The Republican candidates for president are gathering this afternoon in Detroit for a debate on economic issues sponsored by The Wall Street Journal and MSNBC (telecast live at 4:00 EDT on CNBC, and rebroadcast at 9:00 EDT on MSNBC). It ought to be an edifying show, in the sense of displaying that the conservative conquest of the Republican Party extends beyond national security adventurism and social-issues extremism.
Jonathan Chait has an op-ed in today’s New York Times reminding us that Republican fealty to the completely discredited supply-side theory of economics is at an all-time high. He singles out John McCain’s surrender to the supply-siders as exemplifying their iron control of the GOP:
Last year, Senator John McCain earned widespread ridicule for publicly embracing Jerry Falwell, whom he had once described as “evil.” But an equally breathtaking turnabout occurred earlier in the year, when Mr. McCain embraced the Bush tax cuts he had once denounced as an unaffordable giveaway to the rich. In an interview with National Review, Mr. McCain justified his reversal by saying, “Tax cuts, starting with Kennedy, as we all know, increase revenues.” It was the political equivalent of Galileo conceding that the Sun does indeed revolve around the Earth
The debate may showcase some ideas a lot nuttier than eternal life for Bush’s tax cuts. A Wall Street Journal article by Amy Schatz yesterday focused on Fred Thompson (who will be making his first candidate forum appearance in Detroit) and his views on tax policy. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but Schatz appeared to suggest that Fred’s main economic goal is to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits in order to pay for a cut in corporate tax rates. Now that’s a vote-winner! (Fred also seems inclined to launch a trade war with the European Union–not usually thought of as the source of America’s biggest trade problems–by exempting exports from federal taxation).
So if you work at home or work for someone who doesn’t object to blowing two hours watching a bunch of old white men in suits speaking in the economic equivalent of The Unknown Tongue, you should check out today’s debate. It will provide a timely reminder that these guys live in a very different America than most of the rest of us.