Political dissatisfaction is at an all time high and people do not feel their positions have been well articulated by either President Obama or candidate Mitt Romney. This week, three nearly identical articles one in the Washington Post, one in the Washington Times, and another in the Opinion pages of the NYT are sternly reminding their candidates that time is of the essence, and if they have any bright ideas now is the time to unveil them. Our go-to news sources have expounded on our respective economic philosophies by The Pauls (that is, Ryan and Krugman) and we are ready to see them translated into action.
Nobody is hoping for a nail-biter and wants their candidate to take the lead position and keep it. Given the extra long election cycles we have come to endure, we are all getting antsy and waiting for the next stage of the political narrative. Both candidates seem to be riding on their numbers and are, as the Washington Times headline suggests, ‘playing it safe’ while they seek new donors on an established message. It is clear from these articles, that we are weary of being campaigned to and want to skip right to the debates.
Unfortunately the deciding issue–the economy–is one which both candidates have somewhat dubious records.
Obama has to contend with yet another dismal month for jobs, which although it is improving, shows no signs of leaping forward. Obama’s case is that he is keeping the boat afloat; having saved America’s auto industry and waiting for these ‘job creators’ (who’ve enjoyed record profits since the 80’s) to make their move. But as Jonathan Rauch points out, Obama needs to respond to this protracted-emergency with newfound leadership, at least just to remind liberals that he’s fighting the good fight. Rauch recommends picking back up the plan for deficit reduction while insisting on infrastructure investment, as well as some plans for more immediate economic stimulation.
Without Simpson-Bowles or something like it, Obama will doubtfully get any fiscal conservatives still on the fence. With the expansion of Medicaid underway and the recently signed Highway Bill (part of which keeps federal student loans from doubling), Obama must also emphasize his commitment to long-term solvency with his short-term plans for growth.
The other half of Obama’s struggle in creating jobs has been a failure of conciliation in between the president and Congress and the Senate. Obama’s 1/2 trillion-dollar American Jobs Act fell flat in the Senate, getting 50 of the necessary 60 votes, and three months later, they were able to pass the bipartisan, but largely ineffectual Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which removed some of the more arcane investment regulations (lowering the time in which a company can register public offerings, increasing the threshold of shareholders before it can register as common stock with the SEC, etc.)
Congressional inaction and the lack of conciliation has forced Obama to pass little more than relief measures. Extensions of unemployment, tax breaks (i.e. the extension of the Bush tax cuts) designed as stimulus packages, business incentives and energy tax breaks. Although this was called “the most significant tax bill in nearly a decade,” due to the many budgetary tradeoffs it was expected to produce what it has produced, anemic growth.
The ability to fix the economy is touted as Romney’s greatest asset (if not his only one), and while he’s not enchanting the pants off most Republicans–having successfully implemented Obamacare at the state level, and contradicted himself on just about every issue which falls under the purview of Commander in Chief–he remains conservatives’ only viable vehicle for putting steep austerity measures and tax breaks in place.
Similarly, Romney’s own supporters are calling his plans for growth, “muddled at best.” Even his 59 point plan leaves much to the imagination and hasn’t stood up well against the scrutiny of economists.
Obama has spared no air-time in characterizing Romney’s record as one of a ‘vulture capitalist’ who has created more foreign jobs than American ones. It is hard to argue this point, and while Romney’s record of salvaging failing companies and maximizing top-end profits is impressive, in extrapolating it to a complex and diverse economy–it is difficult to see how Romney will change much for the middle class.
His argument is that lowering taxes will do two things, stimulate growth and pay down the deficit. While those two things are potentially true, they are only true if you seriously plan on shrinking the government.
I believe Romney was the last Republican candidate standing because of his perceived pragmatism and business record. He has backed off some of the more serious statements made by other candidates in the field and made the largest block of Republican voters–well-off suburban and exurbanites–feel reasonable about latching onto a Tea Party argument. He said that Rick Perry calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme was taking it too far. He also said “taking a trillion dollars out of a $15 trillion economy would cause our economy to shrink [and] would put a lot of people out of work.” to Ron Paul’s austerity proposals. So his goals are a little more practicable, he seems a little more reasonable, more like a businessman than a revolutionary. So, what is he going to cut?
Well, so far Romney has told us he’s striking down Obamacare for the tax imposition, but has promised voters that many of its popular elements are worth keeping (preventing insurance companies from denying people with pre-existing conditions, keeping children on their parents plan until 26, letting the fed help the states so more people have access, let people keep their own insurance). Without keeping healthcare heavily privatized, I’m puzzled as to what fat Romney is going to trim, as what he’s suggesting would cost more than Medicare and Medicaid plans do now. According to a CBS poll, 61% of Americans, and 41% of Tea Party members think Medicare is worth the money it costs, despite it being the biggest chunk of federal spending.
Mitt said in the GOP debate at Dartmouth that “we need to change the way we’re funding [Social Security]” and that if we: raise the age slightly, offer it sooner to those lower income, and adjust for inflation PRESTO, an almost 1 trillion dollar program paid for from sources other than taxes. Forgive me if I’m not gushing over such fiscal wizardry.
The third chunk is defense, and although Obama hasn’t pledged to drastically reduce troops until 2014, Romney is calling for more troops and thus more spending.
So, we must be missing something right? We know Mitt signed the Norquist pledge for the ’08 election, so he can’t raise taxes on the middle class, and we know he’s not going to raise corporate taxes, because that’s his jobs plan. If he’s cutting taxes on all classes in the U.S., and planning only to perform some slight adjustments to the three areas which essentially account for our budget woes, it truly begs the question: how are all these programs going to be paid for?
It is my hope we get that answer, and many other answers from our party candidates. We are all waiting to be galvanized with a cogent plan for economic growth and budgetary control. As it is, we’ve seen neither from either in this campaign. Your move fellas.