It’s been a couple of days since the second debate. It seems to me that the compelling theme was the lack of vision from either candidate. Mitt Romney seemed pretty clear he thought he could do a better job than that Obama guy but wasn’t really clear on what he’d do differently other than cut taxes. And Barack Obama seemed pretty clear he thought he could do a better job than that Obama guy, whoever he is, but was not clear on what he’d do differently either.
But rather than dive back into arguments over various trivia — what Candy Crowley said, whether “acts of terror” and “terrorist acts” mean the same thing, binders full of women — I thought I’d indulge in a bit of a writer’s conceit: detailing how I wish the questions had been answered. Feel free to take one of the question and throw out your own answer. I’m sure you’ll do a better job than either of the candidates did.
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. Can — what can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?
(Aside: “more importantly, my parents?” Are you sure you’re 20 and not 12?)
They can’t assure you of anything. Our economy has picked up a bit — job creation is low but steady, housing starts are rebounding, exports are way up. But we are working our way out from a huge pile of bad debt. And there are other storms on the horizon — the Euro Zone, China’s bubble economy and so on. No one can assure you of a job; certainly not government.
That being said, overhauling the tax and regulatory system would, over the long haul, produce more consistent job growth. Allowing more high-skill immigrants into this country would create start-ups and expand businesses. Free trade would lower prices and open up markets for our goods. But, I repeat, there is no such thing as a silver bullet that will guarantee jobs to anyone. There is no secret box of good jobs in either candidate’s closet.
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?:
Look, we can set gas prices low. And you’ll have shortages like we did in the 1970’s. Oil is a world market and, unless the world is in a recession, gasoline prices are only going to go up. There is little that I or any other President can do about it.
On the broader concept of energy, the government needs to streamline regulation and taxes to make innovation easier. Congress needs to shift funds from specific technology like Tesla luxury cars to broader basic innovation. And we need to keep fossil fuels flowing while we are still dependent on them. Long term, that will address our energy needs and also make progress on Global Warming.
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 deduction, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also 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 for the middle class?
The government should not be using the tax code for social engineering. This has directly contributed to bubbles in real estate and education. You should also realize that many of these deductions are actually subsidies for the wealthy: for many middle-class people, they do not add up to much more than the standard deduction. [Note: Romney is now saying he will cap deductions at some level; it’s not clear what. That’s … better, I guess. But it will not come anywhere close to covering the revenue from his proposed rate cuts.]
That having been said, would you give up your favorite tax deduction for a lower overall rate and be able to keep your money in the first place rather than have it grudgingly remitted back on April 15? I think most Americans would.
Question: In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?
Governments’ actions in this domain have frequently made things worse. We can ban discrimination in government workplaces and refuse to do business with those who discriminate. But the only women who have really benefitted federal efforts for equal pay in the private sector are those who happen to be lawyers.
You say “72 percent” but that figure is actually misleading since it does not account for women taking time off work for family or taking more flexible jobs. Nor does it account for the social factor that men are more likely to demand higher pay. I note this not to quibble but to illustrate that the issue is a little more subtle and complex than the Democratic Party likes to pretend. In general, government is not good at dealing with issues that are subtle and complex.
Over time, social pressure will do more than government mandates. Name and shame businesses that discriminate and refuse to do business with them. Refuse to work for them. Demand higher pay. In the end, you will get it. Because you are much more capable of solving difficult problems than blundering government. And I do not see that it empowers women for their government to treat them like weaklings who are incapable of rectifying pay inequality with paternal government on their side.
Question: Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration. Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?
The next President should basically do the opposite of everything George W. Bush (and Barack Obama) have done. They cut taxes and raised spending, ignoring PAYGO. They empowered government, engaged in dumb foreign adventures, regulated like mad, fought the War on Drugs zealously and ran roughshod over your civil liberties. All of that needs to stop.
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.
Your optimism should never be linked to a politician. They are not gods. The best Presidents — men like Coolidge and Eisenhower and Reagan — mainly stayed out of the way, enforced the law and kept the peace. That created the conditions for prosperity and for the only real optimism anyone should have — a belief in themselves and their fellow Americans.
You actually should be more optimistic than you were in 2008. In 2008, we were bleeding almost a million jobs a month and on the verge of a financial meltdown. Whether the policies of Obama prevented that or not is a matter for historians. The fact is that much of the private debt has been unravelled, a few more free trade agreements are in place and taxes are low. The stage is set for a recovery … if we can get the government out of the way.
Question: President — Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?:
[Aside: nice euphemism there.]
Our immigration system has been broken for decades and no one has stepped forward to fix it. We all know what needs to be done: make it easier for people to come her legally to work and more difficult for them to work here illegally. Over time, that will shift productive members of society to legal status.
Question: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. 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?
[Note: Neither Obama nor Romney answered his actual question about security.]
An independent investigation needs to determine how the security was made so lax and hold everyone accountable. Security arrangements at all embassies and consulates need to be reviewed immediately. Over the last few decades, we have typically had an attack on one of our embassies and consulates every year. Protecting our assets — especially in a nation as dangerous as Libya — has to be a top priority. Ending our foreign engagements so that we have more troops and more money to make sure we protect our critical assets abroad would help.
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 plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?:
Crime is down; way down, to levels not seen since the 1960’s. The problem is a violent society, not access to weapons. You could have bazookas in a peaceful society without problems; you could ban all weapons from a violent society and have chaos.
The biggest thing government could do to decrease violence is to end our destructive War on Drugs. All this does is empower gangs, give life-damaging criminal records to non-violent people and burn up money.
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 biggest change we need is an end to the double taxation on overseas earnings. We are the only country that punishes companies for earning money in foreign countries. That must stop.
But this is one of the few thing Barack Obama got right: some of those jobs are not coming back. We live in a global market and that’s a good thing. Were it not for the global market, our economic collapse would have been far worse than it was. The unfortunate side effect of that is that jobs that used to be life-long occupations are no longer; that we live in a society where ten years at the same job is a lot.
We can do some things to ease the pain of this. But in the end, the only real alternative is a static moribund economy.
Question: Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question. 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?
It’s not a tough question, son. It’s a bullshit question. The biggest misperception of any Presidential candidate is that he will either doom or save the nation. I repeat what I said above: politicians are not gods. All they can do is obey the Constitution and pursue policies that create the opportunity for American greatness. Anyone who claims he will save the world should not get your vote.