Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rick Santorum's Other Positions

Now that Rick Santorum has emerged as a serious contender to Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, a tremendous amount has been written about Santorum’s positions on religion, sex, and contraceptives to the point where his other positions have been largely overlooked.  I would like to explore some of these other positions here.

The best and fairest way to get a candidate’s views is through his website so it is in the candidate’s own words.

I’ll eliminate all regulations promulgated by the Obama Administration which have an economic burden over $100 million dollars, on Day One, including repeal of the EPA rule on CO2 emissions that have already shut down six power plants and furlowed (sic) 500 workers. I will order a review of all regulations, making sure these regulations use sound science and common-sense cost benefit analysis.

It is amusing that Santorum wants to make sure that environmental regulations are based on sound science when he completely rejects current science around climate change in favor of what he sees as biblical evidence.

I will cut spending by $5 trillion over 5 years, repeal ObamaCare and other onerous regulations and cut non-defense spending to 2008 levels..

This is not too much different than the other Republican candidates which amounts to cutting taxes and non-defense spending in exchange for what they call entitlement reform.  It’s easy to say that you are going to cut $5 trillion.  But it takes more guts to say specifically what you’re going to cut.  By process of elimination, the cuts would have to be Social Security and Medicare.  According to a recent AARP Bulletin, Santorum was once in favor of raising the retirement age to 70 but has apparently backed off of that in favor of personal retirement accounts.  And he endorsed the Ryan plan which would turn Medicare into a voucher system.  If the voucher doesn’t cover the cost of the private insurance that seniors would have to purchase on their own, the remainder would come out of pocket.  Some way to save money out of the budget!

Strengthen patient-driven health coverage options such as Health Savings Accounts coupled with high deductible insurance plans (and repeal ObamaCare policies that gut such options)

This too has been proposed by other Republicans.  Health savings accounts allow people to put money away pre-tax so they essentially get a discount on their medical bills equal to the amount of tax they would normally pay on that money.  This is nice for the middle-class and above.  But those in the lower incomes who pay little or no tax get little or no benefit.  And high deductible insurance plans sound nice for those who are not forced to buy them.  But especially for the poor who have such policies, it is tempting to save money by not going to the doctor and getting any needed tests since these visits are usually not covered.  One of the main purposes of insurance is so people will get preventative care before they become seriously ill.  High deductible insurance doesn’t do that.

The federal role in education is very limited.  Education is the responsibility of parents, local schools (public and private), and states in that order.

And during a February 26 appearance on Meet the Press, Santorum had this to add.

I have a plan that says we're going to repeal No Child Left Behind , we're going to get the federal government out of education." I've even said we need to get the state government more out of education, put it back at the local level, have parents and teachers and administrators and the community build a customized program for every single child in America . That's what I believe.

It’s not unusual for a conservative to want the federal government to bail out in favor of a state government.  But Santorum seems to dislike state control, too.  This may create a few problems.  First of all, without any federal and state educational standards, local school districts can teach pretty much anything they want.  What if some rogue school board members want to teach intelligent design?   This would not bother Santorum since while he was a senator, he tried to pass the Santorum Amendment which promotes the teaching of intelligent design while questioning the validity of evolution.

And with state budgets suffering shortfalls, cuts to education have been the result putting more of the financial burden on the school districts.  But if schools have to rely too much on local property taxes, the poorer school districts would be hard pressed to provide a comparable education to the affluent ones.

Rick Santorum is no stranger to the issue of judges.  As a U.S. Senator, he stood against activist judicial nominees time and again.  As a Republican leader in the Senate, he was pivotal in the fight to confirm U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. 

This is an example of conservative arrogance.  Anything that a liberal judge does is judicial activism while anything a conservative judge does is just interpreting the Constitution.  Chief Justice John Roberts famously said in his confirmation hearing that a judge was just there "to call balls and strikes", apparently meaning that he was not to be a judicial activist.  But many observers feel that the Roberts Court has been the most activist in recent memory, especially considering the Citizens United ruling which is responsible for the existence of the super-PACs that have run amok during this primary season.

But perhaps the best reason to choose one presidential candidate over another is based on which judges they would appoint, especially ones for the Supreme Court.  Now no matter what any candidate says about not having a litmus test, a Democrat is going to appoint liberal judges while a Republican will appoint conservative ones.  Nothing wrong with that.  But the problem with Santorum is his extreme conservatism on social issues, in many cases attacking what are generally agreed to interpretations of the separation of church and state.  For as strongly as he believes in his hard-right social positions, it would be hard to believe he wouldn’t select judges who are just as extreme.

This more than anything else is what scares me about a Rick Santorum presidency!. 

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