A Primary Issues Guide

The old conventional wisdom was that competitive primaries are bad for the party. The best strategy was to unite early around a single candidate, so that a long negative campaign wouldn’t turn your nominee into damaged goods before the other party even took a shot.

2008 blew that up. The Obama/Clinton battle went on forever, but it did a lot of good things: registered voters, held the spotlight, and got John McCain out of the headlines from February to June. Any idea Obama and Clinton shared started to sound obvious.

There’s still a chance that the Republican 2012 candidates will tear each other to shreds, but it could also play out the other way: A long primary campaign could make their shared misinformation sound like common sense.

So here are some issues that are already coming up and being distorted. The Republican candidates are unlikely to vet each other on this stuff, so it’s important that Democrats not lose sight of the real story.

The South Carolina Boeing plant. South Carolina is an early primary state, so we’re going to hear a lot about his issue. The National Labor Relations Board is blocking Boeing from opening a 3,800-worker plant in SC. This Rick Perry quote is the standard Republican-candidate spin:

[President Obama] stacked the National Labor Relations Board with anti-business cronies who want to dictate to a private company, Boeing, where they can build a plant. No president, no president should kill jobs in South Carolina

Two facts are in danger of getting lost: First, this isn’t about creating jobs, it’s about moving jobs from one state to another, as states race to the bottom in worker protection. The Boeing jobs would otherwise be at their existing plant in Puget Sound, Washington.

Second, this is a rule-of-law issue. It’s illegal to move jobs purely to punish your current workers for unionizing or striking. Normally this is a hard rule to enforce, because businesses can fabricate hundreds of reasons why they want to manufacture here rather than there.

Unfortunately for Boeing, though, it is managed by idiots who admitted what they were doing in public. The NLRB’s complaint says Boeing CEO Jim McNerney:

made an extended statement regarding … moving the 787 Dreamliner work to South Carolina due to “strikes happening every three to four years in Puget Sound.”

and another Boeing official told a Seattle Times reporter:

The overriding factor was not the business climate. And it was not the wages we’re paying today. It was that we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years.

A lawyer for the International Association of Machinists writes:

In a case where, as here, the employer has admitted its unlawful motive, the failure of the NLRB to issue a complaint would raise serious questions about the continued right of America’s workers to engage in collective activity.

Regulation moratorium. Perry’s “moratorium on regulations” is one of those ideas that sounds unobjectionable, but is actually a disaster. Why? Start at the beginning: Fundamentally, the government regulates business to prevent it from doing bad things — killings its workers or customers, poisoning waterways, adulterating the food supply, and so on.

Naturally — or at least it seems natural if you’re a sociopath — business resists this narrowing of its options. So it takes advantage of any loophole it can find (or its lobbyists can create) to keep doing profitable damage. The government then tries to plug those loopholes, business finds new ones, and they go round and round. That’s why regulations get so complicated.

A moratorium on regulations means that government surrenders this fight. Any loopholes business finds, it keeps. Good news for them. Bad news for workers, customers, the people downstream, and anybody who eats.

RomneyCare. The model for the Affordable Care Act (i.e., ObamaCare) was RomneyCare in Massachusetts. The basic structure — private health insurance that the government subsidizes and mandates — is a Republican idea that goes back the Heritage Foundation in the 90s.

Romney tries not to talk about his own greatest accomplishment, but all the other Republican candidates insist that RomneyCare has been a disaster. In fact, a recent poll showed 63% in Massachusetts support the law. When Scott Brown won his surprise Senate victory in 2009, he supported the law. You can’t get anywhere in Massachusetts by telling people you’re going to repeal RomneyCare.

Global warming. Mitt Romney used to take the side of science in this issue (even if he dragged his heels about doing anything), but even he is backing down, leaving Jon Huntsman as the only pro-science Republican candidate.

The rest compete to be the most vigorous climate-change denier. So far Rick Perry is winning with his McCarthy-like charge that “a substantial number of scientists” have “manipulated data”. (Name one, Rick.)

Fortunately, fact-checkers are showing some backbone here. (The Washington Post awarded Perry its lowest truth-rating of four pinocchios.) Even Fox News’ Clayon Morris admitted that Fox fact-checkers had found “Perry’s comments don’t seem to hold a lot of water” before going on to say “but it doesn’t matter.”

The stimulus. Republican candidates unite around the idea that the stimulus failed. But check out this chart of private-sector employment.


What’s killing job growth is that we’ve lost government jobs: The federal stimulus was never big enough to counter-act job cuts by the states.

I’m sure I left a few issues out. If you think of them, add a comment.

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  • Kim Cooper  On August 31, 2011 at 12:58 am

    I wish someone would start a movement for honesty in public discourse. I mean a tea-party-like movement: we could call it The Ninth Commandment Movement, and invite ALL of the churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, etc to join in a non-partisan movement to keep our public discourse honest.


  • By Truth Among Friends « The Weekly Sift on August 29, 2011 at 9:53 am

    […] A Primary Issues Guide. As the Republican presidential campaign gets national attention, any misinformation the major candidates agree on is going to get a big boost. Let’s try to head that off. […]

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