Thursday, June 14, 2012

Obama contrasts two economic visions -- and fact- vs. fiction-based campaigning

The euphoria will last only until the next batch of crummy economic data -- or until the Supreme Court hands down its decision on the Affordable Care Act.  But having indulged in a mid-afternoon watch of Obama's  major economics speech in Cleveland, I can't help but feel for a moment that he just can't lose. 

The speech's basic structure was admirably simple: a contrast of two diametrically opposed economic prescriptions (I won't say "visions," because I don't believe that Romney believes in the policies he's selling).  That contrast included what I craved: the same kind of detailed dissection of Romney's economic plan that Obama leveled at the Ryan budget in April -- which feels like an age ago. Of course the contrast was wrapped in layers of context  : the Bush-era policies (which Romney wants to reprise) that led to crisis; the unfinished recovery he's led; and, as Obama has sketched out repeatedly since 2007, a contrast between the American tradition as he sees it -- of prudent public investment and shared prosperity -- and the GOP policies that have taken us off that path -- radical tax cuts and deregulation. 

Also key, though, was a second, unstated contrast: between truth-telling and lying.  Obama never called Romney a liar, and he never accused him of not believing in the extremist GOP economic prescriptions that in his narrative led the US to disaster [update: I kind of changed my mind on this as I cut and pasted below...].  But he emphasized the factual basis of his own analysis of the GOP budget -- and set that analysis against the phony tissue of Obama-myths with which Romney & co. are saturating the airwaves.  Watch the way he contrasts his own attack with the attack on him. My emphases, natch.

First, the rhetorical emphasis on the factual basis of his attack on the Romney budget:
Now, Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory we tried during the last decade, the theory that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down.

So they maintain that if we eliminate most regulations, we cut taxes by trillions of dollars, if we strip down government to national security and few other basic functions, then the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed and that will automatically benefit us all.

That’s what they believe. This -- this is their economic plan. It has been placed before Congress. Governor Romney has given speeches about it, and it’s on his website.

So if they win the election their agenda will be simple and straightforward; they have spelled it out. They promise to roll back regulations on banks and polluters, on insurance companies and oil companies. They’ll roll back regulations designed to protect consumers and workers.

They promise to not only keep all of the Bush tax cuts in place, but add another $5 trillion in tax cuts on top of that.

Now, an independent study said that about 70 percent of this new $5 trillion tax cut would go to folks making over $200,000 a year. And folks making over a million dollars a year would get an average tax cut of about 25 percent.

Now, this is not my opinion. This is not political spin. This is precisely what they have proposed. 

Now, your next question may be: How do you spend $5 trillion on a tax cut and still bring down the deficit?

Well, they tell us they’ll start by cutting nearly a trillion dollars from the part of our budget that includes everything from education and job training, to medical research and clean energy.

Now, I -- I want to be very fair here. I want to be clear. 

They haven’t specified exactly where the knife would fall, but here’s some of what would happen if that cut that they proposed was spread evenly across the budget.

10 million college students would lose an average of a thousand dollars each on financial aid. 200,000 children would lose the chance to get an early education in the Head Start program. There would be 1,600 fewer medical research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS; 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students and teachers.

Now, again, they have not specified which of these cuts they choose from, but if they want to make smaller cuts to areas like science or medical research, then they’d have to cut things like financial aid or education even further.

But either way, the cuts to this part of the budget would be deeper than anything we’ve ever seen in modern times.

Not only does their plan eliminate health insurance for 33 million Americans by repealing the Affordable Care Act, according to the independent Kaiser Family Foundation, it would also take away coverage from another 19 million Americans who rely on Medicaid, including millions of nursing home patients and families who have children with autism and other disabilities.

And they propose turning Medicare into a voucher program, which will shift more costs to seniors and eventually end the program as we know it.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Even if you make all the cuts that they’ve proposed, the math still doesn’t allow you to pay for a new $5 trillion tax cut and bring down the deficit at the same time.

So Mr. Romney and his allies have told us we can get the rest of the way there by reforming the tax code and taking away certain tax breaks and deductions that, again, they haven’t specified. They haven’t named them, but they said we can do it.

But here’s the problem: The only tax breaks and deductions that get you anywhere close to $5 trillion are those that help middle-class families afford health care and college and retirement and homeownership.

Without those tax benefits, tens of millions of middle-class families will end up paying higher taxes. Many of you would end up paying higher taxes to pay for this other tax cut.

And keep in mind that all of this is just to pay for their new $5 trillion tax cut. If you want to close the deficit left by the Bush tax cuts, we’d have to make deeper cuts or raise middle-class taxes even more.
 The emphasis on facts includes a call-in of outside academic support:

And -- and I’m not alone. I have not seen a single independent analysis that says my opponent’s economic plan would actually reduce the deficit. Not one. Even analysts who may agree with parts of his economic theory don’t believe that his plan would create more jobs in the short term.

They don’t claim his plan would help folks looking for work right now. In fact, just the other week one economist from Moody’s said the following about Mr. Romney’s plan, and I’m quoting here: “On net, all of these policies would do more harm in the short term. If we implemented all of his policies it would push us deeper into recession and make the recovery slower.”

That’s not my spin. That’s not my opinion. That’s what independent economic analysis says.
Perhaps I was wrong above:  at one point, Obama did imply that current GOP deficit policy is not entirely a matter of deeply felt conviction:
And if we want to get the deficit under control, really, not just pretending to during election time...

... not just saying you really care about it when somebody else is in charge and then you don’t care when you’re in charge, if you want to really do something about it...

.. if you really want to get the deficit under control without sacrificing all the investments that I’ve talked about, our tax code has to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more.
Where he did call out Romney's dishonesty directly was with regard to the assault on himself. And yes, I was wrong above.  This peeling back of the curtain does imply that Romney et al are faking it with regard to their preferred policy prescriptions as well -- not they they don't "believe" in them, but that they don't believe that those policies will create jobs.
From now until then, both sides will spend tons of money on TV commercials. The other side will spend over a billion dollars on ads that tell you the economy is bad, that it’s all my fault...

... that I can’t fix it because I think government is always the answer or because I didn’t make a lot of money in the private sector and don’t understand it or because I’m in over my head or because I think everything and everybody is doing just fine.

That’s what the scary voice in the ads will say.

That’s what Mr. Romney will say. That’s what the Republicans in Congress will say.

Well, you know, that may be their plan to win the election, but it’s not a plan to create jobs.

It’s not a plan to grow the economy. It’s not a plan to pay down the debt. And it’s sure not a plan to revive the middle class and secure our future. I think you deserve better than that.

At a moment this big, a moment when so many people are still struggling, I think you deserve a real debate about the economic plans we’re promoting. Governor Romney and the Republicans who run Congress believe that if you simply take away regulations and cut taxes by trillions of dollars, the market will solve all of our problems on its own. If you agree with that, you should vote for them. And I promise you, they will take us in that direction.

I believe we need a plan for better education and training and for energy independence and for new research and innovation, for rebuilding our infrastructure, for a tax code that creates jobs in America and pays down our debt in a way that’s balanced.

I have that plan. They don’t. And if you agree with me, if you believe this economy grows best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules, then I ask you stand with me for a second term as president.
The mathematics behind current GOP budget prescriptions is so insane, and the support for Obama's basic tenets of balanced deficit reduction and investment in education, infrastructure and R&D so broad,  that it's very hard for me to believe, when I listen to Obama lay it all out, that he can lose. Even though I know he can, and that if the economic news is bad enough, he will.

1 comment:

  1. Re-elect Obama and you will have an American Greece on your hand!!!