Friday, June 15, 2012

So, Mitt... What Should Government Be Doing?

Presidents do themselves no favors when they run for office on the conceit that the incumbent somehow directly controls the economy, and imply that there's a giant spigot hidden in the Oval Office labeled "jobs" and that all the President has to do is open up the valve and job opportunities will magically proliferate. They do it for two reasons: It resonates with the public, not only because the incumbent President does bear responsibility for his policies, but because they've heard about the implied "magic faucet" throughout their lives. Also, if the economy is faltering it's an easy point of attack, whether or not the attack is honest under the circumstances.

In a big picture sense it is fair to say that when one party controls policy over a four or eight year period, they bear some responsibility for the outcome of that policy. But, do I need to say it, there is no magic faucet, and Congress has far more control over the day-to-day economy than does the President.

Nobody would expect a person as habitually disingenuous as Mitt Romney to break the trend. To the contrary, we have every indication that if Romney believes a statement or position will help him win the Presidency he's going to run with it, and that truth and fairness aren't even part of his calculus. You can reply that he's acting the part of a "typical politician", and you may be right, but let's not pretend it's good for the country.

Romney's latest demagoguery on jobs:
“If there has ever been a president who has failed to give the middle class of America a fair shot, it is Barack Obama,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee he told a crowd of 500 supporters today in Stratham.
But here's the thing: Romney (as always) has failed to identify anything the President could have done. His most substantive response to the President's speech, it would seem, is that it was "very long".

It's not unusual for a political party to want to have things both ways - to argue for one position while pursuing another. But it's more than fair to ask Romney, "If the President has the power to turn the economy around, to make job opportunities plentiful, to increase middle class incomes, what exact steps can the President take to accomplish all of that? What exact steps do you plan to take once you're elected?"

Romney, of course, has no answers. The closest thing he has to an economic policy is his embrace of the Ryan plan - cut taxes for the rich, cut Social Security and Medicare for everybody else, run up the deficit, and... how is that not a repeat of the Bush debacle? Granted, Bush ran up the deficit by expanding Medicare, not cutting it, and his Social Security privatization plan died within his own party, but even with that in mind it's difficult to see how entitlement cuts are going to create jobs.

Really, any time Romney suggests that the President could do something to improve job opportunities for the middle class, he should be asked "Like what?" And he should be pressed until he gives a concrete answer - or concedes that he has no answers. (And if there's an equivalent issue on the other side, the same rule should apply to President Obama.)

Also, Romney should be directly challenged on the inherently contradictory notion that the government is standing in the way of jobs, but that the President could "do something" magical that will suddenly create millions of new jobs.

Regrettably, that's not how the nation's media operates.

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