opinion | Trump knows how to make promises. Do his rivals?

To understand the resilience of Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party, the way he always seems to bounce back despite scandal, debacle or shame, look no further than the contrast between his early political forays into the 2024 campaign and two of his potential challengers do.

Measured at Trump’s address For the Conservative Political Action Conference, his political agenda thus far includes two crucial elements: first, a pledge to defend Social Security and Medicare against deficit hawks in both parties, and second, a retrofuturistic vision of baby bonuses‌ and the rise of new “freedom cities.” in the American backcountry, with building projects that follow classic rather than ugly modern architectural lines.

Meanwhile, two of his challengers, the definitely-running Nikki Haley and the hopeful Mike Pence, have made headlines this year for pending claims cuts: Haley for them Suggestion this week to change the retirement age for today’s mid-20s, Pence for bringing back the idea of ​​private Social Security accounts, as proposed by George W. Bush in 2005.

Trump’s indifference to the cost of claims is, of course, irresponsible, and after four years of his leadership, we can imagine what the policies would bring to Freedom City — a Trump casino and a few mixed-use buildings run by Jared Kushner on the unfinished freeway spurs somewhere in the empty parts of the American West, funded by persistent fundraising for at-risk seniors. And, of course, Trump’s politics in the CPAC speech was a secondary issue amid the dominant motifs of rambling self-pity and threats of retaliation.

But you can appreciate all of that and still see him offer GOP primary voters, once again, an alternative to the pinched style, outdated ideas, and false fiscal seriousness of the pre-Trump – and now, it seems, post-Trump Republican Party.

Real fiscal seriousness would be defensible in hot inflation. But Haley’s idea of ​​cutting benefits for Americans retiring in 2065 is largely irrelevant to these immediate considerations. Pence’s revival of the personal accounts proposal, meanwhile, is hopelessly at odds with fiscal and political reality. As Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review RemarksFor example, the Bush-era chart of personal accounts depended on using excess funds to ease the transition, but now that boomers are retiring, the window for that kind of maneuver has closed.

So when Trump is irresponsible and untrustworthy to give in to his constituents, Haley and Pence do something stranger and more self-destructive: they offer ideas that are untrustworthy And unpopular, whose only virtue is that they sound vaguely serious if you don’t think too much about the details. “Neither popular nor right-wing” might as well be their motto, which doubles as an epitaph for the kind of right-wing politics that brought down Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The reality is that there are only two ways to address the skyrocketing costs of Social Security and Medicare and their crowding out of other national priorities. One is to negotiate deals that provide bipartisan coverage for reforms — either work on the edge about the so-called Secret Congressthe out-of-the-headline deal that has become commonplace lately, or the hunt for the kind of big bargains that have eluded John Boehner and Barack Obama.

But no Republican frontrunner these days is going to campaign to make deals, big or small, with Joe Biden or Chuck Schumer, so that kind of scenario is pretty much irrelevant to a presidential campaign. The only scenario that could possibly be relevant for a skilled communicator with any sense of civic duty would be to frame entitlement reform as a sort of intergenerational transfer, balancing accounts in a society that is too focused on spending for old age is aligned. To use the example of Trump’s Big Ideas, such a framework could reassure young and middle-aged voters that they would receive slightly lower benefits in retirement so that more things could be done at the momentlike baby bonuses for young families and cheaper real estate in sparkling new cities.

But that’s a difficult conceptual leap for a certain breed of Republican politicians, trained in the idea that this is what Democrats and Socialists do to make real policy promises to persuasive voters, and the point of cutting Social Security and Medicare is either a fiscal virtue for its own sake or to make room for the lowest possible upper tax rate.

Whatever one might say about Trump’s enforcement, he’s never had trouble making promises that voters (or investors or local officials) find attractive.

So the question for his supposed competitors, and Ron DeSantis in particular, as he waits, watches, and prepares is whether they can learn enough from this style to finally overcome it, or whether they offer voters as little as Trump’s Promise will still sound sweet.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/11/opinion/trump-social-security-haley-pence.html opinion | Trump knows how to make promises. Do his rivals?


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