I have often said that in matters of political philosophy, there are two fundamentally different ways of looking at the world. Believers in Way 1 think that the government through its taxing, spending and police powers is capable of solving all of the personal problems of the people and of eliminating all down-side risk from human life. The government's credit card is infinite! And, as I put it on my About page,
The obvious corollary is that since all problems can be solved by taxing and spending, therefore they must be solved by taxing and spending, and anyone who stands in the way of those solutions is immoral.
Meanwhile, Way 2 of looking at the world sees that down the road of infinite government spending to solve all problems lies the socialist fallacy and ultimate disaster, although the disaster might take a long time to unfold. Since demands for government solutions to problems are endless and infinite, somewhere lines need to be drawn and limits set.
Clearly the Democratic candidates for President subscribe to Way 1. Their campaigns are full of proposals for bigger and bigger new government spending to solve smaller and smaller problems, including proposals for single-payer health care for all, free college tuition for all, vast enhancements to social security, universal cures for income inequality, and so forth. All of this with no price tags attached, but instead a vague notion that all costs can be somehow charged to the magical top one percent of income earners.
One might think that the Republican candidates are the advocates for Way 2. But the problem is that Way 2 inevitably leads to the necessity for drawing some lines and setting some limits, and this in the face of a usually hostile press that is always ready to accuse the candidate of immorality for standing in the way of any proposed government solution to any problem. And so, one by one, when pressed, the Republican candidates decline to draw any lines or set any limits, and agree to go along with one or another, or multiple, of the currently-proposed big government solutions to the personal problems of the people.
- Donald Trump has famously advocated at times for some kind of comprehensive or single-payer healthcare scheme for the United States. A BuzzFeed article on July 17 has this quote from Trump in 1999: “I would put forward a comprehensive health care program and fund it with an increase in corporate taxes." Peter Suderman at Reason on August 7 has a series of amusing quotes from the first Republican debate, where Bret Baier of Fox News tried to pin Trump down on this subject. After devoting most of his answer to the question about single-payer healthcare to the Iraq war, Trump finally got around to this: "As far as single payer," Trump says, "it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you're talking about here." OK, that's pretty vague, but as far as I can find Trump has never explicitly disavowed his endorsement of single-payer (socialized) healthcare for the U.S., although he also has never put out any specific plan with details and costs. The question is, where are the limits to be drawn here, if at all?
- HotAir reports yesterday that Carly Fiorina came out in 2013 for at least a form of an individual mandate for healthcare coverage. The 2013 date is significant because it postdates the Supreme Court's 2012 decision in NFIB v. Sibelius holding the individual mandate in Obamacare unconstitutional as a mandate (although then upholding it as a tax). HotAir quotes from a CNN panel discussion in 2013 where Stephanie Cutter of CNN asked Fiorina if she agreed with "the mandate idea," and with the "ban on pre-existing conditions," and Fiorina responded "I actually do agree with those two provisions." To be fair to Fiorina, she went on to call Obamacare "an abomination." But again, what are the limits she would set on government trying to achieve perfect fairness in healthcare through spending and mandates?
- John Kasich has famously supported and overseen the adoption of the massive Obamacare Medicaid expansion in his state of Ohio. NPR has a summary of his actions and positions on the subject here. His main defense of his actions is basically that he owed it to the people of Ohio to take the free federal money that was lying on the table. OK though, John, you're now running for President. Is the federal money really free in unlimited amounts, and if not, what are the limits?
- Chris Christie got big play in 2012 for his huge and, frankly, ridiculous demands on the federal government for disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy. This was previously covered by the Manhattan Contrarian here and here. When the Republican Congress initially refused to pass a wildly inflated $60 billion handout bill on New Year's Eve, Christie was quoted by ABC News as calling their action "disgusting." The $60 billion went way beyond mere aid to help people get back on their feet, and included things like paying for all losses of all business, plus some $7.4 billion for unspecified "mitigation." Shortly before that Christie had been photographed walking on the beach and hugging President Obama while making a plea for the aid. Again, does this guy just think that the feds have infinite amounts of money to pass out, or are there some limits?
- And finally, Ben Carson has recently seemingly joined the bandwagon calling for a massive increase in the federal minimum wage. Granted, this one is not a spending program, but still represents acceptance of the concept that the federal government somehow has the power to create fairness through mandates, without downsides like higher unemployment among the young and minority populations and higher poverty.
And I'm sure I could come up with more examples with a little more digging. The question is, which Republican candidate is ever actually going to say that there are limits here and the government cannot solve everybody's problems by taxing, spending and mandates?