THE RIGHT WORD by Kelly Sloan
In due course, the bulk of the “Occupy Wall Street” mob will begin to retreat back to their parent’s basements, either on their own, or upon being encouraged to do so by superhumanly patient and forbearing police finally permitted to enforce the law. At that point the national political spotlight will shift from the obnoxious drum circles, “human megaphones”, drug paraphernalia, and lawless disregard of the OWS spectacle, and back to the salient national issues at hand; showcased most prominently by the upcoming Presidential election, where most of the focus remains on who the Republicans will select to steer the ship of state away from the iceberg.
It has been interesting to watch the presidential field’s evolution; it started as, essentially, a battle between Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. Then it became one between Romney and Michelle Bachman. Then Romney and Rick Perry. Then Romney and Herman Cain. Now it looks like it is shaping up to be between Romney and alternative de jour, Newt Gingrich. Heck, maybe Rick Santorum will have a chance after all, if he has the temerity to simply wait his turn.
Whoever ends up being at the top of the pile, there are two overarching issues that will serve as defining markers in the GOP primary; foreign policy and entitlement reform.
Almost lost amidst the cacophony of the drums and chemically-enhanced beatnik chanting, was the work of the Congressional budget supercommittee, which is closing on its November 23rd deadline. A remarkably ill-thought out concept from the beginning, it should come as no surprise to most observers that the supercommittee appears to be heading nowhere, remaining deadlocked between the Republican members, who insist on real spending and tax reform, and the Democrats, who are desperately clinging on to their bureaucratic empires and pandering to the economically illiterate OWS whining-class cries of “tax the rich” – heroically ignoring the voluminous empirical and experiential data that warns against just such a policy.
Whatever the supercommittee does or does not do, the issue of federal spending and the national debt will be of critical importance to the next administration, and so must feature prominently on the rhetorical hierarchy of any GOP presidential candidate. Each contender has a fairly decent pro-growth tax policy, but no long-term solution will be feasible without substantive reformation of the foremost drivers of federal spending, entitlements.
Barring an unforeseen event, or a major national security incident, a Republican President can expect to have his Presidency defined by the manner in which the entitlements question is handled, much like Bill Clinton’s is defined by … well, by his moral turpitude, of course, but in terms of public policy, by Welfare Reform.
The only good news to come of the supercommittee is that in the absence of an agreement – or a Presidential veto of one – $1.2 Trillion in automatic across the board cuts will kick in; not really solving much long-term, mind you, but at least staving off the Italo-Grecian scenario for a little while. And although this would indeed be much better than the tax rate hikes espoused by John Kerry and Patty Murray, it is worth remembering that 50% of the cuts come to the one area in which the federal government has a legitimate and necessary responsibility, national security spending.
Which brings us to foreign policy. The release of a report last Tuesday by the IAEA that served to confirm (to no one’s surprise, save perhaps the President and his State Department) that Iran is indeed developing nuclear weapons, only underscores the fact that a Presidents primary duties extend beyond the borders. First and foremost, the next President must demonstrate a capacity to be both The United States of America to the rest of the world, and a competent Commander-in-Chief.
On this critical score, some of the candidates encounter crippling difficulties. Rick Perry cannot seem to articulate his ideas on foreign policy much better than he can on which federal agencies to eliminate. Cain’s stumbling on basic foreign policy questions may prove to be more damaging to his candidacy than vague and curiously timed harassment allegations. Ron Paul’s ability to illuminate some very fundamental economic truths cannot overcome his deeply flawed, Noam Chomsky-esque views of the world.
The OWS sideshow generates a number of costs – property damage, disease and public health risks, lost time and wages, police injuries and overtime, cleanup costs, and so forth. These ought not to be compounded by including among them a distraction from the serious difficulties confronting this nation and its next leader.