Cynics Vote Too

The 2012 Presidential election offers cynics an election of the century.     Most voters have already decided, we are told, and we are just waiting for a few independents to make up their minds.  Maybe, but I think just below this surface of civility, runs a raging river of mistrust and fear, all mixed intimately with personal greed.  With a globalizing world and domestic fiscal problems posing dire consequences if not solved, voters seem paralyzed.  Why?

The “paralysis” I am talking about is accepting the Presidential candidate’s prepared lines and not thinking the country’s situation through.

Mitt Romney has his facts.  He states them relentlessly as if voters will believe him if he repeats a slogan enough times. Try these.

“The President’s policies have failed.” 

What is he talking about?  President Obama inheriting an economy in free fall, unemployment was stabilized and is now slowly but steadily recovering.  The stock market crashed rendering pension funds and individual 401Ks worth a fraction of their value.  Both are now back at pre-crash levels.  And compared to other world democracies, the US economic growth is the strongest.

“The President has created $6 trillion in debt”.

So what would a President Romney have done differently?  Two trillion of the increased debt can be traced to efforts to recover from the recession.  The rest is a continuation of the 2009 budget former President George W Bush left President Obama, one with a $1 trillion deficit.  That incoming deficit reflect Bush tax cuts, two wars, an unfunded Medicare Part D, and a widening gap resulting from laws defining Medicare and Medicaid expenditures and tax revenues to fund them.  What would a President Romney have done?

“Unemployment is the same as when the President took office”.

This type of a campaign statement smears the intelligence of others but maybe not “paralyzed” voters.  Unemployment was plummeting when President Obama took office and bottom out around 10.2%.  Against this factual background, the number today has improved to 7.8%.  Good and better than other democracies, but still short of what America is used to.  What would a President Romney have done?

“I will lower the marginal tax rate by 20%, not increase the deficit, and not ask the middle class to pay more”.

This promise falls in the category of “too good to be true”.  Many budget experts say this is an impossible claim.  None the less, Romney is sticking with it.  Let’s ask what might be the outcome if this proposal were feasible.

Middle class tax payers should expect to pay a lower marginal tax and at the same time receive less tax deductions, or a net “zero” in their taxes.  That’s right, pay a lower rate but pay the same amount of taxes.  Why should anyone favor that?

The answer lies in ones tax bracket, and how much you might expect that income to grow.  Someone paying 35% marginal rate this year, would expect to pay 28% next year.  That means that income next year would be taxed at 7% lower marginal rate.  Do the math and see how well the top 2% versus the middle class makes out each future year.

Lost in these campaign promises are the serious underlying issue.  For example, the growing income distribution inequality (which is sapping demand from our economy), the size of the debt (where debt interest could crowd out other spending), and the seriously unfunded nature of Medicare, Medicare, and Social Security (key programs for quality of life).

To deal with these problems, voters need to hear policies which not only create jobs but jobs paying much better.

The only way to pay down the debt is to run the federal budget at a surplus.  Clearly less taxes is not the way to go.

And, the unfunded nature of entitlements calls for a comprehensive overhaul of both funding and benefits phased in over time.

Where are the substantive discussions around these notions?

The “paralysis” has instead allowed people to worry more about what impacts them tomorrow.  Both candidates are only two happen to feed these fears.  Completing this picture, the enormous cottage industry composed of political strategists, pollsters, organizers, advertisers, and last but not least, the media eagerly suck up the millions of special interest dollars flowing in.

So who said there is not a place for a cynic in the Presidential race?

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