Friday, October 19, 2012

"Please Proceed, Governor"

With these polite words, President Obama set the trap into which Mitt Romney stepped.  Romney made the foolish move of once again challenging Obama on The Benghazi Affair, and once again he got burned.  It's not that Obama's administration is unchallengeable on the matter, or that it is inappropriate to do so; we have already pointed out two major issues which the tragic episode brings forward, ones which Romney could have usefully debated and which might have put him in a good light, positioning him better for the final debate on foreign affairs and military policy.  Instead, he thought he caught Obama in a lie, and Obama, knowing he had the winning cards, let the hand play out.

In general, Obama did what he had to do, even if it was unpleasant:  get in Romney's face, challenge him, and show that he cared about winning.  The second debate, along with a substantial home-field advantage in the subject of the last debate, should allow him to complete his electoral victory.  It may end up being very close in the popular vote, as the current polls suggest, but Obama's edge has been restored in Wisconsin, Nevada, and Ohio, and with those, the rest of the swing states--both the ones which have tipped a little in Romney's favor (VA and FL) and those about which the uncertainty is complete (CO, NH, IA)--won't be enough for Romney, even if he were to win them all.  With regard to the popular vote, in fact, I'm kind of hoping that Romney wins it while losing the Electoral College--not that I would encourage anyone to vote for him--because that might, finally, be the result which will convince the Republicans that what happened to Al Gore in 2000 can just as easily happen to them, and then we can complete the process of converting the Presidential election to one decided by popular vote.

90 Minutes of Broadsides and B.S. Displaced by 5 Minutes of Truth
I will readily admit that it's important who "won" the debate, and who will win the election; however, with regard to the important question of the education of the electorate, I don't think the debate served us very well.  Along with the well-researched and publicized untruths, there were plenty of half-truths, and, most importantly, unspoken truths.  This is because of the simple fact that there are certain honest responses to the questions that both Obama and Romney would not dare speak.  I, on the other hand, who am not running for anything, can fill in these gaps. 

So, here are the questions asked of the candidates (I may have missed one), and the truthful answers that just couldn't be uttered.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

Alas, Jeremy, there are no guarantees in the Western world. For the next 15 years there is going to be a consistent oversupply of labor, even for graduates. I hope your graduate degree includes some useful, marketable skills, or that you can borrow money to start a business or buy a franchise.  Otherwise, I would reassure your parents that politically-motivated tax reforms will likely make it possible to  increase the degree of deductibility of the support they will be giving you.

QUESTION: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it's not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?

Gas is only one commodity of energy; its price is partly driven by global demand, partly by decisions by monopoly capital which keep it high, and the government cooperates by taxing it heavily. The US and state governments can not give up the revenue, and can do little about the rest of it.  What the Energy Department can do is help to make sure that real costs of energy in general--all sources, and including the externalities like pollution--do not get so high as to strangle the health of the economy.

QUESTION: Governor Romney, you have stated that if you're elected president, you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue.

Concerning the -- these various deductions, the mortgage deductions, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also the -- oh, what's that other credit? I forgot.

OBAMA: You're doing great.

QUESTION: Oh, I remember.

The education credits, which are important to me, because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important to the middle class?

First, it's Congress that decides the tax rates, not the President.  Second, tax reform is not going to make a significant difference in the taxes the middle class pay:  it is electoral suicide to propose eliminating the deductions you mention, so nobody is going to do that.  The question is basically about which rich people will pay more or less, but I'd put my money on more of them paying less, because they can afford the tax accountants and attorneys.

QUESTION: In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

The biggest thing that we could do would be to help working mothers reduce the career interruptions often driven by motherhood by requiring "job-killing" things like providing infant care and transportation assistance, which we won't be doing anytime soon. Or we could increase tax assistance for working mothers; with the current deficits that is a non-starter.  Obama did what he could, legislatively, on Day 1 of his Presidency; Romney doesn't really support mothers working; it's a concept which is inconsistent with his religious beliefs.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I'm not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.

I assume you're saying you're not as optimistic as you were in 2008, not 2012.  I have no idea why you would've been optimistic in 2008, but if you were, you were due to be disappointed.  As for the cost of living, it hasn't gone up.  I did what I could, but let me ask you:  where was your vote in 2010?  That's what really limited my first-term effectiveness.

QUESTION: Mr. Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?

Self-deportation seems to be working very well with the Obama administration:  due to the weak economy and oversupply of labor, net flow has moved into the outbound direction. The problem has been receding of its own accord. 

There is always an election coming up, so there is almost never a good time for comprehensive immigration reform--it certainly wasn't in 2009, when we were bleeding jobs.  I can certainly understand why it didn't happen then.  If there ever comes a time when the oversupply of labor ends, there will be plenty of support for it--until then, it's just a question of which legal rights we will allow them to have.

QUESTION: We were sitting around, talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans.
Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?
You expect me to believe that you were sitting around talking about Libya?  Didn't any of you cosmopolitan-minded geniuses know the embassy is in Tripoli and it was the consulate in Benghazi that was attacked?
Sorry for the sarcasm.  Two points:  1) Our embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions are considered fair game for the terrorist movement, which is always looking for soft targets to hit. 2) Our diplomatic missions in that part of the world are basically part and parcel of the military counter-terrorism mission and they all need more security; our enemy spotted a weakness at the consulate and took advantage.  It happens, in a war.

All the embassies and consulates in the region are clamoring for more security, all the time.  It's the only safe stance to take.  You want to pay for it all?
QUESTION: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?

Prayer, mostly.  What, you mean it's not working? How about that Fast and Furious assault weapons export program?  Did I mention that it has been practiced by administrations of both parties?

QUESTION: The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?

The only jobs over which my government would have much direct influence are the government jobs, which aren't going anywhere. But, do you want to increase or decrease those? 

As for the rest, facilitating trade--which is the best way to support private job growth here--means accepting the risk that jobs will move.  Job protectionism ends up protecting fewer jobs. It's just a question of getting the balance right.

QUESTION: Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question. To each of you. What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?

Actually, I think their responses to this one--that Romney is a bad person who has no social conscience, and that Obama is a Marxist--were pretty accurate.

The good news is that we're almost so close to the election that it won't make sense to ask us for any more money. 

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