Friday, July 01, 2011

"He made it worse"...compared to what?

ca·su·ist·ry... n. pl. ca·su·ist·ries
1. Specious or excessively subtle reasoning intended to rationalize or mislead.

Mitt Romney is having a hard time convincing people that he hasn't been relentlessly lying about Obama's economic record since he officially kicked off his campaign. Let me offer my assistance.

In the fundamentally misleading speech with which Romney launched his campaign, he said this about Obama:
When he took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse. And he made it last longer.
video by DemRapidResponse catches Romney saying substantially the same thing repeatedly since then, e.g., in the GOP debate:
What this president has done, is slowed the economy. He didn't create this recession, but he made it worse. And longer.
Challenged yesterday by an NBC reporter who pointed out that the economy is, in fact, growing, Romney said:
 "I didn't say that things are worse. What I said was, that the economy hasn't turned around."
That is really as clever as Clinton's "There is no sexual relationship." It's true, Romney did not say things are worse. He said that Obama made it (the recession) worse, presumably starting on Jan. 19, 2009, and made it "last longer."

Never mind that the recession officially ended in June 2009, by which point the Obama administration had completed the bank stress tests, set the banks on course for recapitalization and approved 10 of them (on June 9) to repay their tarp funds; set GM and Chrysler on course to enter and swiftly emerge from bankruptcy; and overseen passage of the $787 billion stimulus, which by all objective accounts created or saved 1.5--3 million jobs (too little, but not nothing).  A rabid ideologue -- or a cynical pander who will say anything to get elected -- might just be able to claim that Obama made the recession "worse" for the six months it continued on his watch, and overall, made the economy worse than it might have been under straight-Hooverite policies.

But Romney never advocated Hoover Damnation -- banks left to collapse, auto industry left to its own devices, demand left to right itself, Fed standing by unmoved. If you think that Romney was opposed on principle to Obama's anti-recession measures, check out the fiscal and monetary stimulus he proposed in December 2008: 
The downward spiral is deepening and accelerating: Congress and the president must act now....

The Fed should continue to expand the money supply. And, it should confirm that it will not tolerate deflation — the pain of inflation pales in comparison.

That being said, a stimulus plan is needed without further delay, and there are some things that Republicans should insist on.

The first is that tax cuts are part of the solution (my emphasis)...

On the spending front, infrastructure projects should be a high priority. But because infrastructure projects involve engineering, environmental studies, permitting and contracting, they can take a long time to actually boost the economy. Spending to refurbish and modernize our military equipment is urgently needed, and it has a more immediate impact on the economy....

We should also invest to free us from our dependence on foreign oil, not by playing venture capitalist, but by funding basic research in renewables, material science, combustion, nuclear reprocessing, and the like. During the 2008 campaign, virtually every candidate agreed on the need for an “Apollo-like mission” to achieve energy independence. Now is the time to start.

...the federal government should look to ease the burden of mandates on states, like Medicaid.

There are differences in emphases between Romney's proposed stimulus and Obama's actual one. But those differences are far smaller than what the Tea Party holds out as the optimal road not taken: no stimulus at all. 

What about the GM and Chysler bailouts? Romney effectively wrote the script in November 2008:
The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.

In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.
Of course, as was recently highlighted in the GOP presidential debate, in the same piece Romney wrote that if GM and Chysler "get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye."  He was wrong on that front. In the debate, he claimed that the bailout money that preceded the bankruptcy process was wasted. But it's more likely that the restructurings that succeeded in spring/summer 2009, when the economy was stabilizing, would have been impossible in late 2008, when the economy was in free-fall and a presidential transition was imminent.  Again, Romney might quibble with the details of Obama administration policy, but his chosen course is more like Obama's than it is like that of the constituency he's courting.

Stimulus. Easing the money supply. Structuring the auto bankruptcy. Romney supported TARP as well, though once the Obama administration came in he carped relentlessly about the way it was administered. And let's not even start on health care reform, for which Obama, according to Romney, "betrayed his office" by steering through a Romneycare clone for the nation -- as he (and every other major Democratic candidate) had proposed to do in his campaign.

A President Romney undoubtedly would have "made it worse" in much the same way that President Obama did. That is, struggled with a considerably slower recovery than we all would like. 

He's not precisely lying to us about Obama's record, or what he said about Obama's record. Just relentlessly deceiving us, in every meta-message and detail.

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