Does It Really Matter?

Does it really matter who is elected to the presidency in November?

Regardless of who is elected the U. S. will continue to be interventionist in its foreign policy.

Regardless of who is elected the “Bush tax cuts” will be sustained. There may be some tweaking around the edges.

Regardless of who is elected healthcare costs will continue to rise and healthcare will comprise a larger share of federal spending.

Regardless of who is elected the detention center in Guantanamo will be maintained.

Regardless of who is elected the security apparatus put in place in the aftermath of the attacks in New York and Washington, DC in 2001 will only be expanded.

Regardless of who is elected the non-existent Social Security trust fund will be drawn down at an accelerating rate.

Regardless of who is elected large banks will continue to be subsidized. Small banks will continue to be absorbed by large banks.

That’s just scratching the surface. In comments please make a case for why it will make a difference. (Please!)

I might add that I think it’s very likely that whoever is elected the U. S. will experience another economic downturn during the next presidential term.


Doug Mataconis over at OTB has picked up the torch on this topic. A number of the commenters there emphasize the likelihood of one or more Supreme Court justices being appointed during the next term. I think they’re over-estimating the predictability of Supreme Court justices and not reflecting sufficiently on what sort of justice would be likely to receive Senate approval with the likely composition of the Senate in the next term.

Barring its being overturned by the Court, I think the PPACA is here to stay regardless of who is elected. I have little doubt that Republicans will continue to hold the House or that the House Republicans would dearly love to repeal it. In the event that Republicans take control of the Senate, too, it will be by the narrowest of majorities—not enough to overcome the filibuster Senate Democrats would be likely to mount.

Update 2

Ezra Klein responds to my observations above:

I toy with this sort of argument myself. But I think the beginning of wisdom on this point is to recognize that the differences between the two parties are largely swallowed in congressional gridlock. The issue here isn’t that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama wouldn’t like to govern very differently. Obama, for instance, would very much like to pass a cap-and-trade plan to regulate carbon followed by an immigration-reform bill that included a path to citizenship. Romney would not like to pass those laws.

and goes on to observe, correctly, that it’s Congress that really matters (other than in the foreign policy and security areas that I mentioned in the original post where the president really holds the cards).

However, I disagree with Mr. Klein’s claim. I think that if President Obama had really wanted to pass a cap-and-trade plan he would have done so in the last term. I’d like to know how you go about measuring “very much like to”. I think it should be by effort expended.

I have no doubt that President Obama would very much like to give the impression that he would very much like to pass a cap-and-trade plan. Is or was he really interested? And how could you tell?

34 comments… add one
  • Jimbino Link

    If Obama is elected, there’s a great threat that more wealth and income of industrious, single, childfree, young men will be transferred to indolent, married, breeding women of all ages, and particularly old women, in the form of discriminatory taxes and healthcare premiums and penalties. If Romney wins and flattens the tax rates and kills off Medicaid, foodstamp and all the child-support welfare that go almost exclusively to indolent breeding single women, men might return to thinking about working more than in leaving the country, and women might start to consider suspending the breeding, studying STEM, chess and welding, and ultimately becoming positive contributors to society.

    If Romney is elected, there’s a chance that the union stranglehold on Amerikan primary and secondary “education” will finally be broken and a new age of enlightenment ushered in, where schools are privatized, the bright students aren’t held back by dolts, the dolts are taught something useful at their own level, teachers find pleasure in bright minds, teasing and bullying are replaced by a return of music and art, and the whole thing won’t cost the taxpayer over $12,000 per ruined kid in 9-month stretches.

    If Obama is elected, there’s a chance that a Black Amerikan face will once again be seen at a national park or forest, if the sitting President decides to reprise the Obama family’s visit to the Grand Canyon two years ago. Among 4000 visitors I saw in over a dozen national parks and forests this past winter, only 4–all at the Grand Canyon–were Blacks, and they were probably Nigerians. If Romney wins and takes his family to a national park or forest, the photos will make it look like an excursion to an exclusive White Amerikan country club, which of course it would be, if not for the fact of some 80% in attendance being Asians.

  • Jeff Medcalf Link

    Given that the GOP chose another Bush/Dole/Bush/McCain type, probably won’t matter as much as some hope and others fear. If a really mid-American, fiscal conservative type were on the ballot, than it might. But as long as it’s two Keynesian corporatists arguing the division of spoils, not so much.

  • PD Shaw Link

    As far as I can tell, Obama is running on a platform of stay the course and higher taxes on the rich. Assuming Obama wins and the Republicans maintain control of the House, I assume we will only get stay the course.

    If Romney is elected, I don’t expect him to do anything dramatically different, but a Republican House will seek to overplay their hand in ways that I’m not sure I can foresee yet. I think there will be a strong push for regulatory/tax/fiscal reform.

  • Icepick Link

    As Jeff Medcalf says, it is mostly a question of division of spoils.

    There will be some other differences as most likely one of the two of them will have a more competent administration than the other, but that will be marginal. (And is unlikely to be uniform – better at foreign policy and worse at domestic policy is also a possible outcome. I cite that only as one large example. We’d be here till the election discussing all possible discrete combinations.)

    That’s why I’m electing not to reward the bastards by voting for either of them. Time to stop electing the disasters because the “other guys” will be catastrophes. I could write in Bozo the Clown, for example, but Bozo has never done anything to me, so why would I want to do that to him?

  • Icepick Link

    Jimbino, never trust anyone over thirty or anyone who has bred! Only single young men can be trusted!

  • Yikes, Icepick! That’s scary.

  • Icepick Link

    Which comment, Janis? (The second comment was not exactly heart-felt on my part. But then, I’m married, over thirty and I have bred.)

  • PD Shaw Link

    So Icepick lied about not trusting people like him? Oh, the paradox.

  • Icepick Link

    To be strictly fair, I don’t trust anyone, save my wife.

  • jan Link

    Without a crystal ball revealing predictions for the future, one can only cautiously postulate by borrowing from the past of the individuals who are competing for POTUS.

    In Obama’s case, he finally has a record to make such an assessment. And, from that record you can extrapolate that this country will not deal with entitlement reform, as it would create convulsions among anyone who is a recipient of said entitlement (D’s, I’s and R’s). He will continue to expand social programs, which in turn will add more and more to the deficit. As a counter measure Obama will print more money. He will turn every misstep or failed policy as either not being a misstep or failure, or , if that is impossible to get away with, his agile finger will point to the republicans and/or Bush as the source to blame, or simply have his index finger brush up against his nose as a reflection of how he is feeling that day.

    Obama will continue using class warfare, racial injustices, affirmative action ploys, increasing government hand-outs as a way to divide the country and expand a permanent dependent base who will be more and more beholding to a bigger and bigger centralized government. No matter what happens in the courts about PPACA , he will attempt to guide our health care system into the government realm and a single payer system. As a socially progressive ideologue, he will cut military spending in order to have more funding for social programs, and in the process this country will became less of a world power and more subject to the whims of individual tyrants and/or the demands of globalization. The cost of power for everyone, electricity, gas, etc., will skyrocket as he continues to subsidize green energy while demogauging further exploration or tax subsidies for fossil fuels. It’s that old adage of you have to uplift and pay for Peter, by first tearing down and taking it from Paul.

    If Romney becomes President, little things will probably first change. He won’t take a salary as prez. He will take fewer vacations, spending some of them at less cost away from DC in his own home(s). He will have more women in his administration, as half the jobs were filled by women in his MA administration. He will trim a lot of excess from government, which will mean the loss of public sector jobs. He will also re-organize and diminish the EPA’s power so that it once again manages what it was supposed to manage under the original Clean Air Act. This in turn will turn off the endless drip of regulations being churned out by government, hampering the creation of new business/jobs as well as the operations of old businesses/jobs. There will be renewed optimism by investors, which, in turn will begin to free up money, and the economy will begin to move forward.

    There will be some income tax reform by lowering tax margins, closing loopholes, and increasing or instituting fees on licenses/services which will become a few additional sources of revenue enhancement (this was incorporated in his budget policy in MA to help eliminate it’s deficit and balance the budget). Romney will replace PPACA with a more moderate health plan based on health insurance competition, formation of high risk pools, incentives for maintaining one’s own health, a wider variety of health exchanges, and lessening the use of ER’s by free riders, by presenting such people with a bill for services.

    Romney will not be an isolated president, either. Unlike Obama, who is said to not communicate often with even members of his own party, let alone his political opponents, this will not be the case with Romney. When he was governor of MA he collaborated with members from the entire political spectrum to make any legislative headway at all, being a republican governor in a state having a measly 12% republican registration and a legislature comprised of 85% democrats. He came into office with a deficit, and left 4 years later with a small surplus, a balanced budget, and a healthcare system in place which continues to be viewed positively by two-thirds of the adults and over 80% of the physicians living in that state.

    What I see as a hopeful possibility in a Romney administration is that it would have a better chance of being run pragmatically rather than ideologically. This has been a trait of Romney, that he is not an ideologue by nature, something that has been flogged by the far right, angrily labeling him as being a RINO. But, I see this as having merit. For, he may be more intrinsically capable to make hard, controversial decisions, create new policies based on what is best for the country rather than what merely falls into step with the principles of an often myopic, impractical political phiosophy.

  • jan Link

    I just finished reading this piece highlighting comments from the former GE chief, Jack Welch in his interview with Larry Kudlow: …Re Obama: “It’s always someone else to blame with this guy”

    This excerpt dovetails into my own post explaining that there are differences between what to expect from Romney versus Obama, in the next four years.

    “Great leaders don’t divide,” Welch insisted to Larry Kudlow, and compared Romney’s record in Massachusetts as the model of consensus over Obama’s “divisiveness.”

    He went on to say compare Obama with Nixon and his lengthy “Enemies List.”

  • Icepick Link

    “Great leaders don’t divide,” Welch insisted to Larry Kudlow, “they just sell off unprofitable divisions and make certain all the trouble makers get transferred there first.”

    How about Jack Welch for President? I wonder which states he would sell off first?

  • Sam Link

    Some things that matter to me will be different:
    The ESA is about to get a lot crappier, more likely to be kept good under Romney.

    I like Romney’s idea for a 0 capital gains tax on the middle class. Costs almost nothing but helps me immensely.

    Simplification and streamlining of retirement accounts would be more likely under Romney. I dream of ditching 401ks, SEPs and Roths in favor of simple Canadian-style RRSP and TFSA accounts.

    Otherwise I think they will be identical except for the rhetoric.

  • Mercer Link

    Romney will not just continue the Bush tax rates. He has promised lower taxes. Ryan says that the GOP will make up for lower rates by eliminating “loopholes”. He does not say what loopholes he will reduce so that means you can’t count on any reduction in tax preferences to make up for the lower rates. The combination of strong commitment to lower rates and no commitment to name any “loophole” means deficit will increase if GOP takes control of Senate and White House.

    Anyone who thinks you can get consensus with the current polarized parties in DC is dreaming. The gulf is too big for any leader to bridge. The best chance for better fiscal policy is gridlock on taxes resulting in Bush tax rates expiring.

  • Maxwell James Link

    Presidential candidates tend to keep their promises once elected. So if Romney is elected, I expect the Ryan plan will be passed, or at least something like it. That’s the main difference, but it’s a fairly substantial one.

  • He won’t have a large enough Senate majority.

  • Mike McGuinty Link

    This article highlights why I support Ron Paul for President. I invite all to check out his campaign website to find out where he stands on the questions posed in this article.

    Dr. Paul will stop the failed interventionist policies on the spot.
    Dr. Paul, a physician, understand the health care issues far better than all the other candidates trying to become president. Expect a national marketplace for health insurance where everyone of the insurance companies has to compete with all others. This will benefit the average American greatly in their wallets. At the core of our problems is the removal of liberty from our lives by an authoritarian (some say fascist) government. Liberty is the core principle in Ron Paul’s platform. He can, & WILL win the Republican nomination in Tampa when we stand behind the liberty & freedom he stands for vs. the status qqo politicians who have already failed our citizenry.

  • Maxwell James Link

    Won’t need 60. Most of it can be done through reconciliation. Plus the Republican moderates will be all but gone, and the remaining Democratic moderates will be eager to make a deal.

  • Icepick Link

    Repealing the PPACA will be done through reconciliation as well. Given the size of the thng (financially) it can even be justified, if you squint and look at it sideways.

  • apetra Link

    You describe an upside down world. We’re headed towared a Republican sweep, and everything will change.

    Little changed between Bush and Obama, because Obama continued most of Bush’s worst policies. But an incoming Republican majority will be a dramatic break from the past 12 years of Bush/Obama.

    Neither of the parties will retain the fillibuster the next time they win the Presidency, and a majority of the House and the Senate at the same time.

    That goes for the Democrats, who will never again suffer the incompetence of a President Obama, who dawdled and hesitated most of the time the Democrats had a fillibuster-proof majority.

    The Republicans, if they win control of all three this time, will also end the fillibuster, as the best chance to put the Bush/Obama legacy behind the United States.

    Ending the fillibuster is an easy step upon passing the organizing resolution for the incoming Senate. It can be ended on a majority vote of the caucus with 50+1, and after this election, that’s the Republicans.

  • PD Shaw Link

    apetra, I’m skeptical that the fillibuster will be ended. That would require Senators from the majority party to act in the interest of the party over their own power. For Senators occupying the middle ground between the 40 yard lines, the filibuster expands their power and protects them from having to make difficult votes that might see them kicked out of office.

  • This is a fine piece of concern trolling.

    Do you really think a Romney Administration, backed by the warmongers in the US Senate who identify themselves as Senators McCain and Graham, will hesitate to use force in the world, provided there are benefits to their financial backers? And would they apply their selective warmongering to each situation with a clear idea of the consequences and the policy goals? For this crew, I don’t think they have arrived at a point where these policy options come with a real plan to get our troops out if things go south in a hurry.

    There are some fairly severe consequences for electing Romney, and I learned pretty much all of them from the Republicans who steadfastly oppose him. I added the bit about McCain and Graham because I think their wars of choice would be far worse than any started by Obama, et al.

  • Good lord, Jan. When we find ourselves with a fabulously wealthy American white boy president our dreams will come true? Nora Roberts has something to call for.

  • jan Link


    IMO, Romney’s wealth takes a back seat to the capabilities he offers. I also find your comment about ‘wealthy American white boy’ to be as demeaning as one that might be phrased ‘Harvard schooled black boy.’

  • I couldn’t demean Romney on a good day. Or Ann. It can’t happen.

  • What I see happening in the Republican party currently is that that “this would be a great country if the blacks and wimen hadn’t got in our way.”

  • michael reynolds Link

    There is not the slightest reason to believe that Romney is. . . anything. He’s the emptiest man I’ve seen running for president. No prediction about his actions is possible. It’s all projection at this point.

    Of course it matters who we elect. The Cuban missile crisis. The Iranian hostage drama. The Iraq war. Watergate. The man matters.

    The problem is that we never know how a man (or woman) will react in a crisis. Could we have guessed that JFK — rich boy, cad, naval hero — would keep his cool during the missile crisis? Nope. No more than we know who in a battle will run toward the guns and who will run away.

    It’s always a guess. But it’s never unimportant.

    As far as I can tell, Mitt Romney has never faced any sort of crisis in his life. Has he ever been under serious stress? Of course before he was elected the same was true of Obama. But he was elected, so we now know that he can tell jokes while waiting for news of the mission he ordered to kill Osama. We know he’ll pull the trigger on our enemies. We now know how he handles stress and crisis. We don’t know that about Romney.

    In terms of policy, has either of them even proposed anything? What’s the program of either man?

  • michael reynolds Link

    And a call-back to a previous discussion on whether Americans share Mr. Obama’s notions of “fairness.”

    According to a new Gallup poll released Friday, a majority of Americans support the proposed Buffett Rule, which would require individuals earning $1 million or more per year to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.

    The survey found that 60 percent of adults support enacting such a policy, while 37 percent oppose it.

    By significant margins, both independents (63 to 33 percent) and Democrats (74 to 24 percent) supported the measure, a key Obama campaign issue. Republicans opposed it, but by a smaller margin of 54 to 43 percent.

    Fairness is not irrelevant, it’s basic to our capacity to actually resolve some of our problems. It is vital that the rich be seen to suffer along with everyone else. That’s not class warfare, it’s actually the opposite of class warfare. Class warfare is what we will get if working class people and the poor suffer while the rich get richer.

  • If I haven’t made my own view of the “Buffett rule” clear, let me do so now. I don’t believe it will obtain the results it’s presumably intended to effect so I honestly don’t care one way or another.

    That being said I agree with Michael’s point about the importance of a perception of fairness in a liberal democratic society. I think I differ from the president on how that should be accomplished. For example, I think we’d be better off ending subsidies to the rich than trying to tax the results away after the fact.

    What subsidies to the rich? They are incredibly numerous. The home mortgage deduction is a subsidy to the rich. As Medicare and Social Security are currently constructed they are subsidies to the rich.

    The bank bailouts that both the Bush and Obama Administrations pursued were subsidies to the rich. Agricultural subsidies as constructed are subsidies to the rich. The list is practically endless.

  • Some more points on fairness in marginal rates.

    First, my experience of the ultra-rich, i.e. the top .1% of income earners, is that in order to avoid an additional $40 billion in aggregate per year they will spend $40 billion on lawyers, accountants, and various tax shelters. Maybe more. That’s why I don’t think the “Buffett rule” will be effective.

    Second, there’s essentially only one way to achieve fairness in federal taxation, fairness defined as equal effective tax rates for everybody: abolish FICA and go to a flat tax. The revised 1040 would be simplicity itself:

    1. Write down your total income from all sources.
    2. Multiply that by whatever the tax rate is.
    3. Send it in.

    The problem with that is that it would be unfair because, in violation of the precept not to compare utility functions, $2,000 means more to someone who earned just $10,000 than $200,000 does to someone who earned $1 milllion. It certainly means more in terms of their respective abilities to feed, house, and clothe themselves.

    There are ways to tinker with such a formula to ensure that it’s more fair, e.g. you could exempt the first $20,000 in income, but then you’re not arguing for fairness in effective tax rates any more.

    Which brings me to my third point: fairness isn’t simple. It’s protean in the extreme.

  • michael reynolds Link

    I agree: fairness is one of those important but slippery concepts. So is justice, so are other things. I don’t see how we ever achieve perfect fairness (or justice) since we can’t even agree on what we mean by it. But we can achieve a zone of consensus where most of us mostly agree that the system is mostly fair.

    One way might be a version of your flat minus 20 grand. But I think the exemption number would have to somehow reflect a decent living. In other words, exempt all income up to whatever number represented a decent living standard. I have no idea what that number is, but it feels like it’s probably 60 or 70 grand for a family of four. (Although 60 grand goes a lot further in AL than it does in CA.) Tax everything beyond that at whatever rate is necessary to pay our bills.

    Fairness is redefined then as the ability to maintain a certain minimum lifestyle, rather than, “Hey, look how much he has!”

  • Barry Link

    I apologize for skipping to the end and posting immediately.

    I fear the Ezra’s comment is rather – well, stupid. We saw a lot less gridlock in the Bush II reign, because his policies were were 100% in line with what the elites wanted. Obama has had few problems with gridlock whenever his policies aligned with the elites.

    Put a Republican president in office, and we’ll watch Congress fall in line, while the punditry talk about how refreshing it is to have ‘bipartisanship’, and the country gets f*cked.

  • Luke Link

    Ron Paul’s ideas of non intervention actually would make a difference. He wants to bring the troops of not only Irak, Afghanistan and North Korea.
    He wants to cut spending by one trillion dollars on his first year and balance the budget.
    He wants to give the power to the states instead of the federal government.
    He does not support torture in any way.
    And has been consistent on his stance for over 12 terms in Congress.

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