Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Hollow Man Without a Plan

Mitt Romney is not a very charismatic leader. He is not an exciting, dynamic speaker. He doesn’t have a strong connection with the dreams and aspirations of ordinary Americans. He isn’t a terribly experienced politician. His career, working as a leveraged-buyout king, has not equipped him with stories or policies attuned to the plight of working Americans. Mitt Romney is not a man of firm principles or of great integrity.

Romney does have several advantages as a presidential candidate. He looks the part. He’s smooth and adaptable. He has an uncanny capacity to simultaneously adopt any and all positions that he finds advantageous and can do so with such calm confidence that the contradictions are all but obscured.

Romney is the ultimate business consultant - pliable and prepared. He has a unshakable smile on his face and a blizzard of numbers at his disposal. Mitt’s mr-fix-it appeal comes, in no small part, from the promise that he is prepared to deal with the twin demons of our age:

  • Unemployment is high and has been for the last four years.
  • Our budget deficits are vast and unsustainable.

On the unemployment question Romney is quite specific. His 5 point plan will create 12 million jobs in 4 years. On deficit reduction, he is less specific, but promises to “put an end to deficit spending”. Accomplishing these two tasks would be a great and worthy accomplishment. Unfortunately, the plans to do so do not exist, and these claims are largely fraudulent.

When asked for the reasoning behind their 12 million jobs number, the Romney campaign cited one study that said his tax policies would generate 7 million jobs, another that claimed his energy policies would create 3 million jobs, and a third that supported the idea that Romney’s China policy would save 2 million jobs.  

7 + 3 + 2 = 12 million jobs.

The problem with claiming that Romney’s tax plan will create 7 million jobs is that Romney doesn’t really have a tax plan. He has some vague principles that call for lowering rates and eliminating deductions. The study necessarily ignore the effect of eliminating the unspecified deductions. And it has a timeline of 10 years. Not 4.

The energy policy claims are even more slippery. The cited study looked at current energy policy over the next 8 years. Current energy policy is the Obama administration’s policies, not Romney’s. It’s good to hear that it’ll create millions of jobs. But claims that those jobs will be the result of Romney policies are groundless.

And the China policy numbers are pure fiction. The cited study there claims that Chinese copyright and piracy policies have cost American’s 2 million jobs. There is no chance that a Romney administration will cause a an immediate change in Chinese law or that it will have an immediate effect on US employment.

Romney’s job numbers are highly dubious. His deficit reduction plan is worse. Romney calls for full extension of the Bush tax cuts, then another 20% reduction in tax rates, two trillion dollars in additional military spending, and extra $716 billion in Medicare spending.

They promise to cut spending and reduce tax deductions to pay for it all. But Republicans will need to come up with 7 trillion dollars in tax increases and spending cuts to pay for their promises. Of course, they have specified almost nothing about where this $7 trillion is supposed to come from. And even if they find the money, that would just get us back to the astronomical deficits we have now. Any real deficit reduction would have to be on top of that. Somehow.

Romney doesn’t feel your pain. But he wants you to think he has a plan to ease it. He doesn’t.

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