Thursday, October 4, 2012

Obama-Romney Debate #1 Thoughts

I haven't been talking much about politics lately since tragically, it appears the American political system has fallen into some kind of terrible fugue where neither side seems actually capable of solving our current problems.  The economy is terrible right now, and what's the most frightening about it is we don't know why.  I mean, yeah, a few years ago we had a system-wide collapse brought on by reckless behavior by apparently every sector of the economy, from the banks, to the stock market, to everybody who bought a house on ridiculous credit, but that was almost half a decade ago.  We haven't gotten out of that state, we've just revved our wheels in the mud, going nowhere.  And this isn't just a US problem, if you look around the world, it doesn't look like anybody is doing particularly well.  Europe has been exploding in slow motion for two years now, and we all know that shoe is going to drop one day, just how or when is the question.  Economists are saying that even China, supposedly that solid totalitarian rock of market growth, is in the midst of a huge bubble that will burst.  In short, and forgive my characteristic terseness when I say this:  we're fucked.  Big time fucked.  And can either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney come up with a plan that will save us from disaster?

Well, last night's debate was their big chance to show what they had to bring to the table.  The Republicans right now are flying in the air with gloating glee because Mitt Romney apparently looked more composed than the President, but I'm enough of a cynic to call this one a draw.  Yeah, Mitt Romney got a few good punches in - I especially thought coining the term "trickle-down government" was especially inspired*, but did he prove that he could save the day?  No.  Ultimately both sides charged at each other, asserting endlessly that their plans are better, but really not convincing me that they really knew what to do.  I was leaning Obama before this debate, because his plan of spend-spend-spend until the economic finally got back into shape actually has some kind of logic.  It doesn't seem to be working all that well, but its kept us at least stable for a few years.  The Republican plan, as I believed before the debate, was far too focused on saving and holding back, right when the economy can ill-afford anybody saving anything.

Right now our recession continues because there isn't enough demand from businesses to hire, so the people don't buy enough, and thus the business's don't get enough profit, and thus they cannot spend more, so they can't hire more people.  The cycle continues and eats itself, seemingly forever.  Romney promises to solve the debt problem by speeding up the economy, but can he do that?  America isn't a closed system anymore (and never was), even if consumers were spending more thanks to freed up taxes... it would mean little since the global economic system is sick.  And that's what's so terrifying, nationstates alone cannot determine their own destinies, so the esoteric flows of the market, something I don't understand - and suspect nobody really understands - is the ruler of the world.  How can a single leader, even of the global economic hegemon, hope to solve this problem?  So in the end, this entire debate feels like some kind of vast carnival sideshow when the real problem g

This is why I hate economics, by the way, as an intellectual field.  Very little of it has ever made very much sense to me, since its very basis relies on the assumption that people can be rational actors.  That alone is a difficult stance to take, since people are more often than not totally insane.  Worse, in order to make a rational decision, one must know all the pieces of information around that decision, which is,of course impossible.  And its considerably more impossible today than ever before, since our economic system is unimaginably complex and terrifying.  Its paralyzing to even try to grasp it all.

It was a very good night for the Romney campaign, since he seems to have taken the high-profile television appearance to completely relaunch his positions and campaign.  Which was a good idea, since he was losing pretty solidly running on the straight Republican Tea Party platform.  He did come off considerably more reasonable than he did while slumming it with the arch-conservative nutstorm that was the Primaries, so he did everything he needed to do appearance-wise.  But still, was it a game winner?

So Obama has a plan to tax the wealthy, Romney has a plan to give tax breaks and close vaguely defined loop holes.  Obamacare is a thing, Romney wants something else.  Last night's debate was a long run of "my plan is better!" without very much substance to back it up, or in the worst case, too much substance backing up both arguments.  I guess I should try to be less cynical and just break it down to the main points of clash:

1. Taxes.  Romney's plan is to cut taxes for everybody but the wealthiest of Americans, and pay for this by closing some loopholes here and there.  But the real crux his tax plan is the the economy has to grow, boosting government revenue in order to keep deficits down.  Will that actually work?  I have no idea.  Obama wants to raise taxes through targets on the wealthy and use government money to stimulate the economy, essentially the plan from the last few years.  Romney suddenly changed opinion, the first of many times in the night, and said that he was not going to cut taxes on the wealthy like he's said he would for a long time.  BRAVO!  HORRAY!  Why hasn't Romney been so reasonable before this?  Still, Romney is cutting, and Obama is taxing.  In either case, it depends on where the economy is going as to whether the plans work, and its hard to say that a change in taxes will actually affect the economy either way.  I gotta call a draw here.

However, even then, I'm judging in terms of what taxing will do the economy, as for which plan will create a larger deficit - the Obama claim of a five trillion deficit under Romney's plan is the truth.  I'm really confused as to what Romney meant when he said that wasn't his plan, he seems to have created a brand new plan on the spot - a good thing since his old plan sucked.  His new plan isn't very good since I still don't exactly know what Mitt Romney's tax plan is.  I don't care about government debt at the moment, but Republicans sure do for some reason, and they should be concerned.

By the way, why exactly is Romney expanding military spending when we're moving into peacetime?

2. Healthcare.  This was a big one.  Apparently Romney has a new health care plan... but I was somewhat confused by this, actually.  It has to be bipartisan in nature and development, and it will be up to the states to decide what to do, but it will keep everything good that Obamacare has, such as the preexisting conditions coverage and the parent health care until you're twenty-six (which is a promise big enough to convince me to vote Obama right there, honestly).  So the states can craft their own plans, but this will still achieve everything Romney has laid out.  Um... what?  Is there a plan or not?  There was also a veiled repeat of the Death Panels claim from Romney, total blech.

3. Education.  Obama during the last four years has been the best President in decades in terms of education reform.  Race To The Top and Flexible ESEA** both gave incentives for school systems to improve and helped fix the worst disasters of the No Child Left Behind fiasco.  Still, there is quite a bit of reform to go.  The US does not spend its education dollars correctly, this is the sad fact.  Romney wanted to fix some small things in the Department of Education, but what's needed is a massive overhaul of ESEA, which Obama has offered, and even that isn't quite enough for my tastes - I'll be student teaching semester, I need to know this shit.  Obama had won this discussion before it even began for me.

4. Medicare/Retirement.  Romney claimed the Obama had taken seven-hundred million out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare, which isn't really true.  The truth is that Obamacare is estimated to save seven hundred million in future Medicare expenditures.  Obama fired back that the Romney/Ryan plan to reform Medicare is a voucher program, which is absolutely true.  My grandmother is personally terrified of any changes to Medicare, and so are most seniors, so I'd call any Medicare reform a loser right now for Romney.  He didn't really defend his plan, even though we do need some severe retirement reform in this country in the coming decades.  My solution?  If you're forty now, you can only retire by the way you're seventy-five.  And if you're my age, eighty-five.  (Unless you're one of the few left as construction workers, miners, or physical industries.)  We live in a sedentary society, who needs people sitting on their ass collecting checks for twenty-five years when they could still be working?  Nobody said that though.  Ultimately, I'm going Obama in terms of argument.

5. Financial Regulations.  Romney accepted that you need regulations in the economy, which is a pretty big change for him.  He even said outright that he wanted to keep parts of Dodd-Frank, the Wallstreet reform law passed after the financial meltdown of 2008, when before he wanted to repeal it completely.  So again, its a similar performance to the Obamacare issue, where Romney spent months talking about murdering it, then suddenly pivots and says parts of it can work.  Its a far more moderate opinion, and I applaud him for taking it, however... what exactly is Romney's plan now?  My favorite moment was when Mitt Romney fired a salvo against the New York banking industry, which must have confused them, since they're one of his biggest competitors.

But still... I guess what really matters in a debate is who is the most poised and the most aggressive.  So on that scale, Mitt Romney performed considerably better than his opponent.  Obama has this really awkward way of pausing, and didn't seem like he wanted to aggressively attack his opponent, mostly because he wanted to take on the air of the elder wise intellectual leader.  Instead he seemed a bit confused and weak.  And the pundits will laud this as a huge victory for the Romney camp.

However, in terms of raw argumentation and logic, I'm voting Obama.  Romney has represented himself in a big way, moving towards a far more moderate position, which I like.  But its all so vague, often parroting the best parts of Obama's plans and claiming that somehow his will be "less partisan", while often refusing to give details.  Good fucking luck in today's climate.

More debate stuff in oncoming.  I'm personally looking forward to watching Paul Ryan absolutely trounce Joe Biden.

* Though on the other hand, it seems to be a tacit acceptance that "trickle-down economics", the centerpiece of Republican economic theory for decades, was a stupid idea.

** Which technically has not actually been made a law thanks to our bipartisan deadlock, but still, I like it.


  1. Reading the first paragraph of this with the music from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the background is pretty amazing.

    1. I insist that all people read my posts with Sergio Leone in the background now, as an official blog rule.

  2. Why in God's name did Romney look like he just wanted to throw himself at Obama and hump his brains out the whole time?! SERIOUSLY!

  3. Hey blue Remember when you did a tales of a Q report on the last election? Remember how happy and deranged you were? or was that just a joke? either way its depressing.

    1. Well, last election it seemed like there actually was somebody to root for. Also, even then, I felt like mocking the system on a grand scale. Now its all very depressing since this election seems to mean a lot less, despite what the candidates are desperately yelling.