Centrist View of the Debt Ceiling Debate

The Democrats’ Position

First, let’s admit that Biden’s arguments about the Republicans’ opposition to raising the debt limit without reductions in the deficit have some merit. The Republicans raised the debt limit repeatedly during the Trump administration. The Republicans, also, increased the deficit and the debt level by passing significant tax reductions during the Trump administration.

Biden has indicated that he will not compromise on the issue of the debt cap and expects the House to approve an increase without any conditions.

Some Democrats have suggested a variety of work-arounds that don’t require raising the debt limit, like minting the trillion dollar coin (essentially printing money). Many of these options are legally dubious and/or economically dangerous.

The Real Republican Position

Based on its actions, the Republican Party is not concerned about the debt or the deficit level. What they do want is lower taxes and less government spending, particularly on social welfare programs. They also want the drama of a showdown with the Democrats, to excite their base. They are happy to use the leverage of resisting increasing the debt cap to accomplish these latter two objectives.

A Centrist View

Unlimited government spending and an escalating debt to GDP ratio is a bad thing. Shutting down the U.S. government or putting it into default are bad things.

As President Obama said, “elections have consequences.” The Republicans gained control of the House and governing requires compromising with them. In the past, attempts by the Republican Party to use the debt ceiling as a tool have backfired politically. I am guessing Biden hopes that history will repeat itself. Unfortunately, for the Democrats, taking the position that they will not compromise on the issue, in any way, puts the blame for a government shutdown and possible default at least partly on them.

A Centrist Recommendation

The Democrats need to concede that compromise is appropriate and necessary. They need to offer something to the Republicans in return for an increase in the debt cap.

My recommendation would be to address the problems with Social Security in a bi-partisan manner. Republicans want to raise the age for future eligibility to benefits. Democrats want to raise the income limit on the Social Security tax. Why not do both? Calculate the amount of money it would take to keep the system solvent for the foreseeable future and raise half the money by raising the income limit on the tax and half by extending the age for future eligibility. For more detail on the Centrist Independent Voter’s position on this issue visit the Social Security policy position.

This is not the only compromise that could be offered, but it is a simple, straightforward one that is also good public policy.

For a more detail discussion of the Centrist Independent Voter’s policy position on the questions of the deficit and the national debt visit the policy position on Taxation, Spending, and Debt.

Re-ordering the Democratic Primaries

Why Biden Pushed for Re-ordering the Primaries

The official reason for re-ordering the Democratic primaries, to allow South Carolina to go first, is to increase the influence of Black voters in the selection of the presidential nominee. A second reason is clearly to strengthen President Biden’s position if there is a contest for the Democratic nominee for President.

Why Iowa Was Always a Bad Starting Point

I was never a fan of giving Iowa outsized power in the selection of presidential candidates. For decades it has forced otherwise sensible candidates, like Sen. Bill Bradley (a moderate Democrat from New Jersey), to reject reason and embrace subsidies for “gasohol.” Subsidies for gasohol are irrational and merely a subsidy for corn production.

The Upside of Iowa for the Country

That being said, there was some value to allowing the Iowa caucus vote to come first. Winning in Iowa requires meeting with small groups of voters. Candidates whose appeal is based on a manufactured media presence are at a disadvantage in Iowa, relative to those with real personal appeal.

The Dilemma of Iowa for the Democratic Party

The disadvantage of Iowa from the viewpoint of the Democratic Party is that the voters, even the Democratic voters, are overwhelmingly White. It may be true that this tilts the contest away from candidates whose primary appeal is to Black voters. Nevertheless, it may provide a kind of advantage to Black candidates. Barack Obama’s strong performance in Iowa provided evidence that he could garner significant support among White voters. It is not helpful to either Black voters or Democrats in general, if the primaries produce candidates who have limited appeal to White voters. Remember, the voting public in the general election remains predominantly White.

The Long-Term Consequences of Leading with South Carolina

Let’s consider a post-Biden election. In 2028, it is easy to imagine a primary battle between Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. Buttigieg is not popular in the Black community, as evidenced by his poor performance in the 2020 South Carolina Presidential primary. It is hard to say exactly why this is the case. It may be because Buttigieg is openly gay and it may be because African-Americans disliked his response to policing issues when he was Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Kamala Harris has stronger, but not unqualified, support from the Black community. If Harris wins the nomination, she would likely go down to defeat in the general election because she is deeply unpopular, a bad campaigner, and is tied, rightly or wrongly, to the chaos at the border. Buttigieg did well in Iowa because he is a good campaigner. He would do well in the general election because, in addition to being a good campaigner, he is a relative moderate and is not linked to the most unpopular aspects of the Biden administration. If South Carolina goes first, it improves the odds of Harris winning the nomination and, in my opinion, lowers the odds of the Democrats winning the Presidency.

A Better Choice for Both Parties

I think the most rational thing for the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party for that matter, is to lead off the primary season in a state where the party’s demographics (racial and political) mirror those of likely voters in the general election. As a first approximation, I would suggest considering the so-called “battle ground” or “purple” states including: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada. Ideally, the selection requires matching up the party’s political and racial demography in each state with that of general election voters. If anyone is aware of sources for this kind of data, please let us know.

Moderate House Republicans Need to Push Back Against Freedom Caucus

Who Should Be Speaker of the House?

It looks like the Republicans will have a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kevin McCarthy hopes to become the Speaker of the House. The House “Freedom” Caucus is trying to extract concessions from McCarthy in return for their support.

The Freedom Caucus is a far right group of roughly 47 Republicans in the House. They tend to be Trump supporters and election deniers. They tend to vote against bi-partisan legislation as a matter of principle. They are, mostly, members of the Centrist Independent Voter’s Rogues Gallery of candidates we would never endorse.

Moderate Republicans in the House, like those in the Problem Solvers Caucus, should unite to oppose granting any concessions to the Freedom Caucus. Moderate Republicans generally come from swing districts and have a lot to lose if the Republican Party turns further to the right. They also have alternatives. Moderate Republicans can change parties and have a chance at re-election. Short of that they are free to vote with the Democratic Caucus on a compromise Speaker of the House. That person does not even have to be a member of the House. (How about Liz Cheney). The members of the Freedom caucus have nowhere to go.

The Republican’s are likely to have, at best, a slim majority in the House. If McCarthy wants the support of moderate Republicans he should grow a spine and tell the Freedom Caucus to sit down and shut up. He should remind the Freedom Caucus that they, and those like them, are the reason the House majority is so tiny and the reason why the Republicans will, probably, not have control of the Senate. If McCarthy is too cowardly to do this he may lose, not just the Speakership, but also a Republican majority in the House.

Should Inflation Be the Dominant Election Issue in 2022?

Both Republicans and Democrats talk about inflation. Neither has anything useful to say.

A number of political analysts have observed that inflation has displaced other issues as the dominant issue in this election cycle. That may well be true, but should it be?

The left at first tried to dismiss inflation as transitory. When that was clearly false, some said inflation is not that harmful. When voters clearly appeared to believe that inflation matters, the left switched to “it’s not our fault,” citing high levels of inflation in many other countries and blaming supply chain disruptions and Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The last of these has at least a little bit of merit, but there are many low inflation countries that suffered from these same problems. The unifying feature of economies with high inflation is loose monetary and aggressive fiscal policies to combat the Covid induced recession.

Republicans certainly share the blame for loose monetary policy. Political pressure from both parties has encouraged the Fed to keep interest rates far too low for far too long. Other countries have experienced a similar dynamic to varying degrees. Democrats bear most of the blame for just how aggressive fiscal policy has become, but Republicans share some of the blame for actions taken during the Trump administration.

Democrats say that Republicans complain about inflation but offer no solutions. On that the Democrats have a point. The Democrats offer solutions, that aren’t solutions. The “Inflation Reduction Act” was about climate change subsidies. Most economists agree its role in terms of inflation will be minimal. Student loan forgiveness is a wealth transfer. If unfunded through tax increases on someone, student loan forgiveness will just make inflation worse in the long term. Price controls on drug prices, like all price controls, just make markets less efficient. Real reform here would require U.S. drug companies that receive U.S. patent protection grant “most favored nation” status to U.S. consumers. Under this rule drug companies would be free to set prices, but they could not charge any U.S. consumer, including Medicare, any more than the least expensive price they charge outside the U.S. This would be good public policy, but it has nothing to do with inflation.

What is inflation?

Remember, inflation is a rise in the general price level. Higher or lower prices for individual commodities are not inflationary or deflationary. For example, in the absence of accommodating monetary policy, higher energy prices just mean lower prices for other goods (or recession, but that requires a much longer discussion).

What would help?

So what should both parties be saying on inflation. First, it is a serious problem. Second, the Fed is doing the right thing by raising interest rates, and we (the politicians) will avoid pressing the Fed to back off before the job is complete. Third, if elected we (the politicians) will not make the Feds job harder by cutting taxes or increasing spending.

What role should inflation play in the mid-term elections?

Neither party is saying anything like that. So from my perspective, inflation is not an issue for the mid-terms. Maybe it should be, but it certainly does not help me decide on who to vote for. In any case, we will have divided government for the next two years, even if the Republicans gain both the House and the Senate, since Biden is President. Divided government means that we are unlikely to see either tax cuts or major spending legislation. That may be the best we can hope for since it will make the Feds job easier.

If not inflation, what issues should drive the election?

Vote on abortion rights, there are clear choices to choose from, no matter where you stand. Vote on preserving democracy and election integrity, there are clear choices. Vote on America’s commitment to NATO and the defense of Ukraine against Russia, there are clear choices. Vote on climate change or energy security, there are clear choices.

But please don’t vote on inflation. There is no party that offers a good answer here.

Recommendations for 2022 U.S. House Races

Vote, even if the choices are poor. Just Vote!

I have been asked why we have so few endorsements in U. S. House races for the mid-term elections. The answer is partly that we don’t have the resources to cover these races. It is also partly because most U.S. House races are foregone conclusions after the primaries.

We do have some general guidelines about how to think about these races. In order of priority they are: we oppose any candidate who supports Donald Trump and his 2020 election behavior; we oppose any candidate who is against U.S. efforts to aid Ukraine’s defense from the Russian invasion; we oppose candidates who support extreme positions on the abortion issue; we oppose any candidate who believes we should address inflation with price controls or windfall profits taxes; and we oppose candidates who deny that climate change is a serious issue.

Our feeling is that the first two of these issues are the priority for the 2022 U.S. Congressional elections.

Donald Trump, never a good person or candidate, has become increasingly destructive to the nation and even his own party. Candidates who would not be on the ballot but for Donald Trump’s endorsement and who support his wild claims about the 2020 election should not be voted for under any circumstances. For a complete list of Trump endorsements, go here. Obviously Trump endorses a lot of candidates just because he likes backing winners. As a general rule, I would recommend against voting for most of these candidates. (I might make exceptions for incumbent candidates who did not ask for and did not need Trump’s endorsement and who deny Trump’s claims about the 2020 election.) If you can’t abide the Democrat, vote for a third party candidate or write in someone’s name.

The fate of Western democracy, the preservation of a rules-based international order, and the prevention of a physical and cultural genocide in Ukraine depends upon the U.S. and our allies supporting Ukraine and expelling Russia from Ukraine. Conveniently, all 57 of the U.S. House members who voted against aid for Ukraine are Trump supporters. For their names, visit our Rogues Gallery of Candidates.

Abortion, no matter how important the issue is to you, or which side you are on, is almost certainly going to be decided at the state level. If that is your priority issue, focus your attention on the gubernatorial and state legislature elections.

Inflation is primarily an issue for the Federal Reserve Board. We would recommend voting against candidates who want to undermine the Feds efforts. We also oppose candidates who think the right way to deal with inflation is price controls or windfall profits taxes. There aren’t very many candidates who support either of these policies and they are recognizable by their association with the “Working Families Party,” so they are easy to identify.

On climate change, the “Inflation Reduction Act” went about as far as either party is willing to go. Republicans are unlikely to get enough votes to repeal it. Many Democrats seem reluctant to take the one step that would make a difference: a carbon tax with a comparable tariff. There are reasonable differences of opinion on the issue of what, if anything, should be done about climate change. However, candidates who view concerns about climate change as a hoax do not seem worthy of consideration. Again, these candidates are fairly easy to identify because they tend to be hard-core Trump supporters.

Guidelines for Centrists Voting in the 2022 Mid-Term Elections.

Vote to Move the Politics to the Center

What Should Centrists Do in the 2022 General Election?

The Centrist Independent Voter is a new organization. We have a very small, all volunteer staff. With the limited time and resources available to us this year, we have tried to identify some high profile, mostly U.S. Senate, races and endorsed candidates in the primaries and the general election in those races.

Beyond those specific endorsements, I have some general advice about how to promote a more sane and centrist approach to politics during the general election in 2022.

First, vote against any candidate that owes their position on the ballot to Donald Trump. This does not mean voting for every Democrat. It does not even mean voting against every Republican that Donald Trump endorses. Trump has endorsed many candidates who would have won easily without his support and did not go out of their way to ask for it. It does mean voting against any candidate that would not be on the ballot in the general election were it not for Donald Trump’s endorsement. Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, J.D. Vance in Ohio, and Herschal Walker in Georgia come to mind. Many of these candidates show up in our Rogues Gallery of Candidates.

Second, where the first rule does not dominate, vote against Democratic candidates that are endorsed by the “Working Families Party.” This far-left organization includes Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren along with the so-called Squad in the House of Representatives. Many of these candidates, also, show up in our Rogues Gallery of Candidates.

Third, vote for those Republicans who crossed party lines to support bi-partisan infrastructure, gun control, and aid to Ukraine legislation or to vote for Trump’s impeachment/conviction. This rule is rarely in conflict with the first rule, as far as I know.

Fourth, vote for fiscally conservative Democrats who broke party ranks to oppose excessive government spending and who oppose packing the Supreme Court and ending the filibuster rule in the Senate. This rule is never in conflict with the second rule, as far as I know.

Unfortunately, there may be races where these rules conflict with each other. In those cases, I would recommend that you start with the first and work your way down.

Utah U.S. Senate Race

Vote in the U.S. Senate Race in Utah.

There is nothing normal about the 2022 race for the U.S. Senate seat from Utah.

Mike Lee (R) is the incumbent and was initially a heavy favorite. The race is now too close to call. Mike Lee is a full throated Trump supporter. Lee’s opponent, Evan McMullen is a conservative who has been endorsed by the Democratic Party in Utah.

While there is no true centrist running in Utah, you would not expect to see one in what is certainly among the most conservative states.

McMullen has promised not to caucus with either party in the Senate. That may be a mistake since it would limit his access to committee appointments. In our view, if he wins, he should caucus with the majority party. This is especially valuable if he gives that party a majority, in which case he should demand key committee assignments as a quid pro quo. He should then feel free to break party ranks and vote truly independently on legislation.

For the Centrist Independent Voter this is not a difficult call. The Centrist Independent Voter enthusiastically endorses Evan McMullen for the U.S. Senate seat from Utah.

Florida U.S. Senate Race

Our Board of Governors is still wrestling with whether to endorse Sen. Marco Rubio (R), the incumbent, or Rep. Val Demings (D) in the Florida U.S. Senate race.

Some oppose Rubio because he has Trump’s endorsement and because he co-sponsored Lindsay Graham’s national ban on abortions after 15 weeks. Some are also put off by Rubio’s dismissal of a bi-partisan effort to protect same sex marriage rights, legislatively, at the federal level as a “waste of time.”

Some oppose Val Demings because she consistently voted along party lines in the House and was therefore likely to be a rubber stamp for Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D) in the U.S. Senate. This later fear is made all the more important by the fact that President Biden recently announced that if he gets two more votes in the Senate and keeps control of the House, he will support overturning the filibuster rule. Rep. Demings has referred to the filibuster rule as a “procedural game,” so we know where she stands.

Faced with the inability to find a majority in support of either of the two major party candidates, I decided to examine the issue positions of the other candidates in the U.S. Senate race in Florida.

The Libertarian candidate was far too isolationist for us. Many of the others were either too right wing or too vague to be worth considering.

One candidate had a surprisingly thoughtful, albeit short, set of policy positions that struck me as remarkably centrist and reasonable: Tuan Nguyen. To see his platform, click here: Platform.

I realize that Nguyen has little to no chance to win the election. However, if a centrist candidate were able to capture enough votes to prevent either major party candidate from having a majority, that could be important. If the votes for a centrist, non-affiliated candidate would have provided the margin of victory to the major party candidate that loses, we will have made an important point.

If either of the major party candidates were notably more centrist than the other, the opportunity cost of casting a vote for Nguyen might be considered too high. That does not appear to be the case.

If you were considering not voting because you cannot abide either of the major party candidates, please consider voting for Tuan Nguyen. There is no downside.

It is very easy to imagine that a centrist candidate could win if Florida adopts Ranked Choice Voting. Until then, it is important to do everything possible to demonstrate that extremism of the right and the left are not good campaign strategies.

At this point our Board of Governors is still trying to decided who, if anyone, to endorse in this race. I suspect that the fact that Nguyen’s platform does not address the issues of abortion, the filibuster, and court packing may make it difficult for the Board to endorse him. Nevertheless , Tuan Nguyen has my personal endorsement in the U.S. Senate race in Florida.

North Carolina General Election for U.S. Senate

North Carolina U.S. Senate Election

As Donald Trump’s problems mount, many Republican Senate candidates are now trying to distance themselves from him. Ted Budd, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate for North Carolina, is an exception to that trend. He has doubled down on his association to Trump while also emphasizing his support for national legislation to restrict abortion after 15 weeks.

To see Budd’s positions on a number of issues, visit his website.

His Democratic opponent Cheri Beasley is the former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She is no centrist but counts as a moderate among Democrats, although her willingness to consider expanding the U.S. Supreme Court seems less than moderate.

To see Beasley’s positions on a number of issues, visit her website.

Those familiar with the Centrist Independent Voter’s Policy Positions will know that we don’t align well with either of these candidates.

Nevertheless, the Centrist Independent Voter endorses Cheri Beasley for the U.S. Senate seat from North Carolina. We do so because of Budd’s close association with Trump and because Beasley is more moderate than most of the Democratic Party.

Endorsement In the New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race

New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race

The New Hampshire Senate Race Should be Closer than It Is

Normally, the New Hampshire Senate race would be in play since the the incumbent Democrat, Maggie Hassan, only defeated her Republican opponent by 0.1% when she took office six years ago. But despite the fact that mid-term elections generally turn against the party in power and the fact that President Biden still suffers from low approval ratings, Hassan appears to be about 11% ahead of her Republican opponent, Don Bolduc, a Trump endorsed extremist.

The reason Bolduc won in the primary is two-fold. The first is poor judgment on the part of Republicans in nominating him. The second is cynical hypocrisy on the part of some Democrats in promoting the election of Bolduc during the Republican primary.

It is difficult to understand how Democrats can think that their claims that MAGA Republicans are a threat to the nation will be taken seriously when they promote the election of MAGA Republicans in the primaries. All it leaves one with is the feeling that these Democrats are every bit as power hungry and indifferent to the fate of the nation as the Republicans they decry for sticking with Donald Trump.

The Centrist Independent Endorsement (with a caveat)

Sen. Maggie Hassan is a moderate Democrat. We might well have endorsed her even if the Trump endorsed candidate had not won the Republican primary. At this point, we have to move forward and endorse the more moderate candidate, while noting our disgust at the craven cynicism of Democrats who promote the election of the very candidates they believe constitute an existential threat to the nation.

With that caveat noted, the Centrist Independent Voter endorses Sen. Maggie Hassan for the U.S. Senate seat from New Hampshire.