The real winner of the JV-league GOP debate was someone not on the stage. In fact, it’s someone who’s not even running. It’s Ron Paul.
Why…? Monetary policy.
Every single candidate on the stage criticized the Federal Reserve, manipulation of interest rates, and “Quantitative Easing” (artificially pumping money into the economy to try and create jobs or spur growth.) This is something that would have been completely unimaginable prior to the advocacy of former US Representative and multiple-time Presidential Candidate, Ron Paul. The elder Paul often drew the ire of establishment and traditional Republicans for criticizing the all-powerful banking czar we call ‘the Fed.’ This isn’t surprising since the Republican Party, both historically and currently, has strong ties to the banking class in America (the primary beneficiaries of activist central monetary planning.)
Ron Paul was a rare breed among politicians in that he had a comprehensive and principled understanding of economic theory; in his case, Austrian economics. Rep. Paul would explain to voters and elected officials alike that the Fed was causing income inequality (an issue he talked about long before it was cool). Tonight, Chris Christie repeated that lesson. Paul often argued that “fiat currency” ultimately devalued American money and caused inflation; tonight Mike Huckabee said much the same. Even Rick Santorum seems to have learned the Ron Paul lesson that “savings are good” and pointed out that the Fed’s artificially low interest rates hurt responsible Americans the most.
And it didn’t stop there. Mike Huckabee sounds very much like Ron Paul when he argues in favor of his “FairTax” proposal (really a type of consumption tax.) Abolishing the income tax in favor of a consumption tax is something Ron Paul long advocated, because, as Huckabee says, consumption taxes incentivize work, don’t punish productivity, and allow workers to decide for themselves how to spend their whole paychecks.
All in all, the undercard Fox Business debate was substantive and well-moderated. Both the questions and answers tended to focus much more on policy than personality. One has to wonder whether being off the stage with policy lightweights like Donald Trump and Ben Carson will prove to have been an advantage for Christie and Huckabee, since they didn’t get pulled into an immature battle of ad hominem attacks.
Now, that’s not for want of trying. Bobby Jindal seemed determined to be the hard-hitter in the room, attacking the other candidates on their records of true fiscal conservatism. He may have had a point, but it was lost amid poorly thought out lines such as his filibuster potty joke and when he offered to give Chris Christie a juice box.
Not everyone was strong on substance either. Rick Santorum may have demonstrated that his new found understanding of free-market economics is only skin deep. The former-Senator proudly exclaimed that he was a “capitalist, not a corporatist” when defending his opposition to the auto bailouts since ‘government should not be picking winners and losers.’ He’s absolutely right on that point, which made it all the more strange when he moments later defended the Export-Import Bank and criticized conservative opposition to funding it. The Ex-Im Bank is one of the oldest and most perverse forms of crony capitalism and corporate welfare in the US.
Still, on the whole, voters got to see perhaps the most substantive economic debate of the Republican primary to date.
Perhaps more importantly, the debate showed that “long shot” candidates like Ron Paul can have a real impact by changing the terms of national discussion, even if they don’t win. Remember that when partisan hacks tell you that you’re “throwing your vote away” by supporting your preferred candidate for President.