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The Candidates 2012

The Candidates and the Economy 2012 - Page 2


Unemployment

We have technically seen job growth in the last thirty months, but the fact that unemployment remains above eight percent is proof positive that we haven't seen nearly enough of it. Our economy is growing at an anemic one percent--which is not enough to keep up with the population, much less count as an actual economic recovery--and at that rate, we will never see unemployment where it was four years ago. Again, I don't care about assigning blame; I care about solving the problem. Spending large amounts of taxpayer dollars, raising taxes to help afford it, and tightening controls on businesses and Wall Street can only make the unemployment situation worse, especially in the long run. It's hard to divorce the unemployment figure from other economic concerns--since the only viable solutions involve solving those other problems--but it is important to talk specifically about jobs, as that is the most visible way Americans are hurting. My ideal candidate would not talk about "deregulation" as some kind of catch-all bogeyman responsible for all of society's ills, and would instead talk about how to create incentives for growth by increasing the liberties of individuals and the free market. If the market is allowed to prosper, jobs will quickly follow.

Out of work stormtrooper
Google images seems extremely worried about the plight of out-of-work stormtroopers
An enormous chunk of Mitt Romney's website is devoted to jobs [8]. In one subsection, he talks about streamlining a lot of Washington's regulatory framework by repealing things like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, amending Sarbanes-Oxley, and initiating a general review of all existing regulatory burdens [9]. He goes on to promise that he will "ensure that environmental laws properly account for cost in regulatory process" and "provide multi-year lead times" for new regulations, and he wants to "impose a regulatory cap of zero dollars on all federal agencies" while reforming the legal liability system. On other sections of his site, he talks about increasing foreign and interstate trade, promoting free choice in joining or not joining labor unions, reversing several of Obama's executive orders, prohibiting "the use for political purposes of funds automatically deducted" from worker paychecks, consolidating federal retraining programs, facilitating the creation of Personal Reemployment Accounts, raising visa caps for highly skilled workers, and much, much more. When it comes to jobs, Mitt Romney has no shortage of detailed plans, and they all revolve around the central idea of shrinking government and promoting the free market.

President Obama, on the other hand, proudly talks about his record on Wall Street reform and the auto bailout, though he doesn't go into nearly the same amount of detail on his website as Romney does [10]. He proposes ending tax breaks for businesses that ship jobs overseas and doing more to keep Wall Street's "risky speculation" to a minimum. His record over the last four years has been crystal clear in showing his belief that government regulation by executive order is a reasonable course of action, and it appears as though he has no change in his plan going forward, confident that, given enough time, his work will pay off in reduced unemployment.


Entitlements

I have no problems talking about the burden the government puts on the economy through wasteful discretionary spending, foreign adventuring, and severely outdated federal programs, but nothing--and I mean nothing--is a bigger drain on the national budget than entitlements. Whether you're talking about Social Security, Medicare, or Obamacare, what started as a social safety net has grown into a multi-headed leviathan that will, if left to its own devices, fundamentally destroy our economy. This is not an issue of fairness or helping out our fellow man; this is an issue of saving the United States of America from an unmitigated and unprecedented financial downfall. Social Security and Medicare deserve to exist, but they are wildly out of control, gobbling up taxpayer money so fast that it is astonishing. The national debt may be at $16 trillion, but when you figure in the "unfunded liabilities" (which means all the money the government owes to people through its entitlement programs), the number is more like $120 trillion [11]. The worst part is that you can't change this system without paying a heavy political price, because once people get accustomed to getting something, they will defend it vociferously. Even the modest proposals of Paul Ryan, which would only tinker with Medicare for people under 55, have been received by shrill panic by those who suggest he is trying to kill Medicare as we know it. I'm not sure there's a way out of this without a severe sociological change in this country, but for the sake of my future and the future of succeeding generations, I have high hopes that somebody, somewhere, will figure it out.

The Libertarian Perspective

Gary Johnson promises, if he is elected, to release a balanced budget in FY 2013. He wants to reduce spending across the board, end most--if not all--subsidies, stimulus programs, and earmarks, reform our entitlement programs through block grants and tying benefits to inflation, limit defense spending, abolish the IRS, audit the Fed, enact the Fair Tax, eliminate support of Fannie and Freddie, open up free trade, and legalize marijuana.

thumbs upJohnson's proposals are far too drastic to earn enough popular support within Congress, but his principles are exactly right. If I had to choose between him and Romney on just economic matters, it wouldn't be an easy choice.
According to his website, "Mitt Romney has laid out the approach he would take to modernizing America’s entitlement programs, guaranteeing their continued vitality for future generations" [12]. He promises repeatedly not to change anything for current beneficiaries of Social Security and Medicare, but he stresses that he believes these programs need to be fixed before they get any more out of hand. When it comes to Social Security, he believes the retirement age should be slowly increased over a long period and that the growth rate for these programs should be gradually lowered for people with higher incomes. He goes into a lot more detail on Medicare, in which he outlines a premium support plan that sounds nearly identical to the modified Ryan plan [13]. Put simply, this Medicare offers a choice for future retirees between the traditional fee-for-service that exists today and what amounts to a voucher system to buy private health insurance.

Barack Obama strongly resists Social Security and Medicare reform. The only change to Medicare he supports on his website is the closing of the prescription drug coverage gap, which will be closed by 2020 if the law isn't altered [13]. He claims to have cut over $700 billion in waste from Medicare through his healthcare law--including subsidies to insurance companies--and says he "won't accept" any reform to Social Security that cuts a single penny to future retirees.


My Choice if the Economy Were the Only Relevant Issue

Romney thumbs up
The Candidates and the Economy
thumbs down Obama
Do I even have to say anything else? Of course I would vote for Mitt Romney if the economy were the only relevant issue, because he is an advocate for smaller government and a freer market, whereas Obama is a believer in increased federal regulation, higher taxes, and continued entitlement.

Even if we accept their math at face value, Romney wants to cut more spending than Obama. He also wants to reduce the tax burden on both individuals and corporations, whereas Obama wants to raise taxes on investments in the name of class warfare, with no explanation for how that will help anything. When it comes to dealing with the unemployment situation, Romney has a wealth of ideas built on free market ideals, whereas Obama seems perfectly content to keep doing what he has been, even though the last four years have not shown much progress. Finally, though his proposals are timid, Romney at least wants to address the entitlement problem in this country, whereas Obama is taking an ostrich's approach. If this isn't a slam-dunk for Romney, it's only because he is too weak in explaining how, where economics is concerned, Obama is pushing this country in exactly the wrong direction.

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-e. magill 9/18/2012










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