Wednesday, October 17, 2012

There Ought To Be MORE Undecided Voters

To hear the election pundits, it's a surprise that there are still voters out there who, so close to the presidential election, remain undecided.  As in, what more will these voters learn in the next few days and why haven't they already made up their minds?

The real surprise, however, is that there aren't MORE undecided voters.  After all, both candidates are pretty disappointing, and neither has a particularly realistic vision of what can be done in the next four years.

Perhaps if we had more undecided voters, the quality of discourse in debates and campaign appearances would be greater.

To be sure, the Curmudgeon will be voting for Obama.  Not because we think he's done a great job in his four years in office, but because he is decidedly better than the alternative.  We probably would have been okay with the moderate Mitt Romney who served as governor of Massachusetts, but that Mitt disappeared in the bowels of the Republican primaries and is not likely to return, beholden as he is to the GOP right.  In any event, Mitt's prescription for restoring the economy is a true disaster--it really is more of what got us into the problem to begin with.  Obama is no Bill Clinton, but at least he'll stalemate a largely Republican Congress.

Let's take last night's debate as an example of why there should be more undecided voters.  Face it, neither candidate answered the questions.  Obama was asked what he would do about $4 a gallan gas, and proceeded to brag about increased domestic production of oil and gas, which is a result of the prior administration's policies.  But that has not reduced gas prices--and it won't. 

Our guess is that voters don't want to hear that government policies have little to do with the price of gas.  They also have short memories.  Gas was at $4 a gallon near the end of the Bush administration.  Then it plummeted to less than $2 a gallon at the beginning of the Obama administration because the economy tanked--not because of any policy of Obama or Bush.  It is now BACK to $4 a gallon because DEMAND has recovered (in line with the economic recovery that Romney says hasn't occurred).

Romney didn't have anything better to say.  He would increase domestic production, but there's not much more increase to be had, and in any event oil is a fungible global commodity, the price of which depends on global demand.

Another question went to Romney, concerning his tax plan.  Romney says he will lower tax rates, but offset that with elimination of deductions and credits.  That is certainly feasible, but Romney truly has never said which deductions and credits he would eliminate.  The questioner asked quite specifically about certain deductions--mortgage, charitable, childcare, education.  Of course, Romney completely dodged the question. 

Romney threw out there that perhaps one way to do it would be to allow a total deduction of a limited amount that could be spread among whatever deductions apply to you.  Huh??  When has he EVER said that was part of his plan before?  And if it is, let's have the DETAILS.  Our bet is that some taxpayers would be winners in that, and some losers, but you'd have no way of knowing under his "plan"--more like a vague sketch.

In any event, the fundamental premise of Romney's tax sketch is fatally flawed.  He says that by lowering rates, we will create jobs because small businesses will have more money to do so.  WHAT?  That is not economics.  Business owners don't create jobs because they have more money--that's absurd.  They create more jobs because demand for their products and services have increased to the point that they MUST add jobs.  No business owner wants to add employees just for the sake of it.  If anything, they want to eliminate employees and operate more efficiently.  The goal of business is to make money, not create jobs.

Now, if you want to create jobs with government policy, the best way to do so is to stimulate demand for goods and services.  With tax policy, that can be done by reducing taxes for the the largest number of taxpayers, putting more spending money in their pockets.  That was in large part the theory of the stimulus.  But since--as Romney has pointed out--47% of Americans pay no income taxes, reducing income taxes won't help about half the people to demand anything else.  Further, since income tax payments are concentrated in the wealthiest Americans, reducing income taxes puts money disproportionately into the pockets of the wealthy, who already have more than enough discretionary income to buy whatever they want.  In other words, it does not lead to economic stimulus.

In short, Romney's tax sketch is not likely to create many jobs.  On the other hand, Obama doesn't have room, given the current deficit situation, to do much either.  And neither candidate spoke about the real elephant in the room:  the fiscal cliff.

We could go on and on--both candidates dodged gun control, Romney lied about his positions on health care and Obama evaded on Libya.  The fact of the matter is that the President can only do so much in our deliberately divided government, with all its "checks and balances."  Congress is gridlocked, and will remain so.  The President can be a cheerleader, but that's about it, other than on foreign policy.  That, more than anything else, probably explains why this election seems more likely to be decided on style and emotional issues (such as contraception coverage) than substance.

As for you remaining undecided voters--good for you, you may be the only sane people in our electorate!

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