When in doubt, turn to tax breaks

Republican presidential rivals backed a blend of tax and spending cuts Thursday night to head off an election-year recession they generally agreed is avoidable. “We should reduce taxes on middle-income Americans immediately,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said in a debate in the run-up to presidential primaries in Michigan and South Carolina, two states where unemployment exceeds the national average.

“The first thing is not to raise taxes,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. “Cut the marginal tax rate, if anything, and eventually go to a fair tax,” he added, referring to his plan for a national sales tax to replace the income tax.

Arizona Sen. John McCain stressed spending cuts to get the budget deficit under control, although he also said it was important not to let Bush administration-era tax cuts expire. He pledged to “wield the veto pen” and block all pork barrel spending bills that Congress sends him.

While the debate was held in South Carolina, the Michigan primary is next on the campaign calendar, a contest in which Romney, Huckabee and McCain are the principal antagonists. It’s unlikely all of them can survive a defeat there, particularly a third-place finish.

South Carolina’s primary is scheduled for Jan. 19, and drawn a different group of competitors. Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee has made it clear he needs a victory or something close to it, while McCain and Huckabee also are counting on a strong showing. Romney abruptly canceled television advertising in the state earlier this week, and is concentrating for the moment on Michigan.

Thompson underscored the urgency of a strong South Carolina showing when he launched an attack on Huckabee, standing a few feet away on the debate stage.

“This is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and its future. On the one hand you have the Reagan Revolution … on the other hand you have the direction that Governor Huckabee would take us … liberal economic policies, liberal foreign policies,” he said.

Huckabee seemed unruffled. “The Air Force has a saying that if you’re not catching flak you’re not over the target. I’m catching the flak. I must be over the target,” he said. He added he had cut taxes as governor of Arkansas and was re-elected by his constituents, a sure sign, he added, that they were pleased with his performance.

In a 90-minute debate that touched on economic issues, foreign policy and immigration, Huckabee drew the loudest applause of the night from the audience when he was asked about having quoted a Biblical passage saying a wife “has to submit herself graciously” to her husband.

A Baptist preacher before entering politics, he said he was “not the least bit ashamed of my faith,” but didn’t impose it as governor and wouldn’t as president. He said the citation is from Ephesians, and “the point is that as wives submit themselves to their husbands the husbands also submit themselves” to their wives.

“That’s why marriage is an important institution, because it teaches us how to love,” he concluded.

The debate was sponsored by the South Carolina Republican Party and Fox News Channel, and opened with a country music touch — a rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner’ by Calvin Gilmore.

Asked about last weekend’s Persian Gulf incident in which Iranian speed boats harassed U.S. warships, none of the presidential rivals found fault with U.S. naval commanders on the scene.

But several took the opportunity to stress their determination to take stronger steps against Iran in the future.

“I think one more step, you know, and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they’re looking forward to seeing,” said Thompson.

Huckabee said if it happened again, the Iranians “should be prepared to see the gates of Hell.”

McCain, the only candidate with experience in the Navy, refused to second guess the actions of the commander of all the battle groups.

“I believe Iran represents a very serious threat,” said Romney. He added he believes the incident was a calculated one to test U.S. defensive responses and was a “diversionary action … It points out that we have in Iran a very troubled nation,” he added.

Romney drew mixed boos and applause from the audience when he criticized Texas Rep. Ron Paul for saying the United States must avoid another war.

Romney said Paul had been reading “too many press releases by (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad,” the Iranian president.

“Make fun buddy,” muttered a clearly irritated Paul.

The economy dominated the first portion of the debate, reflecting increased concern that a recession may be in the offing. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, issued an unusually plainspoken pledge during the day to do what he could to keep the economy expanding despite a threat posed by a mortgage crisis and other factors.

Unemployment rose to 5 percent last month after the biggest one-month gain since 2001. In South Carolina, it was 5.9 percent in November; in Michigan, it was 7.4 percent.

Thompson, who advocates a cut in corporate taxes, also said “we need to count on the Federal Reserve doing the right thing on interest rates” to keep the economy from tumbling into recession. He also said tax cuts enacted in recent years should be extended.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is not making a strong effort in either Michigan or South Carolina, also advocated tax cuts, and his campaign purchased an advertisement during the first commercial break that said he would send the largest tax cut in history to Congress on his first day in the White House.

Alone of the six presidential rivals on the debate stage, Paul said, “I believe we are in a recession. I believe it’s going to get a lot worse.”

The first three contests of the Republican campaign have yielded three different winners: Huckabee, first in the leadoff Iowa caucuses; Romney, victor in the little-contested Wyoming caucuses; and McCain, triumphant in last Tuesday’s fiercely fought New Hampshire primary.

The debate unfolded as one poll showed McCain getting a bounce from his New Hampshire triumph and moving narrowly ahead of Huckabee and Romney in South Carolina.


  1. B Scott

    I notice you post a picture of Ron Paul speaking at the debate while your headline is “when in doubt, turn to tax breaks.” Was this intentional or do you have an agenda? Dr. Paul knows that tax breaks aren’t the answer and has said so many times. Perhaps when you next have an occasion to title a news piece “when in doubt, STOP SPENDING” you’ll remember to post his picture again. Just sayin . . .

  2. pollchecker

    Ron Paul shows consistently that he is the only GOP candidate that has a realistic understanding of the issues we are facing.

    I can’t believe that Guiliani promised MORE tax cuts. Just proves why he should not be president. Guess he didn’t take any economic classes when he went to law school.

  3. Sandra Price

    Cut costs!!! Scale back on expenses and end the damn war! Tax cuts do bring in revenue for the government as it encourages individual spending but it will not cut into our debts.

    Ron Paul has the solution but it doesn’t harm anyone. The American voters want to harm who they perceive to the bad guys. Republicans and Democrats have been screwed by lies, deceptions and just plain bad leadership.

    Will giving the government more authority over our lives solve anything? Will allowing the government to manufacture more jobs help or hinder? Paul knows the answer but neither party will listen to him.

    The Democrats want to hurt big corporations to show them who’s boss. Great, cut back on several million jobs. The Republicans have no repair for inflation except to cut taxes and throw us into more debt.

    Paul is the only man who can see through the mess and come up with a fix but it will take many years to repair what the two parties have done to America.

    If Paul could come up with solutions that would hurt the Democrats AND the Republicans the Americans would love it. He is too mature for that and all we want is blood.

  4. mikee59

    These guys (with the exception of Paul) are a parody of Right Wing Dogma.

    Recession? Cut taxes!

    Inflation? Cut taxes!

    Unemployment? Cut taxes!

    Flatulence? Cut taxes!

    Bad hair day? Cut taxes!

    On another note, it’s revealing that this column focused on McCain’s response to Thompson’s wind-bag remarks about the Iranians, and never mentioned Paul’s. In response, Paul countered with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was used to justify pouring troops into Vietnam. Instead, this column reported Paul’s sulky response. I’m no Paul supporter, but I would have to agree with those (to some degree, anyhow) how complain of anti-Paul bias.

  5. Ted Remington

    It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the Republicans criticize tax and spend Democrats while the only thing they have to offer is steal and spend. We must stop stealing from our children and grandchildren and find a way to live within our means. And that means taxes.

    And this fair tax crap! Horse patooties. Every American in the country knows what a fair tax is: That’s the one where I don’t pay any taxes and everyone else does.

    Once I start paying taxes there is no way to make it fair because it is just impossible to find a tax rate or structure that is “fair” to all.


  6. Sandra Price

    Not all Republicans can fall into the insulting labels that I read here. Okay you all feel that the Democrats will do less harm to you. You categorize all Republicans as Right Wing Nuts. Few can see the difference between the neoconservatives and Ron Paul.

    I give up. You want your politics simplified so that you do not need to read beyond the headlines.

  7. yarply

    Huckabee misquotes and twisted scripture in the debates when He said the citation is from Ephesians, and “the point is that as wives submit themselves to their husbands the husbands also submit themselves” to their wives.

    That is not what it says. It says, and I quote; Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
    For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.
    Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
    Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

    Though Christ died for his church, Christ is not in submission to the church, but we to him.

  8. yarply

    I watched the debate and I never saw such a bunch of cutthroats (except when I went fishing one time) in my life. All the sneering going on and the attacks on Mr. Paul was disgusting. Then you had the BS questions which were asked of Paul but not to the rest. Mr. Paul Kicked their asses and then they had the balls to have some idiots in their “forum” afterwards say be was the clear loser. Well when their “fox poll” came in, it showed the audience thought otherwise. 32% thought Paul won,, 22% thought Thompson did and I think 15% went to huckabee.
    Plus the demeanor of the other candidates showed their true inner selves. Constantly sneering at each other and pushing their, we will send them to hell and or to see the virgins they have waiting on them mentality.
    Its sad that out of all of them, only one candidate acted like a statesman and then had some reporter try to say he is unelectable, even though he finished higher in two primaries than two other candidates.

    The saying is birds of a feather flock together. So now we wait and see what type of birds this country is filled with.

  9. gradioc

    Republicans dealing with the national debt remind me of the monkeys with the leaking roof who could not work on it when it was raining, and saw no need when the sun was shining.

    Okay, honestly this is not the time to raise taxes. The housing bubble has burst and lots of people who did nothing wrong are in a jam.

    Other people believed the lie, “Real estate never goes down!” Except, of course, when it does. I have little sympathy for them.

    But what the Republicans have yet to figure out is when we can pay it back. It used to be the party of business and fiscal realists. Now they have two mantras;

    1. Domestic- Cut Taxes
    2. Foreign Affairs- Kill Some Foreigners
  10. pollchecker

    Sandra — not all Republicans are Right Wing Nuts. But it is obvious that right now they are playing to a bunch of right wing nuts…except for Ron Paul who has nothing left but to stand up to the rest of these guys with the truth.

    Isn’t it a sad state of affairs?