About a week ago I attended a Republican debate in Springerville. I have blogged about the Congressional District One race before, but I decided I would go see for myself what the GOP is sending us for candidates this year.
All four of the GOP candidates for the office were present, Patrick Gatti, Gaither Martin, Jonathan Paton and Doug Wade. The GOP establishment has annointed Paton, and given their track record in choosing candidates whether local Republicans want them or not (think Rick Renzi, who jumped into the district from outside and spent big outside money to defeat Louis Tenney in a primary in 2002, or Paul Gosar, who did live in the district but who also got a lot of outside money to beat several other candidates two years ago before abandoning the district this year) I suspect Paton will be their nominee. Like Renzi, he jumped into the district just to run; also like Renzi, he is bringing a lot of outside money into the district; and also like Renzi he is ethically challenged (as I discussed in this post about a month ago.)
So what kind of a GOP nominee is he? Well, he sounded very much like a career politician (a good reason for that, because he is a career politician) in most of his answers, consistently ducking and weaving while avoiding providing a lot of direct answers unless the question was a softball (i.e. "did you vote in the last election?") However, he had a couple of answers I would like to talk about right now.
I had one chance to ask a question, so I decided to ask it about the Paul Ryan budget, which Paton is on record (both in 2010 and 2012 as supporting.) The Ryan budget proposes phasing out Medicare for workers below 55 and replacing it with a series of exchanges where seniors could purchase subsidized private insurance. Of course this is exactly what is at the heart of Obamacare, but according to Republican logic, Obamacare is better than Medicare for seniors, but nothing at all would be better for the rest of us than Obamacare. So, I mentioned my age (presently 49) and the fact that I have paid Medicare taxes since I had my first job at the age of sixteen (a third of a century ago) and asked about how he felt about the Ryan budget's plan to privatize Medicare. He of course hemmed and hawed a great deal, going back and forth and finally saying it would be 'wrong' to "deny coverage to people that have been paying their entire lifetime into anything." Which was a classic dodge-- the Ryan plan does not seek to deny coverage, it seeks to change it to a privatized system. He then went on to discuss Social Security (which I had not even mentioned in my original question) and said, "I don’t believe I’m ever gonna see a dime of the money that I’ve put into Social Security, and I think most young people believe that today. We should be able to do with our own money what we want to. And I think that’s the right way to go." In other words, keep your money and invest it yourself. Which is to say, no Social Security. Exactly the same thing the Bush people were saying when they tried to privatize Social Security in 2005. Their arguments may be evolving, but make no mistake about it, the plans set forward by the Cato Institute to privatize Social Security are still intact, and Jonathan Paton's comment makes it clear that he will be on board the next time they try to privatize Social Security.
The only other thing I'd like to remind people of concerning the Ryan budget is that as bad as their plans are for Medicare and Social Security, Paton and other Republicans who have signed onto it are also supporting deep cuts in a wide range of programs that benefit virtually everyone, in order NOT to cut the deficit (as they have tried to say to sell it) but to finance deep tax cuts for billionaires. The tired old logic that low taxes on so-called 'job creators' will boost the economy should have pretty much been disproven by now, as taxes are already at historically low levels so if they really helped the economy we'd be seeing it boom right now. Instead, tax cuts only reduce tax revenue, which in turn creates deficits. Using deficits as an excuse to cut spending on programs, while at the same time pushing tax cuts for billionaires that will add back onto the deficit is pretty brazen, though I do have to admire their messaging people for convincing people not to think about the math (maybe there really IS another reason for all those cuts we've seen the GOP push in education the past few years.) But make no mistake about it. Paton is fully on board with the entire Ryan budget, including the 'cut spending to reduce the deficit and then cut taxes to blow the deficit up again' math.
There was one other answer I would like to dicuss that came from Mr. Paton, and one which left me cold. Someone asked him a question about treaties that we have entered into with other nations as well as the United Nations, and also about the second amendment. Paton first said that we should not observe 'any federal law that's unconstitutional.' Huh? I thought that it was up to the courts to decide whether a law is unconstitutional. And if they do make that determination, then the law is no longer in force. So what exactly does he mean by that? How will he determine which laws to obey and not to obey as 'unconstitutional,' since we already obey only laws which the courts have upheld or which have not been challenged. But it was the rest of his answer which really bothers me. He talked about people (presumably members of Senate, since the Senate ratifies treaties) who vote for treaties made with the U.N. and said, "we should not vote for it, and if you do vote for it, I think you’re a traitor, you’re a traitor to this country.”
Excuse me? If you vote for a law that he believes is unconstitutional, then you're a traitor? It's one thing to disagree with a law or what it says. It's quite another to accuse people who exercise their Constitutional duty to vote on whether to ratify a treaty, "traitors" if they do not vote the way he believes they should. Yeah, I know. Just what we need to fit in with the image of Arizona. Another member of Congress who goes to Washington and calls people who disagree with him, "traitors."
After going to the debate, I can only say that it is of critical importance that we NOT send Jonathan Paton to Congress!