The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy

Live-econoblogging the Republican debate in California

ANOTHER UPDATE: President Obama has pitched his jobs plan to Congress and the public and I've got a quick reaction. Some intriguing ambiguity about whether we'll get an infrastructure bank, a subject I've blogged about. An I-Bank would have some definite benefits for Southern California, where the infrastucture is a-crumbling and there are thousands of unemployed construction workers.

UPDATE: As promised, I took a closer look at Perry's argument that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme, and here's why.

And so it ends. On the economy, the frontrunners — Mitt Romney and Rick Perry — promoted their own jobs records and attacked each other. On balance, Romney provided a more focused message on the country's future global competitiveness, which makes sense given his experience with Big Finance. This should resonate with Southern California, given the region's exposure to international trade. Perry stuck to his guns on Social Security and his insistence that it's a Ponzi scheme (which it isn't). This was a risky move, but one that should please his base. However, it also created a distraction from Topic A, which for many Americans is unemployment. "A monstrous lie to our kids" Perry called it, while if what he really wanted to do was talk about reforms to entitlement spending, he could have avoided this radical argument (although he's been on the record with this one for a while). 

The other candidates struggled a bit to distinguish their positions on the economy, other than to gesture toward the GOP playbook and the Reagan legacy — or in the Ron Paul case, go after the government regulation. I'll take a closer look at Perry's Ponzi scheme argument in a follow-up post, and I'll also take a crack at unpacking the GOP candidates' preoccupation with getting rid of Obamacare.

And for what it's worth, Jon Huntsman came off as the most Reaganesque. Smooth and poised. This does suggest that the GOP has clearly moved to the right politically and is currently struggling to figure out how far it wants to go on the economy.

Thanks for joining in the live-econoblogging experience!

UPDATE: I noticed that I misspelled Jon Huntsman's first name as "John." Now corrected!

Updated at 6:46 p.m. | Permalink

A few points to go out on. Gingrich would fire Ben Bernanke as Fed Chairman if he got to be President. And then in the waning moments, Romney also says he'd ditch Bernanke, but stands up for the middle class and its urgent need for zero capital gains taxes. No follow up on whether that policy would apply to high-income Americans as well. There's actually some sanity in this, but it's unlikely that Republicans would exempt the middle-class from cap-gains while keeping the tax — 15 percent — in place for the rich. On the Bernanke issue: both Newt and Mitt raise the inflation specter, which should be fodder for the deflationists, who will argue that there's been no meaningful inflation in the economy, even as the Fed has poured in money.

Updated at 6:28 p.m. | Permalink

Oh, wait! Brief not-a-lightning-round-thank-you exploration of the debt-ceiling deal. Rick Perry goes after spending and says it has to be brought under control. Romney goes back to his global-competitiveness pitch, a core point of difference — he believes — between himself and Perry. And then Perry sweeps in with a little something for the econ crowd: No more Keynesianism!

Updated at 6:25 p.m. | Permalink

The debate has moved on from THE ECONOMY to other issues. No candidate has really come forward and hammered home a jobs message. But two key messages have emerged: Obamacare has to go; and the governors think they can translate a record of state job creation into job creation at the national level. 

Updated at 6:05 p.m. | Permalink

Rick Perry refuses to back down on his belief that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. And he says everyone knows it. His commitment to this is weirdly admirable, but it doesn't really hold up to scrutiny — although he hasn't given up on the sound-bite value. The Social Security Administration has addressed the allegation, however, and provided a good distinction between a Ponzi investment scheme, classically understood, and a pay-as-you-go system like Social Security.

Updated at 5:46 p.m. | Permalink

A very quick arc on energy costs finds Bachmann's assertion that she can get gas under $2 a gallon implicitly challenged by Romney. A loose consensus emerges that energy independence and security are the way to go. This is an issue that resonates with Californians, particularly in SoCal where gas has been above $2 a gallon since…well, it feels like sometime at the end of the second Reagan administration.

Updated at 5:35 p.m. | Permalink

In response to a question from Brian Williams, Rick Santorum expresses his affection for the poor by insisting that we need bottom up rather than top down solutions. Herman Cain makes a forceful case for market-based healthcare solutions…and joins Bachmann is saying that Obamacare needs to go. A big theme so far, clearly expressed by Newt, is that Obamacare is a disaster and must, must, must be rolled back or repealed.

Updated at 5:29 p.m. | Permalink

Alert! Newt Gingrich accuses Obama of class warfare and bureaucratic socialism. Also claims credit for creating 11 million jobs during his Congressional heyday. In the Politico moderated session on Obamacare, he demands that Republicans resist all media efforts to get Republicans fighting each other.

Updated at 5:12 p.m. | Permalink

Not a whole lot of specifics so far on how jobs would actually be created. But Rick Perry and Mitt Romney duke it out in the early going over their job-creation records in Texas and Massachusetts. Moderator Brian Williams zeroes in on truth of the Texas Miracle and on Romney's career at Bain Capital as a corporate strip-and-sell specialist. Jon Huntsman sweeps in a points out that he beat both Romney and Perry on job creation in Utah. Michelle Bachmann obsesses over Obamacare and insists that "Kids need jobs." Ron Paul attacks...regulation! 


The Republican candidates for President have descended on the Reagan Library — a shrine to their departed Supply-Side King in Simi Valley — to debate, among other things, why the Democrats have destroyed the economy and what they will do to fix it. Obviously, the President will have a chance to refute these allegations and roll out his own jobs plan tomorrow night in his speech to a joint session of Congress. But for now, the GOP contenders will get their shot, and the choice of venue is far more than symbolic.

The national unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent, but in California, it's far higher, at 12 percent. When Ronald Reagan debated Jimmy Carter in October of 1980, unemployment in the U.S. was running at 7.5 percent — but inflation was at 12.8 percent and the prime interest rate was a harrowing 15.3 percent. GDP growth had been negative for most of the year. It was stagflation, one of the scariest conditions in the economic lexicon. Malaise had set in.

According to GOP gospel, Reaganomics reversed all that, ushering in the Great Moderation of the 1982-2008 period. Tonight, the candidates will confront an economy in turmoil, maybe on the verge of recession, and a jobs crisis that seems to have no cure. Who will rise to the occason — and the expectations imposed by the legend of the Gipper? KPCC's Frank Stoltze is on site to capture the debate, and I'm live-blogging the economic aspects. So stay tuned!