With a win for Michele Bachmann in the bizarre Iowa straw poll grabbing headlines, Tim Pawlenty dropping out of the race and Rick Perry entering it, it was a show of hands that gave me shivers this week.
On Thursday night the GOP held its third presidential debate for candidates in Ames, Iowa. The debate saw Pawlenty and Bachmann duke it out and national frontrunner Mitt Romney walk away unscathed. The major winner of the night, it seemed, were the moderators, whose brutal personal questions led Newt Gingrich to attack Fox News itself.
As the segment on the economy came to a close, the moderator asked for a show of hands if any of the candidates would accept a 10-for-1 deal on spending cuts to tax raises – ie 10 dollars cut from spending programmes for every dollar raised in new taxes.
Every candidate raised their hand against the deal; not one would even consider a tax hike, even if they would slash spending programmes at a ten to one ratio. Even Jon Huntsman, who took the brave decision of backing civil unions for gay couples on stage, could not admit to even considering a tax hike. It should also be noted that Huntsman was the only candidate who supported raising the debt ceiling.
When coming out for civil unions is seen as less of a risk in an Iowa Republican primary then raising taxes, the GOP presidential field clearly has not absorbed the lessons of the downgrade by S & P.
On the contrary – Bachmann claimed that the S & P downgrade had proven her right- if they had not raised the debt ceiling and just enacted massive cuts, then America would still be a AAA country.
This was, as pointed out by Politico, a little rich seeing as S & P saw fit to mention that it was the rhetoric supporting an allowed default by US lawmakers that made it unique in the AAA countries and was a factor in the down grade.
One would have hoped that the economic warning shot that caused such volatility in the world’s finance markets would have created some self-reflection among the political elite, but it seems impending catastrophe has only added more fuel to the fire.
As the media moves on to cover the new dynamics in the Republican field, the economic doom caused by the partisan politics of Washington seems entrenched. Alongside social issues of abortion and gay marriage, refusal on economic compromise is the newest shibboleth of the Republican party, one so strong not even the most moderate of candidates has the guts to challenge.