Back in 1968, Alabama Governor George Wallace thundered that “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats.” Wallace’s famous quote sprung to mind last night as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama squared off in their second debate.
Surely there were differences between them, but to watch the debate was to see two candidates vying to say who would cut taxes the least for top earners, who would “crack down” most on China, and who believed the most in an “all of the above” energy strategy. Neither said much of import, if at all, each candidate won certain segments, but the impossible to escape conclusion was just how unimpressive both candidates were.
It was like two beginners playing tennis with each other, neither able to hit the ball over the net. Both deserve to lose.
Romney responded that (all quotes paraphrased) “We’ll have to make a college education more affordable for all, and I’ll do this through growth of the Pell Grant program.” The problem, of course, is that it’s the federal government’s existing subsidization of college loans through programs like the Pell Grant that reduce the incentives for colleges and universities to lower tuition costs. And then in promoting a boost in Pell Grant funding, Romney’s calling for more of the same whereby the feds take money from one set of American hands, and place those funds in the hands of others. On the street this would be called theft, but when politicians propose it, it’s “compassion.”
After that, Romney basically repeated the same line over and over again: “I know what it takes to create jobs, and I’m going to make sure you get a job.” The president as our nanny, one supposes. The sad thing is that Romney, far more than Obama, does know how to create jobs, but to explain how he does he’d have to be more up front that he’s rich precisely because he’s expert at turning around companies.
Obama’s response was no better. He added his support for expanding the Pell Grant program that makes college more expensive, and then “bragged” that funding for Pell Grants had already increased during his deficit-ridden presidency.
On jobs specifically, the nanny standard bearer for the Democrats said “We need good jobs, jobs that can support a family.” Having said this, he then said that he wanted to create manufacturing jobs which, even if he could, would in today’s world at best foot the bill for a Starbuck’s latte – once a day. Barack Obama to families: Drop dead!
Moderator Candy Crowley followed up with a query about what either candidate would do about the high number of jobless Americans overall.
This segment went to Romney for the former governor pointing out that the unemployment rate is the same today as when Obama entered office. He added that the number is only 7.8% because so many have exited the labor force due to a lack of job opportunities.
Obama responded with his stock line about 5 million jobs created since he entered office, plus his wildly questionable assertion that he saved 1 million automobile jobs; jobs that would have disappeared under Romney for the latter having wanted to send GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy. Romney’s response was fairly good for him pointing out that Obama too took the ailing carmakers into bankruptcy; Romney simply having wanted to do it the normal way (you know, without the fleecing of secured creditors, gifting the automakers to the UAW) whereby the company continues to operate while restructuring its debt.
In the next question Obama was asked about Energy Secretary Steven Chu having admitted three different times that he’d like to see gasoline prices higher.
Obama predictably talked up how much oil and natural gas exploration has increased during his administration, then pivoted to the green energy he likes so much, and then proclaimed that he would “not cede green energy jobs to China and Germany.” Funny how much us taxpayers have had to pay so that Obama could pursue his green fantasy, and as for China and Germany, if taxpayers in both countries are so eager to fund the economic lie that is green energy, and if skeptics like this one turn out to be wrong, the good news is that we’ll be able to import the energy at a market price as though it was conceived in Berkeley. Does anyone want to bet me on my assertion that green energy will never be able to stand on its own absent major subsidies? Can I pay you back ten lifetimes from now when you win the bet?
Romney then predictably responded that yes, oil and gas exploration is up under Obama, but none of it on federal lands. He also brought up a criminal action the Obama administration took against a producer in North Dakota. And then ever a me-too candidate, Romney said he too was for an “all of the above energy plan”, which on its own is strange for someone who claims to believe in the free market; free markets surely devoid of national energy plans. Puzzling to this writer is why Romney didn’t attack Obama again for not just the costs of his green energy fantasies, but also how much of the companies funded are now bankrupt. A lost opportunity for Romney.
Romney perhaps drew blood for pointing out that a gallon of gas in Nasssau was $1.84 when Obama entered office, and now it’s $4. Obama drew blood in return with his reminder that gasoline was relatively cheap when he entered office precisely because the U.S. economy was collapsing under Republican policies that Romney would supposedly like to revive. Of course neither made the obvious point that gasoline is only expensive insofar as the Obama dollar is very cheap; Obama failing to make that point for obvious reasons, Romney failing to make it because his economic advisers such as Greg Mankiw actually support the Treasury and Fed’s so far successful, and economy wrecking efforts to debase the greenback.
On taxes, Romney was asked what tax deductions he would limit in order to cut taxes for all Americans across the board.
Notable here was that the questioner pointed out the good in the Romney tax plan (20% across the board cuts for all earners); this something Romney has so far been reluctant to do given his odd and frustrating desire to not appear to support a reduction in the price of work for the top 1% in this country whose economic achievements improve all of our lives on a daily basis. Instead, Romney went out of his way yet again to oddly brag that the top 5% would still account for 60% of federal revenues (and you thought Obama was a socialist), while all the benefits would come to middle earners whose tax savings by virtue of them being middle earners can’t move the investment dial that leads to job creation. After that, Romney’s implicit message to middle income types with designs on making it into the 1% is essentially “If you have the temerity to achieve so much that you enter the 1%, your penalty will be higher taxes.” Romney’s the growth candidate. No seriously, he is.
Obama was naturally no better. He, much like his taxation doppelganger in Romney promised middle class tax relief, though in his case he proposed doing the impossible whereby he would try to fleece top earners even more than at present in order to close the deficit. Lots of luck with that. He then added that “Governor Romney thinks it’s fair and that it grows the economy when people making $20 million a year pay a lower tax rate than those making $50,000. That does not grow the economy.” Actually, Mr. President,it does grow the economy when you lower the tax burden on the vital few whose exploits elevate our economic existence, not to mention that any income not taxed away by the feds morphs into investment, investment authors all company formation, and through company formation there’s job creation. Economic growth is easy, though you wouldn’t know it from listening to either of the candidates.
Obama then asserted that Romney thinks economic growth can only occur if capital gains taxes on the rich are maintained at their present rate of 15%. Romney should have answered him in the affirmative, that capital gains taxes are a cost placed on investment, that if you want more jobs you need more investment, and that the job-maximizing capital gains rate is zero, but instead he repeated for seemingly the 6th time his platitudinous line about how “I know what it takes to create jobs, and my five point plan will get us there.” Those listening to the debate on the radio probably thought they were listening to a 4th grade debate, as opposed to a faceoff between two men vying to lead the richest, most important nation on earth. Seriously, we used to be a serious country with serious leaders.
On male/female income disparities, Obama talked about enforcing laws, ending discrimination and more education, and then Romney talked about how he made a point when governor to get more women into his cabinet. There was a time when Republicans decried affirmative action.
Up next was a question from an undecided voter who, though disappointed in our progress the last four years, is similarly worried that Romney would bring us back to the Bush policies that she similarly didn’t like. Good taste, this questioner.
Romney’s response brought new meaning to the word hopeless. Once again he trotted out his “Five Point Plan”, after which he talked up a rush to energy independence that would cripple us economically for violating comparative advantage, then he said “I’ll crack down on China, Bush didn’t.” Actually Bush bashed the Chinese too, and the result was a severely debased dollar that drove oil to nosebleed heights, and a horrifying increase of investment into the sink of wealth that is housing (the middle classes have to hedge governmental destruction of the dollar too) which led to a recession, and then led to a financial crisis thanks to massive bipartisan support of bank bailouts. And then channeling Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, two presidential candidates who pandered to the little guy on the way to landslide presidential losses, Romney said “I’m for small business, Bush wasn’t.” Ok, the problem here is that though small businesses create lots of jobs, they tend to be able to thanks to their proximity to large businesses. Rest assured, absent big business, there would be very few small businesses.
In his response, Obama once again blamed the Bush administration for all of the economic problems during his own presidency, then he turned to Romney and said “Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.” Second graders could doubtless relate to the two candidates as they tried to out-protectionist one another.
The next question went to Obama. The questioner had voted for Obama in 2008, didn’t think things were so hot economically in 2012, so how would they be different if Obama were handed a second term.
Obama naturally blamed Bush yet again before talking about the 5 million jobs he created. Romney perhaps did a little better in response as he rattled off the economic statistics of what is Obama’s failed economic presidency. Romney noted that during Reagan’s recovery, and despite a much smaller population, two times as many jobs were created. He then had a good line about how Obama “is great at describing his vision, but his record doesn’t match his rhetoric.” Round to Romney, flyweight division.
And then Obama took the next round when a Hispanic woman asked about their immigration policies for productive, but illegal immigrants. Romney gave the usual GOP line about how he wants immigration, if it’s legal. “But I won’t grant amnesty to illegals”, and then he talked about his support of a computer system that would crack down on companies that hire illegals. No joke, we used to be a free country, and Republicans used to be into freedom.
Obama seemed reasonable after Romney in the sense that he acknowledged the truth that we’re a nation of immigrants, not to mention the happy truth that the world’s talented still want to come to the U.S. Obama then opened himself up to major smackdown from Romney when he noted that the illegal inflow of workers across the border is the lowest it’s been in 40 years. Romney could have easily said that the “inflow has plummeted precisely because your economy is so bad”, but to do so, he would have had to acknowledge just how foolish is his own immigration stance. Round to Obama, featherweight division.
And then they returned to jobs, and a questioner asked what both would do about outsourcing; outsourcing the economically stimulative process whereby low value work is sent overseas, the outflow of jobs boosts profits for U.S. companies, then those U.S. companies use their profits to expand while creating higher-paying jobs stateside. If we didn’t send jobs overseas, we’d be a very poor country for so many Americans still stuck in low value work. In short, outsourcing is beautiful.
Not to these two amateurs. In Romney’s case, as though he felt he hadn’t stressed enough his plan to start an economy-wrecking, stock market crashing trade war with China, the former governor, as if on auto-pilot talked up again his promise to “crack down” on China in order to bring jobs back to the U.S.
And then Obama, never one to let a bad, economy crippling idea go unanswered, followed up with his own bad idea, contradicting himself in the process. Specifically, he drooled that “Some jobs won’t come back to America because they’re low wage and low skill, and that’s why I want to bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States.” Translated: “Low wage, low skilled jobs aren’t coming back to America, so I want to bring low wage, low skilled jobs back to America.”
Last night’s debate has to be considered a draw, albeit one in which both fighters punched themselves out in the first round. It was truly an embarrassing night for each candidate, and as the world was watching, an embarrassing night for the United States more broadly. It’s been said that “When a Democrat runs against a Democrat, a Democrat wins.” I’ll have neither.
Oct 18, 2012
The “spontaneous” questions from audience members are actually pre-screened, and even the moderator is forbidden from asking follo...:
Gawker’s John Cook succinctly sums up the rigged debates:
Leaked Debate Agreement Shows Both Obama and Romney are Sniveling Cowards
Both campaigns are terrified at anything even remotely spontaneous happening.
They aren’t permitted to ask each other questions, propose pledges to each other, or walk outside a “predesignated area.” And for the town-hall-style debate tomorrow night, the audience members posing questions aren’t allowed to ask follow-ups (their mics will be cut off as soon as they get their questions out). Nor will moderator Candy Crowley.
Glenn Greenwald notes:
The moderators were selected to ensure that nothing unexpected is asked and that only the most staid and establishment views are heard. As journalism professor Jay Rosen put it when the names of the moderators were unveiled, using terms to describe those views that are acceptable in Washington media circles and those which are “fringe”:
“In order to be considered as a candidate for moderator you have to be soaked in the sphere of consensus, likely to stay within the predictable inner rings of the sphere of legitimate controversy, and unlikely in the extreme to select any questions from the sphere of deviance.”
Here then, within this one process of structuring the presidential debates, we have every active ingredient that typically defines, and degrades, US democracy. The two parties collude in secret. The have the same interests and goals. Everything is done to ensure that the political process is completely scripted and devoid of any spontaneity or reality.
All views that reside outside the narrow confines of the two parties are rigidly excluded. Anyone who might challenge or subvert the two-party duopoly is rendered invisible.
Lobbyists who enrich themselves by peddling their influence run everything behind the scenes. Corporations pay for the process, which they exploit and is then run to bolster rather than threaten their interests. The media’s role is to keep the discourse as restrictive and unthreatening as possible while peddling the delusion that it’s all vibrant and free and independent and unrestrained. And it all ends up distorting political realities far more than illuminating them while wildly exaggerating the choices available to citizens and concealing the similarities between the two parties.
To understand the US political process, one can just look to how these sham debates are organized and how they function. This is the same process that repeats itself endlessly in virtually every other political realm.
Indeed, the Republican and Democratic parties have long formed Gentlemen’s agreements – through the “Presidential Debate Commission” – on what topics are “off-limits” (and which journalists can even ask questions) during presidential debates:
As this 4-minute video shows, – they both ignore the desires of their own bases:
The Founding Fathers warned – at the very birth of our nation – against a two-party system as being destructive to liberty.
If we opened the debates up to third parties, it would show how similar the GOP and Democratic Party really are: