Tag: Mitt Romney

Sensata Nonsense

How do you know the liberals are worried about the polls? Because they are dragging out things like Sensata. Apparently, Bain Capital owns a little over half of Sensata. Sensata recently bought a plant in Illinois and decided to outsource all the jobs to China. So, since Mitt Romney is part of Bain …

I understand the bitterness of the workers in Freeport, who have lost their jobs. I have no idea whether Sensata’s decision is good idea or a bad one. I do know that this has nothing to do with Mitt Romney, who does not run Bain and whose assets are in a blind trust. Even if he wanted to stop this move, he couldn’t. This is just a liberal ecosphere desperately trying to pin a scandal on Mitt. They even posted a picture of a Sensata plant in China, claiming it was the Freeport one.

The Foreign Policy Preview

It’s no secret that one my biggest concerns with a potential Romney presidency is foreign policy. I’m not exactly thrilled with Obama’s brand of bumbling around, of course. The mess in Benghazi is close to exploding into a full blown scandal (and would have already, if the MSM were doing their job).

But Romney’s been making some unsettling noises about increasing defense spending and using the military option on Iran. And I look at his foreign policy team and see 17 of the 24 are former Bushies or neocons and I shudder.

So a week ago, Romney gave what was supposed to be his big foreign policy speech. It’s a good time for it. Apart from the Benghazi cock-up, we have warnings that the Taliban and AQ may be resurgent (I’m dubious of the latter; pretty convinced of the former). And they are not changed, having recently shown the courage to gun down a defenseless 14 year-old girl for promoting education.

So what did I think of the speech? Apart from various mis-statement of facts (embassy attacks are down from the Bush years overall; the Navy is not short of ships), it did nothing to assuage my concerns. It was ripped straight of the bad old days of agression and hubris overseas. Read Gene Healy’s analysis:

In his speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney called for a new approach to the Middle East, based on “these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might.” Those are attitudes, not principles. And if jut-jawed self-assurance that we know what we’re doing in the Middle East was the key to victory, we’d have a little more to show from the last 11 years of war. Hope is not a strategy, but hubris isn’t either.

At VMI, Romney criticized President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” as a sign we’re neglecting our allies elsewhere. Romney’s not against pivoting toward Asia per se, since “China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region.” But also he wants us to refocus on Europe, brush back Putin, arm the Syrian rebels and get tougher with Iran. A Romney administration will pivot like a dervish, directing American force and authority everywhere at once. At a press conference the morning of the speech, his top foreign policy aides even refused to rule out boots on the ground in Libya.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what Romney really thinks. As I’ve noted before, the GOP response to Obama’s foreign policy is to criticize no matter what he’s doing, even flipping their criticism when the policy changes. Romney excoriated Obama for (wisely, in my opinion) not supporting the Iranian protesters; but they’d criticize him if he had. He blasted Obama for not getting involved in Syria, as though there were anything to be gained by getting into that mess. He criticized him for drawing down our presence in Iraq … on Bush’s timetable, actually. And I’m still not clear what he thinks we should have done in Libya. The only theme is that Obama is wrong. Whatever Obama’s doing, even if it’s what Romney advocated two months ago, it’s wrong.

This reflexive criticism has consequences, apart from sounding dumb. It means that when Obama really has screwed up, as he apparently did in Benghazi, the criticism is ignored because … well, the Republicans are always going on about Obama.

More to the point, what new solutions is Romney proposing? More military spending, more troops, more involvement, more drones trikes, more sanctions on Iran, more “pressure” on Libya and Egypt — in other words, doing everything Obama is doing, only more so.

This did not go unnoticed by those who aren’t in the tank for either Obama or Romney. Rand Paul, God bless him, smacked down Romney while still saying he’ll support him.

Romney chose to criticize President Obama for seeking to cut a bloated Defense Department and for not being bellicose enough in the Middle East, two assertions with which I cannot agree.

Defense and war spending has grown 137% since 2001. That kind of growth is not sustainable.

In North Africa and the Middle East, our problem has not been a lack of intervention. In the past 10 years we have fought two full wars there, and bombed or sent troops into several others.

This past year, President Obama illegally began a war with Libya, taking sides with the rebels to unseat an admittedly bad man in Moammar Gadhafi.

Paul calls Obama’s policies an “act first, think later” policy and believes that Romney will do the same, only more so. I can’t help but agree. For both of the candidates.

Post Debate Thoughts

It’s been two days; work and a nasty cold kept me from rolling out my thoughts on the debate. But I think it’s worth reviewing and discussing.

First, Obama got creamed. I think part of that is that he was caught off guard. Romney tacked sharply to the center, conceding policy ground on almost everything — regulation, Social Security, Medicare, Dodd-Frank. Obama was prepared to attack Primary Romney, the severe conservative. He was not prepared for the return of the moderate Massachusetts governor. And he was certainly not prepared for Romney to be so smooth and … well … presidential. Romney was on form, parrying all attacks, knowledgable about policy details and eschewing ideology. Obama simply was not ready for that, having convinced himself that Romney was an idiot that he would easily steamroll.

And he should have been prepared. Primaries are always played to the fringe; the election to the center. Obama, who shifted gears himself in 2008, should have known this. Romney won election in a heavily Democratic state; he knows how to play to the center. Romney was a consultant and an executive; he knows how to pitch.

Why wasn’t Obama prepared? There are a lot reasons for this but I think Megan McArdle’s breakdown is the best, particularly this point, which I also hashed out with Maggie McNeill on twitter:

The president lives in a bubble, and this president, in particular, has attracted a sort of worship that hasn’t followed any president since Kennedy, or maybe Reagan. (There’s a cult of Reagan now, but I don’t know whether that was true in 1984). You see it in things like the invitations to set up a wedding registry for donations to the Obama campaign, to send a Mother’s Day e-card celebrating the administration’s policy achievements, and of course, that infamous paragraph in the 2008 speech he gave after he locked up the Democratic nomination.

The fact that someone on his team wrote that line, and that no one else stopped him from delivering it, is remarkable. Even more remarkable is that four years later, many of his supporters do not grasp why so many people outside the Obama bubble–I’m tempted to say everyone who is not a die-hard supporter–find it hilariously narcissistic.

That is going to make it hard for the president to get good debate prep. With the time pressure he’s under, he needs to make every second of his debate prep count–which is to say, he needs an opponent who will absolutely pummel him. It seemed clear last night that they’ve been pitching him softballs, which is why he struck out on even completely obvious, predictible questions.

(I’ll speak to the Reagan thing: in Dinesh D’souza’s biography, he noted that Reagan was aware of the regard people had for him and, for that reason, rarely let his advisors know his opinion in advance of internal debates over policy. He feared that, once they knew where he stood, they would cant their arguments to support him.)

We’ve talked about the Cult of Personality before. You can see it the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in the Left Wing commentariat over the debate performance (and their blaming of the useless Jim Lehrer). On MSNBC, it was like someone had died. Andrew Sullivan was practically in hysterics.

I think Obama has, on occasion, had a vague sense of this. But he hasn’t really made the kind of changes you need to make to keep the bubble from affecting your thinking. He seemed completely unprepared for Romney shifting his positions to the center. He was unable to mount even the most basic defense of his record. He seemed to think that just laying out his case would carry the day. He seemed to think that Romney would be as deferential and the audience as worshipful as … well, everyone around him.

(This Cult of Personality is, ironically, one of the reasons I would not be terribly distressed if Obama won, as long as the Republicans can get both houses. Having one of the most worshipped Presidents in recent history rendered impotent in his own White House would do a lot to crack the Cult of the Presidency and shift power back to Congress, where it belongs.)

Probably Obama’s only wise decision was to avoid attacking Romney on the 47% thing. While it enraged the liberal base, Obama clearly knew that Romney would be ready to parry it. Indeed, Romney today brought out the response line he never got to use. And it was not a bad one. I also suspect that Obama held back on attacking Romney because he knows the media will do it for him.

As for the substance of the debate, Reason has a lot of great analysis of the debate and why it was a nightmare for believers in limited government. Here for example, is a breakdown of the promises to reign in spending. Romney, in particular, was ludicrous, saying he was going to balance the budget while increasing defense and Medicare spending and not touching Social Security or Education. That’s … unpossible. Here is Nick Gillespie, pounding both candidates on education, immigration and Social Security.

In the end, I expect the debate will shift some voters to Romney but I doubt it will shift enough to decide the election. We’ve been enduring this for … well, for four years really. Most of the people who haven’t made up their minds can’t figure out how to operate a television anyway. But for the rest, I suspect Romney scooped them up. So there’s a thin hope that Obama will get tossed to the curb. And that’s better than things were a week ago.

Nanny of the Month

Reason’s Nanny of the Month focuses on our two Presidential candidates and allows you to vote for which you think is the worst Nanny:

I voted for Obama as the worse Nanny. The reasons are several: he’s in power so he’s actually done stuff; his record of intervention is even worse than Reason lets on; his ramping up of the Drug War is a glaring hypocrisy.

But it’s also because I don’t think Mitt would be as bad in the White House. Maybe I’m wrong, but he crosses me more as someone who sets an example of how to live your life rather than someone who hectors everyone else. And I think it’s very likely that the porn crackdown, for example, is simply campaign rhetoric (although it wasn’t with Bush or Obama).

The 47%

You’ve certainly heard about this by now:

During a private fundraiser earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks of all the voters who support President Barack Obama. He dismissed these Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don’t assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them. Fielding a question from a donor about how he could triumph in November, Romney replied:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

Romney went on: “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

(MJ released part two of the video where Mitt says a two-state solution is unworkable in Israel because of the Palestinian commitment to violence. I don’t know if this is embarrassing as much as it is true.)

Naturally, the Left is proclaiming that this is the end of the election. Meh. I thought about this a lot last night while sitting on my roof, clinging to my gun and my Torah. And really, gaffes don’t make elections. This may rally the Democrats a little bit. But I seriously doubt there is anyone in America right now who is saying, “You know, I was going to vote for Mitt Romney, but then he said something I didn’t like on a secret video while meeting the fund-raisers. So to heck with that guy.”

Please.

More germaine, I think, is just how wrong Mitt Romney’s comment was. He’s been tripped up by a Republican talking point. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. But that’s not the entire picture. Ezra Klein:

For what it’s worth, this division of “makers” and “takers” isn’t true. Among the Americans who paid no federal income taxes in 2011, 61 percent paid payroll taxes — which means they have jobs and, when you account for both sides of the payroll tax, they paid 15.3 percent of their income in taxes, which is higher than the 13.9 percent that Romney paid. Another 22 percent were elderly.

When you break it down, only about 7% of the American public is poor, young and pays no income or payroll tax (although they still pay sales tax). Granted, the payroll tax is supposed to pay for people’s own retirement and healthcare. But we all know both are pay-as-you-go. And contra the received wisdom, the poor vote at lower rates than the middle class and wealthy.

Moreover, if you want someone to blame for 47% of Americans not paying income tax, you can blame … wait for it … President Bush. His tax cuts basically eliminated income taxes for millions of Americans — he boasted about it! Klein again:

Part of the reason so many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans. That’s why, when you look at graphs of the percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, you see huge jumps after Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reform and George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. So whenever you hear that half of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, remember: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush helped build that.

Here’s where I think Klein and the Democrats are missing a critical point. This creation of an income-tax-free class is why any tax reform has to broad-based. Raising taxes on the rich may satisfy the class warriors out there, but it won’t close the deficit enough. If you want revenue, you’re going to have to expand to tax burden to a larger swath of the American public.

Leaving out the blame and the details, however, is Romney’s general point true? Are we dividing between “moochers” and workers in this country? After all, more than half of Americans get money from the government, right?

Well, yeah, but. If you’re going to defined that as the “moocher” class, you’re throwing in tens of millions of seniors who paid into Medicare/Social Security and are now, quite reasonably, taking benefits out. You’re throwing in the military who are earning their keep (and then some). If we’re talking purely about any anti-poverty public assistance, we’re looking at about 4.4 million on welfare, 40 million on food stamps, 50 million on Medicaid. Those are not separate groups, however, as many draw from more than one program and many of those receiving food stamps/Medicaid are, in fact working. I suspect the number of truly dependent people — excluding military, retirees and working poor — is closer to Ezra Klein’s 7% than to Mitt Romney’s 47%.

Now, it is true that welfare rolls and food stamps have soared in recent years. That tends to happen in a recession and a jobless recovery. But while Obama deserves a lot blame, you can also thank Republicans for that, too. The big expansion in foodstamp eligibility happened in 2002, under Bush and the GOP Congress. The biggest expansion of Medicaid, so far, came under George W. Bush (Obamacare will expand it more, but not until 2014).

But there’s something deeper than that. As Matt Welch points out, the idea of a dependency class is contra everything the Republicans have been saying for the last five decades:

This is economic determinism at its worst, going against the very message the Republican Party was trying to sell to the world during its quadrennial national convention last month. Over and over again, we heard speakers there talk about how their immigrant grandparents came to this country, worked hard, built “that,” never asked for a handout, and as a result their descendants have enjoyed the American Dream of ever-upward mobility. What the 53/47 dividing line says, to the direct contrary, is that income status is a permanent political condition, defrocking all Americans of agency and independent thought.

Most people at some point will be part of the 47 percent (indeed, nearly most already are). When my friends and I were comparatively poor, as people often are in their 20s and early 30s, we (for the most part) didn’t “believe” that we were “victims,” didn’t “believe the government has a responsibility” to care for us, and didn’t vote for Democratic political candidates “no matter what.” We mostly took personal responsibility and care for our lives, and acted according to our idiosyncratic individual values and whims.

I should theoretically be the target audience for this stuff. I never took out a federally guaranteed student loan, never enjoyed the mortgage-interest deduction; I worry all the time about government spending and entitlements, and I am not unfamiliar with the looter/moocher formulation. But this kind of reductionism does not reflect individualism (as David Brooks charges), it rejects individualism, by insisting that income tax is destiny. It judges U.S. residents not as humans but as productive (or unproductive) units. (Though as long as people are thinking that way, is there any category of resident less taker-y than illegal immigrants with fake Social Security cards who file income taxes?) And it prematurely valorizes one class of government-gobbling Americans while prematurely writing off another.

Most of us on this blog have, at some point, been part of that 47%. Most of us went to college and had little income, or did internships or worked or way up through the ranks or were in the military. That 47%, as I have said over and over and over again when Democrats babble about income inequality, is not a static population. People move in and out all the time. The United States has very strong class mobility. I was in that 47% when I was in grad school, even though I was working 60 hours a week and taking home an income. Now I’m in the 53%. I’ve probably put away too much for retirement to go back into the 47% when I get older (assuming I retire), but I could move back there at some point. Probably everyone who reads this blog has gone through similar transitions.

And that’s really the bizarre thing about this tape business: by jumping up and down with squeals of joy about this gaffe, the Left is missing the forest for the trees. They are so eager to label the GOP as uncaring Monty Burns types, they’ve forgotten — AGAIN! — the massive expansion in welfare eligibility, massive increases in spending and massive tax cuts for people who don’t pay taxes that happened under the Republicans. They are — again — criticizing Republicans for the exact opposite of what Republicans actually did. The are — again — missing the point about class mobility.

Final word to Nick Gillespie:

Let’s not mince words: President Barack Obama is one lucky bastard.

Exactly. I know people will bleat about the media, but Romney’s press conference after the remarks came out was hardly any better. There were reports, from Republican sources, of infighting in the campaign last week. The Romney campaign seemingly can’t go for 24 hours without stepping on a rake and smacking themselves in the face.

But, no, MSM, it’s not going to decide the election. You can make all the secret videos you want — this is still going to come down to who people think will get the economy moving (and yes, Part V of my voting post is coming up).

This Week in Flip-Flopping

Ugh:

Mitt Romney said congressional Republicans were wrong to accept a deal last year that could ultimately result in across-the-board spending cuts, including massive cuts to the military.

“I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it,” Romney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it.”

I’m just reeling at that. The spending cuts were Obama’s idea? And the Congressional GOP went along? And now we need to undo those spending cuts? What on Earth is Mitt Romney talking about? Oh, wait … it gets better:

And while the Republican nominee has repeatedly vowed to work towards a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care reform, Romney said in the interview he favors some measures found in the law.

“Well, I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform. Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place,” he said.

Romney listed the provision that ensures those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage as one aspect he would include in his own health care plan, which he said would “replace Obamacare.” The former Massachusetts governor has taken heat for opposing the federal health care law despite the fact it was largely modeled after the 2006 law he signed in the Bay State.

It is just a week past Labor Day and Romney is already conceding bits of the agenda. To be fair, some commentators think he means going back to the pre-Obamacare law which said that you could transfer insurance and not be denied for pre-existing conditions. But if he does mean that people should be not be barred from insurance for pre-existing conditions in general, something Republicans have supported, that, uh … won’t work without a coverage mandate.

The “good news” is that Obama is matching Romney in the Flip-Flop Voter Flip-Off Sweepstakes. You remember the Ryan Plan and how evil it was to offer seniors the option of a private plan? Well, it looks like HHS is about to implement … the Ryan plan:

In his convention speech in Charlotte, President Obama vowed to block the Republican Medicare reform plan because “no American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies.”

But back in Washington, his Health and Human Services Department is launching a pilot program that would shift up to 2 million of the poorest and most-vulnerable seniors out of the federal Medicare program and into private health insurance plans overseen by the states.

The administration has accepted applications from 18 states to participate in the program, which would give states money to purchase managed-care plans for people who are either disabled or poor enough to qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. HHS approved the first state plan, one for Massachusetts, last month.

Medicare only covers 80% of medical expenses. Seniors have to find the other 20% from other resources. And for poorer seniors, Medicaid is that other resource. What the states want to do is roll these dual-coverage citizens into private plans that will used managed care to cut expenses. California estimates this could save them half a billion a year.

It’s not a bad idea, actually. Medicare and Medicaid are notoriously wasteful, paying out just about any claim. If private companies get involved, there might be some actual resource review. Hell, there could even be — gasp! — fraud investigation! Bowles-Simpson recommended it. And the list of opponents is practically a whos-who of bad healthcare reform ideas.

No, the policy is not necessarily the problem; the hypocrisy is. Either moving patients to private system is an evil abandoning of our commitments or it isn’t.

So Romney is embracing Obama policies and Obama is embracing Romney policies. The closer we get to this election, the more it looks like no choice at all.

Election 2012: II. Why We Should Vote Against Mitt Romney

(This is the second of five posts I will put up over the two weeks of the conventions, exploring my thoughts on the Presidential election. Parts 1 and 2 will be reasons to vote for and against Mitt Romney; Parts 3 and 4 will be reasons to vote for and against Barack Obama. Part 5 will wrap up. Keep in mind, this is my thinking as we go through the conventions. It’s likely that things will change between now and Election Day.)

Next week I’ll put up two posts looking at Obama’s record. And I’ll probably get into a little bit now. But a fundamental principle, for me, is that Obama’s suckiness does not automatically make Mitt Romney a good alternative. Going forward for the next four years, is Mitt Romney the guy we want in charge? I can think of several reasons why electing Romney would be a bad idea.

The Deficit

Look, I’ll get into Obama’s deficit record next week. I’m not going to excuse his failures on this. But will Mitt Romney make the probem better or worse?

There are many reasons to believe the latter. If we are to believe his campaign promises, Romney plans to increase defense spending, not cut Medicare or Social Security and cut taxes. The math simply does not work. It would mean cutting other spending by at least 40%. That’s 40% of federal law enforcement and border control. That’s 40% of education, which might sound fine but would mean many inner city schools would have to close. That’s 40% of science, 40% of infrastructure, 40% of intelligence. More if interest rates go up.

Does anyone seriously think the GOP is going to cut spending 40%? Does anyone think they can cut enough to allow for tax cuts? Let’s take a look at the causes of the deficit in the next decade. The graph below is a little deceptive as it anticipates that stimulus spending will wane (it hasn’t and doesn’t) and does some other shady accounting about entitlements and taxes (e.g., bracket creep, SGR, etc.). But no matter how you slice it, Bush’s tax cuts are a large contributor to the debt (Obama has extended them and plans on extending them for everyone but the rich; so they are his now). After that, you get the economy, structural deficits and the war.

That would be bad enough. But there’s something in that graph that the CBPP would rather not talk about: that spending increased massively on all fronts during the Bush era. This is hidden in the graph because we were enjoying a bubble-fueled boom in revenues. The graph then sees the lack of those revenues — due to the economy and tax cuts — as the cause of the deficit rather than the huge spending increases that accompanied them. It regards bubble revenues and bubble spending as the new normal. So parts of that orange and dark blue should be labelled “Bush era non-defense spending”.



The simple fact is that the last time we gave the GOP unfettered access to the national purse, they went wild. And we are still paying the price for their profligacy.

“Oh, shut up about Bush!” you say. OK. Let’s talk about the current situation. When the Republicans had both Congress and the White House, federal spending increased 6.4% per year. Under Obama, it has increased … 6.4% a year, including all stimuli, bailouts and automatic stabilizers. But in the last two years, it has increased about 1% per year. You want spending restraint? We’re getting it, thanks to a divided government.

I’m drifting a bit into “reasons to vote for Obama” territory, but it is a simple fact that our government has exercised more spending restraint when it has been divided than when it has been united. Federal spending has been basically flat for two years now. The GOP has opposed all of Obama’s new spending initiatives. I do not trust them to have that same discipline when Romney is in the White House. Does anyone really think Romney and the Republicans will combine to keep spending growth at 1% per year as Obama and the Republicans have? With the promises they are making to increase defense spending?

We are already hearing big-spending rumblings in the GOP, who now want to undo the sequester, at least as far as national defense goes. Here is a plot of the defense spending as currently envisioned under various scenarios:

That sequester slice is the one Republicans are branding as “devastating”. They have even dragged out Keynesian arguments about how the cuts will “destroy jobs” as a reason to void them. In short, they have identified increasing spending as a top priority. Does that sound like a bunch of budget cutters to you?

Look, you can posit that Obama wants to spend like mad. I’ll agree. So what? Congress controls the purse strings. And since Obama and the Republicans have had to share power, those strings have been the tightest in two decades. I have little confidence they will show the same restraint with President Romney.

The GOP is Still Crazy

I made this bullet point before the convention. And I am still worried about the GOP focus on cultural issues. I could see, without a veto threat, the GOP pushing forward personhood laws, more cuts to birth control and strengthening of DOMA. But the RNC ameliorated some of my fears, showing a GOP that was more optimistic, more plugged in and more focused on real issues like the economy. The impression was that they have done what I’d hoped: taken the best elements of the Tea Party and incorporated them into a coherent vision of constrained government.

Still, I’m known to be optimistic about these things. And giving them power is a gamble that they’ve figured things out.

Foreign Policy

If we elect Romney, the aggressive foreign policy of the Bush years will return. He has surrounded himself with and the RNC highlighted neocons who favor a larger military and a more aggressive global engagement. There are many on his team who favor attacks on Iran and think getting involved in Syria would be a good idea. And the idea that we should aquiesce to whatever Israel wants — rather than treating them like every other ally with whom we occasionally squabble — was on full display.

(To be honest, it’s sometimes hard to tell what the GOP wants on foreign policy. They’ve mainly been defined as opposing whatever it is Obama is doing. So we should get involved in Libya. No we shouldn’t. Well, we should, but we should lead from the front. But we don’t want to spend too much or get any American soldiers killed. And it’s unconstitutional anyway. There’s a good case to be made that no one knows what the fuck these guys will do on foreign policy when they’re in charge again. That’s not an argument for giving the State Department back to them.)

2016

If Romney wins this year, he’ll be running again in 2016. That means that Condi Rice, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley … will not be running in 2016. And I have far more confidence in those guys than I do in Mitt Romney (although Ryan would obviously still be VP).

That having been said, you don’t pass up an opportunity in 2012 because of what might be available in 2016. Every election has to be decided on its own merits. Because, at some point in the next four years, the President might face a decision that could change the course of history.

The Supreme Court

Four years ago, I disputed the notion that Obama would radically tilt the Court to the Left by pointing out how much older the liberal wing was than the right wing.

The two oldest judges on the court are liberals (and Ginsberg, in particular, is looking frail). The three youngest judges are conservative. The average conservative age is 60.8; the average liberal age is 75.5. Even if Obama is in for eight years, he is most likely to replace two liberal judges on the Court. And even if one of the conservatives were to be in a tragic blimp accident, that would shift the court to being as radically crazy liberal as it was during the Rhenquist years.

The idea that Obama is going to leave us with a Burger-style radical liberal Court is frankly hyperbolic. Unless the entire Court is wiped out during a meth-fueled orgy, Obama will, at most, shift the court somewhat to the left. True, the Court won’t become more conservative. But considering how conservative is defined these days—a unitary executive, untrammeled federal power, the suspension of habeas—that’s fine with me.

And, indeed, the only judges Obama has replaced have been liberals (Stephens and Souter). The new judges do not seem ridiculous radical. Liberal, yes. But the Court has produced good decisions recently on immigration, broadcast deceny and even a 9-0 decision reining in in the EPA. For all the pain of the Obamacare decision, it was the conservative Roberts who cast the critical vote.

That math has changed a bit since I wrote that in 2008. Here’s the age of the various SCOTUS justices:

Conservative: Roberts (57), Scalia (76),Thomas (64), Alito (62)
Moderate: Kennedy (76)
Liberal: Ginsburg (79), Breyer (74), Sotomayor (58), Kagan (52)

The conservatives now average at 65, the liberals at 66. The Court is very well-balanced. But preserving that balance over the next four years will be tricky. Ginsburg, Breyer, Scalia and Kennedy are the oldest judges. And while Scalia will not leave the Court until the pry his dead body out of the bathroom, anyone over 70 has to be considered a potential replacement.

Ginsberg and Breyer are probably the two that will most need replacement in the next two years. I would prefer that they not be replaced by conservatives and tilt the balance even further. That, of course has to be weighed against the danger that Kennedy or Scalia are replaced by Obama. (I’ll talk about this in the context of re-electing Obama in the next post).

Conclusion

Looking over this list, it really boils down to two issues: the deficit and foreign policy. And that really boils down to one issue: Romney seems poised to give us a return to the bad old days when Republicans spent worse than Democrats, got us involved in foreign quagmires and focused on culture issues to distract from it.

The last few weeks have reduced these concerns a little. The selection of Ryan is a big indicator that Romney intends to take spending seriously. But they are not gone. And that Romney is surrounding himself with Bush people, advocating Bush policies and pushing Bush rhetoric makes me nervous.

One final note:

Reasons not to not vote for Mitt Romney

There are a number of things that have been thrown out as reasons we shouldn’t vote for Mitt Romney that I consider to be either bullshit or irrelevant. His Mormon faith is chief among those. His involvement with Bain financial is another. Putting his dog on the roof; some bullying incidents when he was a kid; his taxes; his interest in dressage. I consider all of these irrelevant.

(Update: Late breaking something else that doesn’t matter: whether or not Paul Ryan is lying about his marathon time.)

If you’re going to vote for Romney, the reasons are because he might repeal Obamacare, could keep the radical wing of the GOP in check, could get the economy booming and might even back off the War on Drugs. If you’re not going to vote for him, it’s because we might enjoy a return to big spending, tax cutting and war starting.

And either of those are dependent on what you think of the other guy, who will be the subject of the next two posts.

Election 2012: I. Why We Should Vote For Mitt Romney

(This is the first of five posts I will put up over the next two weeks, exploring my thoughts on the Presidential election. Parts 1 and 2 will be reasons to vote for and against Mitt Romney; Parts 3 and 4 will be reasons to vote for and against Barack Obama. Part 5 will wrap up. Keep in mind, this is my thinking as we go through the conventions. It’s likely that things will change between now and Election Day. A few guidelines before we start.

1. I’m not a Republican anymore. I define myself as a conservative-libertarian but I’m not convinced those interests are served by the GOP in its present form. If I thought electing Ralph Nader would be best for this country, I’d endorse him.

2. I’m not going to endorse that idiot Ralph Nader. Just so we’re clear.

3. These posts are about the candidates themselves. “He’s not Obama” is not a reason to vote for Mitt Romney. “He’s not Mitt Romney” is not a reason to vote for Barack Obama. I’m sick of these “the other side can’t win” arguments. This is sort of a stream of consciousness as I think about both men.)

So Mitt Romney is now the official nominee. I will say, going in, he would not be my top choice or even in my top 50. But of the weak field we had this year, he was the best option. And I don’t think he’d be a disaster if elected.

So why should we vote for Mitt Romney? Well, here’s a few reasons off the top of my head:

Repealing Obamacare: There are parts of Obamacare that are not horrible. There are slivers that could form part of a much more sensible healthcare reform. But we don’t get those parts; we get the whole convoluted overwrought thing. And, despite the CBO’s optimism, I’m convinced that the whole thing will make the healthcare system far worse, far more expensive and far more unaccountable. If Obama is re-elected, Obamacare — or some version of it — is here to stay. Electing Mitt is our best chance to get rid of it.

Will Mitt Romney and the GOP repeal Obamcare? That’s the $716 billion question. Given current projections, doing so would inflate the near-term deficit. And, as I previously noted, there are parts of Obamacare that are popular. It will be very easy for the Democrats to demagogue throwing 25-year-olds off their parents’ insurance or restoring the ability of insurance companies to rescind coverage or deny coverage. The fact is that repealing Obamacare will throw millions out of insurance plans. Does the GOP have the stomach for that? Can they overcome an almost certain Democratic filibuster? There’s only one way to find out.

Romney the Chameleon: Mitt is not an ideologue. He may sounds like one this year, but his history reveals a man centered on one idea: getting elected. And the only thing he wants more than to be elected is to be re-elected. To that end, he’ll say what the GOP wants to hear. But, in the end, he’s going to try to find things that work, even if the contradicts GOP canon (we all saw how well Bush fulfilled his promises). As we’ve seen before, he has no problem misrepresenting his policies. He’ll have no problem cutting Medicare while demagoguing Medicare cuts or raises taxes while saying he’s cutting them. Maybe an unprincipled man is just what this country needs.

I’m not being sarcastic here; I’m being totally honest. Political principles can be very dangerous things, especially given the commitment of the GOP to some bad ideas (e.g., cutting taxes to fix the deficit; federal personhood; aggressive foreign policy). Someone who can placate the party base while pursuing doable practical policies can govern effectively. The question is going to be: How will Romney govern against how he has campaigned?

Mitt is at least vaguely familiar with the private sector: Let’s not confuse running Bain Capital with starting a small business. But Mitt has made tough decisions — shuttering unprofitable factories, for instance — that are critical to a functional economy. He at least listens.

I think Mitt also has a slightly better notion of what’s wrong with the economy — that we’re working out from under a huge pile of debt. Now he’s officially opposed the policies that could help, like Quantitative Easement. But if there is a candidate out there who understands that the government needs to quit trying to help and let things recover on their own, it’s Mitt.

Only Nixon Could Go To China: This will be a recurring theme in these posts. The basic idea is that only a Republican can advance liberal ideas and only a Democrat can advance conservative ideas. The catch phrase reflect the reality of Nixon making nice with communist China. Had a liberal President made peace with China, he would have been pilloried for it. But because Nixon was such a staunch anti-communist, his detente was possible.

We have seen this throughout the last twenty years. A Republican would never been able to get NAFTA or Welfare Reform passed or reined in government spending the way Bill Clinton did. A Democrat would have not been able to jack up spending and pass a zillion regulations the way Bush did. A Republican would not have been able to ramp up War on Terror excesses the way Obama has. They would have been pilloried by the opposition. Politicians do move in ways the other party opposes: Obama on gay marriage; Clinton on abortion; Bush on tax cuts. But there are a number of key issues where the opposition is simply too entrenched, the issues too easy to demagogue.

There are a number of issues where this country needs to move “left”: the War on Drugs, medical marijuana, imprisonment and civil liberties. Obama can not move to the left on those issues; indeed, he’s gone hard right on all of them. But Mitt can. If there is any President who might back off of the War on Drugs, it’s going to have to be a “severe” Republican. In fact, Republicans like Chris Christie have been leading the charge on overhauling our drug laws. Hell, Mitt might even be able to make some market-oriented moves on global warming — as Bush did — instead of Obama’s cap-and-trade absurdity.

The Abyss: One impression I’ve gotten over the last few days is that the GOP may be … may be … coming to their senses. Susanna Martinez, Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie … there’s been a parade of people who are actually interested in governing. The tone has been negative … any campaign against an incumbent will be … but the venom of 2004 and 2008 seems very diminished.

I worry that if Romney fails to win, the GOP will react by thinking they erred in going with a “RINO moderate” and go with some rockhead ideologue like Santorum or Bachmann. It’s nice that these people are principled. But it’s impossible to govern that way when the country is half Democrat and very concentrated on the center right.

The Debt: Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan has put the debt issue front and center. There are some issues with Ryan’s plan: it doesn’t balance the budget for a long time and cuts taxes before we’ve gotten our debt under control. But electing Romney would be a clear sign that we will not put up with trillion dollar deficits.

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Anyway, discuss. But keep in mind this is about reasons to vote for Romney, not against Obama. I’ll put up that thread next week. What about Mitt Romney, specifically, excites you? What about Mitt Romney, specifically, makes you think he would be a good President? What about Mitt Romney, specifically, makes you think he can get the economy moving and balance the budget?

RNC Open Thread

Been busy, but I’ll put this up as a discussion point for the Republican National Convention and update it as events warrant. I might even, if I can figure out how, sticky it until the convention is over.

I have not been able to watch much so far. I saw bits of Ann Romney’s speech, which was quite nice. I’ve said before that she is one of the more appealing parts of Team Romney. And I saw Chris Christie’s speech, which was very good, although said little about Romney. Overall, I’m slightly very minimally cautiously optimistic maybe. Not about Election 2012 but about the GOP. They seem to have realized how crazy things have gotten and to be moving toward a more sane governing position. It’s easy to miss when idiots like Donald Trump are still being allowed to roam free. But last night’s lineup of Haley, Ann Romney and Christie point the way to a much more reasonable future for the GOP.

I’m cooking up some big posts about the election. Hope to have the first one up soon. In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves.

Update: I’ve been harsh on the GOP platform, by Yglesias highlights some good stuff.