Tonight’s Bloomberg/Washington Post Republican debate focused on the economy and, though they differed on some specifics, the candidates were united in blaming the government for the financial crisis.
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich got the anti-government ball rolling early on when asked if they thought Wall Street executives should be jailed for their role in the financial collapse. Both Ms. Bachmann and Mr. Gingrich said Washington was the real culprit behind America’s money problems.
“I think if you look at the problem with the economic meltdown, you can trace it right back to the federal government,” Ms. Bachmann said.
Ms. Bachmann said the government sparked the crisis by “pushing” subprime loans and passing the Dodd-Frank Act, which she dubbed the “Jobs and Housing Destruction Act.” Mr. Gingrich went a step further suggesting the authors of Dodd-Frank should be arrested.
“If you want to put people in jail, I want to second what Michele said. You ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd,” Mr Gingrich said adding.
Rick Santorum echoed the anti-government sentiment saying his main strategy for job creation would be to “repeal every regulation” President Obama has made over $100 million.
Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain spent most of his debate airtime discussing his “9-9-9 Plan,” which he called his “top priority.” The “9-9-9 Plan” would establish a 9% business flat tax, 9% individual flat tax and 9% national sales tax. Mr. Cain said “9-9-9″ would work because it is a rejection of current government regulations that involves “throwing out the current tax code.”
“It didn’t come off a pizza box, it was well studied and well developed,” Mr. Cain said of his plan.
Several of Mr. Cain’s rivals criticized the “9-9-9 Plan” saying it would provide additional revenue to the government through the sales tax.
“When you take the ’9-9-9 Plan’ and you turn it upside down, I think the devil’s in the details,” Ms. Bachmann joked.
Tax policy wasn’t the only target at the debate. The Republican hopefuls also attacked President Obama’s healthcare plan, popularly known as “Obamacare” among Republicans.
“The number one reason employers aren’t hiring today is Obamacare,” Ms. Bachmann said.
Mitt Romney promised to repeal “Obamacare” and focused on distinctions between the healthcare plan he established as governor of Massachusetts and the President’s policies.
“Our plan is different,” Mr. Romney said.
Mr. Romney set a dramatic stage for tonight’s debate by challenging Texas Governor Rick Perry to ”repudiate” one of his supporters who described the Mormon religion as “a cult.” A religious showdown between Governor Perry and Mr. Romney, who is a Mormon, never materialized. In fact, Governor Perry remained relatively quiet during the debate despite the fact many members of the political chattering class considered this evening a must-win situation for the Texan after poorly reviewed showings in earlier debates hurt his poll numbers.
The next Republican debate, sponsored by CNN and the Western Republican Leadership Conference, will take place on October 18 in Las Vegas.