A GOP Focus on Defense, Not Deficit
By Joel Achenbach
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Mike Huckabee got a hundred or so people last night at The Citadel as a cold rain pelted the Low Country. Huckabee hits some notes that other candidates don't attempt, notably his references to the people at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. After listening to some of the other pro-growth Republicans, it's almost jarring to hear Huckabee say, as he did last night, that although the economy might be going great if you're a CEO or a Wall Street trader, it's going badly "if you're the guy working in the kitchen, if you're handling the bags, if you're the one in the front seat driving the cab, not the one in the back riding."
But Huckabee, like his rivals, all but flexes his bicep when talking about how he'll use decisive military force as commander in chief.
"We win, they lose, and it would happen with overwhelming force. Ladies and gentlemen, we'll practice the Billy Jack school of foreign policy: This heel, on that side of your face, and there's not a thing you can do about it."
The Republican candidates ritually invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, and they also echo him in a way that might make fiscal hawks uncomfortable. They want to spend more money on the military, but also cut taxes. Balance the budget? Not on the agenda. It just doesn't get mentioned much these days, unless you're at a Ron Paul rally.
Mitt Romney said yesterday that he wants 100,000 more soldiers in the American military. He didn't say how he'd pay for it or how the military would find the recruits. And Rudy Giuliani has pushed hard in recent days for expanding the Army and the Marines, adding ships to the Navy and building "a new generation of long-range bombers." He also wants to cut taxes dramatically. He says his plan would cut taxes by $3,000 a year for a typical family of four with an income of $80,000. He'd cut the corporate tax from 35 percent to 25 percent, cut capital gains taxes from 15 percent to 10 percent, and end the estate tax altogether.
Giuliani told Reuters that increased economic activity would make up for lost tax revenue. He'd also try to cut 10 percent of the spending by every civilian agency. He downplayed the deficits of the current administration. "Yes, we have deficits, but, no the deficits are not as great as were predicted when the Bush tax cuts were being enacted."
In Jacksonville this week, Giuliani criticized the Clinton administration for, he said, cutting the military as part of the so-called "peace dividend." Giuliani called that a big mistake.
(In fact, the military draw-down began under President George H. W. Bush. A group called the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments visited this issue when it came up in the 2000 election. Conclusion: The "peace dividend" was a bipartisan decision. And, had Bush won a second term, he would have continued the defense cuts, the group reports.)
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