If you happened to hear National Public Radio’s report last week from Price Hill Chili, you know that local Republicans seem just as confused and fickle as their national counterparts.
NPR reporter David Welna visited the chili parlor Feb. 23 to gauge sentiment about which presidential candidate was the preferred choice in the GOP stronghold of Cincinnati heading into Ohio’s much-anticipated primary election. If Welna wanted some clarity, however, he was sorely disappointed.
“Today, and I say today because I’ve changed my mind several times, today I would vote for Rick Santorum,” Tracy Winkler told Welna.
“Initially, I wasn’t kind of sticking to my conservative roots and I thought I could vote for Romney, and then I thought Gingrich, and really have just kind of seen his campaign kind of falling apart. So I really feel like, right now, it’s Santorum,” Winkler added. “But we have a few days to go, so we’ll see.”
Winkler is a former Green Township trustee who now serves as Hamilton County’s clerk of courts. She comes from a well-connected West Side family that includes her husband, Common Pleas Judge Ralph E. “Ted” Winkler; her brother-in-law, Common Pleas Judge Robert Winkler; her father-in-law, former federal appellate court Judge Ralph Winkler; and her mother-in-law, ex-State Rep. Cheryl Winkler.
(Contrary to rumors, however, Henry “the Fonz” Winkler isn’t part of the conservative clan, so you don’t have to burn your Happy Days DVD boxed sets. Well, at least not over politics.)
With her deeply red pedigree, you’d think Tracy Winkler would know by now who she thinks would be best for her party and the nation. No such luck.
Winkler isn’t alone. NPR also interviewed Green Township Trustee Tony Rosiello, who said he and his wife also once supported Mitt Romney. Now, he backs Newt Gingrich while his wife supports Santorum.
“There was just something missing from (Romney),” Rosiello said. “I don’t know really what to put my finger on it, maybe a little bit of plastic. Something just didn’t jibe with me. There was a more emotional connection with Speaker Gingrich. ... That’s something that just stayed with me. It was a gut feel.”
Others at Price Hill Chili echoed Winkler and Rosiello’s indecision.
During the past year, we’ve seen right-wing Republicans hope Sarah Palin would jump into the race, then briefly throw their support — in quick, successive order — behind Donald Trump, then Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, and then Gingrich. It’s now Santorum’s turn.
Part of this herky-jerky behavior is due to Romney, who might be the most inauthentic candidate of the modern era. Name an issue, any issue, and pundits can point out a Romney flip-flop on it. Further, it’s an incredibly weak field of candidates. But those aren’t the only reasons.
The GOP also is having a hard time deciding what it stands for. In a time of high unemployment, the party has said it wants to focus on jobs and the economy, which probably is a wise move. Except it can’t quite keep its word.
So instead, we’ve seen Republicans focus obsessively on abortion at the state and federal levels, while also intermittently reviving such hot-button cultural issues as same-sex marriage, gays in the military, contraception and anti-immigration initiatives.
The GOP’s stance on each of those issues is based, at least partially, on exploiting people’s fears and prejudices. Tellingly, the Republican stance is at odds where the general public stands, to one degree or another, yet the GOP cannot wean itself from the vitriol. We’re left with a party facing a severe identity crisis and in a deep state of denial about its long-term health.
Well, here’s their “emperor has no clothes” moment: With the exception of Ron Paul, there is no significant difference among the GOP hopefuls. All want to cut the tax rate on corporations even further, don’t believe in actively enforcing environmental or financial regulations and advocate for an aggressive foreign policy.
That’s the same toxic brew of intellectually bankrupt ideas that got us eight disastrous years under George W. Bush and led to the Great Recession.
In the end, there wouldn’t be one whit of difference between the presidency of a Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich.
And that’s what, down in their gut, is causing Republicans so much heartburn.
• • • • •
Earlier this month the Labor Department reported the nation’s unemployment rate dropped for the fifth consecutive month in January to 8.3 percent, its lowest level in three years.
Critics of how the government calculates the unemployment rate say it’s misleading because it doesn’t count “discouraged workers,” people who are jobless and have given up looking.
Including those workers, the unemployment rate was 16.2 percent in January. (The highest the rate got during the Great Depression was 25 percent in 1933.)
In a little noticed report, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently stated the rate of unemployment in the United States has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, making the past three years the longest stretch of high unemployment in this nation since the Great Depression.
Additionally, the CBO estimates that the unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent until 2014. It stated the high unemployment rate’s primary cause is weak demand for goods and services as a result of the recession.
To produce the largest increases in employment per dollar of budgetary cost, the agency recommended reducing the marginal cost to businesses of adding employees and targeting people most likely to spend the additional income — generally, people with lower income.
“Policies primarily affecting businesses’ cash flow would have little impact on their marginal incentives to hire or invest and, therefore, would have only small effects on employment per dollar of budgetary cost,” the CBO’s report stated.
“Achieving both short-term stimulus and long-term sustainability would require a combination of policies: changes in taxes and spending that would widen the deficit now but reduce it later in the decade.”
Let’s make that clear — economic stimulus for poor people who would actually spend the money is most effective, and to have an impact the federal deficit needs to increase in the short-term.