The American presidential election this year has shown all of the resiliency and pugnacity of a beauty pageant cum boxing match. Both contestants had their moments in the spotlight, particularly at the conventions, where they sparkled alone. Both have sparred against each other in their two previous debates. Each is preparing for that day in early November when the electorate will cast their selections for the most important executive position in the United States, and indeed the world.
What have we learned so far? We have seen both candidates stumble, at times. Both have displayed vulnerability, and both have exhibited determination and leadership skills. How to choose?
In normal times of peace, barring some major problem, a first-term president usually gets reelected. In times of war, a first-term president likewise is reelected. President Lincoln said “You don’t change horses in mid-stream.” How does this translate to this year’s situation, when the country is not fully at peace? Does there lurk some major reason why President Obama should not merit reelection?
The principal issue driving this election is the state of the domestic economy: few are happy with it. Does this qualify as the major problem that could stymie Obama’s reelection bid? During the early stages of the election, Romney appeared to believe that to win he needed only to say that the economy is bad and that he would do better. This argument is weak, as the economy is clearly improving – unemployment is significantly lower and the prospects for a full recovery by 2014, or perhaps even in 2013, seems most likely.
When challenged as to the details of his recovery plan, Romney offered only the tired ineffective solutions of the Bush administration, including the lowering of taxes for the very wealthy and everyone in the economy will benefit. This proposal received a setback by Romney’s inability to present any study that would confirm his thesis. Moreover, the recent official study by the Congressional Research Service on September 14, 2012, concluded:
The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appear to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.
The report goes on to say that a difference in the tax rates for the very wealthy only influences the percentage of the national wealth owned by these very individuals. In other words, the rich get richer because they pay less in taxes.
Other than lowering taxes for the very wealthy, Romney said that he would eliminate some tax deductions; which deductions he did not say. Would they be some of the same deductions that he used to lower his own personal tax rate to 14 percent, or are they the type of deductions that would affect mostly middle-class taxpayers, such as the mortgage interest rate deduction? Romney would not specify.
It was Bush’s economic policies that brought on the recession. The same type of thinking will not help America get out of the recession. Different thinking is required.
On social issues, the Republican platform proposes radical changes, including criminalizing abortions, limiting contraception availability, and weakening Social Security and Medicare. Why would women choose to support a president who promises to dictate to women how they are to deal with their own bodies? Why would the many Americans who are dependent on Social Security and Medicare jeopardize their futures? Why would the many Americans who look forward to proper medical coverage under Obamacare vote for a candidate who wants to dismantle the same type of medical care plan that he championed while Governor of Massachusetts?
Romney has thus far failed to present any cogent argument for his election based upon domestic issues.
Note: This blog was written before the third debate featuring foreign policy. I am reserving discussion on these issues until after the debate.