For some time now, I’ve been trying to drive home the point that there are no political solutions to our problems because, with either party, you get the same thing when it comes to the issues that matter the most – trade and immigration. As I listened to Romney’s acceptance speech Thursday night, I couldn’t help being struck by two things: how heavy the speech was on motherhood and apple pie and how light it was on specifics, and how it seemed to represent a huge step away from the right and toward the middle, as every candidate does once the party’s nomination is secured.
With that said, I thought it’d be useful to analyze Romney’s speech just to further drive home the point. First of all, I thought it was well-delivered. It really captured just how disillusioned and disappointed all of us are with President Obama’s failure to tackle the root causes of our economic decline. The best line of the speech was the following:
You know there is something wrong with the kind of job he has done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.
That really nails exactly how I feel. It was all downhill from there, when Obama quickly revealed just what a doormat he and his trade negotiators were, contrary to his campaign promises.
Most of the speech was devoted to giving us a window into his life so that we could all better relate to him, which has been a common criticism of the Romney campaign. In that, he did a good job. But we also wanted to hear some specifics about what might happen during a Romney administration – especially how he’s going to restore the economy and, in particular, the middle class. The following is what we got:
… and unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.
Paul Ryan and I have five steps. First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking advantage of our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, and renewables.
OK, that’s fairly specific in terms of the date. But “North America?” We’re not voting for a president of North America. We’re electing a leader of the United States. Does it really matter that much if we shift some oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to Canada and Mexico? That will accomplish nothing.
Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.
Was that an endorsement of a voucher program to use federal money to send kids to private schools? Who knows? But this has nothing to do with creating 12 million new jobs, unless he’s saying that Americans are unemployable because they’re too poorly educated. But if that’s the case, why is it that half of all college graduates can’t find jobs, as Paul Ryan accurately pointed out in his own speech? This is the same “retraining” ruse that the Democrats have suggested as a cure for unemployment.
Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements, and when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.
Where have we heard that before? It sounds like a nearly-verbatim quote from the Obama campaign in 2008. Forging new trade agreements is what has gotten our economy into the mess that it’s in. We’re to believe that doing more of it will fix it? Please. Aside from the relative handful of people who have benefited from our huge trade deficit, absolutely nobody wants to see more of this. And we’ve been hearing promises to stop cheating for decades. This might have been the most laughable moment of the speech.
And fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish, as have those in Greece, we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.
Wow, that’s a really low bar. Technically, “cutting the deficit” by only one dollar a year every year puts us on track to a balanced budget. But it would take a trillion years to get there. In the meantime, Romney can continue racking up trillion-dollar-per-year deficits, just as Obama has. Anyone concerned about making meaningful progress toward reining in our debt should be concerned by this point in Romney’s speech. As I said in my last post, no way will he make any meaningful reductions in the deficit. He and his economic advisors know very well that that’d yield a recession in short order, just as austerity programs in Europe have. It’s not the deficit spending in Europe that has killed businesses there. It’s the austerity programs they’ve adopted to rein in their debt. With a population density close to that of China, Europe has leaned hard on deficit spending to offset the unemployment they’d otherwise be experiencing. The U.S. leans hard on deficit spending to counteract the effects of our trade deficit.
And fifth, we will champion small businesses, America’s engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small businesses the most, and it means we must rein in skyrocketing cost of health care by repealing and replacing Obamacare.
This fifth point seems to be three rolled into one – cutting taxes on small business, deregulating and repealing and replacing “Obamacare.” Regarding that last point, what exactly would that accomplish – repealing it and then replacing it? And deregulation? That’s what lead to the financial meltdown. No thanks. Cutting taxes on businesses? That’ll simply add to the deficit.
Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class of America.
Whoa. The eyebrows of the wealthy should have gone up with that one. Notice that he only promised not to raise taxes on the middle class – the same thing Obama has promised – leaving the door open to taxes on the wealthy – just like Obama wants to do.
As president, I’ll respect the sanctity of life.
What does that mean? That he will oppose abortion? That’s not what he said – just that he’ll “respect the sanctity of life.” The sentence means nothing and leaves him plenty of wiggle room on the issue of abortion.
I’ll honor the institution of marriage.
Again, what does that mean? Nothing. Maybe it means he won’t forget his anniversary.
And I will guarantee America’s first liberty, the freedom
The constitution already does that. Is he implying something about the debate over requiring insurers to provide birth control, even for employees of Catholic institutions? If so, he doesn’t actually say it. It’s a meaningless statement.
President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans. And to heal the planet. My promises to help you and your family.
Did he just slap the face of every American concerned about the environment? Yikes.
President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro’s Cuba. He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from missile defense commitments. But he’s eager to give Russia’s president Putin the flexibility he desires after the election. Under my presidency, our friends will see more loyalty and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone.
Oh, boy. Just what we need – a return to the cold war. No thanks. I doubt that many Americans really care about Putin. And relaxing sanctions on Cuba is such a horrible thing when we give away $300 billion worth of our economy to a much larger and more dangerous communist regime like China? Who cares about Cuba?
Does the America we want borrow a trillion dollars from China?
I hate it every time I hear this, regardless of whether it’s Romney or whoever. It makes it sound like the U.S. goes to China with hat in hand asking to borrow money, like George Bailey begging from Mr. Potter. That’s not what happens. We spend $300 billion a year on Chinese goods, and the Chinese have to plow those dollars back into America somehow. Buying treasuries is how they do it. The real problem is the trade deficit, not what the Chinese do with our dollars once we’ve given them to them.
Look, I’m not trying to bash Romney any more than I’ve been bashing Obama lately. The point I’m trying to make is that nothing substantive is going to change under either one of them. Swerving left and right on the road to nowhere still leaves us heading nowhere. Tinkering at the margins with policy minutia accomplishes nothing. Taxes and spending are completely and utterly irrelevant. But that’s all we ever get from our politicians. The real problems are the trade deficit that has bankrupted this country and the ever-escalating problems associated with growing our population further and further beyond the limits of economic sustainability. In these regards the platforms and policies of both the left and right are identical – they will do nothing.
Maybe Clint Eastwood’s empty chair metaphor is actually quite appropriate. Regardless of whether Obama or Romney wins the election, the chair might as well be empty for all the difference it will make.