Debate Breakdown: What We Learned About GOP Economic Proposals

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Seven GOP presidential contenders on the stage before the Republican presidential debate in Manchester, New Hampshire on June 13, 2011.

Last night was the first New Hampshire debate of the 2012 GOP nomination process. Reihan Salam, columnist for The Daily and blogger at the National Review Online, discusses what we learned about the various candidate's economic proposals.

When Michele Bachmann called the EPA "the job-killing organization of America," she was speaking to Republican primary voters, Salam said.

A lot of Republicans identify very strongly with small business, with small entrepreneurs, and there is a pervasive sense that regulation is a great barrier to creating employment and to allowing for flourishing young businesses in the country.

On the other hand, when Herman Cain said he wanted to phase out Social Security and replace it with a personal retirement account option, he certainly wasn't speaking to the Republican mainstream.

It's actually saying that we'd need to take on a huge amount of debt to transition to this new system, that new system might be a more stable system that is more encouraging of work ethic and economic growth, but the problem is that Republicans have been talking constantly about how debt is the worst thing in the world.

Tim Pawlenty projected an unprecedented, five percent growth rate for ten years if his economic plans are enacted, which Salam said might sound good but is unrealistic.

If we really knew how to fine-tune the economy in that way then we would have done it a very long time ago. The problem is that we really are starved of revenue. We certainly shouldn't bank on a five percent growth rate for a ten year period of time, and that's what Tim Pawlenty seems to be doing. We can aspire to it, but I don't think that's a reasonable goal.

Mitt Romney didn't make broad claims like T-Paw, and Salam said that was a shrewd strategy.

If he preserves options, if he doesn't make explicit commitments to policies he's going to pursue, that means that if he does wind up winning the presidency he will have the ability to pivot as necessary to deal with changing economic circumstances.

Overall, Salam thought that the debate was encouraging relative to the debates four or eight years ago.

I was really struck by the fact that they were really talking about economic policy issues, rather than a lot of the cultural issues they might have been talking about in the past. They seemed to be on message. They weren't accusing the President of being a socialist. They weren't talking about civil liberties in a way that was problematic for someone like me who is a civil libertarian.