Yesterday, I took a critical look at Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. Made sense: she’s a former Secretary of State. Next up, Ted Cruz.
In his case, I’m going to look at his domestic policies. In one of the Republican debates, asked about what he would do with ISIS, Cruz said he would ‘carpet bomb’ the areas controlled by ISIS, to see ‘if sand can glow in the dark.’ That’s not a foreign policy; that’s the way the villain in a comic book movie taunts the hero. I’m not going to examine Ted Cruz’s foreign policy, because as far as I can tell, he doesn’t have one. Just rhetorical posturing.
But, to be fair, maybe he’s stronger in the area of domestic policy. Here’s his campaign website. He links to nine main subcategories, one of which is the 2nd Amendment. This means that he regards protecting gun rights as one of the nine most important issues facing the United States. In a Cruz Presidency, if you want to buy a gun, you won’t find it difficult to do so. Kind of the way things are right now.
Another of the Big Nine: Restoring the Constitution. Again, I’m not impressed. Every candidate running, from either party, supports and defends the Constitution. President Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. From the website: “unfortunately, recent administrations have defied the Constitution and the rule of law, and as a result we are less free.” Since this is not actually true, it makes nonsense of his next bullet point: “We need to restore the Constitution as our standard.” The Constitution already is our standard. Different people interpret it differently, that’s all.
What is interesting in this section is the way it refers to actions Cruz has taken to ‘restore the constitution.’ He “defended the phrase ‘under God’ in the Texas Pledge of Allegiance in federal district court.” Since the Framers chose never to mention God in their Constitution, and since they certainly had no idea about a ‘Pledge of Allegiance’, an idea that would have horrified them, it’s a little weird to see this factoid appear in a section supporting constitutional originalism. But in his capacity as Texas Solicitor-General, Cruz did fight for ‘under God.’ Of course, to say that Cruz was Solicitor-General for Texas is a bit like saying that Inspector Javert was a French cop. He was a constitutional activist. I presume that, as President, that would continue.
He would, he says, preserve ‘life, marriage and the family,’ and would ‘investigate Planned Parenthood.’ He opposes marriage equality, but doesn’t say what he’d do about it, since it’s currently the law of the land. Basically, he throws some boilerplate talking points to religious conservatives. And, of course, he’s staunchly pro-life.
But then we look at his economic plan. Essentially, he proposes . . . tithing.
Under the Cruz Simple Flat Tax, all income groups will see a double-digit increase in after-tax income. The current seven rates of personal income tax will collapse into a single low rate of 10 percent. For a family of four, the first $36,000 will be tax-free. The IRS will cease to exist as we know it.
There was a time when Cruz seemed to support a European VAT (Value Added Tax). He called it a ‘Business Flat Tax.’ When the conservative Tax Foundation scored it, they were very positive. From Cruz’ website:
The results will be truly dramatic. According to the well-respected Tax Foundation, the Simple Flat Tax will deliver an economic boost of tremendous magnitude. In the first decade, the Simple Flat Tax will 1) Boost Gross Domestic Product by 13.9 percent above what is currently projected. 2) Increase wages by 12.2 percent. 3) Create 4,861,000 additional jobs.
But that was back when Cruz supported his VAT-style consumption tax. He’s been attacked for it by Marco Rubio (the rancor of the Rubio/Cruz feud is truly astounding), and it’s now gone from his website. According to the Tax Foundation’s analysis, 71% of federal revenues would disappear if the Business Flat Tax was no longer part of the plan. He also would eliminate payroll taxes, leaving no proposal to pay for Social Security or Medicare.
I assume that Cruz still wants a Business Flat Tax, and that he’s taken it off the website because he’s been attacked for it, and doesn’t want to give his opponents ammunition. Even so, if you’re a conservative and you believe that balancing the budget should be a top priority, then the Cruz plan must strike you as peculiarly irresponsible. It would obviously be wonderful if the US GDP were to increase 13.9%, or if 4.8 million domestic jobs could be created. But those projections are based on nothing but wishful thinking, really. And even if those wonderful things were to happen, we’re still looking at massively increased deficits. It’s impossible to estimate how much deficits would increase–Cruz doesn’t provide enough details of his plans for anyone to run the numbers. But Vox.com called it the “most irresponsible Republican tax cut yet.”
Cruz bets that his personal and business flat taxes will stimulate the economy sufficiently to pay for themselves. That would be lovely. But as the Washington Post pointed out, “the gap between the dynamic estimate of his plan’s cost and the more traditional “static” one is a cavernous $2.8 trillion.” And even if the dynamic estimate, Cruz’s optimistic estimate, turned out to be true, we’re still talking about a deficit of 768 billion over ten years.
But here’s what’s really weird about Cruz’s plan. If there’s one thing conservatives have always at least said they believe in, it’s fiscal prudence. When I talk to my conservative friends, and ask what specific issues they have with the Obama Presidency, they always, without fail, accuse him of fiscal irresponsibility. I hear it over and over again: we cannot pass a massive debt on to our grandchildren. The federal government cannot spend money it doesn’t have. We can’t borrow and borrow forever. We have, as a nation, too much debt.
So when I went on Ted Cruz’s website, I expected more of the same. I expected a jeremiad about President Obama’s profligacy, and a call for responsible budgeting. I expected, in fact, a section on exactly what programs Senator Cruz intends to cut, how much savings those cuts would generate, and how important a balanced budget it. I expected, in addition, a call for a balanced budget Constitutional amendment.
It’s not there. He’s not even rhetorically a fiscal conservative. Really, there’s essentially nothing on the website about the budget, or the debt, or the deficit. Instead, we have a very iffy and quite revolutionary new tax plan, a radical restructuring of the way the government raises revenues. If enacted, it would absolutely blow a huge hole in the federal budget. And the centerpiece of his plan used to be, at least, a European-style VAT. Honestly, it seems weird to me.
When he talks about foreign policy, Cruz comes across as completely irresponsible, what with all that macho posturing about making sand glow. (Is he seriously suggesting a nuclear strike against ISIS?) Essentially, he does not have a foreign policy, at least not one grown-ups could take seriously. Looking at his website, he doesn’t have an economic plan either. What he does have is a preposterous pipe dream, a foolish pie-in-the-sky proposal to cut all taxes to the bone, and yay!, the economy will boom! I give it an F. And conclude that Ted Cruz does not support serious policies. Above all, he is an absurd and frivolous economic thinker. And in what possible sense could he even be considered a conservative?