George Graham

Fantasy Island Math


I spent a couple of hours on Fantasy Island last night. Actually, it was more than a couple of hours. I thought the main Republican debate was to start at 8 p.m. my time. But it started at 8 p.m. Wisconsin time, which is an hour later. I should have known Scott Walker’s state would be behind the times.

I unintentionally caught some of the minor league debate, and got to hear Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal expound on America’s economy. I don’t remember much of what they had to say, except that Chris Christie doesn’t seem to like Hillary Clinton.

I remember Bobby Jindal, though. His eyes are going to give me nightmares. How did they get so close together? He kept trying to pick a fight with Christie but the New Jersey governor wouldn’t bite. He wanted to get it on with Hillary.

As for the main event, it was a big yawn with most candidates spinning fairy tales about the rosy future they have in mind for the country. They use a magical kind of math, in which the more you spend the more you have left. Somehow, if you give corporations and the rich lavish tax cuts and shower billions of dollars on the Pentagon, you will magically balance the national budget.

That line of reasoning was challenged only by Rand Paul, who kept protesting that it wasn’t really “conservative.” But he didn’t get much traction with the moderators – or the audience.

Apparently using this magical math, Ted Cruz added four government departments together and came up with five. Here’s how he did it:

Five major agencies that I would eliminate: the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, uh, the Department of Commerce, and HUD.

Nobody asked what the fifth department was.

Cruz must have learned his math from Rick (“Oops”) Perry.

On Fantasy Island, debaters can pull facts out of thin air without being challenged. Ben Carson blithely claimed that unemployment goes up whenever the minimum wage is raised, for instance. That’s just something he made up on the spur of the moment. It isn’t true. You can look it up.

Carson also asserted that China is involved in the Syrian conflict, and nobody raised an eyebrow. China? In Syria? Where did he get that intelligence?

Carly Fiorina also makes up statistics as she goes along, ignoring those pesky fact checkers. And Donald Trump has just as little regard for the facts. Last night, he imperiously added China to the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, and shrugged it off when Rand Paul called him on it.

Trump also claimed he had met Vladimir Putin when they both appeared on Sixty Minutes. Actually, he was interviewed in New York and Putin was interviewed in Moscow. They weren’t even in the same segment of the program.

But it’s all OK on Fantasy Island There, you can achieve 4 percent economic growth just by urging Americans to work harder, create millions of jobs by cutting the bosses’ taxes, restore America’s global preeminence by antagonizing the rest of the world and effortlessly lift the struggling American middle caass out of the mire – all with the aid of magical math.

Of course, there was shouting and interruptions and loutish behavior last night. It wouldn’t have been a Republican debate if there wasn’t.

Carly Fiorina was such a pest that Trump was moved to ask – rhetorically – why she kept interrupting everybody. But it was John Kasich who really stood out in the madding crowd’s ignoble strife. He swaggered and bragged, and kept butting in. Any chance he might have had of improving his poll numbers must surely have vanished.

Who “won”? Who knows? I’ll have to wait for the polls.

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About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for