Political Capital with John Harwood

Presidential Politics: Your Emails And My Replies

We’re starting something new on Political Capital: periodically I will post and answer some of your emails. Here’s a selection of what I’ve received in recent days. Keep those notes coming.

Dear CNBC - I have enjoyed your coverage of the 2008 Presidential Primaries.
I am interested in knowing if Senator Clinton's campaign is directly or indirectly paying her husband for the speeches that he is making on her behalf. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why the Clintons have been reluctant to make their tax returns public.
Perhaps you could ask her campaign to respond to the question. Thank you.
Jeffrey Koshel Washington, DC

--Jeffrey: Thanks much. The Clinton campaign assures me that in fact the former President is NOT receiving compensation for his campaign speeches on behalf of his wife. I believe it’s more likely that the Clintons have not yet released their tax returns for reasons having to do with the former president’s income from business deals--though she indicated in this week’s MSNBC debate that she plans to release them later this year.

To: Political Capital
Subject: (no subject)
My impression is that "moveon.org" was the impetus behind Mr. Gore, President CLinton's vice president and partner. IT seems odd, then, that they do not support Mrs. Clinton. Is this another "Take a poll and go with what is popular" move by moveon?

--MoveOn was formed as a response to the GOP drive to remove President Clinton from office during the Lewinsky scandal. But the organization has increasingly evolved into an anti-war political force, and the membership’s endorsement decision reflects in large part Barack Obama’s profile as an opponent of the Iraq war from the beginning, while Hillary Clinton voted to authorize the war.

There are lots of concerns about how quickly money can get into consumer’s hands and whether they’ll actually spend it. Here’s an idea (perhaps better suited for the next time this is needed):
The government gives everyone a debit card (or something similar) that initially has no funds. The cards might be issued by Visa/MasterCard and accepted everywhere just like regular debit cards. When stimulus is needed, the government electronically funds the accounts associated with each card. They can also put an expiration date on the funds. This would get money in consumer’s hands instantly, and would also force them to spend it.
Thanks, Craig Chadwick

--Craig: now that is a interesting idea. But given that fact that it’s hard enough for Washington to simply distribute checks in a timely fashion, I wouldn’t expect to see “use it or lose it” debate cards anytime soon!

Republicans say the U.S. Economy is fundamentally strong (only needing a few tweeks). Supply-Side Republicans (like L. Kudlow) constantly point out that our record federal deficits are not hurting our economy because they are only about 1% of GDP (versus ~4% in Reagan years).
On the flip side, Republican candidates for President constantly rail against run away federal spending (which appears to be just domestic spending and not on things like the war in Iraq).
So which Republican economic argument is correct? Are the record federal deficits (including off-balance sheet funding for the War in Iraq) a significant issue impacting our economy?
Steve Segrest

--Steve: Economists I talk to make a short-term, long-term distinction. In the short-term, deficits at level Washington is now running have done little harm to the nation’s economic health--and might have even helped. In the long-run, however, there’s a big problem with the insolvency of both the Medicare and Social Security systems. That looming tide of red-ink makes the current deficits--from domestic programs and the Iraq war alike--look like pocket change.

I had a question for one of your reporters (probably John Harwood). I was wondering which remaining candidate for President is the "friendliest" to the pharmaceutical industry? Thank you.

--Jim: Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have targeted pharmaceutical companies in their campaign rhetoric, in particular their desire to allow the government to negotiate lower prices for federal health programs and to allow the importation of less expensive drugs from abroad. Of the three remaining major candidates, there’s little doubt that John McCain will be seen by the industry as “friendliest."

Questions?  Comments?  Write to politicalcapital@cnbc.com.