Christie embraces Trump for president

February 26, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

It wasn’t the relatively immediate endorsement you sometimes get when a candidate drops out of a race, but nonetheless Chris Christie became the first Presidential dropout to officially endorse Donald Trump. On the surface it seems like a logical pairing, made moreso by the fact the families have known each other for years. And with the conventional wisdom about Thursday night’s debate being that Donald Trump was bloodied by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, what better time to bring in someone who has been known for getting under Rubio’s skin?

More interesting on a local level, though, is the fact Larry Hogan hasn’t endorsed Trump by extension. You may recall that Hogan endorsed Christie fairly early on in the campaign, both as a friend and probably as appreciation for Christie’s support for Hogan’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign. But Hogan was mum when pressed about the issue, and it may be better that way because Larry doesn’t seem like the type who would endorse Trump – if anyone I would imagine him backing John Kasich or Marco Rubio. The problem with that is Kasich may not be in the race for much more than a week or two, leaving the race without a governor in a political year where 8 of the 17 who originally ran had executive experience as the head of a state.

In the poll of former candidates, though, Rubio still leads.

So allow me once again to update my tier map:

  • Bottom tier: George Pataki (Marco Rubio), Donald Trump
  • Fourth tier: Chris Christie (Donald Trump), John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina
  • Third tier: Rick Santorum (Rubio), Jim Gilmore, Ben Carson
  • Second tier: Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham (Jeb Bush)
  • Top tier: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal (Rubio)

I should add that former candidate Rick Perry, who dropped out in the midst of my dossier series, endorsed Ted Cruz a few weeks back. Rumors are strong that Mike Huckabee may also back Trump since his daughter now works for Trump’s campaign.

Also of note: local Delegate Mary Beth Carozza is on the Kasich for Maryland team. Before you scratch your head, remember that Mary Beth has experience with the Ohio governor while he was with Congress – she was a staffer for the Ohio delegation at the time.

So long to MOM and Huck

February 2, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

The lack of results in the Iowa caucuses have seen two candidates for President exit the race.

On the Democratic side, the rest of America found out what Marylanders already knew: in a race of any significance without Bob Ehrlich to beat up on, Martin O’Malley is a terrible candidate. Now the audition for being a running mate begins for O’Malley, who never had traction in the polls – the question is just who does he audition to?

So the good people of Iowa did the job Marylanders wouldn’t do and eliminated O’Malley from contention, just in time for him to strap the guitar back on for “O’Malley’s March” or whatever he calls that band.

Oddly enough, maybe bass player Mike Huckabee can call MOM up for a jam session since he no longer has a race to run either. While Huckabee had a great campaign in 2008, his “sell by” date obviously passed and the religious Right decided Ted Cruz and Ben Carson were more their style.

I said a few days ago that the bottom five in Iowa as polled were Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Huckabee, and John Kasich. The polls pegged them as the also-rans correctly, but I didn’t count Jim Gilmore, who “won” bigtime by getting 12 votes in a state he didn’t campaign in. As of the time I’m writing this, Rick Santorum is staying in by placing his hopes on South Carolina while Fiorina will doggedly continue in New Hampshire – a state where Christie and Kasich are expected to do far better than they did in Iowa.

So we will re-convene in New Hampshire next Tuesday and see how the field reacts. The question is whether Cruz or Marco Rubio can dent Donald Trump’s lead there now that we know The Donald is no longer invincible.

The box we could be stuck in

After re-reading last night’s post, I think the time has come to explore a couple “what-if” scenarios. But first let’s consider the scene that is being set over the next couple weeks.

First, the prospect of severe winter weather may dampen turnout at the Iowa caucuses. The conventional wisdom is that this will hurt the Trump campaign the most and help Ted Cruz pad his margin of victory. Yet this assumption is based on the theories that Trump doesn’t have a significant “ground game” in Iowa; moreover, many of his supporters would be first-time caucus goers who could be intimidated by the lengthy process. The most recent samples of likely voters keep Trump in the 30-33% range (with Ted Cruz second at 23-27%) but if Trump turnout is soft Cruz can pull off the win.

However, if the polls stay valid in Iowa then Trump can win the first three contests as he holds 31% of the New Hampshire vote and 36% in South Carolina. It’s a demolition derby among the rest, but presumably half of the field will be gone by the time voters finish with South Carolina. The bottom five in Iowa are Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich, but in New Hampshire it’s Santorum, Huckabee, Rand Paul, Fiorina, and Ben Carson. Bottom-feeders in South Carolina are Santorum, Fiorina, Paul, Kasich, and Huckabee. Yet deducting just the three common names in the bottom five (Santorum, Huckabee, and Fiorina) only frees up 5.6% in Iowa, 4.9% in New Hampshire, and 4% in South Carolina, leading us into Super Tuesday (also known as the “SEC primary” since it’s mainly Southern states) on March 1. All these primaries are proportional, but come the middle of March we will begin to see the “winner-take-all” states come into play.

Bottom line: the longer some of these bottom-tier candidates hang on, the better chance we may see a candidate get the entire delegation with only 30 or 40 percent of the vote. It’s a scenario that favors a polarizing candidate like Donald Trump.

And if Trump gets the nomination, the Republicans will have quite the dilemma. Now I realize a number of people reading this are going to say the GOP deserves what they are getting, and to a great extent they are right. A little courage and leadership among more of our elected officials in Washington would have gone a long way in not upsetting the base voters who now support The Donald because they see him as a man of action, particularly on immigration and trade. These were both subjects the GOP chose to punt on, not wanting to risk alienating their most important constituency: the ruling class in Washington, D.C. So Donald Trump is a Frankenstein of the Republicans’ creation, they argue.

However, millions of Republicans may argue that Donald Trump would be the guy whose principles (or lack thereof) do not reflect the party’s brand to such an extent that they may decide to stay home from voting. And even if they begrudgingly hold their nose and select Trump, their dearth of enthusiasm will show up in a lack of willingness to take a yard sign, make phone calls, or otherwise do the little things that help a campaign win. While this situation is not good for the top of the ticket, it could spell the end of the GOP-controlled Senate we worked hard to gain in 2010 and 2014 – the former TEA Party wave is coming up for re-election in a Presidential year where turnout is higher. Despite their failings as a Senate, losing GOP control of it would be an unmitigated disaster for those who support liberty and limited government.

In 1992 I made the mistake of getting so mad at a Republican president for not sticking to his word that I voted for Ross Perot. Surely many of the millions who breathed life into the Reform Party for a time regretted it when Bill Clinton enacted his liberal agenda. (As proof: that coalition came back with a vengeance two years later in 1994 when Republicans took the House for the first time in four decades.)

But I may have a different reason for not voting for the GOP nominee in 2016. I have always deferred to the voters as far as their wisdom goes, and hopefully many thousands come to their senses before April 26 in Maryland. However, if they don’t, I have to admit that Trump is not the automatic selection that Dole, Bush 43, McCain, and Romney were despite the fact I supported none of them when I had a choice in the primary.

This may sound a little like hyperbole but I think a conservative direction beginning with this election is the only shot we have for survival as a nation – otherwise, we just tumble into the abyss Europe seems to be tottering into, just a decade or so behind them. I don’t like being a pessimist, but in doing this read option I see opposing defenders closing in all around me if I can’t make it to the daylight and open field of conservative governance. (A clunky football metaphor, but appropriate.)

Those who can’t stomach the thought of President Trump now hope against hope the game may soon be up; this elaborate ruse to attract attention eventually turns out to be reality TV fodder. But these people have said for the better part of a year that the bloom would soon be off the rose, yet we sit here days away from the Iowa caucuses and this political chameleon Donald J. Trump is leading the field both in the initial primary states and nationwide.

Perhaps the scariest thought to me, though, is that I’m used to Presidential candidates running right in the primary and tacking toward the center for the general election. Since Donald Trump is already left-of-center on a number of issues, do you seriously think he will move rightward after the convention? We will be stuck with the same situation we faced with President Bush: for his more liberal “compassionate conservative” ideas, Republicans had to bite the bullet and support them anyway because who crosses the titular head of the party?

It may come down to where President Trump = President Hillary = President Sanders. The philosophies may be closer than you think.

The problem with The Donald

Most of the news cycle of the last three days or so has been about the Iowa Republican debate, but the conversation centered about who was not there. I don’t recall nearly as much ink about Rand Paul missing the previous debate because he finished just outside the cutoff for the prime-time affair and refused to be an opening act. Last night, those opening act players were Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum – the latter two then went to Donald Trump’s event set up to compete with the Fox news debate. (At least Gilmore was promoted to actually making a debate, so that’s progress for him.)

But this piece isn’t about the debate, but about something my friend Rick Manning wrote at NetRightDaily. In some respects it makes the same case I have been making about Trump all along.

A dealmaker by definition cuts deals, and Trump has by his own admission cut deals that used the government to serve his interests quite profitably. A dealmaker doesn’t stand on principle; instead, a dealmaker looks for common ground.

If the past seven years have taught me anything, it is that the Democrats are unrelenting in their pursuit of bigger, more expansive government, and the GOP consistently looks for common ground that is only partially disastrous, calling that a bipartisan win.

When Trump says he would repeal ObamaCare and replace it with a government-paid healthcare system, I believe him, and that makes me very uneasy.

Not because of the policy difference, but rather because what the policy difference reveals. It reveals a man who accepts big government and would expand it if the right deal were on the table. It reveals that a Trump presidency may be completely unmoored from the constitutional, limited government perspective that has traditionally driven Republican candidates.

In my study of the issues there are a number of areas, such as entitlements, ethanol, and even his tax plan, where Trump is far from a limited-government conservative. I will grant that my idea of limiting government in the case of entitlements and ethanol would be to sunset the programs and subsidies entirely over time, but part of that is not recalling just where in the Constitution it specified that the federal government had a role in retirement, supplying medical care, or propping up the fortunes of grain farmers. As far as the tax plan goes, whenever I see the idea of cutting rates at the low end and “paying” for it with reducing deductions for the top earners I know that the trust fund babies will find new loopholes in short order, leaving the government short and those business people who see accounting as a necessary evil (after all, they have a business to run and not beans to count) getting the shaft. You all know I would prefer a consumption-based system.

So when it comes to the “art of the deal” who do you think Trump will compromise with? Certainly the Republicans have nothing of interest to him since he is “representing” that party in the White House, so his dealing and compromise will be with the Democrats who we already know will bite the arm off anyone reaching across the aisle. The middle ground between the left-of-center (on most domestic issues except for immigration) Trump and the foaming-at-the-mouth statist Democrats promises to be right about where Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would govern anyway. In the case of Trump Republicanism, there truly is not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.

Debating the need

December 16, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Apparently they had a debate last night.

I think I watched the first main event (since I didn’t get back home in time for the now-infamous “kiddie table” debate) but since then I have chosen to spend my time on other, more useful pursuits like doing my website. Unfortunately, until you get down to a manageable number of people (about five to six at the most) it’s not worth the effort. (Granted, the more recent warmup debates should have been quite good with only four people participating.)

But I wonder how the race would have gone had they used my original idea of randomly selecting six participants per debate and doing three in one evening. It’s probable that the general order may have stayed fairly close, but when you are depending on a poll to determine debate placement that has a margin of error larger than the amount of support some in the bottom tier were getting, there could have been people taken off the main stage who may have deserved a place. Who knows: if the Donald would have had the bad luck of the draw to be outside prime time in the first couple of debates he may be closer to the pack or even out of the race. Just food for thought.

It seems to me that the debates are now sort of like an NFL Sunday. In the 1:00 games you have the teams without a great fanbase or that are doing so-so…sort of like the early debate. It’s the 4:25 national game and the 8:15 primetime game that people care about – in fact, NBC gets to pick the game it wants in the last few weeks of the season, with some exceptions. So the prime-time game the other night would have been the Cruz Cowboys taking on the Trump Generals. (Yes, I had to borrow from the old USFL but Trump owned the New Jersey Generals so it fit. In fact, the ill-fated idea to move the USFL to a fall schedule was his.) Anyway, supporters of every candidate watch and keep score like a fantasy football game, and everyone is confident of victory. My social media was filled with commentary.

One thing that the debates were supposed to provide, though, was some winnowing of the field – so far it hasn’t changed a whole lot. With several governors in the race originally but the general political mood being that of seeking an outsider, 2016 wasn’t the year for Rick Perry in his second try or Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal in their first. Notably, Walker was the only main-stage debater to withdraw, although had he not he would likely have been relegated to the second-tier thanks to his polling support evaporating rapidly. Perry just missed the cut for the first debate to John Kasich and never really recovered, while Jindal never caught on (unfortunately.) On the other hand, people seem to hate how John Kasich and Jeb Bush perform in debates but they continue to qualify – meanwhile, the rules were bent a little bit to put Carly Fiorina in the second debate and Rand Paul in the most recent one.

But if you go back to the first of October (and I’m looking at the RCP universe of polls) you’ll find the following movement:

  • Trump +11 (27 to 38, with a range 22-41)
  • Cruz +8 (7 to 15, with a range 4-22)
  • Rubio -1 (13 to 12, with a range 8-17)
  • Carson -5 (17 to 12, with a range 9-29)
  • Bush -5 (10 to 5, with a range 3-10)
  • Christie +2 (2 to 4, with a range 1-4)
  • Kasich -2 (4 to 2, with a range 1-4)
  • Fiorina -5 (6 to 1, with a range 1-7)
  • Paul 0 (2 to 2, with a range 1-5)
  • Huckabee -3 (4 to 1, with a range 1-5)
  • Graham 0 (1 to 1, with a range 0-2)
  • Pataki -1 (1 to 0, with that being his range)
  • Santorum -2 (2 to 0, with that being his range)
  • They don’t poll for Jim Gilmore. I think he’s still in it.

We actually have 3% more undecided than we did before. But you can see that after the top four, picking the next tier can be tricky because several are polling under the margin or error. Even with these debates, the sheer amount of headlines Donald Trump creates have done more to pad his lead than the formal gatherings.

I imagine the bottom-feeders are putting their eggs into one basket at this point. Jeb Bush still has quite a bit of money, while Chris Christie, John Kasich, and George Pataki are playing to do well in New Hampshire. On the other hand, candidates with evangelical or populist appeal like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are counting on Iowa. I guess Carly Fiorina is basing her appeal on her gender, Rand Paul is trying to light a fire under his dad’s supporters in the libertarian part of the GOP, and Lindsay Graham is likely hoping to use his home state as a springboard.

But even with Bobby Jindal withdrawing – granted, he was only getting 1 to 2 percent – the only gainers since October are Trump and Cruz. Ben Carson’s meteoric rise is now a free fall; however, he’s still in the top four that command nearly 3 out of 4 GOP voters. The other 10 are fighting over that last quarter.

We will know by year’s end who will go on, as the fundraising totals have to be in. I suspect there may be fewer chairs needed for that debate.

2016 dossier: Intangibles and the endorsement

When I started this process back in June, the field of Republican presidential hopefuls was still expanding. Now that October is almost here, the roster is shrinking as Rick Perry and Scott Walker have already left and, aside from Carly Fiorina who was promoted to the main event, the half-dozen or so who didn’t make the initial Fox Newd debate almost two months ago now are on the endangered list. (Perry was one of the also-rans then; based on the most recent polling data Scott Walker was bound to slide out of the top ten or eleven before the next debate.)

But I’m ignoring the polling data in order to wrap up my personal process. My polling data will have 100% support for whoever comes out on top, and the five remaining points I award for intangibles finishes the 100-point scale, which began with education, the Second Amendment, and energy, then continued with social issues, trade and job creation, and taxation before concluding with immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and the role of government.

I have decided that those candidates who have served as governors will get one point for that, so the first point accrues to Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki. After eight years where we lacked executive political experience in the White House, I think we need it back.

Up to two more points will be awarded (or deducted) for the candidate’s website. Admittedly this is a little picayune; however, the presentation and willingness to be concise and persuasive on issues reflects to me on how they will act accordingly as President.

So there are two candidates who get both points: Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. Both are well-organized and have an abundance of information about where they stand.

Just behind them with very good, one-point websites are Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina (whose Answers segment is rather unique), Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and John Kasich.

On the other hand, I was disappointed with other websites for lack of clarity, poor layout, or a general lack of attention to detail. Ted Cruz falls into that category of one-point deductions, as does George Pataki and Donald Trump.

Rick Santorum loses two points, simply because he has promised an economic plan “in a few short weeks” since June. It’s almost like he’s going through the motions of having a website.

Finally, there are other issues people bring up which may not fit into one of my categories.

Jeb Bush has an interesting take on cyber security, which will add a point to his score.

Total score for Bush – 3.0 of 5 points.

Ben Carson gets kudos for this piece as only he can, being the one black Republican in the race.

Total score for Carson – 1.0 of 5 points.

Chris Christie fills up his tree by discussing criminal justice reform and having the belief that veterans should be able to use any available medical facility, not just VA hospitals and clinics.

Total score for Christie – 4.0 of 5 points.

Although I could have added this to the role of government, Ted Cruz‘s actions in defending the Constutution are worth mentioning..

Total score for Cruz – 1.0 of 5 points.

Carly Fiorina answers at least 80 valid questions on her site, and I agree with her on many not brought up previously.

Total score for Fiorina – 3.0 of 5 points.

I checked to see if I alluded to Jim Gimore‘s stance on climate change when I discussed energy and I had not. He’s a skeptic of anthropogenic climate change, which is a point in my book. Otherwise, I’ve covered his issues.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 5 points.

I didn’t gain anything from Lindsey Graham insofar as issues went, so he just gets the one point for the site.

Total score for Graham – 1.0 of 5 points.

One thing I like about Mike Huckabee‘s site is the record as governor. Certainly it glosses over some items but it’s a helpful reminder he wasn’t just a face on TV.

Total score for Huckabee – 3.0 of 5 points.

Something Bobby Jindal addresses on his site, which I haven’t seen much of otherwise, is radical Islam. It’s worth a point.

Total score for Jindal – 3.0 of 5 points.

I think John Kasich has beefed up his website over the course of this process, turning a negative into a positive.

Total score for Kasich – 2.0 of 5 points.

George Pataki has a poor website that lacks an issue page.

Total score for Pataki – 0.0 of 5 points.

I love the diversity of Rand Paul and his issues, which includes civil liberties and auditing the Fed.

Total score for Paul – 4.0 of 5 points.

Splashed on the front of the Marco Rubio website was a proposal for paid leave, which is a problem. But he is taking the fight to Hillary, which is a plus. It’s one of a plethora of items he’s placed on his site.

Total score for Rubio – 4.0 of 5 points.

Rick Santorum doesn’t tread any new ground with his issues, so he stands where he was.

Total score for Santorum – (-2.0) of 5 points.

Donald Trump has a slightly better website, but still not up to snuff.

Total score for Trump – (-1.0) of 5 points.

It’s time to determine who should be our next President – the one who will have a raging mess to clean up.

From the bottom up we go:

  • George Pataki – 20.3 points
  • Donald Trump – 29 points
  • Chris Christie – 39.1 points
  • John Kasich – 40.5 points
  • Jeb Bush – 41.1 points
  • Carly Fiorina – 42.6 points
  • Rick Santorum – 44.5 points
  • Jim Gilmore – 45.5 points
  • Ben Carson – 46.2 points
  • Marco Rubio – 49.6 points
  • Mike Huckabee – 52.5 points
  • Lindsey Graham – 52.8 points

I’m going to stop right there because my top three were head and shoulders above the rest of the field – a nearly 20-point spread. So I’m going to recommend two and endorse the winner.

Ted Cruz finished with 71.1 points. There was a point where he was leading but he slipped in a couple categories.

But where I could see him as an excellent President is his willingness to fight for principle. He hasn’t had a lot of success up to now because he’s saddled with a body of 99 others who mainly seem unable or unwilling to follow his lead as he tries to restore the pre-eminence of the Constitution.

Rand Paul was second-best with 74.4 points. The overall breadth of his platform is excellent, and while I may not be on board with his foreign policy I think he has learned from the extreme positions of his father. Both Cruz and Paul are champions of limited government, and a nation with a President Paul would rally back to its proper place in the world.

Unfortunately, neither of those two have significant executive experience while the man who has won the monoblogue endorsement does. Governor Bobby Jindal combines that leadership quality with some of those most well-thought out policy positions in the field. He scored 79.3 points, which meant he pretty much won this before the intangibles.

Now I’m aware of the report which was based on “experts” predicting Jindal would be next out. That would be a complete shame because out of all the candidates I can see Jindal being a modern-day Calvin Coolidge – reducing the budget in real terms (as he did in Louisiana), getting government out of the way, and bringing true prosperity back to the nation by allowing us to be an energy superpower.

It’s my job to begin reversing those polls and putting a thumb in the eye of those “experts.” Bobby Jindal wins my endorsement for President of the United States.

2016 Dossier: Role of government

September 24, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

In my final category, I have reviewed my previous work to get an idea of just what impact I believe these candidates will have in two distinct directions: right-sizing government in terms of power and in reducing spending to take less money out of everyone’s pocket. (Because we don’t mandate a balanced budget, this is a little different than strict taxation, although taxation played a role in this effort.)

There are two other factors I think are important here. I believe Rand Paul is the only one on record to eliminate entire Cabinet departments now that Rick Perry is out. Paul will also end the Patriot Act, which should be allowed to expire.

On the fiscal side, Bobby Jindal is a governor who has actually cut spending since taking office. And we’re not talking the phantom Martin O’Malley-style “cuts” but actually less money, to the tune of nearly $3 billion from his predecessor in his first budget. Spending has only increased modestly in the years since. (Compare this to Larry Hogan, who was hailed as a budget cutter for only increasing spending a percentage point or two from his predecessor.)

For this understanding of the role of government, they get an extra two points apiece over and above what I would give them.

Ted Cruz gets extra points for this. We need a fighter.

Jeb Bush, of all people, has some idea of how to approach the issue, too. So I gave him an extra point and a half.

I liked what Ben Carson had to say about the size of government so he got an extra point for this. the same goes for Carly Fiorina’s critique.

On the other hand, this critique of Mike Huckabee enhances his reputation as a big-government populist, just like John Kasich has his critics. Marco Rubio also has a reputation as a “reformocon” embracing expanding government.

Populism such as that of Rick Santorum can also lead to bigger government.

Since this is a fourteen-point category, I started everyone off with seven points. Things I saw to reduce the size and scope of government got a + on my ledger and things which made government bigger got a (-). I added each + to 7, subtracted each minus, and gave the bonus points to come out with these numbers:

  • Rand Paul, 14 points
  • Ted Cruz, 13 points
  • Bobby Jindal, 13 points
  • Carly Fiorina, 9 points
  • Lindsey Graham, 9 points
  • Ben Carson, 7 points
  • Mike Huckabee, 7 points
  • Jim Gilmore, 6 points
  • Rick Santorum, 6 points
  • Donald Trump, 6 points
  • Chris Christie, 5 points
  • John Kasich, 5 points
  • Marco Rubio, 5 points
  • Jeb Bush, 3.5 points
  • George Pataki, 3 points

So I have come down to a handful of intangibles and a final decision. That will be in my final Dossier post early next week – hopefully the field will stay at 15 long enough to let me write it.

2016 Dossier: Entitlements

September 20, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

While the category of entitlements is worth 13 points, the only people who would get all thirteen are the ones who would embark on an orderly sunsetting of all the familiar entitlements: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. I don’t think any of the contenders would go that far, but we’ll see.

But it also helps to tell me about their vision of the role of government, for the perfect candidate would be most interested in limiting the size and scope of government to a Constitutionally appropriate level. Those who are most willing to divest power to the states and stay out of their affairs will do best. That last part is worth 14 points but also depends quite a bit on previous categories such as education and taxation, among others, as well as fiscal responsibility.

We will then be down to the catch-all category of intangibles and the coveted monoblogue endorsement.

Since he dropped out of the race, I’m off the hook for Rick Perry. That’s sad because he was tracking as a dark horse in my race. Nevertheless, I soldier on with 16 contenders now.

It’s pretty much given that GOP contenders would drop Obamacare like a bad habit, so the question is: what comes after?

  • Among other things, Jeb Bush‘s plan would shift the program to the states, with the federal government maintaining a hand in catastrophic coverage and tax credits for premiums.
  • Ben Carson is a strong supporter of health savings accounts, which have the benefit of allowing people to share their burden. His idea is to have the government fund each for $2,000 per year.
  • Chris Christie hasn’t put forth a replacement plan – but he expanded Medicaid in New Jersey under Obamacare.
  • Allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines through the Health Care Choices Act is the Ted Cruz plan.
  • “Let’s try the free market,” says Carly Fiorina, with states managing their own high-risk pools.
  • Jim Gilmore thinks there are good things about Obamacare, such as the ban on denial for pre-existing conditions and coverage by parents to age 26 but he thinks states can handle those. He would favor a proposal offered by Rep. Tom Price in 2013 that encouraged interstate sale of insurance, premium tax credits, and HSAs.
  • Lindsey Graham isn’t specific about “cost-effective, market-driven reforms” aside from favoring association plans.
  • I think the Mike Huckabee solution is to pass it on to the states.
  • As he has in other areas. Bobby Jindal has an exceptionally comprehensive plan to replace Obamacare.
  • John Kasich would adopt what he calls the “Ohio Model” nationwide.
  • Whatever George Pataki does to replace Obamacare, it would include the pre-existing condition regulations.
  • Rand Paul favors HSAs, allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, and a tax deduction for all health care expenses.
  • Tax credits and regulatory reform highlight the Marco Rubio plan.
  • Rick Santorum has backed HSAs, tax credits, and selling insurance across state lines but now advocates “federal support for everybody to be able to go out and get the plan they want.”
  • Through a spokesman, Donald Trump‘s campaign vowed to make insurance available across state lines and give individual tax relief.
  • Scott Walker plans to revert authority to the states and install sliding-scale tax credits based on age to go with the HSAs and selling policies across state lines.

On Medicaid:

On Medicare:

  • The left cried that Jeb Bush wished to “phase out” Medicare. Alas, he wants to protect it.
  • HSAs may be the panacea for Medicare, too. Why not? Ben Carson seems to have one solution.
  • Means-testing, increasing the eligibility age, and standardizing deductibles make up the Chris Christie plan.
  • Ted Cruz opposed the “doc fix” bill because he wanted reforms to give seniors “more power and control.”
  • The same “get our house in order” argument applies here for Carly Fiorina.
  • I found nothing to pin down Jim Gilmore‘s position.
  • Means-testing and raising the eligibility age are reform starting points for Lindsey Graham.
  • “I will kill anything that poses a threat” to Medicare (as well as Social Security), Mike Huckabee thunders.
  • Premium support and Medigap reform highlight Bobby Jindal‘s plan.
  • John Kasich argues entitlements have to be “innovated” to survive.
  • George Pataki would increase co-pays.
  • Rand Paul sponsored Medicare reform legislation in 2013 that would have voucherized Medicare, but he’s supposedly backing off that a little bit now.
  • The Marco Rubio vision for Medicare would involve a premium support system, based loosely on Medicare Advantage.
  • Rick Santorum would change it via increasing the eligibility age or changing the COLA structure.
  • Because it’s “not fair,” Donald Trump won’t cut Medicare (or Medicaid.)
  • In 2013 Scott Walker was in favor of cutting Medicare (and Social Security) but it would likely fall on younger workers.

Social Security proposals seemed to fall into three tiers. Most candidates, with the exceptions of Gilmore, Huckabee, Jindal, and Trump, would raise the retirement age. But few (Bush, Christie, Paul, Rubio, and Santorum) advocated for means testing and fewer still (Cruz, Jindal, and perhaps Kasich) had the guts to advocate for partial privatization. Ben Carson even went a bit farther with the idea to allow for wealthier seniors opting out (although it sounds like the money paid in would be forfeited.)

I wasn’t expecting high scores, so it’s no surprise my best candidate has just 7 points.

  • 7 points – Bobby Jindal
  • 6 1/2 points – Ted Cruz
  • 6 points – Ben Carson, John Kasich
  • 5 points – Rand Paul, Scott Walker
  • 4 1/2 points – Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio
  • 4 points – Rick Santorum
  • 3 points – Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, George Pataki
  • 2 points – Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee
  • 1 point – Donald Trump

Next will be the last major category, role of government.

2016 dossier: Foreign Policy

September 9, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

As I work my way up to the most important aspects of deciding on a Presidential candidate to back, I come to foreign policy which will be worth 12 points.

In doing this part, I’m going to make the assumption that, by and large, these candidates will represent a sharp turn from the disastrous direction our foreign policy has taken under our current President and (for one term) his presumptive Democratic replacement. So since these candidates will represent a sea change, I also want to know how much of a priority they place on it. This will actually make my research easier since I will do it specifically from their campaign websites, including their position papers and news they link to.

For various reasons, I’m ambivalent about certain aspects of foreign policy but I want those who oppose our nation treated as enemies and those who back us to be embraced as friends. I’m no longer convinced we can build nations as we tried to do in the Middle East but regard radical Islam as a threat which will require a Long War to neutralize and contain.

Thus, it’s time to see how they do.

Not only does Jim Gilmore have a comprehensive approach to foreign policy on the website, in all aspects save one it is spot on. My lone quibble would be the wisdom of creating a NATO-like defense pact with Middle East nations against Iraq, one which would include Israel. Aside from that, he has charted an impressive course that tops the field.

Total score for Gilmore – 11.5 of 12.

Lindsey Graham is basing his campaign on being the national security hawk, so you better believe he has a plan. Parts of it may be a difficult sell, but it’s combined with some ideas on the domestic front as well, Overall, a great effort.

Total score for Graham – 11.0 of 12.

In establishing the “Rubio Doctrine,” Marco Rubio has hit on many key points and included others, such as our relationship with Europe. But to me it may be a little too interventionist because we don’t need to be the world’s policeman and that’s how I interpret the statement. Nor do I support making Section 215 of the Patriot Act permanent. It’s why Rubio doesn’t have a higher score.

Total score for Rubio – 9.0 of 12.

Focusing more on national defense and the failures of the Obama administration, it seems that Bobby Jindal is a firm believer in the old Reagan-era “peace through strength” doctrine. Some will certainly call him a neocon, but he presents a compelling case for returning to that brand of thinking. However, he doesn’t consider the civil liberty aspect of his ideas, and that drops him slightly.

As he did on energy, though, he presents a very comprehensive plan.

Total score for Jindal – 8.4 of 12.

Jeb Bush stresses three things when it comes to foreign policy: the war on radical Islam, our friendship with Israel, and the mistake we are making in normalizing our relationship with Cuba without demanding democratic reforms first. He has a very detailed plan to address radical Islam, but it may be a tough sell to the American people because surely the Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) will be talking down those efforts.

Yet there is an elephant in the room ignored – or perhaps a bear and a dragon. Admittedly, Bush’s website is a little frustrating to navigate but I found no mention of Russia or China and how he would address those nations. Overall, though, his effort is solid.

Total score for Bush – 8.0 of 12.

Eight years ago, the thing that sank his father’s campaign with me was an unrealistic, isolationist view on foreign policy. Rand Paul is a little more flexible in that regard, and is hesitant to return to the Middle East because of it. He believes that we should not go it alone in that theater, and to that extent he is correct. I’m not as certain how he would deal with other enemies in a Cold War-style situation, though, which is why I hesitate to grade him higher.

Total score for Paul – 7.5 of 12.

Scott Walker is set against radical Islam and the Iranian deal, but I’m not as certain how he will react against others who threaten us. He seems to want to follow a Reaganesque path, but it’s worth noting that we withdrew from the Middle East under Reagan. Will Walker buckle under that pressure?

Total score for Walker – 7.0 of 12.

The conventional wisdom was that Ben Carson would be weak on foreign affairs as a political neophyte. So while he is for keeping Gitmo open, noting plainly that we should be a friend to Israel, warning about Russian aggression, and decrying the poorly thought-out Iran nuclear deal, it’s done as a broad statement rather than a detailed approach. It may be fleshed out in coming months, but for now it isn’t as strong as some others.

Total score for Carson – 6.0 of 12.

Similarly to Carson, Carly Fiorina had spoken in broad, big picture terms on her foreign policy. But she vows on day one to reassure Israel about our friendship and tell Iran that their deal is going to change to allow more surprise inspections. She’s also vowed to send a message to Vladimir Putin through various strategic moves like reinstating an Eastern European missile defense system and rebuilding the Sixth Fleet. It’s a promising start.

Total score for Fiorina – 6.0 of 12.

Chris Christie has a relatively comprehensive foreign policy vision which is global as it mentions both friends and foes. However, there are two issues that I have with it. One is the civil libertarian aspect of continuing Patriot Act provisions, which Chris avidly supports, and the other is about not treating China as an adversary. Until they stop pointing missiles at us, threatening the sovereign state of Taiwan, and manipulating currency to benefit their economy at our expense, I consider them a foe. Communism and Constitutional republics are mutually exclusive.

Total score for Christie – 5.5 of 12.

Ted Cruz seems to have his head on straight regarding foreign policy, but the information is so piecemeal I had a hard time digesting it all. A for effort, D for presentation.

Total score for Cruz – 5.0 of 12.

I have much the same problem with Rick Perry. For example, he did a major policy speech last year that was warmly received – but it’s hard to tell how he would react to newer crises. Aside from immigration, he seems more a domestic policy president.

Total score for Perry – 5.0 of 12.

With Mike Huckabee, as I read through his site I get the sense that we will have a reactive foreign policy more so than a proactive one. For example, he decreed that we should hack China back after they hacked into our computer systems. It seems to me that would be an expected move but not necessarily strategic. While he stresses Israel a lot, he seems a little simplistic so I don’t get that great of an impression.

Total score for Huckabee – 4.8 of 12.

John Kasich seems to want to tie the extent of his foreign policy to the extent of the economy, noting we can afford enhanced defense spending as we improve the economy. But I don’t really see what he would do in terms of relationships.

Total score for Kasich – 4.8 of 12.

With a foreign policy primarily focused on the Iranian deal and using Kurdish proxies to subdue ISIS, there’s a lot I’m left wondering about when it comes to George Pataki. So he doesn’t score very well.

Total points for Pataki – 4.0 of 12.

I can tell you that Rick Santorum doesn’t like the Iran deal and wants to bomb ISIS back to the 7th century. As for China, Russia, and how to pick up the pieces afterward, who knows?

Total score for Santorum – 2.0 of 12.

After doing well on immigration, Donald Trump falls again on foreign policy. There is rhetoric and there is a plan, and Trump has plenty of former and not much on the latter.

Total score for Trump – 0.0 of 12.

My next part is worth 13 points; however, I suspect scoring will be low because my view on entitlements is decidedly more libertarian than the field will likely present.

2016 dossier: Immigration

Before Donald Trump supposedly made this an issue, I decided that immigration was one of my highest-priority issues in selecting a presidential candidate.

In the last few decades our nation has wrestled with the question of what to do with the hordes who sneak across our southern border or simply decide when the time is up on their legally-acquired visa that they’re not going anywhere. Perhaps Ronald Reagan’s biggest mistake was signing the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, for while he believed that, “Future generations of Americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people: American citizenship,” the inverse has occurred. Our borders are a sieve and millions who believe a second amnesty is around the corner have swarmed to our land, doubling down by having “anchor babies” who are considered citizens via a faulty interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

So let’s talk about that aspect. Oddly enough, a story (from NBC News, of all places) discussed how several of the candidates felt about ending birthright citizenship. Mostl are in favor of ending the practice:

  • Ben Carson: Reportedly told a Phoenix rally that birthright citizenship “doesn’t make sense to me.”
  • Chris Christie: it “needs to be re-examined.”
  • Ted Cruz: “as a policy matter (it) doesn’t make sense,” he said last week on “Face The Nation.”
  • Lindsey Graham: “I think it’s a mistake.”
  • Mike Huckabee: once against it, but recently told radio host Hugh Hewitt he was now open to it.
  • Bobby Jindal: “We need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.”
  • Rand Paul: proposed a Constitutional amendment to end the practice.
  • Rick Santorum: “(an) enticement (that) should be ended.”
  • Donald Trump: “biggest magnet for illegal immigrants.”

Those who would leave it as is:

  • Jeb Bush: “I don’t support revoking it.”
  • Carly Fiorina: we should put our energy into border security.
  • Jim Gilmore: Quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “every person born in this country has the right to citizenship.”
  • John Kasich: Once a supporter of revoking birthright citizenship, now says, “we’re gonna welcome you to a path of legalization.”
  • George Pataki: “I don’t support amending the Constitution to kick out kids who were born here.”
  • Rick Perry: If the border is secured, it “becomes inconsequential,” as quoted in the Dallas News two weeks ago.
  • Marco Rubio: won’t repeal the Fourteenth Amendment, but is open to not allowing the practice.
  • Scott Walker: Apparently has moved out of the “end birthright citizenship” camp.

As regards the actual process of dealing with illegal immigrants, the naysayers would tell you we can’t deport all 20 million of them. Maybe not, but we could at least get rid of the criminals and turn up the heat on employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. I see nothing wrong with E-Verify as a starting point, as long as it can be done quickly. We also need visa reform to keep better tabs on those who are our guests. And while it goes without saying we need to secure our border with Mexico, the question is how best to do it. One big problem is that a significant part of the border is a river and I don’t think sharks will live in fresh water. (Yes, I am joking.) But we should build a sturdy fence, whether Mexico pays for it or not. We were promised as much a decade ago.

But the biggest sticking point is amnesty. We are in this situation because amnesty once was granted so the precedent is there. Anyone who has shown up illegally over the last 30 years now feels entitled to all the benefits because, if we did it once, we can do it again. If we do the 20 million who are here will become 50 million, all expecting the next amnesty and “path to citizenship.” To me, the path to citizenship begins by going back to their country of origin but, because of birthright citizenship, those anchor babies became their golden tickets which allow them to stay. To me that’s wrong and unfair to those doing it the right way.

Imigration is an issue that, frankly, may make the person who has to be the bad guy plunge in the opinion polls. And it’s certain that the Beltway Republicans will whine and complain about losing the Latino vote, but it’s not necessarily true that a hard line on immigration will significantly hurt us with less than 10 percent of the electorate. (Yes, that is all we are talking about.)

So how do the candidates do? Some speak to the issue directly on their campaign websites while others remain less direct.

In his first effort at comprehensive policy creation, Donald Trump has hit the sweet spot. While there may be a few places I think are unworkable, it is a great template to follow in both proposal and attention to detail. It’s no wonder his popularity is increasing; obviously this category is a gigantic step up for him.

Total points for Trump – 10.5 of 11.

It’s not quite to the standard that Trump set, but Rick Santorum has a good, basic outline of his immigration policy ready for inspection and it correctly hits most of my highlights.

Total score for Santorum – 9.0 of 11.

Border security is paramount for Rand Paul, who has his own plan that’s mindful of civil liberties. One thing I like about it is the idea of not having a national identity card. The only drawback may be that it’s sort of a go-slow approach because we’re not securing the border that quickly. On the whole, though, it’s worth a look.

Total score for Paul – 7.7 of 11.

Bobby Jindal doesn’t have his immigration policy spelled out as those above him do, aside from the typical “secure the borders” rhetoric and a desire for people to follow the law. But as a first-generation American, he makes a brilliant point about assimilating that others aren’t making. Even he Americanized his name as Bobby is the nickname he adopted as a child. It sure beats Piyush.

Total score for Jindal – 7.5 of 11.

For a guy who was the governor of a border state, I thought Rick Perry was a little evasive in this interview. Of course, if I assume Perry goes with his record as governor he does better than the guy who signed a Texas version of the DREAM Act. So he’s going to score better than average but not really at the top of the heap.

Total score for Perry – 7.5 of 11.

Ted Cruz has a relatively simple view on immigration: “legal good, illegal bad.” I applaud his insistence on following the rule of law, but am scratching my head as to why he wanted to quintuple the number of H-1B visas at a time when companies are flouting the existing rules and favoring foreign workers over Americans.

Total score for Cruz – 7.4 of 11.

Assuming that something he wrote last November is still valid, Ben Carson has a somewhat unique approach to the illegal immigration issue: a guest worker program. And while he stresses those who wish to be guest workers should apply from their country of origin, my fear is that the Chamber of Commerce types who want ultra-cheap labor will get the return home portion of the idea scrapped. After all, what employer will really want to hold a job for someone for months while they go through that process?

Total score for Carson – 5.1 of 11.

Being for stopping illegal immigration is one thing. But Mike Huckabee has a somewhat vague, fuzzy plan to do so after securing the border. And as someone who at times seems to pander to the crowd, I’m not as trusting in Huckabee as I would others in the field.

Total points for Huckabee – 5.0 of 11.

Jim Gilmore starts out so well, with a nice, relatively comprehensive summary of his policy. I totally support deporting the criminal illegal aliens among us, but the problem is – and perhaps I am misunderstanding it – he would allow illegals here to continue working in place. I think they need to return home and get in line. Otherwise, there are some decent points as Gilmore’s campaign finally begins to flesh things out.

Total score for Gilmore – 4.5 of 11.

Securing the border is key to Scott Walker, who has turned heads by bringing up a border fence with Canada, too. Supposedly he is moving toward more of a hardline stance on immigration, but he has been all over the map even during the campaign and the fact he doesn’t discuss it as an issue on his campaign site is evidence he wants to play both sides against the middle. I’m not convinced.

Total points for Walker – 3.5 of 11.

Now that I’ve seen some of Carly Fiorina‘s “Answers,” I get that she wants to secure the borders first. But it’s also a copout to blame both parties for a lack of political will over the last 25 years. What I want to know is how you will overcome that inertia.

Total points for Fiorina – 3.0 of 11.

It’s described as a “moderate” approach to immigration, but while Chris Christie says he’s no longer for amnesty, he’s also not supportive of an enhanced border fence. He would rather work to dry up sources of employment, which is fine for those coming to work but not those who wish to have anchor babies or conduct criminal activity.

Total score for Christie – 2.5 of 11.

The bottom five are all for giving illegals some sort of legal status. Way to encourage another 50 million of them, guys.

“Don’t send me a(n immigration reform) bill without a pathway to citizenship or I will veto it,” said Lindsey Graham. Well, they don’t call him “Grahamnesty” for nothing, and if it weren’t for at least getting it on birthright citizenship nothing is what he would get for this category.

Total score for Graham – 2.0 of 11.

Marco Rubio will tell you he’s for several aspects of combatting illegal immigration: the border security, E-verify, and so forth. But he’s another who is hard to pin down because he doesn’t highlight immigration on his site, so I have to base my thoughts on him on his coming out against the Trump plan, supporting a large increase in H-1B visas as well as legal status for illegals after a decade, and most of all being part of the Gang of Eight.

Total score for Rubio – 1.5 of 11.

Jeb Bush visited the border, whined about how much the Trump plan is big government, then said we need to give illegals “a vigorous path to earned legal status where people…work and not receive federal government benefits.” Do you honestly think such a program will last five years before the work requirement is waived? Please.

Total score for Bush – 0.0 of 11.

John Kasich stops short of granting them citizenship, but is squarely in the camp of legalizing the illegals, which he would “prefer.” I prefer someone interested in the rule of law, not emotion.

Total score for Kasich – 0.0 of 11.

George Pataki would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. I don’t care what he says about securing the border because by allowing law-breakers a path to citizenship if they have no criminal record and do 200 hours of community service he has forfeited any respectability on this issue. Do you honestly think bureaucrats will check all these criminal records and verify the community service? It’s called a rubber stamp, and patently unfair to thosr who did it right.

Total score for Pataki – 0.0 of 11.

The next topic is one I’ve had in previous elections, but in a different form. Instead of just looking at the Long War against radical Islam, I’m expanding it to look at foreign policy in general, for 12 points.

2016 dossier: Taxation

Coming in next in importance to me as the sixth of my ten pet issues in taxation. This may be the simplest to explain of all the issues because I don’t think there is a candidate among the 17 Republicans who wants to increase them.

However, if you ask me – and since I write this blog and you have read this far I’m going to presume you want my opinion – my preference is for a consumption-based tax like the FairTax. It creates a scenario where we have the most control over how much we pay while encouraging saving and allowing us to take home much more of our paycheck. My second choice, if I had to maintain an income-based tax scheme, would be a flat tax with a low rate and limited deductions. Sure, the tax preparer lobby would scream but they deserve to. It should not take me the better part of a weekend to compile the paperwork and prepare two tax returns, but as it stands now I have to.

As for corporate taxes, I would be amenable to a low rate of perhaps 10 percent. Right now our rate is more than triple that.

So let’s take a look at where candidates stand and how many of 10 points they gather. Alas, none get ten because there’s none talking about the very important step of repealing the Sixteenth Amendment.

If I am reading Rand Paul‘s “Fair and Flat Tax Plan” correctly, it has a relatively low rate for everyone but more importantly eliminates the FICA tax. Practically all working Americans would get a quick raise.

It takes the income-based tax about as far as it can go, but also has a better chance of being accepted by the public.

Total score for Paul – 9.0 of 10.

While he hasn’t really addressed what he would do as President, I’m giving Bobby Jindal high marks for two reasons. One is that, over nearly two terms as governor of Louisiana, he’s been highly resistant to increasing taxes as well as taking a meat ax to the state’s budget. Could he become the second coming of Calvin Coolidge at a federal level?

On the one hand, he was a backer of Rick Perry’s 2012 flat tax plan, but on the other hand he attempted (alas, unsuccessfully) to bring a version of the FairTax to Louisiana. That basically leaves a swing between 9 points and seven so I took the middle course.

Total score for Jindal – 8.0 of 10.

He’s been on record as supporting the FairTax, so Mike Huckabee is at the top of the heap. The only problem is that we don’t know the needed rate. We also don’t know what we will see with corporate tax rates, which may be because they are eliminated with the FairTax.

Unfortunately, Huckabee was criticized for his taxation record in office so I’m reticent to give him a really high score.

Total score for Huckabee – 7.5 of 10.

Combine the support of a Forbesian flat tax with the record of cutting taxes John Kasich has put together and he has a relatively strong case for improving taxation. In Ohio, he proposed an idea to eliminate income taxes for business owners, but make up the revenue through a higher corporate tax, additional sin taxes, and a sales tax increase. Although Art Laffer liked Kasich’s idea, I see it as a sort of Frankenstein hybrid of both income and sales taxes when we need to eliminate one in favor of the other.

Total score for Kasich – 6.0 of 10.

Ben Carson is looking for a tax system which is “fairer, simpler, and more equitable” with a call for “wholesale tax reform.” His idea is loosely based on Biblical tithing, which is generally considered a 10 percent tax; however, he conceded that the rate may have to start higher and work down over time to stay revenue-neutral. He’s also alluded to reducing the corporate tax rate, although it may not drop to 10% either.

The idea of eliminating the progressive tax has merit, though. It just may prove politically difficult to weather all the harpies who think their tax breaks are too important to eliminate – that should be a circus worth watching. The next step for Carson is learning that revenue-neutral is not necessarily what we need because government is not God.

Total score for Carson – 5.5 of 10.

“I will abolish the IRS,” says Ted Cruz. At one point, he was going to do it with the FairTax but more recently he’s lowered his sights to a flat tax with a few popular deductions, such as charitable contributions and the mortgage interest deduction. We don’t know just what rate Cruz is proposing for individuals, but he is on record that a 15% corporate tax rate would be acceptable.

I’m a little disappointed that he backed away from the FairTax for political expedience, for true leadership would bring people around to the merits of the issue.

Total score for Cruz – 5.5 of 10.

More or less, the one platform plank that Jim Gilmore has shared so far is the Growth Code, a plan to reduce individual taxes to three brackets of 10 to 25 percent while eliminating taxes on capital gains and other investment income. He would also reduce corporate taxes to 15%. It’s a good start, but I would like to see an end to progressive taxes altogether.

Total score for Gilmore – 5.0 of 10.

Much like others in this portion of this summary, Marco Rubio has a simpler two-bracket system he first unveiled last year with Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Since then the brackets have been firmed at 15 and 25 percent, with a 25% corporate tax. The rates fall between Gilmore’s and Perry’s, so Rubio’s score will, too.

Total score for Rubio – 4.9 of 10.

Rick Perry hasn’t revised his 2012 tax plan yet. It was a plan that gave people the option to pay a 20% flat tax on a specific year’s return or stay with the old system, which would eventually be phased out. He would also reduce corporate taxes to 20% as well.

Although the plan was endorsed by Bobby Jindal at the time, Bobby moved on in the correct direction. Until I find out otherwise, I have to assume this is the Perry plan and it’s just average.

Total score for Perry – 4.8 of 10.

I’ve been waiting for Rick Santorum to reveal his economic plan for weeks. Supposedly it will be reflective of the one from his 2012 campaign, which is fairly similar to those other hopefuls in the 4-to-5 point range. While rates may change, though, I don’t think the complexity goes away. So we work back to square one.

Total score for Santorum – 4.6 of 10.

On his website, Chris Christie keeps it simple, calling for “creating a flatter, fairer, and simpler individual income tax system and keep returns simpler by reducing deductions and giveaways.” He also advocates for a 25% corporate tax rate, which is an improvement to about average among industrialized nations.

Listen, anything to help can be considered a victory but those from this point down the candidates either just tinker around the edges or even make things worse.

Total score for Christie – 4.5 of 10.

He cut taxes in Wisconsin, but Scott Walker only wants to turn the clock back to the 1980s, expressing an interest in reviving the tax reforms Ronald Reagan put in place. This is all well and good, but to be honest we aren’t all that far off where Reagan was in comparison to where we were when he took over for Jimmy Carter. So it’s not all that impressive to me in a crowded field.

Total score for Walker – 4.2 of 10.

In his announcement speech, Jeb Bush alluded to creating “a vastly simpler system” with fewer rates. But some complain that Bush was no longer willing to participate in a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit by taking a small tax increase for supposed cuts. (If only his dad had ignored that siren song, Hillary Rodham would be an activist lawyer for some far left-wing group and Bill Clinton would be another in a long line of Democratic presidential losers free to cat around at will.)

At any rate, his vagueness on the subject bothers me so he doesn’t score all that well.

Total score for Bush – 4.0 of 10.

Lindsey Graham is all over the map. He’s been for a flat tax, which would qualify for the “simpler” scheme he seeks if not the “fairer” that leftist critics who love the current super-progressive system don’t want. Lindsey also advocates for lower corporate tax rates.

But he falls victim to the same mentality plaguing Jeb Bush, thinking Democrats would actually cut spending if he raised taxes – even, as he clains, it would only be certain deductions. That’s just the start of hard-working Americans being rolled anew.

Total score for Graham – 3.5 of 10.

I’m looking forward to how Donald Trump puts H&R Block out of business. Until then, I can’t give him a good score.

Total score for Trump – 2.0 of 10.

George Pataki favors scrapping the tax code, but who among this group doesn’t? Described as a governor who started out as a serious fiscal conservative, he devolved into just another big spender by the end. What worries me, though, is that he’s considering raising corporate tax rates to pay for infrastructure. That’s a guaranteed job killer.

Total score for Pataki – 1.0 of 10.

Carly Fiorina wants a “transparent and fair” tax code and released a lot of returns to make her point. But that’s it. This makes it hard to take her seriously.

Total score for Fiorina – 0.5 of 10.

Postscript 9/26: Since Fiorina has since advocated for a simpler system that reduces revenue, I’m adding 1.5 points to her score. She should at least match Trump here.

Next on the docket, for eleven valuable points, is immigration. That may provide some sharp differences.

2016 dossier: Trade and job creation

The fifth portion of my look at the GOP field looks at trade and job creation. Those that have the best ideas will qualify for nine points. This category has the potential to be very hit or miss, however. So allow me to set some of the guidelines I am looking for.

When I speak about trade, my goal is that of having free trade that is fair for all parties. With the criticism that’s been leveled at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, I don’t necessarily consider it fair trade. I’m also leery of fast-track authority, although I may well feel better about it with a conservative in charge.

As for job creation, I’m looking for specific ideas which don’t involve lowering taxes because that will fall under taxation, which is a later segment in my dossier series. But taking a meat axe to regulation would be fine, as would creating the conditions under which a workforce can thrive. It will be somewhat tough to score this segment, so the more information made available the better it is for a candidate.

Bobby Jindal gets it, and is not afraid to let people know about it. The formula must work because he is a job-producing governor.

For Bobby, it begins with the power of energy, but it doesn’t stop there. Free trade is fine if we have a good negotiator on our side, but right now we don’t so there’s no need for a Trans-Pacific Partnership yet. And the minimum wage is a smokescreen when we should be looking for more. My only concern is that he is still open to an increase when the idea should be one of the market determining the wage. But that’s a minor blemish on an otherwise solid category for Jindal.

Total score for Jindal – 8.4 of 9.

There is also great promise with Ted Cruz. If he can do those things he ran for Senate on we would be in fine shape. Removing regulations on energy and spreading the truth on the minimum wage bolster a sound agenda. Yes, he flipped on Obamatrade but he came to his senses in time – and trade is one of his specialties. He seems to be an intelligent, passionate advocate for the working man.

Total score for Cruz – 8.1 of 9.

There’s a lot to like about Rick Perry on the subject of job creation – his state created a lot of them during Rick’s tenure. While he had the energy boom to thank for much of it, his principles of low taxes and predictable regulations would hold the nation in good stead.

But I hesitate a little bit from giving him a higher score because just as he quickly backpedaled from being a supporter of trade promotion authority to an opponent simply based on Barack Obama’s lack of negotiating skills and secrecy, he has walked back his complete (and correct) opposition to any federal minimum wage to just not wanting a hike.

He will be in the top tier of this category, though, as he sounds most of the right notes. Now if he could just stay in the race…

Total score for Perry – 7.2 of 9.

In Congress, Rand Paul has sponsored legislation to give Congress move oversight on regulations and worked against additional trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And he would rather lift all the boats than increase the minimum wage.

Yet the most interesting piece in his job creation toolbox is the Economic Freedom Zone, an idea he claims to have borrowed from the late Jack Kemp. It sounds good in theory, but my beef with it is that it is targeted to specific areas. For a guy who seems like he would be against government picking winners and losers, this seems to be an unusual move. It’s sort of like having a big-ticket business right across the border from sales-tax free Delaware, where you watch the competition take advantage of government edict.

Total score for Paul – 6.5 of 9.

Rick Santorum has a leg up on some of the competition because he devotes a portion of his economic plan to restoring manufacturing to America. It’s a proposal that includes the idea that regulations are too severe but, more importantly, speaks about the aspect of fair trade by opening up new markets if they play fair. He came out against the TPP as well as fast-track, noting he voted against NAFTA.

But a good plan is muddled by Rick’s support of a higher minimum wage. I suppose that is the difference between populist and conservative, but what he may gain in pandering to a few he would lose when their jobs went away. He’s also been promising his economic plan was a few weeks away on his website, so I’m tired of waiting.

Total score for Santorum – 6.3 of 9.

I find the trade and job creation ideas of Lindsey Graham interesting: “a clenched fist and an open hand…you choose” when it comes to trade, and backing one minimum wage increase while opposing a more recent one.

The entire reason he jumped up to this level came out of one idea of his:

The most costly and far-reaching federal regulations should be subject to sunset provisions, so that there is a built-in process to ensure that they are subject to review, cost-effectiveness analysis, and accountability.  Those regulations that cannot stand up to scrutiny or are no longer essential should be eliminated.

I have called for sunset provisions for far more than simple regulations, but just bringing up this concept separated him from the middle of the pack.

Total score for Graham – 6.0 of 9.

As someone who has worked exclusively in the private sector, Carly Fiorina knows something about job creation – although her critics point to HP’s job losses. And they may dispute her claim that regulations don’t go away because there are some exceptions that prove the rule. But she is right on the trade front and minimum wage, which are plusses.

Total score for Fiorina – 5.6 of 9.

I give credit to Chris Christie for making my job easier by creating his economic plan, which is a mixed bag of good ideas and near-misses. (Chief among them is the idea of reducing payroll taxes only for those over 62 and below 25, which would likely hurt those at the cusp of those ages.) I also find the mistrust of Barack Obama on trade good to hear, especially when Christie wants to revisit NAFTA.

But he’s squishy on minimum wage, and that holds him back somewhat.

Total score for Christie – 5.2 of 9.

Scott Walker has the tag line of “Let’s get to work” on his website, but I had to go elsewhere to find his ideas on job creation. It was noted that his record may look subpar but his state started from a better position and doesn’t get the benefit of the energy boom with the exception of being home to some of the best fracking sand available. While he used several conventional ideas that can work on a state level, such as investment in job training, he doesn’t really have a broad national plan. Presumably he would be a leader in nationalizing right-to-work, but we don’t know that – but we know he correctly thinks the minimum wage is “lame.”

Walker supports the TPP and the trade promotion authority that goes with it. To me that is “lame” and deducts from his score in the category.

Total score for Walker – 5.0 of 9.

Ben Carson brings a unique approach to this question. I’ll get the bad part out of the way first – he supports a minimum wage increase. But he came out early against Obamatrade and is interested in curtailing the regulatory state in surprising ways.

I also think he has some moral authority for his message on work, which is one I agree with. He also has a healthy skepticism about the current economic state, which will play well with his conservative base. He can serve as an example so I placed him a tick above some peers who I grade about the same.

Total score for Carson – 4.6 of 9.

Jeb Bush falls in the middle thanks to support of Obamatrade coupled with the idea of state minimum wages. But was the audience of Wall Street banking executives the right one to advocate for financial reform? I don’t think Main Street trusts Wall Street just yet, which is why Jeb lands in the middle.

Total score for Bush – 4.5 of 9.

For Mike Huckabee I see a lot of obfuscation. His populist approach is fine, with the philosophy of working for a “maximum wage” admirable. But it’s vague, and he won’t commit to saying no to an increase in the minimum because he signed one as governor.

On the trade front, though, he opposes trade promotion authority. It’s not a bad platform, just not that great in a crowded field.

Total score for Huckabee – 4.5 of 9.

The ideas of Marco Rubio trend along the same lines as Scott Walker, but without the executive action. His job creation platform refers mainly to taxation and education, with just a nod toward regulatory reform.

Meanwhile, his opposition to increasing the minimum wage is tempered by his support for “Obamatrade.” My fear is that he will fold on the minimum wage to do his cherished college financial aid reforms, since the two can go hand-in-hand.

Total score for Rubio – 4.5 of 9.

For John Kasich, it’s an interesting mix: he runs a state that privatized its Department of Development, but wants to place a steep tax increase on a particular job creator. He supported NAFTA but doesn’t want to see workers get the shaft. And his state has a minimum wage which automatically increases even though he opposed this in Washington. (Our DNC “hacktivists” claim Kasich believes it should be a state matter, which is the correct stance. I don’t link to them.) On the whole, I would like him to do better.

Total score for Kasich – 4.0 of 9.

Many of the more conventional ideas above are also in George Pataki‘s playbook, and he has done them: rolled back regulations in New York, vetoed a minimum wage increase, and has the idea of increasing manufacturing jobs. But he’s uncertain on the TPP. And a lot has changed in a decade.

With so little to go by, it’s hard to give him a high score.

Total score for Pataki – 4.0 of 9.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God has ever created,” says Donald Trump. He continually cries that China, Mexico, and Japan are “killing us” economically. But would a 25% tariff on Chinese goods, as he’s proposed before, be the answer? Some say it would start a trade war we couldn’t win, but others think China is manipulating its currency by an even greater factor. To the good side, though, he’s not in favor of a minimum wage increase.

So far, though, Donald hasn’t fleshed out his overall jobs program. Being a businessman makes him an expert of sorts in the subject, but could he deal with a Congress that’s more obstinate than his employees?

Total score for Trump – 2.7 of 9.

Much as I’d like to know about Jim Gilmore, his recent entry in the race sort of limits his potential. Although it’s couched as job creation, his Growth Code will play more in the taxation category. So I can’t give him many points.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 9.

Next on tap is a fairly simple and straightforward subject – taxation. It will be worth ten points.

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