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07 August 2015

2016: First Forum Debate

So, there's a quite a few Republican candidates - and some of them actually seem to care about the Constitution. So I'm attempting to compare their comments to the Constitution. Of course, you can't look just at talk; talk's cheap. But it's a starting point for looking at the candidates.

Rick Perry
First, they ask Rick Perry about illegal immigration, and what he would do about it. He wants to secure the boarder, sounds like with a combination of fences and soldiers. The moderator also wanted to talk about if we should reduce the number of Green Cards, at least until we have a handle on illegal immigration. Mr. Perry really didn't seem to want to talk about that. Instead, he went on a tangent about how the relevant (unnamed) agency is broken, and can't track the folks who are here on temporary visas.

What neither of them mention is that immigration is supposed to be nearly entirely up to the States, and not a federal issue at all, outside of making uniform rules, so that it works the same in every State (see Article I Section 8 Clause 4). This would have been a fantastic time for him to talk about this, and to showcase his work in Texas as being the Constitutionally correct course of action. He talked about how they've been very effective in Texas, but not about the Constitutional foundation of what they are doing there. He talks about how, when we know who is here, we can make smart decisions about visas, but I don't know how a single office can know that for all the 50 States.

Next, they ask him about the economy. GDP growth is at 2%. How's he going to make that number better? (This answer starts at 9:30) The gentleman from Texas then explained what he did in his state. These are his claims:
  • Texas created more jobs than anybody while he was governor, to the tune of 1/3 of all new jobs created being found in Texas.
  • That growth was caused by tax policies that let you keep more of what you earn,
  • by fair and predictable regulatory climate,
  • by not allowing "over-suing",
  • by public school policies that are "accountable" and give businesses a skilled workforce. This is a project that it is Constitutionally problematic to bring to the federal level: the Constitution does not authorize any federal meddling in education, whatsoever. Education is not mentioned, so it falls under the powers reserved, under the Tenth Amendment.
  • He wants to use North American (rather than Russian or Saudi) energy. That's not a bad idea, but energy isn't supposed to be a federal question. Tenth Amendment, again.

  • And he talked about reducing the income tax, though he didn't give any concrete details about what he wants to do.

Now, according to the Cato Institute, Mr. Perry did not shrink government while he was governor. (Though, he didn't claim to have done so either, in this segment, anyway) But he did get a B from Cato for fiscal restraint, which looks like it just might be something worth paying attention to. And apparently he's been serious enough about tort reform (and somewhat successful at enacting, it looks like), that there are some lawyers that really hate him.

Rick Santorum
The first question is pretty awesome: "Should the federal government subsidize any sector, and if so, which ones?" And, surprisingly, he gets the answer right. "I don't think we should be subsidizing..." Though, he kind of ruined the moment by adding that "but..."

I can just imagine the kicking and screaming if he was to actually stop a bunch of subsidies. He then spends a couple minutes waxing poetic about manufacturing jobs that we're losing. Then, a list of things he'd like to do about it:
  • A flat tax. 20%. That still seems like a whole lot to me. If we reduce our government to Constitutionally sound levels, 20% would be too much. 
  • Serious tax breaks for manufacturing that comes back to the US. This isn't exactly unconstitutional - the Sixteenth Amendment allows them to do this. However, the Sixteenth Amendment is, in my opinion, a terrible idea, because it violates the founding principles of our nation. The idea was to have equal treatment under the law in taxation, but this amendment specifically, explicitly gives them the power to play favorites, and tax whoever, for however much. As Chief Justice John Marshall said in McCulloch v. Maryland, "The power to tax is the power to destroy." When we passed the Sixteenth, we removed some significant restraints from that power, to our detriment.
Next, they talk about welfare reform. How does one motivate welfare recipients to go back to work? Santorum talks about some reform that he's already done, with putting time limits on welfare benefits, and also having a requirement to work when receiving these entitlements. Additionally, he touched on the need to create jobs for these people to go into. However, Constitutionally, there is no authority for the so-called entitlements.

I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.
-James Madison, Father of the Constitution

There have been no Amendments allowing it, so this sort of spending is still illegitimate, however common it has become.

Santorum goes on to talk about the deleterious effects that he sees immigration, both illegal AND legal, having on the ability of unskilled American workers to find employment. As a solution, he wants to dramatically reduce immigration of all types, and to use an E-Verify system to find the illegals and send them home. Constitutionally, this is problematic because that sort of immigration enforcement ought to belong to the States. It's also problematic because it betrays a lack of understanding of the way that Markets work. He needs to take an Econ 101 class from Hillsdale. Rather than squashing immigration, he ought to be focusing on reducing the regulatory burden.

There are also significant issues with E-Verify. For instance: who wants yet another layer of Big Brother? Who wants to find themselves in a situation where they are tagged as illegal - and thus ineligible to work - even though they are perfectly legal? This is government we're talking about; it's not going to work as advertized.

Beyond the technical limitations of E-Verify, Mr. Smith and other supporters are holding out the false hope that an effective verification system will be the key to putting millions of Americans to work. That belief is based on the false assumption that low-skilled immigrants and low-skilled unemployed Americans are interchangeable. They are not.
Immigrant workers are overrepresented in low-paying, unpleasant jobs for the simple reason that not enough Americans want those jobs. The pay, status and working conditions do not match the qualifications and aspirations of the large majority of Americans currently looking for employment in our recovering economy.
-Cato: E-Verify Threatens American Jobs and Liberties

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