Reading Zolltan’s piece on basically voting for whoever aligns most closely with your interest and Yglesias’s piece on the vagueness of Romney’s tax plan, I was pretty bothered, especially ahead of tonight’s debate. I couldn’t square where I sit on the political spectrum (right-wing) and the strategy behind the political tactics of both parties. Most of all, I think anyone with brains has a pretty clear choice here.
So I’m right-of-centre, pro-business type, who believes the first order of business for any American President is to balance the budget, i.e. not run deficits. This is no different than balancing your check book at the end of the month. What do you do? Make more money or spend less (i.e. raise taxes or spend less). Once you eliminate the deficit (and maybe start running surpluses), you set the stage for improving your wealth with options to cut taxes or spend more or start reducing aggregate debt levels. Quicktax will teach you this person finance shit. Every right-of-centre/conservative/rational human being should get this.
So I can only buy the first sentence of Romney’s central argument: “My opponent wants to raise taxes and cut spending. He still won’t balance the budget.” Well that’s a god damn problem. What do you propose? “I’m gonna cut taxes and cut spending.” Ok… but you’re barely gonna cut taxes right? “Yes and no. We’re gonna cut taxes but close a bunch of corporate loopholes at the same time.” Ok… that makes sense. You’re going to cut taxes on people but raise them on corporations right? “I don’t agree with the premise of your sentence construction. Move on.” Ok, you’re also cutting spending by a lot, firstly to offset your tax cut and the deficit? “Yep.” Great. What are you cutting? “Not the military, social security, medicare, medicaid and elements of obamacare.” Ok. And you can still balance a checkbook? I didn’t realize this was possible. How are you gonna do it? “That’s not my job. Its Congress’s to figure out.” Ok, the other guy is at least raising taxes and cutting spending, at least somewhat? “Yep. He says so himself.” Ok, as a conservative, I’ll vote for the other guy.
I realize now that the above paragraph effectively parrots the argument Bill Clinton made at the DNC (probably partly why that speech was so effective.)
I think the above could certainly look good in a Powerpoint presentation. We need to cut taxes. Need to Lower Spending. Economy will grow. You can dress this shit up with lots of one-liners, punchlines, bullet points and pretty charts. Ryan did this very effectively with this video explaining his plan (no need to watch the whole thing, just click in the middle and watch a 30-sec segment):
As a former investment banker who spent his life in PowerPoint, I’m in awe of the above video. If there is anything that makes me uncomfortable with Romney is that I think he’d fall for stupid bullshit if only it was presented in PowerPoint with enough pretty pictures. Its why I think he selected Ryan in the first place. He was wowed by the PowerPoint.
Which gets me back to the political tactics being employed. Clearly, you should be able to tell why I think the Republicans are nuts (more on that below). For Obama, he’s got to present forcefully the above argument that Romney can’t balance a checkbook. He didn’t in the first debate and lost handily. I’m not sure how he’s going to perform in today’s debate, but he better get back to presenting the argument in simple terms that anyone can understand. As I’ve said before, this presidency is Obama’s to lose, not Romney’s to win. Obama clearly has the opening which he should press.
Now on to the Republicans’ strategy, by which I get increasingly perplexed. They have left themselves no where to go. I do not think it was a coincidence that, after Clinton made his forceful and convincing speech at the DNC, the Democrats enjoyed a strong bounce in the polls. There is nothing the Republicans can do to counteract this except to brazenly flip-flop from past positions. Which is what Romney did in the first debate. When Biden asked Ryan for details of their fiscal plan in the vice-presidential debate, Ryan’s answer was basically its only their job to provide a framework and let Congress figure shit out.
That Republican’s are tied with Democrats based on having an insane plan and repudiating that same plan is as strong a signal as any that something is wrong with heart of the Republic. The last thing America needs is a PowerPoint president.
UPDATE: i should clarify I wasnt specifically disagreeing with either zolltan or matt. It was the opposite. If i accept zolltan’s premise that we should vote for those most aligned with our interest and the fact that romney is completely vague (insane?) on his tax plan, well does that mean i support obama? I guess it does.