Friday, March 02, 2012
Have Republicans gone crazy?
What has happened to the Republican electorate, at least those who vote in the primaries? Evidence from Gallup suggests that the federal debt is one of the most important issues to them (92% identified it as very important or extremely important). Presumably by this they mean they are worried about its explosive growth, and not that is it growing too slowly.
So how to explain this? The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget recently released a study of the budget proposals of the four remaining Republican candidates for President. They compare the specific proposals of the candidates to what they call a "reasonable baseline," which is something akin to CBO's "alternative fiscal scenario." The baseline assumes permanent growth in the debt-to-GDP ratio, i.e. it is unsustainable. What do they find the GOP candidates proposals do, relative to this unsustainable baseline?
Gingrich: increases the debt-to-GDP ratio 30% by 2021.
Romney: increases the debt-to-GDP ratio 1% by 2021.
Santorum: increases the debt-to-GDP ratio 19% by 2021.
Paul: reduces the debt-to-GDP ratio 9% by 2021.
A separate study suggests President Obama's proposed 2013 budget would roughly begin to stabilize the debt in the same period.
Whether or not any of the budget proposals could actually be put into place if the candidate were elected is beside the point. (President Obama's proposed budget is likely DOA.) The puzzling point is... why isn't the Republican electorate outraged? The evidence is that President Obama's budget proposals are more fiscally responsible than those of the real Republicans. (Let's face it, while Ron Paul is not genuinely a libertarian, he's surely not a conservative Republican, either.)
It's hard to fathom the hard core of the Republican electorate, those who are voting in the primaries. This study has been widely reported. How can the vast majority of them be voting for utter fiscal irresponsibility? I can only conclude that they are ignorant, stupid, and so out of touch with reality that they do not believe that facts matter. In short, yes, they are crazy.
Update, 3 March: It's clear that of the four candidates who remain, only one, Ron Paul, can in any way said to be serious about tackling the debt problem, and also about actually constraining and reversing the alarming growth in the power of the federal government that has occurred over the last 12 years (or maybe we should say 224 years). And he's also the only one of the four who has not won a state primary race. (Although Maine is suspect, since the "official" totals omitted more than 10% of the votes cast, much more than Romney's "victory" margin.) It's quite clear that the hard core of the Republican voters, given the chance, will not vote for liberty and smaller government, despite their professed, and I think in some ways sincere, concerns about debt and the growth of government. What could this be but irrational thought processes and extreme self-deception? Yes, certifiably crazy.
Results for U.S. Republican Presidential Primaries
(with apologies for my inadequate use of HTML code)
State Gingrich Paul Romney Santorum
02/28 AZ 16.2% 8.4% 47.3% 26.6%
02/28 MI 6.5% 11.6% 41.1% 37.9%
02/11 ME 6.7% 34.9% 39.0% 18.1%
02/07 CO 12.8% 11.8% 34.9% 40.3%
02/07 MN 10.8% 27.1% 16.9% 44.9%
02/07 MO 0% 12.2% 25.3% 55.2%
02/04 NV 21.1% 18.8% 50.1% 10.0%
01/31 FL 31.9% 7.0% 46.4% 13.3%
01/21 SC 40.4% 13.0% 27.8% 17.0%
01/10 NH 9.4% 22.9% 39.3% 9.4%
01/03 IA 13.3% 21.4% 24.5% 24.6%