The Choice

by Dave Schuler on November 5, 2012

Yesterday on ABC’s This Week program I heard George Will make a remark to the effect that the presidential election presented a stark choice: one candidate advocates a larger, more activist federal government and the other candidate advocates a smaller, less activist one. Would that were true! The reality is that there is little choice.

Barack Obama will never be another FDR for a very simple reason. When Roosevelt took office total government spending at all levels as a percentage of GDP was 20% or less. Now it’s 39% or more. Simply stated Obama can’t make the dramatic changes to the shape of government in the United States that Franklin Roosevelt did because there’s just no room to do it in.

I think it’s self-evident that there’s some level of government spending at which the smart money is targeted in one way or another at manipulating the government rather than real entrepeneurialism and innovation. That can be by lobbying or influencing elections or just by investing in areas of the economy that are subsidized by the government. In my view we’ve already passed that level whatever it may be and increasing government’s role will only aggravate an already deteriorating situation.

Mitt Romney is not a bit better. The federal government can pretty much be summarized as transfer payments to pay pensions, income subsidies for healthcare providers, defense spending, interest on the debt, and everything else (with “everything else” being about 10% of the whole). Gov. Romney has an MBA from Harvard. Whatever he says in stump speeches he can tell a larger segment from a smaller one and optimization must focus on where there’s something to optimize. Of course the smallest 10% might be optimized a bit but there are no big savings in that direction. Gov. Romney has already expressed his determination not to reduce defense spending and there is no realistic prospect for his reducing the other segments of the pie, certainly not in the near term and probably not ever.

I would continue this post with a detailed comparison of the two candidates’ foreign policies but it would just depress me. President Obama’s foreign policy is incoherent. When you have reached the point that the only achievable objective in a military operation is withdrawal, continuing the operation is morally bankrupt. We are at that point now and have been for some time. Gov. Romney’s foreign policy is much the same as President Obama’s except that he promises to spend more, do whatever he does more forcefully, and aggravate people who can actually do something about it rather than people who can’t.

As I say, it’s just too depressing.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Icepick November 5, 2012 at 10:45 am

Of course the smallest 10% might be optimized a bit but there are no big savings in that direction. Gov. Romney has already expressed his determination not to reduce defense spending and there is no realistic prospect for his reducing the other segments of the pie, certainly not in the near term and probably not ever.

What I’ve been saying for months. Which is no great credit to me as these conclusions are inescapable upon examination. Yech.

Steve Verdon November 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I think it’s self-evident that there’s some level of government spending at which the smart money is targeted in one way or another at manipulating the government rather than real entrepeneurialism and innovation. That can be by lobbying or influencing elections or just by investing in areas of the economy that are subsidized by the government. In my view we’ve already passed that level whatever it may be and increasing government’s role will only aggravate an already deteriorating situation.

To focus on this point a bit, a good point by the way just think it needs a bit more discussion….

This kind of thing will reduce over all economic growth/activity. Things like deadweight loss, promoting inefficient activities, hindering technological and economic improvements, etc. So this is yet another factor that is hindering growth and recovery from the recession.

As I say, it’s just too depressing.

Then why in the Hell are you voting? By voting you are tacitly giving your approval to these jackholes who are f*cking things up beyond all reason. By voting you are implicitly abiding by the outcomes (i.e., it is you who can’t complain, well unless you don’t mind looking like a sore winner/loser). Your vote will almost surely not be decisive. You will almost surely have substantial buyers remorse (you are vote for the least horrible candidate, and that is putting it mildly, if you are indeed voting for the lesser evil…you are sanctioning evil none-the-less).

Seriously…is there a good reason to vote given how crappy things are and the outlook appears?

Janis Gore November 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Sure there is. I’m registering a protest vote against all that crap by taking your lead and voting GJ.

I’ve already said so here before.

You’re a pretty smart guy. (Note that I did not make the Eats, Shoots and Leaves error in that sentence.)

PD Shaw November 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I think people who are bystanders are the ones that are implicitly abiding by the outcomes. Generally speaking if you want someone else to do better, you need to identify means of positive and negative reinforcements. Nonvoters provide neither.

Icepick November 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm

(Note that I did not make the Eats, Shoots and Leaves error in that sentence.)

You’re kind of hung up on that. Did a panda kill someone close to you?

Janis Gore November 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Life has been a bear for the past seven years.

Janis Gore November 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Cute but fatal, you know?

Icepick November 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I’ve given up on the non-voting/voting thing. On the one hand non-voting is implicitly endorsing the status quo. On the other hand voting is EXplicitly endorsing the status quo if all the major choices are largely indistinguishable. Heads they win, tails you lose. Either choice is equally bad.

I had resolved not to vote in the Presidential election. Like Dave Schuler I just don’t think there’s that much difference between the major choices. Ultimately I caved because of Obama’s obnoxious supporters and the Benghazi mess. And out of inertia – I’m habituated to voting.

So I voted, as TastyBits formulated it, for ex-President Obama. If Romney wins I will at least get the pleasure of (a) not getting called a racist for opposing whatever dumb-assed things Romney decides to do and (b) the press might actually do their job for a change, assuming they remember how.

Icepick November 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Cute but fatal, you know?

Alas, I do.

Steve Verdon November 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Generally speaking if you want someone else to do better, you need to identify means of positive and negative reinforcements. Nonvoters provide neither.

You know this comment reminds me of the parable about the guy looking for his car keys under the street light. A passer by asks, “Did you lose your keys here?” The guy replies, “No, but this is the only place that I can see….”

Or lets consider this:

I vote for Romney and things will get better because….of magic?

I vote for Obama and things will get better because of…magic?

I vote for a third party candidate and things will get better because of…magic?

I grew up and stopped believing in that kind of nonsense over 3 decades ago.

As for this:

I’ve given up on the non-voting/voting thing. On the one hand non-voting is implicitly endorsing the status quo.

I’m an not participating in the system to the extent that I can and not have violence and force used against me. I don’t see how I can be much more against the status quo without actually engaging in force and violence.

PD Shaw November 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm

I believe in “the” supernatural, what can I say?

I really don’t care whether or not people vote. I do think it matters from an existential p.o.v. for people to wrestle with all of the questions regarding voting. Its not for me to suupply the answer. I also think it matters for politicians to care about what the people think as evidenced by their voting. They spend a lot of time and money concerning themselves with what voters think; but not non-voters. They ultimately need not worry about that sort.

I don’t think anybody’s vote, at least at the Presidential level, will ever decide anything in a direct sense. Its just as probable that such a close election would be decided by a mistake in voting, fraud in the election, a car accident, or an undigested bit of beef or a fragment of underdone potato.

I am voting for Romney tommorow because there is a 5-10% chance that he would be able to address some of the problems of government spending/borrowing and entitlement reform in significant ways. The chance of Obama doing so is less than that and probably less than the chance that his second term will be absorbed by articles of impeachment drafted by the people being voted to return tommorow. Like Nate Silver, my prediction cannot be proven wrong in four years, but in four years, I will probably vote for the Democrat if that’s the case.

PD Shaw November 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I will primarily be voting against incumbents tomorrow, perhaps as much as 90% of my votes cast.

steve November 5, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I think the differences between the candidates are not that large. Neither has much of a plan. However, I think Romney is marginally worse, judging by the advisers he has retained. However, if Romney wins, I will not be upset. What I do find concerning is that all of the right wingers in my email discussion groups are convinced that the only way Obama can win is by cheating.

Steve

Janis Gore November 5, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Watching thing things the way I’ve done, I’m not so sure there’s not a malign corporate conspiracy undermining the country.

When Linebarger sits on a simple file for two months, then refuses to act with a simple phone call later? What do you say?

Janis Gore November 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Not to mention that they lied. The attorney’s secretary told my brother outright that the work had been done some weeks before.

Janis Gore November 5, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I am a flame of anger.

Icepick November 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm

PD, I voted against almost all incumbents. I voted for one incumbent in a local election.

I left that ballot blank for US Senator from Florida. My choices were Bill Nelson (Democrat and two-term incumbent) or Connie Mack IV (Republican and currently a four term member of the US House of Representatives), so basically two people that ought to be fired in my opinion. Nelson was a six time member of the US House as well as holding state-wide office down here in the 1990s. Mack’s name is familiar in part because his dad held the seat that Nelson currently occupies. I’m tired of political families as well as career pols.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: