Wednesday night’s presidential debate between Gov. Romney and President Obama was a theatrical display of attempted quips and zingers meant to excite the emotions of the American voting bloc whose political education derives from sound bites and rerun gaffes.
Romney seemed poised and aggressive, while Obama looked haggard and indifferent, light-years (or maybe just a presidential term) away from the hyped and soaring rhetoric displayed in 2008. The duo quibbled over the debt, health care, entitlements; essentially who gets what of government handouts.
However, they displayed few philosophical disagreements over the role of government and its impact on our lives. Obama clearly desires more government solutions to shore up the unforeseen consequences of previous government solutions, while Romney seems to believe that while government is still the solution, he just needs to emplace the right bureaucrats in the right places to fix America’s ills.
With this in mind, what are the key differences between the candidates?
Romney desires to lower the corporate tax and reduce deductions; a worthy goal, but why stop at 25 percent when our northern neighbor has a corporate tax at 15 percent? Meanwhile the president yearns only to rewrite the loopholes in the corporate tax code to favor his pet projects instead of the status quo. If he is truly sincere, why did he dally for two years when the Democrats had a power monopoly on the federal government?
The faux argument on the national debt was also laughable. Bragging about token cuts and ferreting out petty fraud scores the president few points when the nation suffers from chronic trillion dollar deficits. Meanwhile Romney’s promise to reign in the president’s budget busting ways seems to fall flat since his running mate Paul Ryan’s draconian budget plan cannot balance the budget (never mind pay down the deficit) until 2040.
Also, let’s not forget the greatest fallacy in this whole argument. Because of the automatic increases entailed in baseline budgeting, nobody is really talking about cuts; they are only musing about softening future budget growth.
On entitlements, once again we see a sorry argument. Obama sees no trouble ahead for either Medicare or Social Security, even declaring Social Security “structurally sound.” What is sound about the program is questionable; the government has for decades raided the fund for its own uses and replaced the revenue with treasuries that must be redeemed with more borrowing from China. This was bad enough when the program was running at a surplus, but now benefits are outstripping revenue, and the program is projected to go bankrupt in the coming years.
Meanwhile, Romney seems to desire to reform current Medicare with even more government programs. He spoke about keeping Medicare intact but adding an additional concurrent voucher program, with the elderly deciding which is more lucrative. Of course anyone would naturally choose whatever program delivers greater benefits, so how this reigns in Medicare spending is ambiguous.
Romney also seeks to repeal only the unpopular parts of Obamacare, but the popular parts of the president’s health care scheme are only feasible when penalties (or taxes?) apply to coerce intended behavior.
If either candidate wanted a substantive debate on domestic issues, perhaps they could have raised some of the following questions: how will the Federal Reserve’s easy money affect future growth? Is there a difference between military and defense spending? Mr. President, why did you re-authorize parts of the Patriot Act and sign the National Defense Authorization Act and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act? Mr. Romney, do you agree with the president’s curbing of our liberties and privacy?
By glossing over substantive issues and catering to those whose votes depend on which candidate can deliver more government freebies, we are mortgaging our future on today’s political platitudes. Both Obama and Romney are performing a tired rhetorical tap dance on our nation’s coffin.