Massachusetts contenders for the U.S. Senate who debated October 1 gave a stark reminder of what is wrong with both political parties. The far-left Democratic challenger, Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, engaged in a strong endorsement of economic fascism but in military disengagement from Afghanistan, while incumbent Republican Scott Brown called for continuing the unnecessary military presence in Afghanistan while issuing vague anti-tax, anti-regulation platitudes.
The Massachusetts Senate race has attracted national attention because three-year incumbent Republican Scott Brown holds the traditional Kennedy family seat in the U.S. Senate, in one of the most Democratic states in the nation. The Democratic National Committee sees the Massachusetts race as their best chance to pick off a Republican incumbent in the 2012 election cycle, an election where the narrow Democratic control of the U.S. Senate may hang in the balance.
The economic side of the debate, moderated by David Gregory of NBC's Meet the Press, came from Mary-Kate Hazel, a senior at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, where the debate was held: "If elected, what specific programs or policies will you propose or support to help students like me find jobs after graduation?”
Warren, who has made national headlines for a rant similar to President Obama's “you didn't build that” comments, started with a call for creating jobs by spending more tax dollars:
I think the answer has both a short-term part to it and a long-term part to it. In the short-term, we've got an economy that's still struggling to recover, and that shows up in lots of different ways. And it's why I support a jobs bill. The President has proposed a jobs bill, it's part of his proposal for getting this economy jump-started. Why? Because a jobs bill will put a paycheck in people's hands, and get work done that we need to get done: Repair roads and bridges. Once we've got those paychecks in people's hands, they spend them in the local economy, they spend them with businesses. That creates more demand. The businesses hire more people, and that helps the economy get going. In the short-run, I think it's exactly the right thing to do, and I was very disappointed when Scott Brown and the Republicans blocked it. But in the long-run, I think there's another answer. And that is how we create jobs for the future. And I believe the answer is we have to invest in the future. We have to make this a great place to grow jobs. And the way I see that is we make those investments in education, in roads and bridges, in water, in power, in research, in the things that give us all of the energy going forward so that this is a great place to build jobs.
Of course, the federal government's experience in creating jobs through more spending is dubious at best. According to the Obama administration's own figures, the American Recovery and Restoration Act, i.e., the “stimulus” jobs bill passed in 2009, Massachusetts took some $5.875 billion in federal dollars for job creation but created only 5,094 jobs. That's a cost of more than $1.1 million per job. Nationally, the program hasn't worked. Unemployment remains at more than eight percent, hardly coming down at all from the peak of 10 percent in late 2009.
But Warren's economic coup de main was a ringing endorsement of economic fascism: When government funds the corporations and the corporations fund the government:
We can invent it here in Massachusetts, and we can build it here in Massachusetts. But to do that, we need a good federal partner, someone in Washington who will fight for us and to invest in us.
While Warren used the euphemism of federal funding of corporations as an attempt to “invest in us,” her summary of fascist Italy's economic policies could not be more succinct. Mussolini could hardly have defined his economic policy any more clearly.
Brown countered with vague platitudes about being against taxes and spending:
Every one of her criticisms on me is that I do not want to raise taxes. That's true. I do not want to raise taxes on any American in the middle of a three-and-a-half year recession. When I go to businesses, they don't say, "Scott, please, take more of my hard-earned money and bring it to Washington." They don't say that. They say we've been taxed enough, we've been regulated enough, and the only person sitting at this table who's a fiscal conservative is me.
… A lot of the proposals being pushed by Professor Warren are jobs destroying messages.... You can't be taking and raising taxes, and have more and more spending when we are in a $16 trillion debt. Because that's the biggest concern that I have that you are not going to be able to pay back all of the amazing amount of debt that you are incurring.
But despite the rhetoric, Brown's record is that of approving more government spending on jobs programs. He even touted championing a “jobs bill” that would help veterans get a job during the debate. More importantly, Brown has not stood in the way of $1 trillion-plus annual federal deficit spending passed by both houses of Congress since his winning his seat in a special election in February 2010.
On Afghanistan, Warren proved to be closer to the traditional American non-interventionist position. "I think we need to get our troops out of Afghanistan as quickly as we can, consistent with their safety.... I think it is time to bring our troops home and to stop spending $2 billion a week in Afghanistan. We need that money here at home.” Warren concluded on Afghanistan with a comment that could have been appropriately used by Brown against Warren's domestic economic plan: “The problem is, we can't stay and rebuild Afghanistan forever. We cannot do that. And so, having unrealistic goals, and spending more money, is the wrong approach."
The Republican incumbent, Brown, felt compelled to take on the role as a global interventionist, criticizing Obama's continued war in Afghanistan as not strong enough:
I've been to Afghanistan as a senator and I've been there as a soldier. And I supported the President's surge, and I support his time-table for withdrawal. I didn't agree with the date, because I think it shows our hand, but our goal is there to make sure that the Taliban and al Qaeda do not once again join forces and then export terrorism around the region and the world and potentially move on Pakistan that has nuclear weapons. So I respectfully disagree. I will rely on the generals on the ground and our Commander-in-Chief as to when he wants to bring our troops home.
While this Massachusetts race features two social liberals (both Brown and Warren are pro-abortion and liberal on other social issues), it encapsulates the problem with both national parties. The Republican Party is unable to detach itself from a position of bombing much of the world in the name of “national security,” even when the threats (such as Osama bin Laden) are dead or minimal, and it has been unable to articulate the type of spending cuts needed to bring the budget into balance. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has engaged in a militant anti-business crusade while at the same time calling for massive corporate subsidies of its pet industries, such as solar contracts for Solyndra and Abound Solar, which — though they went bankrupt — the leaders of those companies remain strong Democratic party donors.
Photo of Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren: AP Images