Driving the Nation on Cruz Control

Standing next to Donald Trump at the most recent Republican debate (moderated by CNN in Las Vegas on December 15) was the junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.  Cruz’s position on the stage was not accidental.  He is currently polling at second place (with roughly 15% among Republican respondents); but Cruz also argues a policy cut from much the same cloth as that of Trump.  In party endorsements, Cruz is running seventh place; but as Trump still has no party endorsements at all, Cruz is poised to reap great rewards from what some consider to be Trump’s inevitable flame-out in the primaries.  Like Trump (who seems to have copied some of his positions from the more intelligent and agile Cruz), Cruz argues on just a  few narrow issues (immigration, reduction of the federal government, and tax reform), but with much more attention to detail.  However, Cruz’s overall platform shows a candidate completely unable to perform the job of president.  Cruz’s policies are anathema to the consensus of a general election, and call for a weaker government, a weaker military and security establishment, and a weaker economy.  To drive our country forward into the twenty-first century, we will need to keep Cruz’s hands off of the steering wheel.

Ted Cruz, 44, was born Rafael Edward Cruz in Calgary, Alberta, to an American mother and a Cuban immigrant father.  He acquired dual Canadian and American citizenship, and only became an exclusively American citizen when he renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014 in preparation for his presidential run.  Cruz has strong educational credentials, including a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a law degree from Harvard.  He has also, like President Obama, served as a law professor.  While Obama specialized on constitutional law, Cruz specialized in Supreme Court litigation while teaching law at the University of Texas in Austin.  Cruz has also worked his way through the political machine, clerking for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, serving as Texas’ Solicitor General, working on the presidential campaign for George Bush, and serving in various legal positions in the federal bureaucracy.  He is currently a first-term US Senator for Texas, elected in 2012.  Cruz’s background, and political climb, interestingly share several parallels with that of President Obama; but there the resemblance ends.

As a newfound presidential hopeful, Cruz has built up only the smallest issues platform, weaker in some respects than even those of outsider candidates Trump and Carson.  His issues platform (on his campaign website) provides more detail on each issue than do Trump’s and Carson’s platforms; but Cruz speaks to a smaller range of interests than do either Trump or Carson.

By far the issue that Cruz attends to with the greatest enthusiasm is immigration.  Cruz elaborates a detailed platform that seems to have been copied in basic principle by Trump.  Cruz, himself an immigrant from Canada and the son of an immigrant from Cuba, seeks to reduce both legal and illegal immigration to the US, much as Trump does.  Cruz wishes to cap legally approved immigration at least until unemployment diminishes below the historical average (although that remains undefined; current unemployment rates are below those of, for example, the Reagan administration).  He also wants to suspend the H-1B program of employment visas pending an audit on its impact on domestic job availability.  He calls for a prohibition on government support for any immigrants, allowing only self-sufficient persons to come here, and denying entrance to “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” who have traditionally built this country.  Finally, he wants to end birthright citizenship, accepting the odium of blaming new American citizens for their parents’ actions.  Cruz also attends to illegal immigration through measures such as building a wall, and tripling the US Border Patrol (similar to Trump’s tripling of ICE, with a similar number of personnel).  Cruz also wishes to spend more money on aerial surveillance and electronic tracking of immigrants.  He wants to rescind amnesties and deport immediately all those not formally approved to be in the US.  Cruz’s immigration policy, argued as a restoration of rule of law, in fact is intended to limit immigration (legal and otherwise) to those already endowed with material advantages, and rejects a long history of poor immigrants coming to America and raising themselves up (and others), creating jobs and wealth, and enhancing the country economically, culturally, and politically.

Cruz also argues for a massive shut-down of the federal government, through his “Five for Freedom” platform.  Cruz imagines that he can save the taxpayers some $500 billion over the next decade by eliminating entirely numerous federal agencies and departments, including the IRS, and the Departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.  Not addressing how the domestic economy will absorb the sudden loss of some 254,000 jobs (mostly of educated, middle-class professionals), Cruz moves on to axe 25 other lesser agencies and programs (such as the NEA, the Public Broadcasting Corporation, and the federal regulation of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses).  He also proposes a hiring reduction, legally limiting the federal government to replacing only one third of each agency’s personnel leaving voluntarily or through force reductions.  This means an across-the-board reduction of all agencies, including the CIA, the NSA, the Border Patrol (which he also argues should somehow be tripled in strength), the Department of Defense, the Justice Department, the DHS, etc.  Cruz also argues for an end to automatic COLAs, effectively “encouraging” federal employees to find work elsewhere.  Cruz’s “Five for Freedom” envisions a future without a strong federal government, decentralizing into a confederation, unable to pursue national priorities beyond the verbal encouragement of state governments and private structures.  Cruz’s America depends ever more fully on major corporations and the larger state governments to achieve economic and political vitality; weakens the nation militarily; and takes away even the boot-straps from those hoping to lift themselves up.

Cruz’s tax plan is similarly toxic to our City on the Hill.  Cruz advocates that conservative chestnut, the flat tax (which he wants to implement at 10%, with only those earning below a level just over the federal poverty line exempted).  He pretends to “abolish” the corporate income tax; but actually just renames it a “business flat tax” at 16%.  Cruz works some fiscal magic by abolishing payroll taxes, while nonetheless promising to maintain “full funding for Social Security and Medicare.”  Finally, Cruz wants to abolish taxes on income earned abroad, rewarding companies for operating overseas and exporting jobs instead of products.  He argues that this will return jobs, as companies bring their overseas profits back to the US (“with a 10% repatriation fee”); but he ignores the reality of corporate motivations after “repatriation.”  Corporations will continue to see opportunities in overseas markets, labor, and political conditions, and under Cruz’s rules will suffer less (none, in fact) retribution for off-shoring than they do today.  This policy is clearly aimed at gaining financial campaign contributions from major corporations with off-shore operations, which wish to move jobs away from expensive American workers.  There is, ultimately, nothing in Cruz’s tax plan that can help the nation.  Progressive taxes have consistently pushed forward economic growth.  Cruz’s unabashedly Reaganomic bourgeoisie tax is steered not toward economic growth, but toward corporate profits for the thin top layer of major multinational corporations, especially those with overseas operations not employing Americans.

These three platform issues (immigration, defederalization, and the flat tax) complete Cruz’s formal platform.  However, Cruz’s views on other issues can be sifted out of his speeches and interviews, and his activity as a senator.  On education, Cruz mirrors Trump (or vice versa), calling for the abolition of the Department of Education and a repeal of Common Core.  He otherwise has no education policies or ideas.  On energy, Cruz hopes for an “energy renaissance” to flower from his elimination of the Department of Energy, as unregulated oil and coal companies blanket the skies with their fumes.  He wants to give them unlimited access to resources on federal lands, and wants expanded oil and coal production for job creation and export income.  Cruz’s energy policy is also consistent with his radical denial of climate change.  While Cruz sometimes agrees that “science matters and data matters,” he brazenly ignores the science and data when presented to him in congressional testimony, and he even uses real data counterfactually.  On health care, Cruz has worked tirelessly to repeal the ACA; his latest attempt being the Health Care Choice Act (S.647), currently in committee limbo.  Cruz hopes to replace the ACA with state-based health-care plans, and to enable interstate commerce interests to overpower the health-care needs of the working poor.  Finally, Cruz is virtually silent on defense and national security; his sole security concern is that of immigration (and the related issue of refugees).  He demonstrates no knowledge of or interest in military subjects; as well as a complete unpreparedness to assume the duties of Commander-in-Chief.

While intelligent, well educated, and an expert debater, Cruz is staking out for himself a far-right position in the GOP, in the very near vicinity of Trump, but with far more poise and public acceptability than the real-estate developer has.  Cruz is essentially a “realistic radical,” not very different from Trump’s core “vision,” but far less boorish and uncouth.  Cruz puts a human face on the inhumanity of conservative radicalism.  He wants a virtually complete shutdown of the federal government (including even our intelligence, security, and defense establishment during a time of increasing world conflict), and works toward the betterment of only those at the top of the corporate food chain.  A Cruz presidency would therefore be bad for the American people; bad for those abroad victimized by violence, radicalism, and terror; bad for businesses and workers; bad for the poor and middle class; and in the long term, bad even for the rich, who would no longer have a secure, protective administration able to look after their interests.  If we are to continue driving the United States forward, into the twenty-first century and towards the vision of the city on the hill, we are going to have to do it without the help of Ted Cruz.

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