be 68 percent" of health care costs under the Ryan proposal.
5. In 2010, Republicans campaigned on a promise to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act enabling health insurance for 32 million Americans. If you favor repeal, what specific programs would you replace it with?
House and Senate Republicans have already voted to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act and its protections against bans for pre-existing conditions, lifetime benefits caps, the Medicare donut hole and kicking young adults off their parents' insurance policies. Census Bureau data and other surveys have found that almost a million young adults have gained health insurance coverage as a result of the ACA. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found that the Ryan budget, with its repeal of the ACA and steep cuts to Medicaid would lead to 44 million fewer people having health insurance.
But over a year after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell first announced "I think the slogan will be 'repeal and replace', 'repeal and replace,'" Republicans still have no plan to replace it with. As the Washington Post and The Hill each recently reported, "House Republicans have yet to fulfill the second part of their campaign pledge to 'repeal and replace' the legislation."
As for this year's crop of Republican White House wannabes, they'll no doubt sound a lot like the last one. Health savings accounts, association health plans, tax breaks for health insurance, selling insurance across state lines and tort reform are just some the Republican bromides George W. Bush and John McCain were pushing then and the new GOP field is pushing now.
6. Would you ban abortion in all cases, including rape, incest and to protect the health of the mother? What criminal penalties do you think should American women and their doctors face?
That all of the Republican candidates will call for the overturning of Roe v. Wade is no surprise. The only question is how severely they will seek to punish American women for exercising their reproductive rights and American physicians for honoring them.
In 2008, the GOP platform endorsed a "human life amendment" to the U.S. Constitution that would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. While John McCain famously used air quotes to scoff at "the health of the mother," Rick Santorum called it a "phony exception." And while Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty may be squeamish about sending women and their doctors to jail, Santorum has no such qualms:
"I believe that any doctor that performs an abortion, I would advocate that any doctor that performs an abortion, should be criminally charged for doing so."
7. Do you believe that global warming is, as Republican Senator James Inhofe put it, "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people?" If not, do you believe that climate change is the result of human action? What would you do as President to combat it?
Last fall, ThinkProgress found that nearly every GOP Senate candidate was a climate change denier. Now, not a single Republican member of the House Energy Committee will go on record as saying global warming is real.
That denialism is now orthodoxy. Three years after John McCain and Sarah Palin ran on a program supporting cap and trade legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich reversed their positions on it. Rick Perry pronounced global warming "a scientific theory that has not been proven" and wrongly accused scientists "who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects." And after Mitt Romney inocuously explained that "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," conservative kingmaker Rush Limbaugh pronounced Romney's hopes of nomination over.
8. Did you support President Obama's decision to triple U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan and quadruple drone strikes in Pakistan? What would your approach be now?
As Congress and some in the administration are pressing President Obama to begin drawing down the U.S. troops presence in Afghanistan, outside of Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul the GOP field has been largely silent on the issue.
9. Do you believe, as Michele Bachmann does, that America will be "cursed" by God if it does not support the policies of the Likud Party in Israel? Do you believe, as Pastor John Hagee does, that "The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West?" If not, why not?
As the UN gathers this week to consider Palestinian statehood, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and other Republicans are contradicting decades of American foreign policy by pushing settlement expansion, opposing a Palestinian state and even calling for Israeli annexation of the West Bank. All because, they insist, God said so.
Echoing his 2009 declaration that "my faith requires me to support Israel," Texas Governor and Response prayer leader Rick Perry told Jewish supporters this week:
"As a Christian I have a clear directive to support Israel, from my perspective it's pretty easy both as an American and a Christian. I am going to stand with Israel."
And standing with Rick Perry on Israel and on the stage of The Response was Pastor John Hagee.
As you'll recall, in 2008 Republican nominee John McCain, who previously joked about "bomb bomb Iran" and killing Iranians with cigarettes accepted the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee. McCain later announced he "must reject his endorsement," given the "deeply offensive and indefensible" remarks Hagee had made about the Holocaust. But McCain was silent on Hagee's insistence that the United States must attack Iran to fulfill the biblical prophecy of Armageddon in Israel in which 144,000 Jews will be converted to Christianity and the rest killed.
Speaking to the 2006 conference of his organization Christians United for Israel (CUFI), Pastor Hagee described his vision of Armageddon as foreign policy:
"The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West...a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."
10. Would you appoint a Muslim-American to serve in your cabinet?
It's similarly time for the GOP's best and brightest to show their fidelity to the finest traditions of American religious tolerance and the U.S. Constitution.
Sadly, years before Herman Cain suggested Muslims appointees must swear a special loyalty oath to serve in his Cabinet, Mitt Romney explained they need not apply period.
In November 2007, the former Massachusetts Governor said as much to Mansoor Ijaz at a fundraiser in Las Vegas. As Ijaz recounted:
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "...based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."
Despite Romney's subsequent denials, Greg Sargent and Steve Benen documented other witnesses and other occasions during which Mitt repeated his No Muslims Need Apply policy.
11. Do you believe God supports your candidacy?
Like Spinal Tap, this GOP debate questionnaire goes to 11. And the final question for the would-be choice of the Party of Lincoln is in essence whether they agree with Honest Abe's classic statement:
"My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side."
As Perrspectives and New York magazine among others have documented, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum are amog the would-be and would-have-been Republican presidents inverting Lincoln's formula.