From Rick Perry to Ron Paul, Republicans presidential hopefuls would have a tough time enacting all the proposals they're promoting
Republican candidates have lots of ideas about how to fix the economy, and they're anxious to tell you about them. Policy speeches are coming faster and faster. Mitt Romney is selling a 59-point economic plan on Kindle, and Rick Perry has now unveiled an optional 20-percent flat tax.
Unfortunately, we're trapped in the fantasy round of the election cycle: The GOP presidential primary is beginning to simmer with attacks, but until Republicans select a nominee to run against President Obama, the candidates' main task is to present their economic policies without much concern for practical implementation. Few Republicans are eager to play the buzzkill and question, for instance, the likelihood of a flat tax passing the Senate.
For now, the conversation exists in a space of ideas, not execution. The candidates are signaling where they'd like to take the country, but this may have little to do with where the country would end up, should they actually win.
At some point, if any of these Republicans do become president, they'll have to reckon with Congress. Presidents do not pass laws; they don't even introduce them, technically. For all we'd like to believe a presidential election can change the direction of a country, our nation's laws depend on the agreement of 535 people who can't agree on anything, these days.
So it's worth asking: Has any Republican presidential candidate offered up a jobs plan that stands a chance of becoming law?
The answer will have a lot to do with the makeup of the Senate, where Democrats hold a 51-seat majority. With some vulnerable seats in play, they could lose a handful in 2012. The Cook Political Report rates five Democratic seats as toss-ups and two more as vulnerable, while Republicans will only defend four at-risk seats in 2012. For purposes of this discussion, let's assume that Democrats hold onto at least 43 Senate seats -- a dismal projection for the Blue Team, but enough to block a GOP president's signature legislation, if Democrats hold together. Presumably, an Obama defeat will leave Democrats embittered and unwilling to compromise, eager to offer the Senate GOP a taste of its own obstructionist medicine. And caucus unity may be easier to come by if Democrats lose the seats held by their more conservative, swing-vote colleagues from purple-to-red states.
We can give GOP candidates a small benefit of doubt, since new presidents enter office with a mandate to enact what they campaigned on. If more than 50 percent of Americans vote for a flat-tax candidate, for instance, there is some chance congressional Democrats will approve a flat tax in spite of themselves -- but not a big one. It would all depend on which Democrats remained in office.
Capitol Hill vagaries aside, here's a look at the Achilles' heels of the 2012 GOP economic platforms:
Image credit: Keith Srakocic/AP
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