by Jack Minor –
The first ever Tea Party-sponsored debate showed the group is here to stay. During Monday’s event, candidates answered specific policy questions on everything from the economy to Obamacare and social security reform.
The Monday evening debate was sponsored by the Tea Party Express and hosted by CNN. Wolf Blitzer was the moderator of the debate which consisted of questions from Blitzer and various Tea Party groups.
The debate took on a different tone than previous debates, which focused on questions such as whether Michelle Bachmann would submit to her husband if she were elected president. The majority of the questions had to do with the economy and controlling government spending; issues that are a key focus of the Tea Party.
The first question dealt with the viability of social security, long considered the third rail of American politics. Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended his use of the term “Ponzi scheme” to describe the program. Perry said he was not the first person to ever use the term and that social security was unconstitutional.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said that, while most Americans would agree with Perry’s statement about a Ponzi scheme, he nevertheless felt the remarks were “over the top.”
Brian Britton, head of the Greeley 9-12 Project, said he agreed with Perry’s sentiments. “If you look at the definition of a Ponzi scheme, social security fits that description perfectly.”
Herman Cain said, “I don’t care what you call it, it’s broken.” Cain then went on to offer specific solutions saying he would start with optional retirement accounts for individuals who chose to voluntarily opt out of the system. “Let’s give it back to the workers,” and let them decide what they want to do with their retirement.
Newt Gingrich took issue with the idea that Republican proposals were scaring seniors, saying the President does that every day. “I’m not particularly worried about Gov. Perry and Gov. Romney frightening the American people when President Obama scares them every single day.”
Newt continued, “President Obama twice said recently he couldn’t guarantee delivering the checks to social security recipients. Now, why should young people who are 16 to 25 years old, have politicians have the power for the rest of their life to threaten to take away their social security?”
Many Americans are under the impression that the money they pay into the social security system goes into a trust account with their name on it. In reality, the money goes into a fund that pays for current recipients, and the federal government often uses those funds for other projects.
All of the candidates made it plain that, while the current system needed to have serious changes to make it viable for younger people recently entering into the system, current and approaching retirees would not be affected.
While the candidates agreed on the need to repeal Obamacare, there were disagreements on how to accomplish it. Romney said he would issue an executive order to repeal it. Bachmann declared congressional repeal was needed, because if an executive order could repeal it, another president could simply reinstate it again the same way.
News media reported extensively on a question put to Ron Paul regarding the individual mandate that would force every American to purchase health care whether they wanted to or not. The mandate has been declared unconstitutional by several courts, including a Tuesday ruling by a federal judge in Pennsylvania.
Paul, who is a physician, was asked about a young man who decided he did not want to purchase health insurance because he was healthy and did not want to pay $300 a month. Blitzer asked, If the man suddenly became ill and goes into a coma, who should pay for it?
Paul responded that the young man should do what he wants to do and take personal responsibility for his choices, an apparent reference to having to pay his own medical bills. “That’s what freedom is all about; taking your own risks.”
This prompted Blitzer to follow up, saying, “So should society just let him die?” Paul responded saying, “No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid… we never turned anybody away from the hospital. We’ve given up on this concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, friends and churches would do it. That’s the reason the cost is so high, is because we dump it on the government and it becomes a special interest.”
Britton said the debate shows the Tea Party, which consists of everyday Americans, is here to stay. “This debate shows that the Tea Party is a force to be reckoned with and we are here to stay. It is also significant that it was hosted by CNN, a globally recognized news channel.”
Britton went on to say that he would like to see the Tea Party host more debates, including a presidential debate, once the Republicans have chosen a candidate.