Here’s Every Mention of the Economy in Last Night’s Republican Debate (It’s a Short List)

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This morning, you could find any number of think-pieces about the Republican presidential debate online. As expected, most of the pieces are about Donald Trump. But I have to say, I’ve also encountered a disturbing trend in today’s recaps; they suggest that without Trump, last night’s debate was all about “issues.” This isn’t really true. Instead, what we got was a lot of meta-talk about issues—who hates immigrants more, who has hated immigrants for the longest, who’s going to launch the most brutal assault on ISIS—and more Trump-like bluster. I suppose after so many months of Donald Trump overload, the media assigned to cover the Republican side of the presidential primary can’t quite remember what an actual policy discussion sounds like.

Here’s what we didn’t hear last night: any talk about the middle class. Or raising the minimum wage. Neither of those phrases was mentioned even once. Gun responsibility was mentioned by a moderator and then promptly ignored by Marco Rubio. In fact, the economy was largely ignored. Here, I made a list of all the times the candidates mentioned the American economy, in chronological order:

  • Ted Cruz, incredibly, suggested that tax cuts and deregulation could help stop ISIS.
  • Marco Rubio warned that switching to clean energy would “destroy our economy.” It’s a patently absurd suggestion that indicates Rubio does not have even a basic understanding of how the economy works. Clean energy is getting cheaper, clean energy jobs are on the rise, and when you support industries like gas and coal through subsidies, all you’re really doing is socializing the high costs of environmental impact. You’re putting taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars of damage and letting Big Oil off free.
  • John Kasich said that “the conservative message is economic growth and along with economic growth goes opportunity for everybody in America.” The first part is kind of true; Republicans talk more (and speak more forcefully) about growth. But the fact is that Democratic presidents are better for the economy, and the trickle-down agenda that Republicans have been pushing for years has led to increased inequality. The American people are realizing, finally, that trickle down economics is a scam; you can talk all you want about growth, but if you support policies that give more money to the rich, you’re not seriously endorsing growth.
  • Ted Cruz promised that his flat tax would “reduce enormous economic growth,” which is absolutely untrue. The flat tax is a regressive tax that—all together now—would lower taxes for the rich and increase taxes on the poor.
  • Seems a little…flimsy for a two-hour debate, doesn’t it? Aside from Ted Cruz’s decidedly unserious flat tax, where are the policies? Is it even possible for these candidates to mention the economy without trying to frighten Americans into thinking everything is going to collapse if they get the chance to enjoy even a little bit more economic opportunity than they enjoy right now? Even without Donald Trump in the room, the Republican debate was still a circus: all flash and dazzle and audience manipulation, with entirely too many clowns.

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    Paul Constant
    Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.