Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Gibbering Old Phonies: The GOP candidates are in a poker tournament ... but none of them know how to play

Imagine playing no limit Texas Hold'em without having any clue about probabilities of a hand better than yours. That's what the GOP candidates are all doing. They are raising each other in a game in which the coinage is GDP growth. Evidence, in this case economic data, does not matter. They merrily promise pie in the sky anyway.

Steve Benen at MSNBC/RachelMaddow has a bit to say about that.

New York’s Jon Chait noted the other day that Huckabee’s rivals could, in theory, point out how ridiculous his projections are, but they’re a little stuck: "[T]here’s a weakness in basing your economic message on pulling a crazy number out of thin air: Another candidate can always pull an even crazier number out of thin air."

And that’s precisely what’s happened. The basic idea is that voters will want to support the candidate with the best and most effective plan. Higher economic growth = better candidate. Why vote a White House hopeful promising to grow the economy at 4% when you can vote for his rival promising 6% [as Hucksterbee did]?

But if the recent pattern holds, there’s nothing stopping other GOP candidates from making up ridiculous numbers of their own. Maybe Rand Paul will promise 8% growth. Perhaps Ben Carson can guarantee 11% growth. Ted Cruz might point to 20% and question why the rest of the field lacks true ambition.

It’s all gibberish – even Jeb’s 4% target is plainly absurd – but in the fantastical world of Republican presidential politics, numbers have no meaning, policy debates are for chumps, and campaign promises can be ludicrous so long as GOP voters don’t notice.

Now that is a good bet.

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