Presidential Debate

The GOP's Biggest Weakness: It's Out Of Touch With Policy Reality

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At the beginning of last night's GOP primary debate, each of the 10 Republican candidates on stage was asked to name his or her biggest weakness. Most of them simply deflected the question. What none of them said, but at least a few should have, is that they are only tenuously in touch with policy reality.  

Start with Mike Huckabee. In one of the debate's most galling moments, he declared that "we've lied to the American people" about old-age entitlements Social Security and Medicare, and insisted that there's something "we're not telling" them—that "it's their money." The programs are neither entitlements nor welfare, he insisted. Instead, "this is money that people have confiscated out of their paychecks. Every time they got a paycheck, the government reached in and took something out of it before they ever saw it."

It is true that the government takes money out of people's paychecks to fund these programs. But Huckabee seems to be insisting that they are savings programs, in which money is withheld from one's earnings and kept safely stored for retirement. That's not right. It's more accurate to describe both as transfer programs, in which money is taken from the paychecks of current earners to fund the program for today's beneficiaries; ultimately, as the Urban Institute has shown, a typical beneficiary gets far more out of the program than he or she puts in.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that Americans are not entitled to any of the money they "put in" to Social Security at all. It's a tax and transfer program, not a government-run savings system. Mike Huckabee is the one who is lying to people here; legally speaking, at least, it's not "their money" that the government is holding safely for them until retirement.

Huckabee seemed to attempt to swat away these sorts of practical concerns by declaring that "this is a matter not of math, this is a matter of morality," as if the two are at odds. Apparently Huckabee's belief is that the only moral position on entitlements is to ignore the underlying reality of how they work.  

And then there was Donald Trump, the current primary frontrunner who near the beginning of the night was asked a question about how he would deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, build a border wall while making Mexico pay for it, and cut taxes by $11 trillion without raising the deficit.

On his tax plan, Trump insisted that the economy would take off "dynamically" and thus wipe away the deficit—the idea being that lower taxes spur so much economic growth that the bigger economy provides enough new revenue to make up for what was lost in lowering taxes. There is no evidence or reason to believe that his barely-sketched plan would provide such a boost. Even conservative economists working for the Congressional Budget Office say that dynamic effects tend to be modest at best, and rarely pay for themselves entirely or even mostly. Lowering taxes without raising the deficit requires commensurate spending cuts; Trump offered fantasy of large tax cuts without significant spending cuts to compensate.

On his immigration plan, Trump offered even less to work with. He simply insisted that "we can do a wall" and that Mexico is going to pay for it. "People say, how will you get Mexico to pay? A politician other than the people in the states—I don't want to—a politician cannot get them to pay. I can." Trump was essentially insisting that political reality as it is widely understood would not apply to him, simply by virtue of him being Donald Trump.

Trump's rival for the top slot in the primary polls, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, was similarly careless regarding details of his flat tax plan.

When told that his barely-counts-as-a-plan "plan" for a (probably) 15 percent flat tax would leave a $1.1 trillion deficit, he essentially shrugged and waved the objection away, saying, "you also have to get rid of all the deductions and all the loopholes. You also have to some [sic] strategically cutting in several places."

Carson, of course, has never even attempted to outline the cuts that would be necessary to fill such a budget gap, and he seemed unconcerned about ever really doing so. Like Trump, he's peddling a fantasy of giant tax cuts with no other meaningful changes to the federal government.

Those who favor smaller government might just be pleased to see a candithis is a problem for those who would actually like to reduce government's size and scope. By refusing to be honest about the practical challenges and reality of policy reform, Carson and others make it harder to actually achieve those reforms. Making government smaller, leaner, and more efficient is not a matter of will or ego or magical powers of negotiation or just saying the right few words; it's a painstaking, time-consuming process that requires attention to detail and a willingness to grapple with the boring but important facts of public policy.

The casual dismissal of those details and the various challenges they represent suggests how unserious candidates like Trump and Carson—who currently poll at nearly 50 percent combined—are about policy, and, in turn, how unserious their many backers in the GOP base are as well. The candidates may not have chosen to explicitly state their own biggest weaknesses in last night's debate, but in treating the details of policy with such looseness, they inadvertently managed to reveal one of the party's.

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  1. Start with Mike Huckabee. In one of the debate’s most galling moments

    Huckabee’s very existence is galling to me.

    1. Yeah, Suderman left out the part where Huckabee equated means-testing Social Security with telling someone living in a seven-room house that they didn’t need seven rooms, and the government was going to come and take two of them away.

      1. Huckabee and Santorum scare the shit out of me. They embody the absolute worst of both parties. Social Conservatism with a big pro-gov statism. Worst of both worlds.

        1. Fortunately most people seem to have realized Huckabee is just there to sell his books and Santorum is running because he has nothing better to do.

          1. Huckabee described SS exactly the same way as FDR did.

            FDR sold SS to the public as a savings plan, not as a transfer mechanism or anything else Peter said. It doesn’t matter what SCOTUS or anyone else has reinterpreted it as over the years. It was sold as a savings plan so that is what it is.

            Huckabee is right on SS Peter, and you’re just full of it and apparently don’t know what you are talking about

            1. Protip for ya: the only thing that actually matters about a piece of legislation is what it actually says. SCOTUS did not “reinterpret” anything about social security. They implemented the law as written. It was always a transfer program, regardless of the delusions of incomprehensibly stupid people like you and Mike Huckabee, and regardless of the implications and outright lies politicians relied upon to sell it to incomprehensibly stupid people like you and Mike Huckabee.

              1. Portip for you and similar elitists.

                If the president sells a major plan as XX and his party describes it as X for decades afterwards, the populous has a right to view it as X.

                If the elites do anything other than X, then that is why we have A2.

                1. But keep calling us stupid for expecting the exact thing we were repeated told. Everyone is finally waking up to what scum you are.

                  1. If it’s a savings plan, then how do I find out my balance?

                    1. I get a statement from the SSA on occasion. It lists how much I have “contributed” and what my payout will be at various ages.
                      Don’t know why you haven’t. It is part of FEDGOV trying to keep us as misinformed as Suderman seems to be.
                      P.S. The law – FICA – is called the Federal Insurance Contribution Act. Most people, who don’t read the entire script, put “insurance” and “contribution” together and interpret it as a retirement system, as if they went and bought a “whole life” insurance policy.

                    2. It lists how much I have “contributed” and what my payout will be at various ages.

                      There is no obligation to honor either number in any meaningful sense, and the estimated “payout” can be changed by Congress at any time. That’s not a balance.

                2. If the elites do anything other than X, then that is why we have A2.

                  So, let’s say you march on Washington gun-in-hand to hold the elites accountable. You demand that Social Security be treated like the savings plan that it was “sold as” (but never actually was on paper; spoiler alert: FDR lied to you). The money’s already been spent; that ship has already sailed. Do you think your guns are going to make money magically appear?

                  1. So, you agree with Huckabee, “we” – as in the collective “we” of the government – has lied to the American people.
                    And it is mostly government, and, of course, the sycophantic media, that call it an “entitlement”, as if we are entitled to it.

                    1. So, you agree with Huckabee, “we” – as in the collective “we” of the government – has lied to the American people.

                      The government is not “we” or “us”. Huckabee might use that pronoun, since he’s actually been in a position of authority in government (albeit not at the relevant level), but neither I nor Peter Suderman, to the best of my knowledge, have ever been in any position of legislative, judicial, or executive authority in government. Politicians and bureaucrats lied.

                      And it is mostly government, and, of course, the sycophantic media, that call it an “entitlement”, as if we are entitled to it.

                      Did you change the definition of “we” from before? Who’s entitled?

                      Also now I’m unclear–is SS a savings plan or isn’t it? Because if it’s a savings plan, then you’re just as entitled to it as you are to withdraw against your balance at the bank. But if it’s not, then you have no guarantee to get one red cent, which is exactly the point Suderman and others have made. What is the point here?

                3. You can view it however you want, the money is not there and you are not getting it from me, no matter what FDR promised you – you’d have to take that up with him.

    2. Here’s what you knuckleheads at Reason haven’t figured out yet:

      There is a socialist wave that is crushing America presently. I seriously doubt that there is a damn thing we can do to stop it from totally consuming the country; that’s right, we’ll be the USSA with USSR-type of waiting lines, lack of freedom and poverty within 20-30 years.

      Trump is a proven deal maker, winner, leader and extremely successful at all three. Plus with his money he’s the only one running who is not going to be owned by anyone. Name me another potential presidential nominee from either party that has those kinds of credentials. You can’t.

      1. F?hrerprincip for the win!

      2. Yeah Trump is a proven winner all right.

        Four bankruptcies and the money he inherited would have made more in an index fund that what he’s done with it is a sure sign of a real winner.

        1. Gilbert — You say, “Four bankruptcies.” I say so fucking what! I guess you think Babe Ruth was a real loser since he didn’t come anywhere near hitting 1000%.

          He’d be in the hole right now if he put his entire $100 million inheritance in an Index Fund.

          Tell me. Do you consider yourself a winner or a loser? I’d love to see what you’ve accomplished in your life.

      3. You know who else posited a false choice between Soviet-style socialism and national greatness?

        1. Ronald Reagan?

      4. So you’re saying Trump will get us to those USSR waiting lines even faster?

        1. tarran, Gilbert, Citizen, Lt., MJGreen — Thank you for proving my point!

          Not one of you can name me any other potential presidential nominee who has anywhere near the credentials of Trump.

          I get so damn tired of being correct all of the time. Isn’t there anyone on Reason who has half a brain that can refute ANYTHING I say?

          1. Isn’t there anyone on Reason who has half a brain that can refute ANYTHING I say?

            You’d have to come down off the cocaine bender long enough to say something of substance first.

            1. kbolino — Again, just for you, since you’ve obviously slow on the uptake.

              “Trump is a proven deal maker, winner, leader and extremely successful at all three. Plus with his money he’s the only one running who is not going to be owned by anyone. Name me another potential presidential nominee from either party that has those kinds of credentials. You can’t.”

              Now slip that half-a-brain into ANY gear and respond to my statement. (We all know you can’t)

              1. Well, Charlie Sheen is bi-winning, which is twice the winning that Trump has. Are you going to vote for him instead?

                I responded with as much substance as there was to begin with.

                1. kbolino — And you still aren”t able to refute a single word I said.

                  See if you can come up with ANYTHING of substance and watch me destroy your argument and make you cry like the little girl you are.

                  1. Truly, you are the intellectual light of our times.

                    1. kbolino — It’s about time you saw the light.

          2. If you’ve been here enough, you should be aware that the main themes revolve around hating the cops because they are the ones stopping REASON readers from smoking their weed.

            1. More words have been written here in defense of capitalism and liberty than in opposition to police or the drug ware.

            2. retiredfire — What the fuck does that have to do with ANYTHING?

        2. What if he, or especially his supporters, were educable?

          1. Bruce — You appear to have great difficulty being clear with words.

            You may want to try continuing your education at night school perhaps?

      5. If you want the opposite of socialism, Rand Paul is still the only serious choice.

        Trump is from the New York and media elite, a friend of Bill and Hillary, who proudly admits to using government to his personal financial advantage, leaving others to hold the bag or lose their property rights.

        And a New York billionaire who picks Mobile, Alabama for his first big political rally, is a troll. You are being trolled and manipulated by a skilled con man, whose only interest is in building his brand and “winning”.

        1. Peter — Okay, you aren’t capable of refuting my statement.

          I’m not being “trolled” by anyone. I’m going with the only choice that can possibly save our country from total socialism because no one else on the GOP side has even a remote chance of beating Hillary. Trump can bring in the independents and even some democrats.

          Tell me, who is a better alternative than Trump and I will then demolish your choice. Go ahead, make my day.

          1. To many the alternative is to continue to vote for the same established group hoping for a different result. I’m willing to see how a businessman will run the country like a business, I supported Steve Forbes. We see that those in now don’t have a clue. Besides, we are already bankrupt. If a business or household had the debt to income ratio this country has they would be filing bankruptcy, or the CEO would be coming under possible criminal scrutiny.

            Repubs wanted people to write their congressmen, they did. They wanted people to call their constituents, they did. They asked people to vote for them so they could make change, people did. How did that work out for us? Now we’re getting back into the mess in the Mid East.

            But….everything’s all good. Let’s continue to vote the same type of idiots back in office. This time things will be different. They promise.

            1. pronomian – THANK YOU!

              At last, I have located a reader here at Reason who really gets it!

              This isn’t that hard to understand. It’s only logical. FUCK the politicians. Put the country in the hands of a VERY successful business man and I guarantee he will do better than any of these other idiots running.

              1. Trump is not a business man; he plays one on tv. He inherited his wealth. Anyone who was handed New York real estate on a platter in the 1970s would be a multibillionaire after the last three bubble decades.

                Trump will not defend capitalism; he is a crony capitalist, who believes government should be used to build big stuff and “create jobs”, private property be damned. He will go on Chinese-style building and spending binges. Trump will be Obama on steroids.

                1. Peter — He inherited one hundred million dollars. He’s worth over ten BILLION dollars today!

                  And yes, you may think you’re absolutely hilarious when you say, “Trump is not a business man; he plays one on tv,” but believe me, that statement is funny only to you.

                  Since a couple of you here at Reason are slow on the uptake, here it is again:

                  “Trump is a proven deal maker, winner, leader and extremely successful at all three. Plus with his money he’s the only one running who is not going to be owned by anyone. Name me another potential presidential nominee from either party that has those kinds of credentials. You can’t.”

                  And please don’t embarrass yourself again by throwing out Rand Paul’s name. What are you, his campaign manager?

        2. Peter — Surely you aren’t serious about Rand Paul beating ANYONE let alone Hillary. Please be serious here.

          And don’t get me wrong, I’m as Libertarian as they come. I first voted for Dr. Ron Paul in 1988. I’ve been a card carrying member of the party since 1992, except in 2012, I was a Nevada state delegate to the convention for Ron Paul in 2012.

          But the time has come to put party ideology aside and vote for a candidate who can possibly save capitalism. Trump is the ONLY one who can do that. If Hillary wins, she gets 2 or 3 supreme court justices and capitalism is over and done with for the next 75 — 100 years.

      6. Hear hear! If only Trump weren’t another Ross Perot-type Nixon subsidee. What has changed is that the LP’s worst enemies used to be infiltrators claiming to have converted overnight from communism to anarchy (which to them is synonymous with any diminution of coercion). Today the enemy is the superstitious antichoice prohibitionist (Huckabee) mouthing some inanity on network–inanity he hopes will sound libertarian. Yesterday we were pariahs for associating with commie surrenderists. Today we are tarbrushed by involuntary association with ku-klux christian nationalsocialism. The good news is that major party looters now imitate us, so we really are changing the laws with spoiler votes. The sad part is that the imitation–intended to poach our votes–is such a grotesque parody.

        1. Hank — I’m not quite sure why I like you but I do. Keep it up.

    3. Huckabee was shamelessly, disgustingly pandering to the senile set.

      His solution to make Medicare/ObamaCare solvent – that’s what it came down to – was to eradicate diabetes, cancer and alzheimer; he sounded like the spam emails that have been flooding my inbox lately.

      Unfortunately there is a huge voter block of don’t-touch-my-Social-Security “conservative” baby boomers out there. Most of them are Trump supporters.

  2. By refusing to be honest about the practical challenges and reality of policy reform, Carson and others make it harder to actually achieve those reforms

    Well, I’m not so sure about that. Refusing to be honest about the consequences of growing government certainly has seemed to help that project.

    1. The ratchet only goes one way, LP.

      1. YOU STOLE THAT FROM ME YOU TWAT

        1. Psh. I been saying that for years. Maybe you stole it from ME, did you ever think of that?

          1. Who let X back in here?

            1. I DO WHAT I WANT.

        2. Intellectual property is theft, my friend.

          1. YOU STOLE THAT FROM ME YOU TWAT

            1. YOU STOLE THAT FROM ME YOU TWAT

              1. Obligatory:

                It’s twats all the way down!

                1. YOU STOLE THAT FROM ME YOU TWAT

                  1. YOU TWATTED THAT FROM ME YOU STOLE!

                    Wait…

    2. Twat did you say? I c@nt hear you!

    3. Yep… I would say this was some pretty poor reporting…

  3. Telling people that reality doesn’t exist is one of the basic requirements of a politicians’ job. Looks like all the candidates are solidly on message. Somebody wake me up when something actually changes.

  4. Sucks that Huckabee is reinforcing the toxic lie that SocSec is just a big ol’ cuddly savings account, and not the biggest seizure and transfer of wealth in the history of the world.

    1. And the most successful anti-poverty program in the history of the world. So I guess it depends on what you value.

      1. Count on Tony to defend a program that is, on the whole, a transfer from the less wealthy to the more wealthy as an “anti-poverty” program.

        1. Stealing is always the point.

        2. Are you asking a Marxian to be intellectually and conceptually consistent?

          For shame, RC! For. Shame.

        3. Also one that’s merely a Ponzi scheme run by the government.
          Madoff went to jail for running one that is a rounding error in this one.

        4. That’s a preposterous claim borne of idiotic talking points. Social security is about as libertarian a safety net program you can get. Really your only alternatives are a more complex and invasive system that pokes around at everyone’s net worths, or to let the elderly die from poverty in large numbers.

          1. let the elderly die from poverty in large numbers

            I’ll take “things that never happened for $800, Alex”

            1. The first half of the 20th century is pretty inconvenient for your ideology isn’t it? Is that why everyone pretends it didn’t happen? The second half isn’t much better, of course, which is why you deny large aspects of it too.

              1. ::Shitlib hysterics::

                So in other words, you have no evidence for your claim that the eldery were dying from poverty in large numbers. Thanks for playing.

              2. In other words, social security is as libertarian as a five year plan

              3. The first half of the 20th century is pretty inconvenient for your ideology isn’t it?

                Two world wars and a great depression are somehow inconvenient to libertarian ideology? Because those things were caused by libertarians? You’re even more incoherent than usual today, are you having a stroke? *crosses fingers and hopes*

                The second half isn’t much better, of course, which is why you deny large aspects of it too.

                Let’s see, the 2nd half is largely marked by a cold war (which has fuck all to do with libertarianism) and the death of millions as a result of communism (which you and your proggie ilk tend to ignore because it’s inconvenient to your ideology). If anyone is denying large aspects of the 2nd half of the 20th century (and the first for that matter), it’s you.

              4. The first half of the 20th century

                … where refrigeration, electricity, running water, vaccination, antibiotics, and a host of other things that drastically reduced mortality were still expensive novelties or had not even been developed yet.

                Is that why everyone pretends it didn’t happen?

                No one is pretending it didn’t happen. You are pretending it could have happened differently. If the answer to mortality was just to redistribute more wealth, then everyone should have been immortal by the end of the French Revolution.

                The second half isn’t much better

                By the end of the century in the US, the population had tripled, life expectancy had nearly doubled, mortality was down drastically across the board, and hundreds of millions of people were enjoying lives that a century before were impossible even for kings.

                Your problem is that you can’t stop being greedy long enough to recognize your own lies.

              5. The period where Hoover and FDR were creating regulatory agencies, centrally planning interest rates, and cartelizing banks, with the result of making a depression last for a decade for the first time ever, is inconvenient for libertarians? Public skrewl, eh?

          2. You call it idiotic talking points. I call it math. But I wouldn’t expect you to understand something like math because it is based upon premises and logic. To you the answer is whatever you feel it should be.

            1. The math says that SS is solvent until the 2030s, and a small adjustment to the payroll tax and/or tax cap fixes it for longer. Your feelings and the feelings of your ideological comrades in political office are what is making this conversation more complicated than it needs to be. You don’t like SS because it is big government taxing and redistribution. It’s not about math, it’s about your feelings.

              1. Feelings have nothing to do with it, dolt. The math simply doesn’t work. I’m a libertarian, remember? That means I don’t have any feelings.

                1. It means you mistake your feelings for cold logic. A more succinct definition of a libertarian/objectivist is hardly possible.

                  1. In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable ? what then? – George Orwell

                  2. It means you mistake your feelings for cold logic. A more succinct definition of a libertarian/objectivist is hardly possible.

                    Just because you can’t comprehend logic doesn’t mean others don’t employ it.

              2. The math says that SS is solvent until the 2030s,

                So what? SS is supposed to solvent indefinitely. This is an admission that SS is actuarially and financially broken, unsound, unsustainable in its current form.

                a small adjustment to the payroll tax and/or tax cap fixes it for longer

                Oh, so accelerating the transfer of wealth from the less well off to the better off is an improvement?

                1. So what? SS is supposed to solvent indefinitely. This is an admission that SS is actuarially and financially broken, unsound, unsustainable in its current form.

                  I blame Bush.

                  1. BOOOoOOoOoSScHHH!

                    /derp

                  2. I can see Sarah Palin from my house.

                2. And how often have FICA taxes already been increased? Tony you will notice doesn’t even grasp the abstract issue, as usual, of opportunity costs – that almost any other investment people could have put their savings in would have a higher return on investment.

              3. The math says that SS is solvent until the 2030s

                Wait, are you counting the non sellable treasury bonds issues by the U.S. government to the SS comptroller as solvency?

                You mean the bonds that can only be sold back to the US government? The bonds for which there is no market? The bonds that require the U.S. government to jack up taxes to repay?

                That’s solvency?

                Tony, your assertion is probably the stupidest thing I am going to read today. And the day ain’t half over yet.

                1. Math: 1

                  Tony: 0

                2. Actuaries scare the #$%& out Tony.

                  https://www.ssa.gov/oact/trsum/

                  “Social Security

                  The DI program satisfies neither the Trustees’ long-range test of close actuarial balance nor our short-range test of financial adequacy and faces the most immediate financing shortfall of any of the separate trust funds. DI Trust Fund reserves expressed as a percent of annual cost (the trust fund ratio) declined to 40 percent at the beginning of 2015, and the Trustees project trust fund depletion late in 2016, the same year projected in the last Trustees Report. DI costs have exceeded non-interest income since 2005, and the trust fund ratio has declined in every year since peaking in 2003.”

                3. Tony, your assertion is probably the stupidest thing I am going to read today. And the day ain’t half over yet.

                  Whenever I think that, he manages to top it.

                4. You mean the bonds that can only be sold back to the US government? The bonds for which there is no market? The bonds that require the U.S. government to jack up taxes to repay?

                  That’s solvency?

                  Tony seems to be confused by the difference between IOUs backed by nothing, and actual assets.

              4. In case you haven’t noticed, Tony, they’ve had to tweak the SS taxes pretty much the entire time. It started at around 2%. How many times over has it multiplied?

                You must know that math dictates that can’t go on forever. You can’t just tweak yourself to be anywhere you want to be. At some point , it stops being a mild safety net and becomes a burden on the latest generation.

                But there’s always someone to go after to make it all work out, isn’t there?

          3. That’s a preposterous claim borne of idiotic talking points.

            Are the elderly, on the whole, more wealthy than younger people. Why, yes, yes they are:

            http://www.fool.com/investing/…..where.aspx

            So, a tax imposed on younger people to fund payments to older people is, as I stated “a transfer from the less wealthy to the more wealthy”.

            And in proggy land, taking money from the less well off to pay the more well off is an “anti-poverty” program.

          4. Absolute horseshit

            By and large, the elderly who were
            poor tended to have been poor or to have had low incomes as younger people; workers who had sufficient resources to save for retirement found outlets for their savings in a well-developed market for life insurance, a developing market for private pensions, and a variety of other financial arrangements. The available evidence suggests that private financial institutions, in combination with public and private assistance for the poor, accommodated the retirement income needs of the elderly. As those needs changed, private institutions were responding and the basis for compulsory insurance was weakening.
            http://object.cato.org/sites/c…..7n2-15.pdf

            1. I predict that if capitalism continues to exist, ALL the old people will die.

              1. It’s even worse than that. Under capitalism, the young will become old and also die in large numbers.

                1. #FeelTheBern

                2. You know what’s really crazy? In the future old people will have body piercings and listen to death metal.

              2. ^LOL well played

          5. Excuse me…, um, how exactly is an involuntary taking of property in any way shape or form Libertarian?

      2. Which is exactly how the Roosevelts marketed it, right?

        And Elinor didn’t look in on the project 20-25 years later and say “my didn’t we fuck up the math!”.

        And all we needed was to assign a number to everyone,that would ONLY be used to get their annuity payments, that is now used to track every last person in the country.

        Lovely how that all worked out.

        1. You’re using reason and logic. Tony only uses feelings.

          1. Well, he would, if he weren’t a sockpuppet.

          2. Tony only uses feelings.

            You don’t have to have feelings to parrot regurgitated talking points.

      3. ” the most successful anti-poverty program in the history of the world”

        I don’t see what Chinese capitalism has anything to do with this, Tony.

      4. It was a great anti-poverty program for the recipients; it is a poverty program for your kids and grandkids, born into economic depression and debt slavery.

    2. I read the transcript and I didn’t see him implying that it is a savings account. Instead he was attacking the whole “Not taking is giving” argument.

      1. He said that means-testing SS was equivalent to taking away part of someone’s house. He was definitely implying it was a savings account.

      2. When he says: “there’s something “we’re not telling” them?that “it’s their money”, seems to me like he’s saying its a savings account.

        Maybe he garbled it, and meant to say that we were taxing “their money” to give to other people. But I didn’t hear him saying that taxation is theft and the only “moral” course is to stop collecting SocSec taxes and close the program.

        1. It’s clear he thinks it’s “your money” even after it’s in the government’s hands. From the transcript:

          Huckabee: And, when I hear people talking about means testing, let’s just remember what that means. If we means test Social Security, it means that the government decides whether or not I deserve it. If a person lives in a seven room house, does the government get to say you don’t need seven rooms, we’re going to take two of them away?

          HUCKABEE: Folks, the government has no business stealing even more from the people who have paid this in. I just want to remind you, people paid their money. They expect to have it. And, if this government doesn’t pay it, than tell me what’s different between the government and Bernie Madolf, who sits in prison today for doing less than what the government has done to the people on social security and Medicare in this country.

          1. Old people vote, that’s all he cares about. And, if it means strapping himself to the sinking ship of entitlements, as long as he gets his power he doesn’t care.

            This guy is a total douche. Screw all of the so-con idiots who see his Jesus-speak and are so overcome by their religious fervor that they don’t see him screwing the country with a sideways pineapple.

          2. If we means test Social Security, it means that the government decides whether or not I deserve it.

            Isn’t that true?

            Folks, the government has no business stealing even more from the people who have paid this in. I just want to remind you, people paid their money. They expect to have it.

            Isn’t that true?

            And, if this government doesn’t pay it, than tell me what’s different between the government and Bernie Madolf, who sits in prison today for doing less than what the government has done to the people on social security and Medicare in this country.

            Isn’t that true too? Isn’t that the same thing we’ve been saying forever?

            What’s the difference between your critique of SS & his? Some hair splitting over whether he acknowledges the legalities that say gov’t has no legal oblig’n to pay up? Why is that the important point? Are you saying that once the thief is exonerated in court, the accuser is wrong?

            1. And, on top of it all, all those, who are making the argument that it is simply a tax and that no one is entitled to their expected benefits, fail to mention the political meltdown should FEDGOV announce that the scheme isn’t working, we’re closing it down and no one is going to get back anything they have “contributed”.
              Sometimes perception is reality.

              1. Sometimes perception is reality.

                Or, in the original Maoist phrasing, “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”.

                Make no mistake–when SS becomes insolvent and people “demand” that it be “honored”–the politicians are going to go after private savings. My 401k is going to be emptied to pay for your Social Security. If we’re going to be honest about this, then let’s lay all of the cards on the table.

                Saying the government has no obligation to pay is just pointing out what the law actually says. Pointing out that money doesn’t grow on trees ought not be controversial. Just because people get up in arms doesn’t mean they have any right to be.

  5. Anybody who claims ownership of money after the government has taxed it away from them is basically a LARPer with a really shitty costume and a weapon even lamer than the foam axe.

      1. Tom Cook 6 months ago
        It was difficult, but I finally managed to masturbate to this video

        Win.

        1. Right there, Tom Cook singlehandedly* redeems the existence of comments on YouTube.

          *pun intended

      2. *hands Epi a Bronze Star for finding that gem*

    1. This. Oh, it’s my money? Really? Can I take it and spend it the way I want to? Oh, I can’t. Then it’s not really my money, is it? It’s the government’s money, which it may choose to hand to me under the polite fiction that I had some kind of savings account that the money is coming from, but it’s not “my” money.

      1. So you relinquish all claim to it? Good, then they’ll take even more.

      2. There’s a striking disconnect between commenters’ attitudes re FICA tax & re eminent domain seizures, cannabis confisc’n, etc. You think once the cops take a patient’s pot, they don’t owe it back?

  6. “Policy reality” = a vegan unicorn in every pot

    Paid for by the commonsense policy of TAX THE RICH

    1. And the pot is heated with solar power.

      1. Made from sustainable, locally sourced materials.

    2. I’d like my pot in the unicorn. Or perhaps the unicorn could carry a bale. Save the bales!

      1. Wouldn’t it be a mule then?

        *ducks*

  7. I don’t see anything wrong with Huckabee pointing out the moral problems of Means Testing. Basically, they are telling people who have been paying into SS for 20 years, that they get to keep paying in, but have their benefits cut to zero by the time they retire- most especially if they were responsible in their savings during their working years.

    Yes there is reality that the money is not “theirs”. But it is also reality that such a change in how we operate social security is a Vaderesque dick move. If Huckabee doesn’t point that out, then the first Democrat to go against a GOP rep advocating means testing will point it out.

    Ultimately, I think we have to move to Means testing- if only that it shifts people’s perspective of SS/Medicare from viewing it as an entitlement to viewing it as Welfare. People are much more skeptical of Welfare than Entitlements, so that could lead to an overall tightening of the benefits over time. That said, ignoring that shift and the costs associated is foolish.

    1. Saying it’s a dick move is different from saying it amounts to confiscation of assets that are yours, which it doesn’t (anymore than SS is already that, which of course it is–but his whole thing is that he pretends it isn’t currently).

    2. viewing it as an entitlement to viewing it as Welfare. People are much more skeptical of Welfare than Entitlements

      A distinction without a difference. “Entitlements” is a euphemistic term to describe welfare for the middle class.

      1. And the middle class loves the idea of reducing welfare – as long as it isn’t the welfare they get.

        1. Everyone supports cutting government. Just not any part that may affect themselves, their friends, or their family. Unfortunately that leaves nothing on the table.

    3. People who were responsible with their savings during their working years shouldn’t give two shits about means testing. They don’t need welfare anyway.

      1. People who were responsible with their savings during their working years

        … are wreckers and Kulaks who have hoarded money while the poor are suffering.

        1. #socialjustice

          Preach truth to power, brother!

      2. Why shouldn’t someone give two shits about having their money stolen under false pretenses that they were going to get a benefit for it down the road and then have the government double cross them later?

        It doesn’t make any difference how much money anyone has, there is plenty of reason for them to be pissed off about it.

        Also, no one is getting “welfare” from the federal government if and until such point that any net benefits they receive from the federal government exceed the sum total amount that the individual paid to the federal government in ALL type of taxes.

        1. Also, no one is getting “welfare” from the federal government if and until such point that any net benefits they receive from the federal government exceed the sum total amount that the individual paid to the federal government in ALL type of taxes.

          Indeed. A similar point should be made about “tax cuts”. You’re not been given anything “for free” until you are pulling more from the government than you’re paying in. The EITC is by-and-large welfare; home loan interest deductions, not so much.

    4. My aunt and uncle have plenty of means and love their dog. When their dog had to go to the vet for something, don’t remember the details, the vet bill was roughly equal to my aunt’s Social Security benefits for an entire year.

      I fully support means testing. There’s no reason my aunt needs Social Security if she can afford to spend an entire year’s worth of benefits on her fucking dog while other seniors are choosing between medicine and food.

      1. But, the dog is a member of the *family*, sarcasmic.

        Especially if it’s your aunt’s fucking dog.

        1. I’m not a dog person, so fuck the damn thing.

      2. If the dog dies, how will she continue to receive the dogfood she depends on for survival, huh smart guy?

    5. The only geezers who will be well and truly screwed by SS are the 25% or so of baby boomers who behaved responsibly: i.e., those who worked for their entire lives and paid FICA taxes AND deferred immediate gratification to save for retirement.

      I have a proggie friend in that category whose muddled politics kind of reminds me of Tony. He actually believes that he’s going to collect full SS and Medicare benefits along with his 401k and other retirement benefits. I suspect that he will receive a SS benefit, but only on Form 1099R and not in his bank account. The Medicare funding shortfall will shortly become so large that even politicians can’t ignore it. The more affluent SS recipients will see their SS benefit reduced by huge premiums to pay for their Medicare. Medicare premiums are already set to go up by about 50% next year for affluent geezers in the interest of “fairness”. This is just the beginning, and I would not be at all surprised to see the Medicare premiums charged to affluent geezers consume their entire SS benefit. Then, to add insult to injury, the IRS will still tax affluent geezers for the SS benefit that they never see. But it is all good because “fairness” demands that responsible people are punished for bad behaviors like consistent work ethic, deferred gratification, saving, and private investment.

  8. I posted this in the AM links after it was mostly dead, so I might as well repost it here. Have fun storming the castle. Trumpism: The Ideology

    Whereas the left has long attacked bourgeois institutions like family, church, and property, fascism has made its peace with all three. It (very wisely) seeks political strategies that call on the organic matter of the social structure and inspire masses of people to rally around the nation as a personified ideal in history, under the leadership of a great and highly accomplished man.

    Trump believes himself to be that man. He sounds fresh, exciting, even thrilling, like a man with a plan and a complete disregard for the existing establishment and all its weakness and corruption.

    This is how strongmen take over countries. They say some true things, boldly, and conjure up visions of national greatness under their leadership. They’ve got the flags, the music, the hype, the hysteria, the resources, and they work to extract that thing in many people that seeks heroes and momentous struggles in which they can prove their greatness.

    1. I knew Trump was Hitler! Knew it!

      1. A new Tarot deck with a Hitler! trump is in order.

      2. If he gets elected, can I get a cosmotarian lampshade?

    2. My own prediction is that the political exotica he represents will not last. It’s a moment in time. The thousands who attend his rallies and scream their heads off will head home, and return to enjoying movies, smartphones, and mobile apps from all over the world, partaking in the highest standard of living experienced in the whole of human history, granted courtesy of the global market economy in which no one rules. We will not go back.

      I do not share Tucker’s optimism. Then again, I didn’t have bourbon for breakfast.

      1. And why not?!?

        1. And why not?!?

          Empty calories. Back and Bi day, need protein for GAINZ, bro.

          1. Tomorrow is Gluets and Gay day?

      2. Are you at least wearing a bowtie, though?

          1. Oh, for real? Rad.

            1. You think I became an academic at a medium-sized university in New England for any other reason?

              1. The uniform, right.

        1. He needs a bowie tie fighter.

    3. They say some true things, boldly, and conjure up visions of national greatness under their leadership. They’ve got the flags, the music, the hype, the hysteria, the resources, and they work to extract that thing in many people that seeks heroes and momentous struggles in which they can prove their greatness.

      Throw in some styrofoam Greek columns, and you’ve just described Obama’s winning strategy.

    4. So it’s essentially Obamaism with a rich white guy as its figurehead.

    5. Funny, sounds like our current Personality Cult in Chief!

  9. Looks like Bastiat had the Republicans nailed, way back in 1848.

    http://bastiat.org/en/government.html

    Citizens! In all times, two political systems have been in existence, and each may be maintained by good reasons. According to one of them, Government ought to do much, but then it ought to take much. According to the other, this two-fold activity ought to be little felt. We have to choose between these two systems.

  10. But as regards the third system, which partakes of both the others, and which consists in exacting everything from Government, without giving it anything, it is chimerical, absurd, childish, contradictory, and dangerous. Those who parade it, for the sake of the pleasure of accusing all governments of weakness, and thus exposing them to your attacks, are only flattering and deceiving you, while they are deceiving themselves.

    Sounds like the Republicans to me. At least the Democrats are honest about wanting government to do much and take much as well.

    1. Democrats disappoint me when they do what they say they’ll do. Republicans disappointment when they don’t do what they say they will do. I’m not sure which is worse.

  11. There are three fixes to the social security system. Increase the retirement age, means test, reduce benefits across the board. The government is already reducing benefits across the board by fucking with cost of living calculations. The other two are inevitable.

    1. By the time the government gets around to doing all that, it’ll be meaningless anyway.

      1. It is meaningless now

        1. That big chunk that disappears from my paycheck and shows up in somebody else’s bank account isn’t meaningless to me.

  12. ” Trump insisted that the economy would take off “dynamically” and thus wipe away the deficit”

    It’ll Grow Yuge. It’ll spin your head around. You’ll get tired of all the growing.

    While I feel Peter’s point…. he’s basically asking the impossible = which is that politicians “admit reality” and go,

    “Shit is so fucked up that the best a President can do is mildly change the general trend”

    Because there is no magic-policy-wand that will make Mexicans and the deficit vanish, or the Federal behemoth suddenly go on a crash diet.

    Doing so would be playing to exactly the image which Obama was trying to pump up the other day = Republicans are all Grumpy Cat, Yo

    What ‘Sells’? FREE SHIT AND FEELS!! Or ‘policy reality’?

    Its no contest. The GOP would go nowhere with the “telling it to you straight” approach. They need to tell people *some* truths, but only enough to motivate them to do something about them. The “we’re sick and tired” thing is not as good as the Trump M.O. of “Let’s fix this bitch and kick some ass”. None of the other candidates seem to have figured this out yet.

    1. Sadly, this is true. At bottom, we collectively get the political class we are willing to tolerate, and we are willing to tolerate an astonishing collection of idiots, crooks, rubes, liars, sociopaths, and sadists.

      There’s no magic policy wand. But (unfortunately for us) there is math, and reality, and they can only be held at bay with feelings and wishful thinking for so long.

      1. Well perhaps the point is,

        “the one who tells Policy truths deserves the GOP nomination”…

        …”but the one who *keeps* telling Policy truths will lose the general election”

      2. They are predators and rational economic actors.

  13. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that Americans are not entitled to any of the money they “put in” to Social Security at all. It’s a tax and transfer program

    It has been defended by the government before the Supreme Court, consistently, as a tax, and therefore constitutionally permissible under the congressional power of taxation clause. Savings account it never was and never will be.

    And then there was Donald Trump, […] was asked a question about how he would deport 11 million undocumented immigrants

    They’re going to self-deport after getting basked by his awesomeness.

    1. His mighty glare will cause the millions to pack and move South…

      – Book II of Trumstrodamus

    2. I hear that his awesomeness can be a pain to wash out of your hair.

    3. They’re going to self-deport after all the laws, intended to make it very difficult to survive, here, while not a citizen, are enforced.
      There FIFY.

      1. So much for life, liberty, and property.

  14. “You also have to some [sic] strategically cutting in several places.”

    Since Carson *said* this, perhaps the proper transcription is:
    “You also have to sum strategically cutting in several places.”

  15. cut taxes by $11 trillion

    200% reduction! To zero! Waitaminute……

    1. Hall/Oates 2016
      Because America *Can Do*

      1. I don’t want their private eyes watching me.

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  17. Honestly, if the worst thing about Mike Huckabee was that he thought the money taken for Social Security belonged to the “contributors” and that it was a savings plan, I could easily enough forgive him for it.

    The entire program has been marketed as such for the last eighty years. Yes, we all know that as a matter of law, it isn’t. Now, try telling that to someone who just got their Social Security statement telling them how much in benefits they’ve “earned”. Or try reconciling that with the mountains of materials put out by our own government portraying it precisely as a savings plan.

    I’d have more respect for Suderman if he were calling for the immediate prosecution of everyone who’s ever been on the Social Security Board of Trustees for fruad than for attacking people for being so gullible as to believe the fraud.

    1. as a matter of law, I’d expect the former top law enforcer for Arkansas to be less gullible than the typical prole. ruling out incompetence leaves malice.

    2. …if the worst thing about Mike Huckabee was that he thought the money taken for Social Security belonged to the “contributors” and that it was a savings plan then he really is a moron who can’t be trusted with anything politically important.

      Is that what you meant?

    3. After this hit job on a guiy who will not be winning the nomination and saying he represents all members of the GOP I have no respect for Suderman… Then again I see the LEFT do this all the time, taking someone who is Conservative and crazy and saying they represent all conservatives.

      Then point out that the left has it’s own fair sahre of lons and criminals and you get blank stares…

  18. pleased to see a candithis is a problem

    Looks like they’re having the same problem at the bloggers’ end as the commenters’ end of dropping packets. Seemed esp. bad this morning, I was having trouble getting 0.5 char/sec. past the editor.

    But anyway, if your quotes from Huckabee are representative (I’d need to pirate more material from the Wash. Post, mo’ly limit, so can’t read in full), then you’re straining hard to take what he said as a misunderstanding of economics or legalities. It is their $. He’s not saying it’s a saving program, he’s saying it’s confiscated dough. What part of that do you disagree w?

    Meanwhile, I’ll take whatever tax cuts we can get, no matter how much borrowing it takes. Better to leave willing bond buyers holding worthless paper than to take cash from people involuntarily. Even if the debt is used eventually & successfully as justif’n for more taxes, why is it better to tax people now than later?

    1. It is their $. He’s not saying it’s a saving program, he’s saying it’s confiscated dough. What part of that do you disagree w?

      The part where Huckabee implies that this means they should expect to get that money back. Their money is long gone, wasted on a myriad of garbage. The money they are now getting is being graciously provided by the current working-class. Time to cut our losses.

  19. Okay…so 3 of the 11 that were up there…what about the plans from Rand Paul and Ted Cruz? Marco Rubio maybe? Or, Chris Christie’s constant assertion that “that money is gone, spent, stolen, you aren’t getting it back” in reference to entitlements?

    This article seems a lot more “team” than substantive policy analysis.

  20. Those who favor smaller government might just be pleased to see a candithis is a problem for those who would actually like to reduce government’s size and scope.

    Missing a sentence or two?

  21. Talk about biased reporting?. Suderman has a future with CNBC

    I could have written a piece saying “The Democrats Biggest Weakness: It’s Out Of Touch With Reality” b y pointing out they have run out all the centrists in the party, they push forth false narratives about the War on Women, Income Inequality, Black Lives Matter, and that the US can do anything about Global Warming. Let’s not forget they have become the Socialist Party of America and we hear no mention about budgets, debt, the deficit, Russia’s aggression in the Crimea, China’s aggression in the South China Sea, or Iran getting the bomb.

    Then this guy goes on to waste our time with Huckabee who has little chance of getting the nomination where as Clinton and Sanders both have lent support to those dubious movements mentioned above.

  22. No, the mainstream DC GOP Establishment is out of touch with its grass-roots that sends elected representatives to DC to trim back the scale and scope of the Federal Leviathan.
    If they do not change, they will become the Whig-II Party.

  23. Nice headline, too bad you didn’t bother to substantiate it for more than 20% of the Republicans running for President. Lazy proclamations without analysis are so easy any fool on their mother’s couch can do it and regularly do.

  24. Well doh. So a bunch of militarized police-state mystical bigots completely informed by Divine Revelation have an epistemological disconnect from the facts of reality. Really now… next we’ll be reading that twice two is four. The entire article is informative to the extent that it provides statistical and sound byte comebacks to the question Nixon subsidized the media to din into spectators’ ears: “Who are you voting for?” Even allowing that “for” means “against” in context, this transforms the selection of the finger on the button into a personality contest among morons London bookies are laying odds will lose the actual election. Trump and the Obama-colored mystical prohibitionist may wield all the power conferred by God’s Own Primaries, but that’s it.
    A much more germane and objective question would be “What are you voting for?”

  25. If you listen to Carson’s plans for Medicare and Social Security, you know that giant cuts in spending are planned as well as the giant cuts in taxes. No way he can get any of it passed by Congress, but it is internally consistent, unlike what was implied.

    1. So, realistically, the taxes will be cut but not the spending, which means more debt.

  26. Live Free[er]?

    Dear Reason reader,

    one of the most personal freedom- damaging beliefs you can have [one of many :-)] , is the belief in the necessity of political involvement – to supposedly “improve” your life via the political process.

    Fact: as an individual you will _never_ enjoy a freer life for yourself until you completely reject the “drug”, “religion” [ or whatever else you want to call it] known as “political activism” or “involvement”, in its entirety.

    It is nothing more than a trap- a dead end that ultimately _decreases_ your chances for more personal freedom and happiness in this world.

    Regards, onebornfree.
    Personal Freedom Consulting:
    http://www.onebornfree.blogspot.com

  27. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

    ———- http://www.4cyberworks.com

  28. Have any of the candidates elected – Obama, Bush, Clinton – had arithmetic that worked?

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