Archive for November, 2012

The Time Element of Romney’s 47% Comment

November 25, 2012

This is old news at this point, but one thing that really bothered me about Romney’s 47% comment was that I didn’t hear any discussion of how income and access to government funds change throughout one’s life.

For example, on the tax side, plenty of people do not have to pay federal income tax because they’re very young and simply don’t make very much money, or they’re old and retired.

On the benefits side, pretty much the entire population will be eligible for social security and medicare at some point (to say nothing of other federal benefits. So when Romney criticized 47% of Americans for supposedly not paying income taxes and leeching off of the government, he was really criticizing 100% of Americans, since everyone other than a tiny sliver of the population will a.) pay income taxes and/or (probably “and”) b.) receive federal benefits. I would have liked to see the Democrats exploit this fact in more campaign ads or op-eds, and am surprised that they didn’t. Or did they, and I just missed it? I read a lot of liberal blogs and don’t recall seeing much discussion of it.

This post was prompted by a comment I saw in Scott Sumner’s excellent blog, “The Money Illusion:”

If ever there was a political party that deserved to lose an election, it was the brain dead GOP of 2012.  The party that thinks the fact that 47% of the public pays no income taxes means that 47% of the public pays no income taxes EVER.  (Do these people not have 19 year olds in college, or 75 year old parents on Social Security?)

Now the brain dead GOP has shown its skill at high stakes poker by countering Obama’s offer of a 39.6% high rate, with a counter-offer of 41.0%.  Let’s put aside the fact that the brain dead GOP doesn’t even seem to know that Obama’s actually proposing a 43.4% top rate, which means the brain dead GOP counter is 44.8%, or 53% in Sweden err California.

 

The Election

November 8, 2012

I voted for Gary Johnson, but I’m glad that Obama won this thing.

The whole “Obama is a socialist” meme always perplexed me, as I’m not convinced that McCain or anyone else would have been able to do anything too different over the past couple of years. Much of the spending to come through has been in the form of automatic stabilizers such as food stamps and unemployment benefits, and if a Republican administration wouldn’t have increased the debt through fiscal stimulus, they would surely have done it through tax cuts instead. It’s worrying to see so little serious discussion of long-term deficit reduction, but team Romney hasn’t exactly been forthright on what they would do, either. Obama deserves credit for, at the very least, preventing the economy from dropping off a cliff.

As far as Mitt Romney goes, I was initially quite receptive to him. He struck me as a pragmatic, center-right technocrat, which I assume is his natural governing style. His awkwardness also became very endearing after a while. As the months went on and we got closer to the election, however, I became increasingly convinced that he was utterly void of character and was willing to say anything in order to get elected. I operate under the assumption that all politicians are liars who will say anything to get elected, but Romney was just particularly craven in this regard. Other people, such as Andrew Sullivan, have chronicled the numerous lies that he spewed in the debates, often claiming that he didn’t believe in something that he only recently did an about face on.

If I thought that Romney was just doing this to get elected and would settle into being a enter-right moderate in office, I could forgive his flip flopping. But I’m not convinced that there’s any substance underneath it all. The comparisons to Patrick Bateman are not unfounded:

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There is an idea of a Mitt Romney; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real [Mitt]: only an entity, something illusory. And though [he] can hide [his] cold gaze, and you can shake [his] hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable… [he] simply [is] not there.”

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The Republican party is completely off the rails on many issues. When it comes to business and free markets I much prefer their rhetoric to what we’ve been hearing from Obama (I think that the “you didn’t build that” remark was actually worse in context), but in reality they want to spend just as much and give as many goodies to their friends as anyone else in Washington. It’s amazing to think that “tax and spend” is (or was) an epithet directed towards liberals when “spend and cut taxes” is much worse. And they’re of course very unsound when it comes to gay marriage and abortion.

The choice between wishing for a Romney win vs. wishing for an Obama win, for me, boils down to voting for a party that is somewhat competent and interested in governing versus a party that is uninterested in governing and nearly drove the country over a cliff last summer with the debt crisis. I have no interest in voting for a shell of a candidate who is willing to do anything to please a party that disproportionally consists of unhinged lunatics and is nominally lead by Rush Limbaugh.

I really wish that the Republicans were at least somewhat competent, as there is much that I don’t like about Obama: the drone strikes, the medical marijuana crackdowns, and the administration’s overall attitude towards business and markets. But until they shake out the crazies I think that the Republican vs. Democrat choice is one between competence versus gross negligence. I think that The Economist, as usual, summed it all up well:

“This election offers American voters an unedifying choice. Many of The Economist’s readers, especially those who run businesses in America, may well conclude that nothing could be worse than another four years of Mr Obama. We beg to differ. For all his businesslike intentions, Mr Romney has an economic plan that works only if you don’t believe most of what he says. That is not a convincing pitch for a chief executive. And for all his shortcomings, Mr Obama has dragged America’s economy back from the brink of disaster, and has made a decent fist of foreign policy. So this newspaper would stick with the devil it knows, and re-elect him.”
– The Economist’s 2012 Endorsement