The Morning After (the Debate)

Never before has a Presidential debate swung so far so fast in favor of one candidate.  Romney mopped with floor with the President in an amazing bravura performance.  Obama, following his all-too-common “I just want to be reasonable” stance, was a sitting duck.

Romney gambled and won — if he pitched enough lies, fast enough and convincingly enough, then Obama wouldn’t be able to respond to them all. In fact, Obama seemed so flumoxed that he let almost all of them just slide by.

Among my favorites, with suggested replies that were not made:
Obama is responsible for increasing US debt by trillions of dollarsCompletely wrong – the debt rose on my watch because the Bush depression and Bush tax cuts wiped out government revenues, while the Bush depression pushed up costs for required-by law counter-cyclical social support programs.  I did cut social security taxes (is Governor Romney saying he would not have cut taxes for nearly all workers in a serious depression?)  ANY president who didn’t repeal with Bush tax cuts or who cut taxes would have seen the same debt increase. The discretionary spending I asked for – the bank and auto bail outs — have been paid back to taxpayers with interest.

Obama is responsible for unemployment being at 8% or higher for four years.  I came into office with unemployment over 10% and rising fast, and facing a GLOBAL recession.  US economic growth has been the best of any rich country in the world over the last four years. The unemployment rate is down by a fifth, the auto industry and banks have recovered, the stock market is back near pre-crisis highs, the housing market has started to recover; no leader of any rich country has done better.   Could things have been better?  Sure! — if Democrats in Congress hadn’t been stymied for four years by Republican filibusters and threats to bankrupt the US.  Governor Romney hasn’t give us any new ideas; just the same ones that got us into the crisis in the first place.

Obama plans to cut Medicare by $716 billion.  If elected, I will reverse that and restore the $716 billion to medicare.  The $716 billion consists of reduced future payments to hospitals and other medicare providers in return for them not being forced to accept uninsured patients, as those patients will have insurance under Obamacare.  There are absolutely no cuts to existing or future Social Security beneficiaries in that plan.   So what is Romney saying?  If he overturns Obamacare and hospitals are forced to pay an estimated $716 billion more to care for uninsured patients, is he happy to ask taxpayers to pay for them?

I will give students choice by turning federal funds for education into vouchers.  In small numbers, vouchers can add flexibility and competition to overly rigid school systems.  But you cannot give ALL students vouchers — what happens if you grade schools, and everyone in the school district wants to send their kids to the top 2 or 3 schools in a 50 school district?  You then need to have lotteries or rationing and still send most kids to their local schools.  Besides, if you have vouchers, do you bus kids from all over a district to any other school they choose?  What district can afford that?    Schools are not like ice cream stands or hamburger shops — you can’t let everyone choose and go to one place on Tuesday and another on Thursday if they like it better!  You want your child to be with teachers who know your child, build a relationship, understanding, and trust.  Otherwise, learning won’t happen.  The solution to education is good schools and teachers for all children, not vouchers that let a few people sort themselves into the best environments.

There were lots more, but you get the idea.  Romney attacked hard, and Obama did not counter-attack; he feinted and folded.

So Romney looks to be back in the race.  None of this will matter if he still loses Ohio, but for at least one evening, he made Obama look unworthy of four more years.

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About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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3 Responses to The Morning After (the Debate)

  1. Steve says:

    Professor,
    You, me, Bill Clinton & a host of others could have done a better job for Obama than Obama did. (I say this not having seen the debate (I’m abroad), but the verdict seems unanimous.) Obama seems to anti-politician politician, but sometimes a pol’ has got a be a pol’! Maybe Matt Bai in the NYT has it right today. Anyway, do us all a favor & send this the President marked “urgent!”

  2. Debra says:

    Jack – I know your focus is on economics – but the most frightening thought about another 4 years of Obama is millions of more dead babies as we export abortion. The mandate that ObamaCare forces upon businesses to neglect their faith and conscience forcing them to pay for contraceptives and abortion is something that is still in the process of being addressed – but with the hopes of keeping faith limited to inside the church and not allowing people to live their faith. Really, considering the family history you’ve shared with us – I would expect your opinions to be more complete; there’s much more at stake here than employment and tax revenues.l

    • Abortion to me is a private matter — but for me that means it is an issue of individual liberty and freedom. Some people are opposed to organ transplants, or grafting pig skin to burn victims as a framework for skin grafts, or use of stem cell therapy. I don’t want my children’s employers to be able to forbid them from getting insurance for those procedures because they violate the employer’s religious beliefs. So in my view, if there is a national standard for procedures and medications provided by health insurance, then all employers should provide the standard package, and not have personal choices by employers determine what procedures and medications are or are not covered.

      This is one reason why having medical insurance purchased by employers on behalf of their employees (as opposed to giving people vouchers to purchase their own health insurance) is a crazy way to do this. It gives the employers the impression that they are somehow providing health care to their employees as an act of largesse and should retain the right to determine the kind of health care their employees receive. This is almost like the old Chinese communist system of giving factory managers control over the personal lives of their employees.

      Still, I agree with you that organizations and individuals should NOT be forced to pay directly for procedures of which they disapprove. I believe Obamacare would provide employers the right to say “if I don’t want to buy healthcare for my employees because it might be used to pay for procedures that I find abhorrent, I will instead pay the fine and let them buy their own insurance from state-based exchanges. That way none of my money is going to procedures I don’t want to fund.” Without Obamacare, there is no such option. So I believe Obamacare gives employers more choices while still protecting employees’ access to health insurance.

      When you say that organizations that provide health insurance for their employees should not be forced to pay for contraception or abortion coverage for them, you are in essence saying that (1) since employees can currently ONLY obtain health insurance from their employer, and (2) employers should not be forced to pay for insurance that includes actions of which the employers disapprove, then employers should have the right to make personal health decisions for employees over which the latter then have no control. Can we say that even if a state such as Massachusetts recognized civil unions between same-sex couples, Catholic organizations can mandate that any health insurance policies they give employees do NOT cover civil union partners because the Church does not approve of gay marriages? Can a Catholic charity who hires a woman then fire her if she obtains an abortion? Because she enters a civil union with another woman? Can they fire her if she chooses to use birth control pills? How much should employers be able to control the lives of their employees? You might as well say that Catholic hospitals can only hire Catholic doctors and nurses and clerical staff, or married people whose marriages were blessed in a Catholic ceremony. Down this road lies rejection of whole American principle of freedom of religion and no discrimination on the basis of religion for jobs. This is a slippery slope.

      If you are morally opposed to abortions and contraception you are welcome to practice your faith and try to persuade other people of the validity of your belief. However, we live in a democracy, where a majority of the people accept and practice contraception, and a majority believe in a woman’s right to abortion under some circumstances. Given that, organizations who share your belief have no right to impose their religious views on the choices of others, even employees, any more than people who think different from you have a right to impose their religious views on your behavior.

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