We wouldn’t be in this mess if John McCain had won in 2008

We’d probably be in all sorts of other messes if McCain had won the presidential election in 2008, but I think in many ways we’d be in a very different pickle than the one we’re in now. I’m almost positive that when the words Tea and Party were juxtaposed we wouldn’t conjure up images of angry protestors with signs, but rather six-year-olds and their teddy bears drinking from tiny porcelain cups. The phrase “debt ceiling” would almost certainly not be in the public lexicon. And we’d probably have a Democratic congress.

It’s harder to say what sort of stimulus would have been passed, or whether anything would have been done on healthcare. And while Obama is hawkish, McCain is even more reckless in his foreign policy ambitions. I have no idea if the Arab Spring would have come about or not, or what our involvement in the various Middle-East revolutions would have been. Perhaps we’d have boots on the ground in Libya, perhaps not. It’s hard to say.

But one thing we would not have is this deficit/inflation hawkishness we have today. When a Republican is president, all that goes out the window.

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60 thoughts on “We wouldn’t be in this mess if John McCain had won in 2008

  1. Knowing what I know about 2004, 2006, and 2008, I think that it’s a lot more likely that Hillary would have been elected in 2008 than any Republican in *ANY* alternate scenario you can come up with.

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    • Oh man would I ever love to imagine the Hillary alternative history. I imagine we’d be just as hawkish on foreign affairs. Domestically though I wonder… … …
      With Bill in her ear though I doubt she would have let the moss grow on that Democratic supermajority that Obama had early on.

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      • H. Clinton ran to the right of Obama for most of the campaign (though she probably only did because that’s where the open ground was and probably what Mark Penn (& her husband) were telling her to do). But Clinton basically lost because she was *not* all that distinguishable from Obama on just about every policy choice but *did* have the general baggage of being an insider and the specific baggage of her Iraq War vote.

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        • At this stage in the game if you’re saying that Hilldog would have been like Obama minus the hope and change bipartisan blinkers that hobbled him for his first two years I’d say that would have been a great deal for her party.

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          • Possibly. I still think we would have a Tea Party and all it entails. (just substitute “They wouldn’t be doing this if the President weren’t a woman” for “They wouldn’t be doing this if the President weren’t an African-American” in the various and assorted criticisms of the Tea Party)

            The real interesting counter-factual is John Edwards getting the nomination then imploding in the general* when his marital infidelity is proven. Then you have in 2011 President McCain with huge possibly veto-proof Democratic majorities in both Houses.

            *if Edwards implodes after, we probably have President Obama due to Section 1 of the 25th Amendment and we’re back to where we are today.

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  2. Chris, I think that E.D. is making this point. The Tea Party is composed of a bunch of Republicans who had no problem containing their anger at the political system until they no longer held the presidency; the – I’m going to be honest here – wh*res in the MSM didn’t consider the deficit or the debt to be the Issue! Which! Must! Be! Solved! Today! (think of Shatner’s voice) until 2009.

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  3. Well yes, E.D. there’s no hawkishness because Republicans have no issue with raising the debt limit when their guy is in the hot seat. But we’d probably have even lower top marginal tax rates and therefore even less revenue to offset the growing debt. We’d probably also have a significantly shrunken federal workforce, and a lot more litigation about how little the feds were doing to protect things like clean water and air.

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  4. My guess is that the stimulus and the 2nd round of TARP would’ve gone almost exactly the same. Health insurance reform wouldn’t have happened. Ditto for financial regulatory reform. There would be a greater but still incredibly small chance for meaningful carbon dioxide regulation. Nominees for just about everything would’ve been confirmed. Souter and (less likely, but probably) Stevens would still be on the bench. If everything else had gone similarly in foreign policy, we’d be on the ground in Libya, affairs would be more tense with Iran, and Georgia and Russian would be at it again.

    If you’re right and this somehow prevented a wave election in 2010, the Federal workforce would be much larger right now, without pay freezes.

    Of course, the conditions that would’ve allowed a McCain victory (stronger economy, mostly) would’ve given him a much freer hand as President, but I’m assuming the scenario is that some scandal brings Obama down in the waning hours of the campaign and McCain wins by default.

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  5. I wonder what it would have been like if my third party (Constitutional Party) candidate (?) had won? Gee, he’d have eliminated useless programs, federal depts, and spending redundancies; ended two useless wars, and set the Justice Dept on to Barney, Chris, and Maxine and their confederates. Hell we might be solvent by now, with a surplus of money in our coffers, and half the employees of the general gummint layed off.

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  6. The real question is if John McCain had won and the same increase in the debt had occured due to stimulus and bailouts, basically continuing what Bush started, except twofold, as Obama has done, you’d see the same rebellious reaction as you see with the Tea Party, or some such group protesting the Big Government madness — maybe even more active since betrayal would be painful.

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        • That was the same small segment of actual fiscal conservatives there’s always been and that small segment never got any real traction among the wider grassroots of the party. I admit for instance, Tom Coburn has always been an actual fiscal conservative for the most part. The vast majority of the Republican Party’s sudden love for deficit reduction? Based on who had the White House.

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      • Oh come on — there was backlash to Bush’s spending, and The Tea Party criticized the Republican Party as much as the Democrats — Bush came on unexpected, and by the time limited government conservatives saw what was going on with banks and bailouts, Obama was already in continuing the assault — this is unfair to critics of Bush on the right — I recall the discontent, especially when Bush weakly apologized by saying he destroyed the free market in order to save the free market. The public has caught up with those of us who have seen both parties as guilty of runaway statism, and they won’t be blindsided by professed conservative again.

        If you think the Tea party is a partisan creation, and that they will be silent once a Republican is in the WH, you are badly mistaken. You should know this Erik — you are a smart observer — so I don’t know understand why you are pretending otherwise.

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        • These short, snarky responses which don’t address the reality and nuances of the issues being discussed are becoming tiresome. At first they were a tad cool, but now they’re just silly and aggravating. I still use them, but I’m trying to quit — they don’t really help much, and the humor is gone.

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        • Yes, that eight years of increases spending caught them off-guard! How they did not notice the increasing deficits, massive new entitlements, and increased spending from the DOE?

          Yes, there was a backlash to the bailouts, but it was a populist reaction, not a conservative reaction. Also, I have no doubt that the Tea Party will continue if a Republican President is elected. But the difference, is much like the pro-life caucus, the anti-gay marriage caucus, and the anti-immigration caucus, they’ll be gesticulated to, but simply ignored once the GOP is in power. The Tea Power can knock off a Senator who’s already weak. It can’t knock off a Republican President.

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          • The spending was about normal for either party, until the wheels started to come off. Plus, I’m old enough to see the changes in the public’s awareness — it’s a recent phenomenon of the Information Age for the public to be paying attention and getting politically involved to the extent the Tea Party started getting involved. For decades, it’s been mainlu special interest groups who were politically active, but I believe 9/11, the Information Age and New Media and Bush’s statist actions that set off the Tea party reaction — it’s just getting started. I predict that if a Republican wins in 2012, he or she will be held to a higher standard than is set for Obama.

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    • Not to harp on the point heavily Mike but your numbers on Obama’s spending are inaccurate. Twofold is a terrible exaggeration when one considers how much of the deficit came from Obama merely dealing with Bush items: putting the wars on the books, continuing the various bailouts, the huge deficit gap caused by Bush’s historic clamp on revenue etc. I’d hazard that saying Obama was spending on the same level as Bush is closer to fair.

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          • Jesse, I’m making my prediction based on other welfare/government programs that were estimated at one amount, then years later it turned out to be much, much higher — I’m older than most of you and I’ve experienced these things over and over with government spending

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        • This is the type of comment that’s designed to inflame, right? But really, given that Obamacare is simply GOP/ROmney care brought to the national level, what’s the actual gripe? It was good enough for Republicans only a few years ago. Have ‘market-based’ solutions to health care problems really changed that much in a decade?

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          • Stillwater, I’m not supporting Republicans and trashing Democrats — why does this always have to be a tit for tat battle — Both parties are guilty of not limiting the power of government — both parties have resided over a statist system which is driving the country into the ground. Sometimes I take up for republicans when the charges are bogus, but when I do, I’m not supporting Republicans as a partisan — I don’t vote Republican, and I don’t democrat — I support facts and fairness and objectivity, and I make predictions based on past evidence. I could be wrong, but I have a lot of evidence to support my views. I don’t do talking points — but I do read a lot of history, economics and political philosophy.

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            • why does this always have to be a tit for tat battle

              It doesn’t. But saying ‘we’ll see about the deficit when the Obamacare kicks in’ seems somewhat partisan, especially since it’s been an effective tool in Mass. with an established record and the CBO projects it actually reduces the deficit on a ten year timeline.

              Maybe I just don’t understand what you’re arguing here. The only truly pressing problem I see is that Medicare is an unfunded liability given the exponential rise in provider rates. I don’t see the other stuff as being at Defcon 1. And the ACA bought some time in dealing with Medicare by eliminating to some extent the employer tax loophole.

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              • You don’t get it. Just because I criticize Obama and Obamacare doesn’t mean that I like Romneycare — I think both parties have been statist and illiberal. Please, try to understand this. I thought Bush did a terrible disservice to freedom — I think Obama is doing a terrible disservice to freedom — I think our statist system of government is slowly/quickly killing freedom and our economy.

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              • SS is a ponzi scheme — it can’t work when people are living so much longer, and now that baby boomers are retiring in great numbers, and since we only have IOUs in the lockbox, it’s headed for disaster — look at the new Cato article on Medicaid fraud — these entitlements are looming like a time bomb. trillions in unfunded liabilites awaiting us in the decades ahead.

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                • Yeah ponzi scheme…SS has lasted for 70 or so years and will go for another 25 or so until there is a problem. So it will go for 100 years total unless we make small changes. Yeah what a “scheme” Oh and like a ponzi scheme its true nature is unknown so people putting their money in are unaware of how the plan works. Well except that SS is completely open and not hidden. Words are fun when you make up new fun meanings.

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                • There has been less variation in the size of birth cohorts than is commonly assumed. If you look at them in 17 cohort sets, you see the largest such set in recent decades is only about 20% larger than the very smallest. Longer life expectancy does create some pressure on the system, but if you have the retirement age on an escalator (which we do) running at an appropriate pace (perhaps we do not), you can defuse the pressure.

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                • Lie. Look at the projections.

                  Mike, perhaps you don’t understand, but people here are not simply accepting right-wing econofraud talking points. And every time you repeat, or double down, or walk slowly backwards, you just cement your reputation.

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      • I’m not saying that Obama persoanlly spent more, but the debt is going up significantly higher at a faster rate than in our history — Obama has contributed, but I’ve said a thousand times — it’s not so much the person in the office, who is temporary, but our statist system — I’m not making a political point, but an objective observation.

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        • It’s not the ‘statist’ system – we’ve seen this before. The GOP spends like crazy when they have a chance, with lots of waste, fraud and abuse. In this case, they trumped it by breaking the economy. Then, when the Democratic Party takes over, the right whines like WATB, with the corporate MSM helping.

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  7. The Tea Party was a side effect of a Keynesian response to the financial crisis. Don’t forget, the Tea Party came out of Rick Santelli’s rant in opposition to the government helping restructure mortgage payments on homes that were “underwater”. This, along with the stimulus, TARP, and the auto bailout were the drivers behind Tea Party rallies. I don’t recall ever seeing a rally calling specifically for medicare, social security, or defense spending cuts, which, if they were to be true to their cause of deficit reduction, should have been the first thing they shouted about (though I know there are many individual exceptions, I speak of the general sentiment). This was true before 2008 and it’s even more true now….The more interesting question to me, besides if they would have existed to the same degree under a McCain administration (call me skeptical), is what they Tea Party does as we look toward our long-term deficit, in the 2012 election and beyond. They can’t complain about the bailouts/TARP (those have been paid back for the most part) and the stimulus (has no impact on our deficit anymore), so are we going to see a mass movement to cut entitlements and defense spending? Are we going to see a mass movement opposing taking away some of the beloved tax breaks of the middle class? Or will the masses become disenchanted, leaving the Tea Party to a much smaller and less influential group of think-tankers, conservative activists, and the like?

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  8. Corp America have kept salaries at
    legalized slave labor levels, fight
    Minimum wage increases, lay off to keep their stock profits for Wall Street. Not to mention
    taking jobs over seas. Now you wonder
    why you have no money in your tax pile?
    You all need a wake up call and be
    sent home and live on unemploent.

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