The first debate is over, and the collective wisdom has been gathered and sifted. Mr. Romney wore red, and Mr. Obama wore blue (ties, anyway). We’ve all been told what to think about their body language, eye contact, and note-taking. Mr. Romney was forceful and aggressive, without being offensive. Mr. Obama rose above the fray. Fascinating things, those debates.
Now, look past the hype, the postures, and the posturing, and listen to what the candidates said. They may have prepped and studied, cramming those talking points into the recesses of the brain from whence they could easily be retrieved, but in the heat of the discussion, they still revealed themselves in their choice of words. Listen, and ye shall learn.
Both candidates are in favor of keeping the amount of the revenue sent to the federal government the same for now. Mr. Romney says that he wants to lower the tax rate, but delete deductions, so that the net effect is revenue neutral. Mr. Obama wants to keep the Bush era tax cuts for the middle class, but raise the rates on higher income earners, again with the goal of revenue neutrality. The difference lies in what they want to do with that money once it gets to Washington.
To create jobs, Mr. Obama wants to redirect the war chest as the war in Afghanistan winds down, and invest that money in the middle class. Those earners are then expected to spend the money on consumer goods, stimulating businesses to gear up production and start hiring.
He also wants to improve education system through investment, hire 200,000 math & science teachers, and create 2,000,000 slots in community colleges.
Further goals include lowering manufacturing tax rates, boosting energy production, and investing in new energy sources.
Mr. Romney has a five point plan to stimulate job growth: 1) make North America energy independent; 2) open trade with Latin America, and crack down on China when they cheat; 3) give Americans skills to cope with the new economy, and help schools by transferring federal programs to the states; 4) balance the budget by lowering the tax rate but closing loopholes; and 5) champion small business by reducing regulations.
Mr. Obama will deal with the deficit through a $4,000,000,000,000 reduction, effected by cutting $2.50 for every $1 in revenue. He also plans to eliminate corporate tax breaks. His litmus test is whether a particular program will help grow the middle class.
Mr. Romney has a 3-point deficit plan. 1) a litmus test for spending asks whether any particular program is worth borrowing money from China to implement (he’s already decided that Obamacare and PBS will not make the cut); 2) transfer programs to the states; and 3) reduce the size of the federal government through attrition.
Both men plan to retain Medicare and Social Security as they are for people 55 and over. Mr. Romney is in favor of a voucher program for those under the age of 56.
On the question of the role of government, the first words out of Mr. Obama’s mouth were, “To keep the American people safe.” To the same question, Mr. Romney responded, “to protect the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”
The candidates differ in their management styles. Mr. Romney stated that he has strategies for growing the economy, but he is deliberately unable to give many specifics about the tactics involved at this point. He will not know exactly how to accomplish his mission until he has a chance to hammer out the details in weekly meetings with Congressional leaders beginning the day after he wins the election.
In contrast, when implementing Obamacare, Mr. Obama traveled the country, listened to taxpayers, and talked with experts. He then formulated his health care plan and presented the fully fleshed out deal to Congress for them to vote up or down.
Mr. Obama is a believer in the power of the federal government to effect change. He thinks that the country works best when we are all on the same track. The problem so far is that Congress has not allowed Mr. Obama free rein to test out his theories. His plan upon re-election is to bypass Congress and take his case directly to the American people. Once he has explained his goals to the voters, they will put pressure on their elected representatives to fall in line. Once everyone begins to abide by his policies, they will effect the change that he has been hoping for.
On the other hand, Mr. Romney prefers that the states retain the flexibility to deal with their own issues as they see fit. He thinks that the states are the best laboratories to come up with effective plans to assist their own citizens when they need help, and the places to look to grow businesses. Right now, he thinks that the combined federal burdens of taxes and regulations are so high that they are stifling the productive spirit. He wants to unleash the power of small business to grow the economy.
Mr. Obama has not set a timeline for the eventual success of his mission. He has stated that he started so far down in the hole that it has ended up taking more than the expected four years to achieve all of his promises, but he’s willing to keep up the good fight.
Mr. Romney has vowed to raise incomes and help create 12,000,000 million new jobs, but has not set a complete timeline for his goals, either.
According to the after-debate polls, Mr. Romney’s strong performance swayed many previously undecided voters to his cause. The proof will be in the pudding, however. Once the shine has faded and the voters are left only with the on-going ads, feelings may shift again.
It’s interesting to see that, after 200 years, we’re still trying to determine where the line between rights reserved to the states and the enumerated powers of the federal government should lie. I wonder if there will ever be a decisive outcome.