There's going to be a GOP presidential debate next week in New Hampshire, and it may be the last one before Fred Thompson jumps into the race. Now, as the pundits always point out, the last person to win the White House whose previous political job was U.S. senator was John F. Kennedy back in 1960. But this year, there are loads of senators or ex-senators in the mix, including Thompson, John McCain, Sam Brownback, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama.
One good thing about this is that it means voters have those long Senate records to chew over. Now the National Taxpayers Union has done just that and arrived at a fiscal snapshot of this group. In particular, it looked at how much their Senate or House (in the case of Bill Richardson and potential candidate Newt Gingrich) roll-call votes from the last session of Congress in which they served would have added to government spending.
Here are the Republicans, from most stingy to most profligate: Thompson, $3.1 billion; Gingrich, $4.5 billion; Brownback, $19 billion; McCain, $36.9 billion. And the Democrats: Richardson, minus 1.6 billion; Obama, $11.7 billion; Edwards, $103.5 billion; Clinton, $378.2 billion. Says Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute: "Thompson has the opportunity to seize the small-government mantle."
China troubles. Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, adds his insightful two cents to my previous posting about the vulnerability of the U.S. economy to a slowdown in China's economy. Here is what Baker E-mailed me:
"If there is a slowdown, then China has incentive to keep U.S. interest rates low, and keep buying long-term Treasuries to sustain demand for its exports. The bigger hit to the U.S. economy is if China decides it wants to slow its economy, so it stops buying long-term Treasuries at the same rate, allowing the yuan to rise and long-term interest rates in the U.S. to rise. This is a plus for the U.S. on the net export side, but the higher inflation from higher import prices, plus the loss of a China as a buyer of Treasuries, is likely to lead to considerably higher long-term rates. Remember the good old days (i.e., the '90s) when 30-year mortgages were 7.2 percent. What do you think happens to the current housing market and [mortgage equity withdrawal] if mortgage interest rates rise by 1 percentage point?"