Vice President Joe Biden channeled Raging Biden, but Rep. Paul Ryan held up, holding serve for Romney’s initial debate lead. Starting from foreign policy, leading to the economy, and on to Medicare/Medicaid, we seem to learn more about policy from the people who actually won’t be president.
The vice presidential session felt like a real debate, a critical face-to-face that we should see more than the scheduled propaganda of advertising. In fact, both sides put out a real argument that we hope will continue next week, as Mitt Romney may decide to keep attacking, or maybe President Obama will take some blue juice from Uncle Joe.
The big news is that Paul Ryan isn’t speaking for Mitt Romney. Sure, he includes Mitt in a few things, but upon the topic of Medicare, it was all Rep. Ryan’s plan, and strikingly different from whatever Mitt Romney was talking about in the last debate. In fact, Ryan looks more like the policy leader than the GOP candidate himself. I’ve got to wonder if this veep selection was the high school thing where you hang around with the smart kids in order to look smarter…
For Vice President Biden, he was the Jake LaMotta in the ring of politics. He barreled through Rep. Ryan with smiles, chuckles, and the odd thing where older people use the wrong finger to point. And with all the interruptions and codgeresque behavior, he landed big blows on the policy geekiness of Paul Ryan, who simply doesn’t have the capacity that Biden carries, and it showed at times. But Biden still got hit when Ryan brought out a list of key problems with ObamaCare, the lack of an economic plan for the next term, and the entire system of sustaining programs that will become debt-vulnerable, from the military to retirees.
Despite the hits, Biden brought a fight to the table, and Dems should feel a little more confident going into the next debate. Moderator Martha Raddatz dropped the hammer on Paul Ryan to get a clear answer about tax numbers, of which there is still no clear answer for. Asking for so much latitude with no detail is hard to sell, let alone buy.
For folks who actually might want to know what this tax plan is about:
Lowering tax rates across the board by 20% (with closing of undefined loopholes) that will yield jobs and remain revenue neutral, because money saved from Washington is happy money (a fact). There were mentions of $1.5 trillion here and $1.2 trillion there, but nothing really materialized in terms of definition of this new tax reform that promises quite a lot. This plan is still a cloud we’re unable to penetrate in terms of real numbers and real effects. And we’re still not getting a solid number on cost, only dubious “guarantees.”
Nothing is wrong with the idea that more money saved from Washington will go back to investments to make more money, which eventually will make more jobs. But people who keep their money won’t always decide to create jobs, so like a bad Keynesian cold, it’s a dangerous method for pseudo-finance.
And what sort of expense will this new plan require? We still carry existing spending and outlays/legacy costs that haven’t been paid for, not to mention a sequestration that never had to happen during a critical time of our recovery. So while I think new jobs are important, putting our government operations at risk (as well as the numerous required expenditures we already are obligated to) will be a big bet we may not be able to cover if something goes wrong in the world. Europe’s economy still sits soaked in gasoline, so putting the bet down without some semblance of stability from the EU is a darn risky bet.
Just like Christina Roemer’s Neo-Kenynesian theories, no economist or even group of economists can predict the fiscal path of a nation in this globalized economy, let alone guarantee an event based in chaos. Throw in existing unrest across 1 billion people (mostly poor), and you’ve got anything but a guaranteed bet. In fact, that’s my biggest problem with these same heady promises of change.
So like all the attacks the GOP puts on President Obama about broken promises, they simply paste on their empty promises that risk even more money, and have a magical “wait-and-see” return for the bet. Even with all that criticism, it’s still a plan that Dems don’t offer, and a better step forward, even if a little wonky.
Per foreign policy, I finally saw the non-crazy Veep Joe Biden. From Rep. Paul Ryan, I saw a conflict of the foreign policy of an old Republican Party to the new one. And I can’t put anything on him, because he’s just the product of a disjointed GOP foreign policy of 2002 to 2012. It’s not his fault, and with time, I think he’ll grow.
Past the Dems leaving Afghanistan, Ryan reminds us that while fiscal conservatism is a good idea, foreign policy is still bookish and unrefined. There’s a big gap in foreign policy, especially in the Syria portion of the debate, and Afghanistan was just a muddy mess.
Not to say Ryan doesn’t have a big idea for the world and the role of the U.S. military within it, but the reality and mechanics of a chaotic world order are not part of his methodology just yet. And since Ryan is a far better example of a conservative mindset, I am concerned with Mitt Romney’s view that will likely change next week, but I’ll hope the next debate on foreign policy addresses this.
In the end, I believe Rep. Ryan won, but showed how far the GOP is from actual policy in legislation, let alone trying to re-invent the nation. Per foreign policy, VP Biden did what a foreign policy genius does. But while I am concerned with the multiple fronts of global stability, I’m more concerned with the economy.
And I know most of us are as well. Recovery is the key, and we should ask both parties for flat numbers, goals, projections and estimated results. Instead, we see both parties fight each other, and hope you don’t notice they aren’t offering the right solutions that both cut spending and raise revenue without the blind bet required.
For GOP fans, it’s a question of how much we’re really gambling for the promise/guarantee of what they term as a no-brainer economic plan. Look, I want to think that there are certain policies that we should institute via tax reform and spending cuts. But the promises we’re hearing from them are the same nonsense as President Obama’s promise to cut the deficit in half by 2013. Making a $4.8 trillion bet that may or may not deliver the assumed return in income taxes is a huge thing that can’t just be promised without consequence.
For Dems, my concern is over a continuing gap on economic details and a future outlook that they have no control over past tax increases on the rich. Staying the course would require a goal, just like VP Biden on Afghanistan’s transition. Why couldn’t the Dems simply set the same benchmarks for economics as they obviously could do with war?
Remaining on the same course on a boat into a storm requires a reason to do so. The Dems still haven’t answered this question, and despite the electoral map, they could still lose a lot of voter enthusiasm that turns the race. Their strategy has continued to be a “grow-out-of-this” plan, but the irony here is that the Romney/Ryan team actually proposed a “grow-out-of-this” plan. The Dems basically propose status quo and a decade of lost potential. The economic key the Dems miss is that even with the problems of the GOP plan, at least they have one.
I would love to see a Romney-promised 12 million new jobs appear in 4 years after November 2012 (Rep. Ryan said 7 million jobs). But even with the best of outlooks and all stars aligning, there’s really no measure of government intervention (taxes, spending, whatever) that can create 3 million new jobs a year. Even without the division of Congress, we face a corporate socialist structure and a manufacturing ceiling. Forget government policy, the private market is not going to create that many jobs without a real industry to build from.
You can’t expect industries to suddenly think, “Oh, now I have more money, let’s waste it on labor that we don’t need in this lackluster economy!” These industries will not decide to become wasteful in creating new labor without a global outlook that sustains the requirement for new labor.
In the long-tail scheme, we’re looking at a limit to the amount of productivity in our modern economy, of which no tax cut or supply-side thinking can create new jobs without new industry. Instead, we’ll see more shifts to service and trying to re-sell a dollar for a dollar. No matter the tax shift, we still need to have new industry to create new jobs.
I’d rather private entities fund efforts, but there are certain instances where broad government expenditures are required to build an industry from scratch. If Romney’s tax plan does create jobs, it will have to supplant the weaned industries with heavy infrastructure support as well as a lot of unscripted deductions to keep them on track for maturity.
Props to Uncle Joe for fighting back, but the night belonged to Rep. Ryan, who represented conservative policy far better than Mitt Romney, and held serve of the effect of the first debate. But if President Obama stages a comeback, Mitt’s in for a long night next week, and uncomfortable chuckles might signal an alarm.