All the GOP spin machine wants to talk about in the Williams/Thune debates is the fact that Democratic challenger Jay Williams takes a realistic view of paying our way for public goods and services, while incumbent Senator John Thune thinks we can budget by magic with Donald Trump’s rehash of failed trickle-down economics.
I can see why Republicans would think that’s “all you need to know” about the debates. If you listen to the rest of the discussion between Williams and Thune, you realize Thune can’t rationally defend his positions.
Consider the candidates’ statements last night in their KELO-TV debate on the Presidential race:
“I clearly am afraid of Donald Trump becoming President because first of all we don’t know what he’s going to do, but we do know that he’s a sexual predator and I hat[e] the idea of a man who has used his position as he stated to grope women. The idea of him being president of the United States is really reprehensible to me,” Williams said.
“We don’t have good options in front of us for me it comes back to who would be best for South Dakota when it comes to the policies that they would advocate and that’s why I’ve said I intend to vote for the Republican ticket but I would prefer it that the ticket would be headed by Mike Pence,” Thune said [Leland Steva, “Highlights from US Senate Debate,” KELO-TV, 2016.10.14].
Williams is morally and practically correct: we cannot trust a man who would so abuse his position of power to lead the free world. Thune continues to dodge his moral responsibility for voting for such an unfit Presidential nominee by peddling the false equivalence. (Read the Washington Post: Hillary Clinton is “uniquely qualified” to be President; Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified. We have a good option.) He also continues to pretend that his vote for Trump is really just a vote for Pence. “I would prefer that the ticket be headed by Mike Pence” is as irrelevant as my saying, “I would prefer that my ticket be headed by Bernie Sanders.” Bernie Sanders and Mike Pence aren’t our nominees. They can’t be. Our choices are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (and Gary Johnson, John!), and John Thune is choosing Donald Trump because he lacks the moral courage to take the heat of repudiating the raging male entitlement at the heart of his party’s base.
John Thune doesn’t understand economic reality any better than the moral implications of his Presidential vote. In his SDPB debate with Williams, Thune blamed the Obama Administration for slow economic growth and called for tax reform to get us back to three percent or better GDP growth:
“The purpose of tax reform ought to be economic growth,” Thune says. “What solves all of these problems we’re talking about… you want to see deficits get smaller… you want to be able to pay down debt? Get the economy growing at a more traditional three to three and a half percent rate, instead of the one percent rate that we’ve seen this year, and the one to two percent rate we’ve seen for the balance of the Obama administration. That’s what will help get us back on a more secure fiscal track. Reduced and restrained spending and economic growth” [Lee Strubinger, “Thune and Williams Face Off in SDPB Television Forum,” SDPB Radio, 2016.10.13]
Um, John? Our slower economic growth is not some error caused by President Obama. It won’t be fixed by your vague fiscal fantasies. Slower economic growth is a new normal caused by changing demographics and productivity:
This Economic Letter argues that the new normal pace for GDP growth, in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, might plausibly fall in the range of 1½ to 1¾%. This estimate is based on trends in demographics, education, and productivity. The aging and retirement of the baby boom generation is expected to hold down employment growth relative to population growth. Further, educational attainment has plateaued, reducing the contribution of labor quality to productivity growth. The slower forecast for overall GDP growth assumes that, apart from these effects, productivity growth is relatively normal, if modest—in line with its pace for most of the period since 1973 [John Fernald, “What Is the New Normal for U.S. Growth?” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Economic Letter, 2016.10.11].
Blasting our GDP growth back to 3% or better won’t come from Thune-Trump trickle-down economic joke. It will come, says Fernald, from investing in education, research and development, and infrastructure.
Infrastructure, you say?
But Democrat Williams disagrees that reducing taxes will fix the economy. He says the top 1-percent of income earners need to pay their fair share. Williams also says the government needs to focus on investing in public works programs to build up infrastructure in places like South Dakota.
“We could build the electric grid that we desperately need to get from fossil fuels to clean energy. Here in South Dakota we’ve got lots of wind,” Williams says. Everybody knows in South Dakota the wind blows, but we can’t take that wind energy, harness it, and distribute it around the country because we don’t have the electric grid we need. And to build that electric grid—it’s a big public works project, on par with the interstate highway system that was a Republican program.”
Williams says infrastructure investment will put money into the hands of working people who will spend it [Strubinger, 2016.10.13].
That’s what you really need to know from the debates and when you go to the polls to mark the second line on your ballot: John Thune is making excuses for a party lost in misogyny and disproven economic slogans, while Jay Williams is talking moral and economic sense.