I expect your comments on this post will be awful, try to prove me wrong

by on January 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm in Current Affairs, Political Science | Permalink

Karl Smith asks:

I am specifically going to ask Yglesias, Drum, Cowen, Ozimek and Barro (Josh) to chime in on this. Anyone else feel free as well, but I would like to hear from these guys.

I don’t care if Mitt Romney pays negative taxes, cheated on his mistress with her daughter, fired his Grandmother while at Bain, and lied to kids to get the GOP nomination, etc.

What are the significant differences that you think we could actually see come to pass from a Romney Presidency versus an Obama Presidency?

I am generally a better-the-devil-you-know kind of guy, but I am pretty open here. So, let me here it.

Kevin Drum offers a specific answer.  I have not invested much energy in following Romney or the other Republican candidates, so this is a rough, impressionistic response.  Here are a few points:

1. I expect Romney to claim he has repealed ACA, but in fact he will change five aspects of the law and cement the rest of it in place, albeit in a less progressive manner and with lower Medicaid expenditures.   (Outright repeal actually would not be easy, not to mention filibuster issues.)  He knows he doesn’t have any other “right-wing health care plan” in his back pocket, won’t be willing to restore the status quo ex ante, and he will be willing to take the “Tea Party knock on the chin” very early on in his term, hoping to repair the fence later.  Ultimately letting the issue fester doesn’t help him, and he is smart enough to realize that.

2. The Republican Party will split very quickly.  For instance, will AEI support or oppose Romney in an early action like this?  I don’t know, but I see massive carnage.  Democrats may end up happier than they expect.

3. Romney will use conservative judge nominations, corporate tax cuts, Dodd-Frank repeal (does anyone understand it anyway?), and estate tax repeal to try to keep the base in line.  Democrats may end up less happy than they expect.

4. Medicare won’t be touched, not fundamentally.  There is some chance that a “twenty years from now” plan is passed (remember Waxman-Markey?), yet without any secure mechanism for commitment to make the actual cuts.

5. I worry if Obama wins on a platform of envy and anti-rich sentiment; such ideas rarely translate well into policy.  If Obama loses, future Democrats will continue the cash goodies they deliver to constituents but fold on a lot of regulatory issues (don’t want to appear “anti-business”), and they will pay greater lip service to Deficit Commission recommendations and the like, while insisting that the governing Republicans take the heat for an actual budget deal.  It is a much better outcome if Obama is re-elected from a promise to govern as a moderate and a fiscal conservative.  So far I don’t see that as the Democratic strategy, so I am more worried about an Obama re-election than I used to be.

As noted, those are very rough predictions and I don’t have much faith in them, but they are my best guesses.

What else can Karl Smith get me to do?

1 Chris January 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

you’re probably wrong about #1, citing the senior advisor to the Senate health committee from 2008-10:

John McDonough, author of Inside National Health Reform and an expert on the ACA and the legislative process, agrees with me that repeal of health reform is possible if the Republicans take over the government. Actually, he thinks that repeal of some elements of the law are almost certain in that case. By email, he also corrects a widely held mistaken impression of Reconciliation.

He wrote me,

I pretty much agree with your take. Here’s my best estimate at this time:

If the Rs hold the House, and then take the Senate and the White House, Reconciliation-generated repeal of all major elements of Titles I (private insurance) and II (Medicaid) are fairly certain; they may keep some of the early, already-implemented reforms (the blessed under-26 year olds, eg), though they will certainly eliminate Medical Loss Ratio limits and other reforms hated by the insurance industry. I would be fairly certain they would hold onto the Medicare cuts in Title III because they have already done that in their votes for the Ryan budget plan, and they will pick and choose on the delivery system reforms in Title III. They probably would try to repeal most of Titles IV (prevention) and V (workforce) — though may have a harder time because most have no direct budget consequences. They are likely to keep most of Title VI, such as fraud and abuse, and the elder justice act, even the physician payment sunshine act (because all are Sen. Chuck Grassley initiatives) — and will probably can the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Title VII, biosimilars, will surely stay. Title VIII, CLASS, will be gone. And Title IX, revenues, nuked out of existence.

2 David January 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Only an economist would think that politicians are elected primarily for their policy positions.

3 NAME REDACTED January 18, 2012 at 3:56 pm


4 Dan Dostal January 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm

You don’t follow Cowen, do you? Also, I’m not sure where I see him suggesting that either candidate will be elected and for what reasons.

5 msgkings January 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Exactly. David, this exercise isn’t about why Romney or Obama would win, but what happens after.

6 John January 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm

The point of this exercise was exactly the opposite of that. Try again.

7 anon January 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm

They aren’t bad predictions, and its worth noting how little they actually matter in the grand scheme of things.

8 Bill January 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Isn’t the question really: Will the tail wag the dog.

If Romney is elected, will he control the Republican Party, or will the evangelical and take no prisoners types control him.

What would a Republian House and Senate, with a Romney presidency do, and would the tail wag the dog.

9 byomtov January 18, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I think this is very important. Romney would scare me a lot less if I didn’t think that a win by him would mean Republican control of both houses. That’s going to produce some seriously looney legislation, which he will be in no position to veto. Remember, these guys were ready to the country default on debt payments to prove some unknown point.

10 Cliff January 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm

There was never going to be any default! (even if the debt limit were not raised)

11 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm

That was another astounding success by the left in framing an issue to their benefit, despite the basic math of revenues being many times interest payments. Props to Gramsci!

12 byomtov January 18, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Maybe because it was framed accurately.

13 louis January 19, 2012 at 10:18 am

If gov’t can’t fund commitments that it is legally bound to make — whether interest payments or social security checks — that is a default! Debt service is not the only obligation of the gov’t.

14 TallDave January 19, 2012 at 11:21 am

There was enough for SS, Medi, interest and essential defense. That’s just about all of what some of us think the gov’t should be doing.

And no, missing SS is NOT default. The bond markets could care less whether Granny gets her check.

15 Brian January 18, 2012 at 5:24 pm

This is what happened to Obama’s first 2 years in office. He ran and won as a “post” partisan, but then was in no position to veto any of the democratically controlled, filibuster proof legislation. How could he?

we need to vote for president and congress a few days apart so we know what kind of congress or president there is. we could better and more easily vote for divided government in that way.

16 john personna January 18, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I think (hat tip Taleb) this is one of those cases where the stronger man does not predict. Particularly for “The New Adventures of Old Mitt.”

17 Chris January 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm

As for Romney, he’s the last actor in the sequence. I find it very hard to believe that McConnell and Boehner would pass an Obamacare repeal bill through the reconciliation process — only for Romney to veto it. If Romney wants to be renominated by the Republicans in 2016, there’s basically zero chance of him doing so.

18 Dan Dostal January 18, 2012 at 4:25 pm

So you’re assuming that Bill’s question is answered by “yes, the tail will wag the dog?” Or you might have missed how presidents get involved in major legislation long before it hits their desk.

19 Yog Sottoth January 18, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Another issue this doesn’t address is whether Romney would allow neoconservatives to control foreign policy a la W Bush. His rhetoric suggests that he might and I’m not sure if he has strong enough feelings about foreign policy to find his own direction to take things. So another prediction might be a military conflict in Iran.

20 Doug January 18, 2012 at 3:45 pm

A military conflict with Iran seems likely whether it’s Romney or Obama.

21 NAME REDACTED January 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Yup. A paul presidency is the only way to avoid it.

22 msgkings January 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm

That’s like saying ‘the second coming of Jesus is the only way to avoid it’. Same likelihood.

For the record I do not think a conflict with Iran is inevitable, but it’s certainly possible.

23 Doug January 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I’d say less than inevitable, but more than possible.

24 Jan January 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm

No, it’s not going to happen. The likely candidates will probably not be crazy enough to engage. Perhaps more probable with Romney, but nobody wants to upset the Middle East oil cabal. An armed conflict is a step too far. More likely is an increased push for clandestine operations.

25 Brian Donohue January 21, 2012 at 11:32 am

Israel will act on Iran (to official US “disapproval”) long before the US considers any of the more drastic options on the table.

26 Sebastian January 18, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I disagree with Tyler’s 2. – Republicans are, in my experience, more divided when they’re out of government than when they’re in it.

I would add (maybe as a subpoint to 3.): A Romney administration would be much more likely to side with business concerns over both environmental and labor concerns.

27 Sebastian January 18, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I just noticed – this is – in less partisan tone – pretty much what Drum is saying. The only really open question is Cowen and Drum’s 1. and I don’t think either Drum or Cowen are in a very good position to judge that.

28 Dan Dostal January 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Historically, that’s true, but from 2006 we saw the beginning of the end for the Republican’s Golden Rule. They have already splintered, but without being in power one group has yet to be alienated enough to make it obvious.

29 Sebastian January 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I have to admit that my history/vague memory isn’t great on this – but weren’t a lot of the Contract with America people voted in during the 1990s also very much anti-establishment?

I could be wrong, obviously, but my bet would be that by and large Republicans will rally behind a Republican President. There is the fact that they will have the joint experience of having rallied together against Obama and won. There is the experience of the Bush years. There is the fact that the President does have a good amount of ability to pressure people in his own party – especially the type of people who don’t have a very deep donor base because they ran anti-establishment campaigns. I would also expect the Tea Party to lose steam when the enemy is not Obama, who they resent, but only a RINO they’re unhappy with, so their ability to pressure candidates will weaken. I feel the influence of the Tea Party over the current nomination/primary process is surprisingly weak already. etc.

Right now odds are slightly against a Republican President, though, so we may never know.

30 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Sebastian — Yes, but the Tea Partiers are mostly united in their condemnation of the 2000-2006 Republicans, who are widely viewed as squandering the fiscal conservative legacy of the 1994-2000 Republicans. We saw this dynamic emerge over the last couple years and embarass Boehner.

The split will now be between the “compassion/national greatness/cronyist” Republicans and the “solvency at all costs/free market/anti-rents” Republicans.

31 LarryM January 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I am not sure that your second category of Republicans exists as an entirely coherent group (more’s the pity; even though I disagree with some of that, such a group would be a welcome counterweight to the compassion/national greatness/cronyist types). Certainly there are Republicans who fit that bill – but many tea partiers are weak on some or all three of those issues. solvency at all cost (unless it means a serious re-thinking of our foreign policy or tax increase), free markets (except for the oil and gas industry, and a few other conservative favorites), anti-rents (except for … see free markets).

Now … I know that the response to what I said is most likely “Ron Paul.” And that’s what, 20% of the Republican party voters, at best? And a far lower percentage of actual Republican elected officials. It seems to me that majority of tea party support this primary season has gone to business as usual Republicans.

32 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 5:31 pm

They’re not all that coherent, but they do exist as a new and powerful phenomenon — see for instance the death of ethanol subsidies, which as late as 2009 people were still saying could never be cut (even Iowa Republicans now oppose them). TPers are also notably open to defense cuts, though I should point out solvency cannot require a tax increase (unless all noncritical spending other than interest payments has been cut and revenues are still short of spending).

33 LarryM January 18, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Regarding cronyism, I hope you are right. I can make some counter arguments & point to some counter examples, but will forbear.

Re taxes, let’s start with the pedantic point that “at all costs” implies a willingness to raise taxes if necessary. That willingness does not, it seems to me, exist. Actually, that is more than a pedantic point, as it seems to me that tax cutting is a higher value than deficit reduction for most tea partiers, making the “at all costs” untrue.

Beyond that, obviously in a purely mathematical sense you are correct. I think it’s fair to say that most people of all political stripes would agree that even if the fiscal conservatives have their way with the discretionary portion of the budget, and even if the trajectory of defense spending is lower than virtually everyone in Congress now advocates, taxes are going to need go up (if we are to balance the budget long term) unless entitlements for the elderly are not just reformed but virtually dismantled. While some people on the right advocate that, I am not seeing much of a consensus among tea partiers, let alone the public at large, for such a program. Even the Ryan plan called for some revenue enhancements, and got to balance only through some questionable assumptions, despite what was (for better or worse) a pretty radical reform of medicare.

Of course in a political reality where the tea partiers are unlikely to have sustained control of the government for a significant period of time, compromises will be needed, and those compromises will include some tax increases. Now, I can understand that right now might not, from their perspective, be the right time for compromise. But when that time comes, will the tea party crowd make that compromise? I don’t see it.

The Republicans rejected a plan that would have included … I forget the ratio, but something like 8 dollars of cuts for every dollar of tax increases. Now, there were strategic reasons for rejecting that deal. But, at the risk of being overly literal, they did not accept that deal, which would have reduced the deficit – they didn’t want to pay the “cost” of even a fairly modest tax increase to get big spending decreases & deficit reduction. IMO that does not augur well for a deficit reduction down the road.

34 TallDave January 19, 2012 at 11:18 am

I think it’s fair to say that most people of all political stripes would agree that even if the fiscal conservatives have their way with the discretionary portion of the budget, and even if the trajectory of defense spending is lower than virtually everyone in Congress now advocates, taxes are going to need go up (if we are to balance the budget long term) unless entitlements for the elderly are not just reformed but virtually dismantled.

No, this is totally inaccurate — you’re using baseline budgeting logic. A modest 1-3% cut in real spending per year would balance the budget in about 10 years and spending levels would still greatly exceed 1990s averages. Nick Gillespie has a great piece on this.

35 TallDave January 19, 2012 at 11:19 am

… I forget the ratio, but something like 8 dollars of cuts for every dollar of tax increases. Now, there were strategic reasons for rejecting that deal.

Again, baseline budgeting. That was actually zero dollars in actual budget cuts — spending actually increased considerably in that plan.

36 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Sigh. Can I start by reiterating the point that even were you correct, you still have pretty much proven that “solvency at all costs” is not the goal? Keeping taxes at Bush era rates is obviously the first goal for you guys, solvency the second goal. Which is fine, I guess; just be honest about that fact. You would (rightly) condemn a liberal who claimed to be for “solvency at all costs” and then refused to even consider programmatic cuts. It’s the same thing (depending on your assumptions, it’s not the same in terms of merit; it’s the same in terms of Orwellian mis-use of language).

Now, as to the substance. Specifically about your link: the big problem here is “2020.” There are other problems with his claims, but that’s the big one. The long term budget crisis doesn’t kick in till after 2020, and it kicks in primarily because of medicare, secondarily because of social security and medicaid. Yeah, you could balance the short term budget without tax increases or gutting programs for the elderly – not NEARLY as easily as he says, and of course even that is a political pipe dream, but yeah you could do it.

But that’s why I was careful about referring to the long term budget deficit in my post above. And the long term budget can’t be balanced without raising taxes or radically redesigning medicare, social security, and medicaid. That is not a controversial statement, and not one that ANY honest, intelligent, informed person of any political persuasion will disagree with.

Now one could, OF COURSE, change medicare (especially), social security and medicaid in such a way as to arrest their growth. I’m not going to address the merits of that. But it is a simple fact that, given aging populations and the rate of increase in medical expenses, getting to the point where we have manageable increases which don’t require tax increases (and remember, even now the gap between taxes and expenditures is rather large) would require radical changes in how those programs are structured. You can advocate for those changes, fine. Frankly I think some pretty serious changes are coming, because tax increases can’t cover nearly all of the projected growth. But setting aside the merits of the even more radical changes that would be needed to get the budget to long term balance without tax increases, to think that such changes are ever going to be political feasible is laughable. The fact is the kind of medicare program that won’t eventually require a tax increase would make the Ryan plan, even, look like universal health care.

If you want to know why most of us correctly believe that “solvency at all costs” is pernicious nonsense (in the sense that the tea party crowd does not really believe it, at all), that’s why.

37 TallDave January 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

It’s simple math, Larry. It really is as easy as Nick says. Other countries spend far, far less.

When politicians talk about “gutting” they often mean “spending the same as we are today” or “a lot more than OECD averages.”

We’ve had de facto universal healthcare in this country for decades already. The poor are pretty well covered under Medicaid, and in fact they get better care than is offered in other countries because those countries do more rationing.

38 Jamie January 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Yes, but the Tea Partiers are mostly united in their condemnation of the 2000-2006 Republicans

…Which is why the Tea Partiers found thier voices in 2009, right?

If we end up with all three branches in Republican hands, they’ll go back to sleep and the AFP will turn the money they spend on strategic entertainment for tricorner-hat types around back to lobbying.

39 TallDave January 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Yes, in 2009 they found out the logical extension of 2000-2006 was 2009.

Did you pay attention to the 2010 primaries?

40 WTF January 18, 2012 at 3:19 pm


41 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Hahaha you weren’t even CLOSE to being first

42 Brittany January 18, 2012 at 3:21 pm

all that matters are the judicial nominations. They will impact all the other convoluted legislation that happens to get through.

43 A Berman January 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm

A bit of an overstatement, but not by much. I can’t pretend to understand the economy, but I do know what type of values and culture I want my children to grow up in. Judges play a huge role in culture, especially (no) thanks to the progressive movements’ use of the judiciary on social issues. A greater emphasis on the 10th Amendment would be a terrific thing for the country.

44 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Hey read my comments on children on the other thread

45 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Okay … unlike the fiscal/budgetary/cronyism stuff, where I have at least SOME (and on some issues, considerable) level of sympathy for the libertarian/small governemnt POV, I’m not going to pretend to have even a shred of sympathy for the “social conservative” POV (except in the very limited sense that I have my own problems with our culture, but they are probably mostly different concerns than yours, and, to the limited extent that they overlap, I have very different ideas about causes and solutions). But let’s not argue about that; it would lead nowhere.

But let me ask you a couple of questions:

(1) Where does the 10th amendment enter into this? I agree that treating the 10th as meaningful could have real consequences in terms of constitutional jurisprudence, but mainly in the economic, not cultural sphere. And to the extent that it did have implications in the cultural sphere, it might actually run counter to your values in some respects (at least considering the nation as a whole; obviously not so in culturally conservative states). e.g. – DOMA would almost certainly be stuck down under an expansive reading of the 10th.

(2) I’m curious where, specifically, you think that the courts are going to make a big difference culturally, even outside your 10th amendment comment? It seems to me that substantial shifts in that regard are going to require legislative action, or constitutional amendment (even there, I have my doubts about the ability of the government to significantly effect culture one way of the other, absent a level of repression that no one advocates in the United States).

46 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 3:22 pm

There wouldn’t be that many significant differences – possibly some different picks for the Supreme Court if and when that comes up. On Foreign policy practically no real differences and on economic policy I don’t think the differences would be too major either.

47 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm

#5 – Fuck you and your envy bullshit. People have legitimate complaints about how many of the wealthiest have acquired their status you can’t just brush it off as envy – well I guess you can actually, you are an economist after all (PR Representative for the Rich).

48 Jeff Burton January 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Post title validation.

49 msgkings January 18, 2012 at 5:07 pm

For the win.

50 Brian Donohue January 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm


51 Tom January 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

You’re right CBBB – but at least the worst offenders will be gone.

52 Hoover January 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I’m not getting much illumination from fuck you and your envy bullshit.

There was an interesting discussion on Hacker News this week about the diminishing quality of comments.

53 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm


You suck.

54 fawful January 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Case in point.

55 cage January 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Comment quality hasn’t diminished. It’s standard CBBB wisdom.

56 Cliff January 18, 2012 at 4:34 pm

One bad commenter can produce a lot of bad comments

57 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Hey I don’t come here for the illumination I come here for the ventilation

58 Dan Dostal January 18, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Actually, having resident trolls has decreased the number of random trolls. So now it’s much more obvious when something is flamebait and when it is someone actually stating otherwise offensive drivel. I’d say that has improved comment usage, even if the ratio of meaningful comments has decreased.

59 Bernard Guerrero January 18, 2012 at 4:31 pm

They have complaints. “Legitimate” is purely your opinion. :^)

60 byomtov January 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm

And “envy” is purely Tyler’s, (and maybe yours).

61 Bernard Guerrero January 18, 2012 at 6:38 pm
62 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I’m not sure there’s a difference between my opinion and the truth

63 AlsoBill January 19, 2012 at 12:09 am

Just goes to show, their is at least one crazy person who will hold almost any position, no matter how loony.

64 Ma Balz Es Hairy January 19, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Butt-plug say what?

65 Brian Donohue January 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Not true.

66 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Can I maybe, though, suggest that point number 5 could have been adequately made without the use of the word “envy?” I think that including “envy” in the post (1) amounts to troll bait, (2) doesn’t advance the argument, and (3) is unworthy of Tyler.

67 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

At the risk of redundancy, my point is that, if Tyler really wanted to be proven wrong in his prediction about the comments section, he should have left out the word “envy,” which, aside from pushing buttons and being rather … subjective … unlike the rest of the post, and unlike Tyler’s norm, isn’t necessary for this argument.

68 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm

There will be a viable third party movement.

69 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm

No there won’t be

70 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Okay. Romney and Obama are the same guy. The singularity is here. The rest is timing.

71 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 6:06 pm

They aren’t THE SAME but they aren’t that different both men of the establishment

72 Dan Dostal January 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm

They are very similar in ideology, however their loyalties are vastly different. Sadly, this is yet another election where voting R or D is the correct framing.

73 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm

I don’t think they’re loyalties are that different

74 Tom January 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm

We’ll stop funding anti-American groups such as ACORN.

75 Bill January 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm

And fund private religious schools.

76 Urso January 18, 2012 at 4:07 pm

This would be a great win for the left, I think, because “private” “religious” schools won’t be either for very long if they’re tethered to government dollars.

77 Michael January 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm

First and foremost, I think the difference will be in judge appointments, DOJ prosecutions, etc. This is where Romney will throw the red meat for the GOP base that questions him. We’ll probably see a lot of pro-life appointments, pursuing of voter fraud, rulings on redistricting issues that favor the GOP, evolution/science in school cases, pro-business decisions regarding the environment/regulation, etc.

For example, over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, a lot of readers have been writing in about the Marcellus shale, fracking, etc. One wrote:

“and if you don’t sign that lease, the gas industry will try getting the legislature to pass legislation forcing you to give up the gas beneath your land … and if you don’t want a gas pipeline running across your property, the gas industry will try getting the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to give it eminent domain authority so it can condemn your land).”

My gut feeling is that if a case ever came to court regarding the sort of thing listed in that comment, the more conservative the judge, the more likely that the energy company wins and the individual loses, whether it’s the energy company winning directly, or the gov’t winning the case on behalf of the energy company’s desire to get access to the land. I think that’d probably remain pretty true with more “liberal” judges as well, but I think the regulatory capture, especially in the energy sector, is even greater under GOP rule. Liberals have to throw a bone or two on environmental issues for their base. Overall, just as corrupt, but there’s enough political theater involved to sway a ruling every now and then.

OK. I probably just proved that the comments will such, but that’s my opinion.

78 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Gas is a public good, as long as we can condemn it away from the property owner.

I’m not criticizing, just wondering how that is a “conservative” position? Because the other side is anti-carbon?

79 hey now January 18, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Kleptocracy is pretty much right wing domain.

80 Laserlight January 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

@hey now: what planet are you on?

81 louis January 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

“if you don’t sign that lease, the gas industry will try getting the legislature to pass legislation forcing you to give up the gas beneath your land”
Sounds highly unlikely. Who would you give the gas to? Under which terms?
Gas companies are bidding against each other for the leases, where they pay an upfront fee per acre + % of future revenues. I don’t see how a law would force you to sign a contract with any of them, not under our system of government.

It is a public good to site pipelines through private property, though, just like railroads or highways. Gov’t has 5th amendment right to force you to allow construction through your property, and compensate you for the value.

82 Dan in Euroland January 18, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Perhaps you should go look at the Kelo v New London case and look at which judges voted for eminent domain to benefit a private business.

83 AlsoBill January 19, 2012 at 12:11 am


84 TallDave January 19, 2012 at 11:24 am

I was a little disappointed they failed to tear down Breyer’s home to build the Just Deserts Constitutional Cafe.

85 buddyglass January 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

My comments made on the original post at Modeled Behavior.

86 DL January 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm

On #5, the most that will happen if Obama is re-elected on the dreaded pro-middle class platform is a small increase in marginal tax rates on the wealthy. Even that is a stretch.

87 RM January 18, 2012 at 3:45 pm

I believe that Obama will campaign as a moderate and a somewhat fiscal conservative. I think he is smart enough not to go down the anti-rich route too much. Obama’s sell should be something like this: “The free-market made America great…. etc. But a free-market in which it takes both parents working 10 hours per day on unpredictable schedules is not the compassionate free market the founding fathers envisioned.” This needs some more work, but you get the picture. Or maybe, this is the way I would campaign.

88 JWatts January 19, 2012 at 11:21 am

“The free-market made America great…. etc. But a free-market in which it takes both parents working 10 hours per day on unpredictable schedules is not the compassionate free market the founding fathers envisioned.”

You’d base your campaign on an easily disprovable lie? Shouldn’t you at least attempt to be in the neighborhood of the actual data?

89 Dennis Tuchler January 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm

You forgot the social agenda: Down with the gays.

There will be great pressure from the base to get Romney to work to re-institute “don’t ask, don’t tell” to return gays in the armed forces to a sub-status class of Americans. There will also be substantial pressure (as there was on George W.) to support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and to allow states to regulate sexual conduct even between consenting adults.

90 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Like, for instance, requiring them to wear condoms?

91 axa January 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm


92 Thomas January 18, 2012 at 4:27 pm

The Republicans have the House now. Is there a movement in the House to re-institute don’t ask/don’t tell?

I believe Romney has declined to state that he supports a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. Why would we expect him to change that position as president? And has anyone in Congress proposed a constitutional amendment allowing states to regulate sexual conduct even between consenting adults?

93 NAME REDACTED January 18, 2012 at 9:24 pm

“The Republicans have the House now. Is there a movement in the House to re-institute don’t ask/don’t tell”

Nope, just like there never was any real move to ban abortion. Dr. Paul’s bill was the only thing close and that didn’t have the support of the social conservatives in congress. Republican social conservatives in congress are social conservatives in name only. Also, they are watched like hawks so its hard for them to screw up.

94 jimi January 18, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Idiom foul. It is the hawks that do the watching.

95 JWatts January 19, 2012 at 11:22 am

“Idiom foul. It is the hawks that do the watching.”

I believe you meant Idiom fowl. 😉

96 John January 19, 2012 at 12:34 am

While there might not be a “movement,” it certainly would be the strong preference of the Republican House for both of those things to happen. If/when there is an opening (DADT reinstatement being a lot more realistic), the House would try for both of these.

97 Tummler January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

DADT reinstatement will never happen for the simple fact that the generals and admirals will take the position that it would be near impossible to reimplement now that there are a number of openly gay service members and would be disastrous for moral.

98 JWatts January 19, 2012 at 11:24 am

“DADT reinstatement will never happen for the simple fact …”

+1, DADT is dead and there won’t be any serious attempts to resurrect it.

99 Brian Donohue January 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm

You’re fighting yesterday’s wars. A decade ago, Republicans could exploit the culture wars, but it’s a total long-term loser. Talk to any 20 year old about social issues. The Republican party is increasingly Liberterarian.

100 Meg January 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm

* I expect further deficits, with cuts to entitlements, education and the defunding of many departments Republicans don’t like outweighed by additional tax relief for the rich. Romney will go along with it because he doesn’t seem to really care.

* I expect the EPA will immediately cease enforcement. Any department the executive has control over will stop enforcing regulation.

* I expect that Wall Street and the financial sector will get even more access to the executive, leading to the best way to predict public policy being watching the moves from certain firms. There might be less favoritism played. Even if a corporation actually knowingly slaughters millions of children in pursuit of profit I don’t believe President Romney would say anything bad about them, and I am certain the justice department would ignore them.
This is the only issue Romney has shown a personal interest in, which is probably why so much of his campaign money comes from Wall Street.

* I expect an escalation of the drug war. Anyone who believes coffee is unholy is going to be even less sympathetic to pot than the last three presidents who had all used pot and two of whom had used cocaine.

* I can’t imagine military funding will be returned to pre-war levels. Expect wide support from defense contractors.

101 Cliff January 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I can’t wait for the patent office to stop enforcing its regulations. Go Romney!

102 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 8:26 pm

But the thing is

– Obama has signaled he’s not really against entitlement cuts – maybe he’d cut them less but it’s a matter of degree
– Obama probably is better on environmental issues but he will approve the Keystone pipeline anyway
– Exactly the same with Obama
– Exactly the same with Obama, Obama has been terrible on the drug war – although the fact that Romney is anti-Coffee makes me say fuck that guy, coffee kicks ass – in fact I’d rather have a cup of coffee as President then either of these two knuckleheads
– I guess Obama is going to cut military funding, or cut the growth of military funding – although once he decides to go to War with Iran it’ll go back up again

103 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I didn’t do a nice job of editing that

104 AlsoBill January 19, 2012 at 12:15 am

You seem to know something the GOP base doesn’t. They’re desperate to avoid this guy. Based on every available piece of information, this is an absurdly unserious take. You might as well of predicted genocide carried out by the government…you were on a roll. Why stop?

105 Doug January 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm

How about immigration?

106 sidereal January 18, 2012 at 3:49 pm

“a platform of envy”

Seriously? Was this your attempt to make the post title prediction inevitable?

107 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 3:52 pm

He said “don’t do that.” Did you miss that part.

Do you think the whole “we are the 99%” isn’t about vote totals? I do.

108 sidereal January 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

The implication is that that is the campaign currently being run.

What does ‘we are the 99%’ have to do with envy? Honestly, if you think it’s about envy then your misunderstanding of the sentiment is so fundamental that I wouldn’t even know where to start discussing it.

109 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I said it’s about vote totals. But now that you mention it, the 99% is the x-axis and the y-axis is wealth/income. Envy is not even conceivable?

110 sidereal January 18, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Ah, do = isn’t caught me there. It’s certainly conceivable. I’m sure it exists. But it’s not the campaign platform nor the social platform of the Occupy Whatevers. Unless you use such a generic definition of envy that ‘I want as much political influence as the wealthy have in a putative democracy’ is an envious position. In which case every political party, platform, and election is built on envy.

111 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

We are the 50.1% just wasn’t as catchy.

112 Cliff January 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm

In theory it is about political influence, which is a sentiment I wholly agree with. In practice, it seems to involve a lot of envy.

113 unblinkered January 18, 2012 at 6:52 pm


114 The Original D January 18, 2012 at 4:57 pm

OWS was not about support for Obama. If he’s lucky he will co-opt the movement, but that’s not guaranteed. If out of work people thing Obama is just more of the same (and certainly voices on the far left have been saying that for years), they won’t go to the polls.

115 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Exactly. So Obama starts harping about Wall Street and “the 1%.” Suddenly, how distinguishable is that from an envy strategy and how hard is Obama going to work to correct that “false” perception.

116 David Wright January 18, 2012 at 3:49 pm

As Kevin’s post makes clear, domestic policy differences may be significant but will be highly dependent on control of the legislature. Foreign policy is likely to be practically the same under Obama or Romney; there are cosmetic differences but for the most part foreign policy is determine by a view of the national interest that is shared across parties. Judicial appointments will differ but those don’t have much immediate effect; their ultimate effect requires integrating over the last 30 years of presidents and convolving with a significant noise function.

117 NAME REDACTED January 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I’ll extend this question further: How has Obama been different than Bush? Even his military policy has been Bush timelines.

118 The Original D January 18, 2012 at 4:27 pm

He deserves a little credit for getting rid of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

He made Osama Bin Laden a priority.

119 NAME REDACTED January 18, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Actually they fought the repeal. It was a republican judge that got rid of it.

120 Jonathan January 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I’m with you, NAME REDACTED. With the exception of ACA, I find this almost the exact equivalent of Bush’s third term. Iraq and Afghanistan on schedule, Guantanamo still open, budget holes unchanged, tax cuts continued. TARP started under Bush, continued under obama, etc. etc. Judges? Kagan and Sotomayor replace their rough equivalents. I guess the pet dog breed changed, but that doesn’t seem that big of a change to me. What kind of dog does Mitt have?

121 msgkings January 18, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Rooftop Terrier

122 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm

“With the exception of ACA, I find this almost the exact equivalent of Bush’s third term. ”

Ah, so that’s what this “post-partisan” thing means. Expand on the neocon activist policies while adding the most divisive national legislation in a generation resulting in the first time both parties have serious simultaneous splinter groups.

123 The Original D January 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm

If memory serves (Damn you Wikipedia!) the Secretary of Defense advocated the change. What they fought in court was the timetable.

124 msgkings January 18, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Why damn them? Damn the SOPA and praise Wikipedia for demonstrating their value!

125 Dan Dostal January 18, 2012 at 7:30 pm

No, they didn’t fight the repeal. The DoJ upheld DADT until it was repealed, which was their job. I’m not sure it was correct to “just do our job”, but that was their line. However, Rachel Maddow framed it that way, and I lost some respect for her. She was the only pundit on TV I found consistently worth hearing.

126 NAME REDACTED January 18, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Its a terrible excuse as for many other cases they just refused to when it was expedient to do so. (The Black Panther case is a good example).

127 Laserlight January 18, 2012 at 6:02 pm

In mid-2008 I told a pro-Democrat friend that when a Dem is President, he’ll do the same things that the Dems are complaining about Bush doing; but the Dems will say “it’s US doing it now, not those evil republicans, so it’s okay.”

128 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm

This is true – these party hacks are all the same

129 Miley Cyrax January 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I’d be much more impressed with a candidate who cheated on his mistress with her daughter than a candidate who stayed faithful to his wife that is reminiscent of a ladyboy.

130 DK January 19, 2012 at 2:42 am


131 teppic January 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I find it odd that even the well informed in the US have to guess what they’re voting for.

132 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Wikipedia is down.

133 jimi January 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Not ‘down’, but intentionally BLACKED OUT to protest SOPA and PIPA.

(I suspect you are aware of this, this is for those who may not be……)

134 Bernard Guerrero January 18, 2012 at 4:34 pm


135 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm

We find it odd that other countries have to guess who they’re voting for. It’s a trade-off.

136 kaganovich January 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm

life is easier when government and bureaucracy are all powerful isn’t it

137 celestus January 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

1. If Romney is elected, the Bush tax cuts will likely expire at the end of 2012- Obama has no reason to sign anything, and certainly can demand that only the middle-class cuts get extended (which won’t happen). If Obama is re-elected, the extension becomes harder to determine.

2. If the Bush tax cuts do expire, they are more likely to be reinstated in some form under Obama than under Romney. It is hard for them to pass without the assent of Dems and that’s more likely if they are “Obama’s tax cuts, see, we are the real tax cutters.”

3. Similarly, Romney would reverse Obama’s own tax cuts (though Obama might well do this himself).

[Conclusion: taxes will, in all likelihood, be higher if Romney is elected than if Obama is re-elected.]

4. Military spending will almost certainly be higher under Romney than under Obama, and non-military spending will almost certainly be higher under Obama than under Romney.

5. The energy and financial sectors will invest more under Romney than under Obama. The healthcare sector is a big, big question mark which could easily overshadow that effect. Trade agreements are a small question mark. Therefore, the economy could be better under either President, and certainly the President won’t make much of a difference.

6. Neither Romney nor Obama will reduce entitlements, except to find money to pay for other things.

[Ultimate conclusion: the best guess is that growth will be about the same, but the deficit will be somewhat lower, under Romney than under Obama.]

Nothing else really matters.

138 Bernard Guerrero January 18, 2012 at 4:36 pm

6) is the the important bit, and it’s disappointing but I have to agree with your take.

139 Fat black swans January 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm

in response
1-3 exclude the prospect of individual tax cuts as part of some a tax reform. At least capital gains back to Bush-era levels if not other stuff. I think one big thing Romney backers expect him to protect is the favored tax status of carried interest.

4) Probably not, considering wars will wind down. Discretionary military spending (i.e. ships, weapons programs) will probably go up, which is likely the point. I’m ignoring the prospect of a full-scale conflict with Iran or an overt cold war with China.

5) No reason for Romney not to sign trade agreements. Primary hang-ups are labor laws in bilateral partners right now. He might use them as more of a foreign policy tool though. Regulatory environment definitely gets better for financials and hydrocarbons, unlikely to get worse for renewables, although supports will slowly expire. The biggest healthcare questions relevant to investment is the medical devices tax and

6) I can see a privatization plan popping up somewhere, but likely opt-in.

7) Education – this is where I think there will be minimum difference in policy. Romney might throw less federal money at pilots.

Surprised that nobody talks about business confidence, but if Romney can sustain investment as accelerated depreciation expires, that will be a large credibility accomplishment. Slightly lower deficit, but I see a jump in short-term growth then mean reversion a few years later, but that is exactly what we need.

140 mw January 18, 2012 at 4:06 pm

5. Yep, a return of capital gains tax rates to historical (and current throughout Europe and your beloved nordic countries) 30% on the basis of “envy” and other emotions of the great unwashed would be a debacle.

141 Cliff January 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm

It would certainly be going in the wrong direction

142 mrpinto January 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm

You tax something if you want less of it. Are you thinking that what our economy needs is less investment? Or are you pro-investment but so opposed to rich people earning money that you’re willing to sacrifice the first preference for the second?

143 Dan Dostal January 18, 2012 at 7:59 pm

capital gains != investment. There is more nuance to the equation.

144 mw January 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Yes, the classic classroom theoretical 1-parameter optimization problem (why do debates with libertarians always sound like this?). Back in the real world, however, we need to consider: more than one thing at a time! And even potential *indirect* effects of our pet policies. Reality-based observers universally recognize that the top marginal income tax rate will *never* fall to 15%–under any administration or congress. Therefore, this isn’t just about “punishing investment,” because the present system places a *relative* preferential incentive on making $10million gambling on mortgage-backed securities rather than making earned income. We also need to consider things like the *actual* state of the world: which is that 40% of all capital gains are captured by 400 families, who pay lower effective tax rates than millions of working families. And that destabilizes society while making our democracy, such as it is, increasingly dysfunctional.

145 Winston McGrain January 18, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I expect Romney to be the Centrist the right is afraid of and give enough cover to enough Republicans to pass a tax bill similar to that proposed by Obama; i.e, marginally higher taxes on the highest incomes.

146 efp January 18, 2012 at 4:07 pm

The biggest difference will be that the exact same policies will be lauded instead of vilified by Fox News.

147 NAME REDACTED January 18, 2012 at 4:22 pm

And vilified by every other media source.

148 Kenneth Widmerpool January 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm


149 Brian Donohue January 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm

+1 to both

150 msgkings January 18, 2012 at 5:26 pm

+1 to efp

151 Lord January 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

So the deficit will be forgotten. I expect so.

152 The Original D January 18, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I believe thet if Obama runs on an envy and anti-rich message the only likely policy outcomes are:

1. Get rid of the carried interest exception, probably as part of an extension of the Bush tax cuts
2. Implement the already-legislated Wall Street reforms

I don’t see taxes going back even to Clinton-era levels.

153 Sam Penrose January 18, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Here are a bunch of answers from a pack of liberals: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/january_february_2012/features/what_if_he_loses034501.php

You don’t need to agree with any of that to be struck by how much of what government does the progressives consider “consequential”, in contrast to your brief list.

I would think you would consider executive branch action on climate change (and yes it has been compromised under Obama) consequential.

154 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Good points, pretty reasonable.

I think the main differences will be regulatory/cronyist. Companies are drowning in regulation right now. Things like Keystone XL will go forward, Solyndras will no longer be funded.

I would like to see massive spending cuts, but I suspect Romney will be incrementalist.

155 LarryM January 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Umm, wait, are we making the assumption that Republicans are less cronyist? Would that it were so.

156 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 5:33 pm

There’s a cronyist branch and an anti-cronyist branch. The latter have gotten more powerful, but even the former are a pale shadow of the Democrats.

157 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Don’t be ridiculous both parties are massively cronyist – and certainly the Republicans at least as much as the Democrats

158 LarryM January 18, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Not true. And I say that not to defend the Dems, but to (fairly) tar the Republicans.

Now it may be true that the Republicans are somewhat more likely to engage in tax cut cronyism as opposed to spending cronyism (though the Republicans do plenty of the latter as well). I can understand why conservatives may prefer the former, but if we are critiquing cronyism qua cronyism, it seems to me that both are equally bad.

159 Will January 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm

you seem to be ignoring the (largely) Republican military spending cronyism. Considering its contribution to untimely human death I would think it’s much more important than overpaid union workers or tax loopholes for the wealthy.

160 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 11:14 pm

I might agree Will but Obama is pretty much as bad with respect to wars

161 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 12:15 am

I’m curious, who did you think I was responding to? Hint: it wasn’t CBBB. Please re-read my post.

Now that said, while I doubt that you feel as strongly as I do on the deliterious effects of the national security state and the military industrial complex – included but not limited to “cronyism”* – I’m a pretty extreme non-interventionist – to suggest that the Republicans are meaningfully worse (as a whole) than the Dems on THAT issue … requires a rather larger blind spot IMO. Both parties are IMO pretty bad on that front, and it drives a lot of other bad policy. War is the health of the state, after all.

*Which, by the way, is not IMO the best descriptive term to start with, but I don’t want to get sidetracked into an argument about terminology.

162 TallDave January 19, 2012 at 11:13 am

No, the Democrats are much, much worse. They basically exist to extract rents for public unions, corporate contributors, pseudoscience, racists and the unproductive — that’s why their core principle is the expansion of gov’t.

The Republicans aren’t great, mind you, but “just as bad” misses a world of difference.

163 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 12:22 pm


Oh, sorry, I was under the mistaken impression that you were one of the evidence based contributors around here. My bad.

Look, I’m not going to get into an argument about “which party is (a little) worse.” Not worth my time or effort. But anyone on EITHER side of the debate who starts with the belief that EITHER party is radically worse than the other in terms of catering to rent seekers and “cronyism” probably isn’t educable, and I won’t even try. Especially in the context of a comment thread.

164 Will January 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I see how the thread fits together now, apologies. I thought you were equating the cronyism of the two parties without mentioning the military industrial complex.
I’m not defending the democrats’ complicity in war but if we’re comparing, to which party do the vast majority of military contractors belong? which party would they prefer to have in power? They both engage in despicable, violent cronyism, but it’s a matter of degree. and to me this trumps all the other cronyism combined.

165 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm


If you believe that cronyism in the military industrial complex drives our foreign adventurism, AND that the Republicans are significantly worse in this respect, then you would have a point. I think ultimately neither point is substantially true, but to the extent that the former has some validity, it undercuts the second point.

Let’s start with the fact – well, belief, more fairly … that the “cronyism” isn’t the main cause of our various foreign ventures. Now I realize that is somewhat of a debatable point – certainly there is an argument of a feedback loop where the military industrial complex drives our foreign policy to a certain extent. I think there is some truth to this, but probably not as much as some of my fellow non-interventionists believe.

But then point 2. Here’s the problem for you – where is there significant opposition from Dems to the military budget/weapons programs/the whole military industrial complex? When you have a Republican defense secretary serving in a Democratic administration, who advocates relatively modest cuts (or, more accurately, a slower rate of growth) that are unpopular even among most Democratic congressmen … well you see where I am going. This is very much a bipartisan phenomenon. (And before you give much credit to Obama even for that modest … slower growth in the military budget, even if it comes to pass, the fact is on this issue there is significant continuity with the second Bush administration. No coincidence that Gates has continued to serve in that role.)

166 TallDave January 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm

The military is a perfect evidentiary example of why the GOP is less cronyist.

We spend more than any other country on defense, but we have the preeminent military in the world.

We spend more on education than any other country in the world, but we have a terrible education system.

This disparity arises because the military and defense contractors, while heavily GOP, have not captured the GOP the way the Dems have been captured by the teacher’s unions. Public education only seems broken until you realize its purpose is not to educate. It is primarily a Dem jobs program, secondarily a way to indoctrinate youth to Dem policies, and only an education system as an afterthought (if you teach people marketable skills and critical thinking, they’re less likely to be poor Democrats and more likely to be successful Republicans).

167 Dan Dostal January 18, 2012 at 8:01 pm

The anti-cronyist branch is lead by a very small handful of reps who are in safe districts and the rest just reap the rewards of bandwagoning. They may even belief the rhetoric, but can’t afford the policy. That is the sad state of affairs in American national politics.

168 Aneesh January 19, 2012 at 9:58 am

There’s an anti-cronyist branch? Where?

169 DL January 19, 2012 at 1:12 am

One man’s crony is another man’s constituent, I suppose.

170 Brian J January 19, 2012 at 1:29 am

By what measure are companies “drowning in regulation” at this point? A bold statement like that usually requires, you know, evidence.

171 JWatts January 19, 2012 at 11:42 am

“By what measure are companies “drowning in regulation” at this point? A bold statement like that usually requires, you know, evidence.”

I think Keystone’s head just went under water. Though drowning is too strong a word.

172 Brian J January 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm

That is one example, and regardless of your feelings, it’s hardly an example of regulation gone crazy.

173 Alan Gunn January 18, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Judge appointments will be different, as several people have pointed out. Another likely difference is that the feds may stop pouring money into energy fantasies like wind power and electric (i.e. coal-powered) cars if the Republicans take over. Republicans would probably drop high-speed rail, too, though that seems to be so obviously nuts that even if the Democrats stay in it might collapse. Republicans might even fix Social Security (easy, really, just raise the retirement age and stop pretending there’s a “trust fund”). All those are good things about electing Republicans. Bad things might include a return to the right-wing energy fantasy of nukes and a lot of time and energy wasted on talking about social issues, which the President and Congress are in fact almost powerless to affect because they are determined mostly by state governments and, to some extent, the courts. And Republican rhetoric has run so heavily toward “We’ll protect medicare” that it might be even harder for them than for Democrats to do something about that.

174 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Good points.

175 Dan Dostal January 18, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Nice Troll. Very high quality, loads of strawmen, blatant ignorance of nuanance, a poor attempt at balance. Your troll-fu is high.

176 SirSpider January 18, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Wait, all the Republican prez candidates seem to support Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.

177 tkehler January 18, 2012 at 11:46 pm

What is the “right-wing energy fantasy of nukes”? Are there no Dems supporting nuclear power? (Answer: yes, there are.)

178 JWatts January 19, 2012 at 11:58 am

1) “stop pouring money into energy fantasies like wind power ” Wind power isn’t an energy fantasy. It’s a viable & useful, though limited, energy source at this point. The correct approach is to keep gradually reducing the Federal subsidy and let the market take over.

2) “drop High speed rail”, Agreed, the economics are unsustainable in the US.

3) Republicans might even fix Social Security (easy, really, just raise the retirement age and stop pretending there’s a “trust fund”, Agreed, the retirement age is already scheduled to go up to 67 (born after 1960), but it needs to go up to the 69-70 year range for a long term fix.

3b) Also, a 70 year range would go a very long way towards fixing Medicare which is the really big budget breaker.

4) “right-wing energy fantasy of nukes” Disagree strongly. Nukes are economic in this country providing we allow the builders to build them on a timely schedule. When it takes 15 years to build a plant, due to multiple starts and stops, from multiple law suits and regulatory changes (requiring re-fits of equipment that has never even been used), they can’t be built profitably. But then nothing really could.

179 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I would be fine with stopping all funding for “renewable” energy if it were coupled with a complete even handed end to subsidies – direct and indirect, including tax benefits that are unique to said industries – to the extractive industries. Which happen on the whole to be a lot higher than subsidies to “renewable” energy industries.

As an aside (if true, it really is not relevant to whether we should subsidize said industry), we’re probably closer to the point where solar is economically viable (at least in many areas) than many people realize. Hardly a “fantasy,” albeit not a panacea either.

180 Slocum January 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I think Tyler’s health care guess is as good as any — but whether or not the individual mandate is thrown out will also have a significant effect there. Short of outright repeal, I would expect Romney to try to devolve health care as far as possible to the state level. The judicial nominations are probably the biggest deal, and the elderly liberal judges have probably already waited too long to resign and hope for Obama to push through a replacement before the election. Foreign policy would probably differ as little as Obama’s did from Bush’s. Some time in the desert might be good in pushing the Democrats back in the direction of Clinton-era pro-trade, pro-market, end-of-the-era-of-big-government centrism. It would be nice to see the ‘we are the 99%’ class-envy gambit go down in flames. The f**king war on drugs will go on and on with as much cost, carnage, and futility as ever regardless of whether Obama or Romney are elected.

181 byomtov January 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm

It would be nice to see the ‘we are the 99%’ class-envy gambit go down in flames.

It would be nice to see the Republican attempts to create a hereditary tax-exempt aristocracy go down in flames.

182 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm

You are going to have to fix the government first.

183 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 5:07 pm

No, no, first the government fixes everything else, then we fix the gov’t.

184 byomtov January 18, 2012 at 9:16 pm

OK. What do I have to do? Kick out all the Republicans?

185 Dan in Euroland January 18, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Try presenting reasoned arguments instead of nonsense.

186 JWatts January 19, 2012 at 11:59 am

“Try presenting reasoned arguments instead of nonsense.”


187 Thomas January 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm

On 1 and 2: Romney will almost certainly have a Republican House and Senate. The question will be how much the House and Senate want to repeal (and how much of a repeal is subject to filibuster in the Senate, and whether the filibuster survives). I can’t imagine Romney picking a fight with the House and Senate majorities as an opening move. On the substance, I too expect the repeal will be partial, and that a partial repeal will be portrayed in the press and among Democrats (to the extent those aren’t the same thing) as a revolutionary repeal, historically significant, and the act of true radicals whose hearts are hardened by ideology. (David Brooks will write a column the opposite way, pointing out how much of Obamacare survives, and will be excoriated for it.) The right cares slightly more about policy than the left (see, e.g., Richard Nixon), so we would ordinarily expect this to result in Romney’s being weakened, because the left and middle will hate the supposed radicalism, and the right will hate the moderation. However, given the polarizing reaction, I expect many conservatives disappointed with the policy on the merits will defend the partial repeal, despite their relative disappointment. (The lesson will be: get a more conservative Senate, and all the pros will be pronouncing that.)

On 3, I think this reflects a rather limited understanding of the motivations of the Republican base. Corporate tax cuts and estate tax repeal are not significant enough, standing alone, to excite the base. Dodd-Frank repeal is a good idea, but won’t do much to excite anyone.

On 4, that’s the way to bet.

My own prediction is that, given the budget constraints, we’re likely to see comprehensive tax reform from a Romney administration. I expect a cross between a mini-grand-bargain, without the actual bargain but with most of the good effects, and 1986.

188 LarryM January 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

“comprehensive tax reform”

Honestly I have a hard time seeing this happening. What’s the mechanism? I think the Republicans have painted themselves into a real corner on taxes. Absent truly significant entitlement reform (which is needed, but not likely, and not in any event something I’d trust the Republicans with), I see two options:

(1) Tax “reform” which amounts to more of the same – i.e., lowering taxes on the wealthy, increasing rather than decreasing distortions in the tax code,and ever greater deficits.
(2) More or less status quo ante, aside from making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

The “best case” is probably Romney’s plan, which is a version of #1, albeit a less harmful version than all of the other candidates. But what are the odds of that plan getting better, rather than worse, as it winds its way through congress?

189 Alan Gunn January 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm

A possible tax reform model is 1986, consisting of small rate reductions (so you can say you’re ‘lowering taxes”) plus base-broadening (“closing loopholes”). The 1986 Act was pretty good law, though it didn’t last long.

190 Thomas January 18, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I think Alan has it right. Romney wants to be able to say he’s lowering taxes, and the only way to do that realistically is to do it in the context of comprehensive tax reform.

191 LarryM January 18, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I agree that that would be a good model for reform. I don’t see Romney proposing it or congress passing it.

192 Thomas January 18, 2012 at 10:00 pm

There’s my value for you then–you heard it hear first.

193 Brian Donohue January 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Yes yes yes. And the playbook has already been written. It’s called “Simpson-Bowles”. The question I have is: given a Republican Congress, is Romney more likely than Obama to enact something like this?

It’s worth noting that the 1986 tax reform was bipartisan. Also, the only administration in my lifetime not to increase the federal debt was Clinton’s second term- again, bipartisan.

I prefer Romney, but I have bad memories of Republican hegemonic government, and I’m not sure if one party will be willing to take the heat for some of the stiffer “Simpson-Bowles” medicine.

194 Teddy Groves January 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I think focusing on “differences … we actually see come to pass” risks overlooking the importance of differences – eg likely response to a terrorist outrage – that only become apparent in circumstances that are hard to foresee precisely.

195 ChrisH January 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm

What else can Karl Smith get me to do?

I understand he taught Robert Murphy to dance.

196 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I predict Romney will not cancel a huge jobs-creating private sector funded megaproject and justify his decision by claiming that jobless benefits will create more jobs.

197 Brian J January 19, 2012 at 1:39 am

What’s the multiplier for jobless benefits, particularly in a time like the one we are in now? What was the prediction for the number of jobs created by the Keystone Pipeline?

198 TallDave January 19, 2012 at 11:08 am

Lately I’ve been wondering what the multiplier is supposed to be for private spending, that actually produces value and profit .

199 JWatts January 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm

“Lately I’ve been wondering what the multiplier is supposed to be for private spending, that actually produces value and profit .”

I think the standard Left argument is basically, the multiplier is high with regard to public spending and low with regard to private spending.

200 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 12:31 pm

No, that’s not the argument.

Look, I have significant skepticism myself as to the value of fiscal stimulus. partly because I at least partially accept some of the counter arguments listed below. (Monetary stimulus is a different matter, and I find it interesting that even Tyler would be more active in that regard than the current Fed. See also Friedman, Milton). So I’m not going to get into a full throated defense of same.

But the argument is that, under certain recessionary conditions, the private spending isn’t happening. Public spending is better than no spending, under those conditions.

Now, some economists would dispute that narrative on the grounds that public spending under such circumstances DOES crowd out private spending, and/or argue that the public spending, by distorting the market, creates a bubble, and/or arguing that the multiplier is low or nominal. As I implied, I don’t want to get into that particular thicket. But let’s at least understand the terms of the argument. Advocates of a fiscal stimulus are not arguing that the government will “better” spend the money than the private sector. They are disputing the crowding out assumption that you guys are making.

201 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Also, to restate the obvious – but apparently not obvious to everyone! – 1/3 of the stimulus was tax cuts, which put the money in the hands of … the private sector, to spend as they wanted!

202 Brian J January 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm

That’s a lovely way to avoid answering the question. Nice try, really.

You can be supportive of the Keystone Pipeline while acknowledging it wouldn’t create as many jobs as an extension of unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut.

203 TallDave January 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Paying people to not work probably produces negative net jobs.

204 Steko January 18, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Puerto Rico will vote on whether they desire statehood in the general election. Should they desire statehood it’s likely that the Obama administration would make that a priority for Congress while a Romney administration would presumably want to kick that can as far down the road as possible.

205 TallDave January 18, 2012 at 5:36 pm

It’s just a nonbinding resolution. Congress won’t approve statehood anytime in the next 20 years, even in the unlikely event PRs actually want to sign up to start paying federal taxes.

206 Steko January 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm

“It’s just a nonbinding resolution”
I think I my language (“whether they desire statehood”) made that pretty clear. The Puerto Ricans only control over this process is as a veto point.

“Congress won’t approve statehood anytime in the next 20 years”
Confidently proclaim whatever you like, but that doesn’t make it true. I would say the odds are that the Puerto Ricans will not get a majority for statehood (they have to first vote affirmatively for a change of status and then choose statehood from 3 choices) and the process will end there for another generation like it has before. However if they do somehow choose statehood and were Obama to win I think it’s certainly possible we’d see a 51st state by 2016 or 2020.

207 Roy January 19, 2012 at 4:19 am

It ain’t going to happen, no way would Puerto Ricans want to subject themselves to Federal Income tax, and the IRS. All the cash crap and under the table dealing you can get away with in San Juan would suddenly face Federal penalties and it would destroy the Puerto Rican way of life.

208 msgkings January 18, 2012 at 5:39 pm

A real 51st state? The aesthetics are terrible. How do you add a star to the current flag? And so much for the round-numbered Senate.

209 Andrew' January 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I say extend the blue all the way across. Make Iraq and Afghanistan states as well. The rest of the blue space will stand as a warning.

210 Arnoll January 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm

+1 lol

211 NAME REDACTED January 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm


212 msgkings January 18, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Nice. LOL.

213 Laserlight January 19, 2012 at 9:45 am


214 JWatts January 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm


215 Steko January 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Wikipedia’s entry on 51st state* has a possible flag design — alternating rows of 9 and 8 stars. Given that there were over 1,000 proposals for the 50 star flag and only a few looked like the final version I think it’s safe to say there are probably multiple other ways to do 51 stars.

* among other workarounds you can view wikipedia’s cache on google to bypass today’s SOPA redirect.

216 Nathan Tankus January 18, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Romney will not be a fiscal conservative. he will be limited to enacting regressive policies like tax cuts, but will be unable to enact regressive policies like eliminating medicare, medicaid or any other such policy. the democrat partisan front groups like moveon.org will rally around preventing him from giving to his (moneyed) constituents everything they wanted, just as they’ve stayed more or less silent about Obama’s similar policies. On the whole i see a presidency that may be slightly more to the right of Obama’s, but will create the political space (and activism) needed to have a more left leaning policy stance ala 1933.

217 Tom January 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm

The last tax cut was PROGRESSIVE

218 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Which tax cut are we talking about? Obama’s payroll cuts that were part of the stimulus? Yes, indeed those cuts were progressive.

The Bush cuts? Umm, words have meaning. Once can argue that the cuts were beneficial or even “just,” but progressive they weren’t.

219 Sandeep January 18, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I expect your comments on this post will be awful, try to prove me wrong

I am touched by your respect for your commenters, and for other humans in general.

220 unblinkered January 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm

He’s just working off of Historical precedence

221 Sandeep January 18, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Let us say opining off of. Calling people fools and condescendingly saying “try to prove me wrong” is not the way anyone who believes in civilized dialogue goes about things.

222 byomtov January 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Hey. We’re not part of the highly enlightened, absolutely genius-laden, GMU econ department. What do you expect?

223 CBBB January 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm


224 Aaron January 18, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I agree on 1), a complete repeal is too dumb without a replacement (that they don’t have) but he’ll need to do a bunch of changes to say it’s repealed
for 2) I don’t envision a big split, the essence of the Tea Party is intense partisanship, once in power they’ll probably be easier to control.
3) and 4) agreed
5) Obama’s style feels highly progressive, and progressives identify strongly with him, but I’ve never seen him act or advocate as anything other than a centrist (except on executive power, where he moved to the right). I find it implausible he’ll embrace a “platform of envy and anti-rich sentiment”, he might play up the middle class a bit more, but I don’t see why he’d suddenly engage in class warfare.

The one huge difference I do see is in temperament. All evidence we’ve seen of Romney indicates that his positions are completely driven by a desire to gain office, I’m really not sure how he’ll react once in office, particularly if another 9/11 or the Tea Party occurs and there’s a sudden political storm in one direction. Similarly he has shown some strong rhetoric, and although he’s a lot better than other Republican candidates in this regard, I don’t trust him not to inflame international tensions.

225 Matt January 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm

#5 is bullocks. We’re WAY overdue in this country for people to remember that supporting the wealthy and powerful seeking to further enrich and empower themselves is a path only to plutocracy (ie, modern America). Ayn Rand wet dreams remain, just that, fanciful dreams. Why is it that only the incredibly rich gain from modern economic growth in the U.S. but that’s much less or not at all true in every other rich nation?

226 Doug January 19, 2012 at 2:22 am

How is it true that only the incredibly rich gain from modern economic growth in the U.S.?

227 Matt January 19, 2012 at 2:36 am

Have you looked at income numbers for the last 30 years? Median household income has grown something like 20-40% for low and middle income folks, but 250-300% for the top 1%, more for the top 0.1%. Meanwhile that household income growth comes almost exclusively from women joining the workforce, as white men’s median income has climbed ~$0 since the late 70s. On top of that, we have among the worst economic mobility of rich nations.

228 Matt January 19, 2012 at 2:36 am

Household income growth for the non-rich comes from women joining the workforce.

229 jorod January 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I don’t care who wins the Presidency. I care about who controls Congress. That’s what is really at stake here.

230 Willitts January 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm

A lot of good comments and the usual noise from the usual suspects.

It’s pointless to talk about what a president can or will do without talking about Congress. I agree that Republicans have a better than even chance of holding both chambers. The question is whether they will over reach the way Pelosi and Reid did.

Most of the health care law will be repealed. Most of Dodd Frank will be repealed. The Keystone pipeline will pass. Susbsidies to alternative energy will end.

There won’t be any changes on abortion, few on Medicare, proposals for SS reform that will be demonized. There will be token gestures at immigration reform. Military cuts will slow. Bombing of Iran is a distinct possibility.

The most important issue will be the appointment of two or three new Supreme Court justices, federal judges, and US attorneys.

There will be big bureaucratic changes in the EPA, Homeland Security, consolidation of departments and maybe even some elimination of departments and agencies.

DADT will not come back. No Child Left Behind is history.

They will, if they are smart, play it safe until Romney is reelected. If unemployment is low, and it probably will be, his reelection is likely.

The Bush tax cuts will be extended. Maybe tort reform. Hundreds of democrats nationally will switch parties.

I would be pleasantly surprised at a flat tax proposal.

231 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm

“Bombing of Iran is a distinct possibility.”

I think this, if true, possibly undercuts your conclusion about reelection. Here’s why: I suspect that the consequences of attacking Iran will be a pretty massive economic shock, at least pushing us back into recession.

Now, I happen to think there are a host of other reasons to avoid such a move, in terms of our own interests and basic morality. And I’m not sure Obama wouldn’t make the same mistake. Moreover, timing is a factor – if he does it right before the re-election, he will gain a rally around the flag effect but perhaps not suffer the economic consequences, which won’t necessarily be immediate (at least the worst such effects).

I also think the chance of over reaching is great, but obviously that’s a subjective conclusion incapable of proof.

Long term, the biggest difference is indeed probably judges.

232 Ed January 18, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I agree with Jonathan’s point is that it is hard to find things that the Obama administration did that were different from what a third Bush administration would have done. I would go farther and say that I find remarkably little difference in policy terms between Bush and Clinton. Obama is basically Bush without the Iraq War -including actually focusing on getting Osama bin Laden- and Clinton without the view of the presidency as a means of getting laid.

This could simply be reflective of the Republicans being in control of Congress for most of this period, but there is remarkable continuity in policy (again ignoring style and rhetoric) between the three administrations. And I don’t see why a Romney administration would change whatever is causing this.

Add to that that Romney is already best known for changing his political positions when expedient, so its even more difficult than normal to predict what political positions he would have if he got elected president.

233 Willitts January 19, 2012 at 9:38 am

Obama didnt “focus” on UBL any more than GWB. The CIA had been maintaining an intense search for him throughout both administrations. It was specifically intel collected under the Bush administration that led to ultimate success. I dont credit Bush. I dont credit Obama. I credit an intelligence structure that operates independently. You make it sound as though Obama said, “OK, now I want you to REALLY search for bin Laden. I mean it.”

Your comment demonstrates the same fallacy characteristic of the very question of this post: how much power does any president have to make substantial changes?

234 JWatts January 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm

“You make it sound as though Obama said, “OK, now I want you to REALLY search for bin Laden. I mean it.””

That’s a standard Left Meme, but to be fair Obama did make it part of his campaign. So he advocated it, made some minor changes in emphasis, and UBL ended up dead. So at the very least you have to give him the credit for actually getting UBL and it’s one of the few campaign promises he kept unreservedly.

235 Bill January 18, 2012 at 10:11 pm

As his first official act as President, I expect President Gingrich to appoint governor Romney to be the US Ambassador to France.

236 msgkings January 18, 2012 at 10:37 pm

And his second will be to dump his wife and hook up with Vice President Palin.

237 Willitts January 19, 2012 at 9:41 am


238 ezra abrams January 18, 2012 at 10:46 pm

More poor women will die from low quality or illegal abortions
If next POTUS gets a SOTUS, kiss miranda goodbye
More hungry children going to school (shorter unemployement periods = less food for homeless kids. It is a great country where M Romney can park millions in tax free offshore havens, and kids go hungry)
Clean air, water acts gutted/repealed, cuyahoga river catches fire again
A lot of this is state level stuff currently blocked by feds
Its ok to lock your employees in the building [Walmart used to do this to the overnight cleaning crews]
Discrimination against women in the workplace is ok
In Texas, it is ok to execute a black guy, who happens to be an engineer for Texas Instruments, because one elderly white woman says she saw him do the crime,as opposed to 19 coworkers who said he was elsewhere (old 60 minutes story)
Its ok to turn illegal immigrants away from the emergency room, even if they are kids
Its ok to pass blatantly racist laws restricting access to the voting booth [‘the lack of empathy here on the GOP side is stunning; apparently they can’t concieve that in a small town, you can grow up without ID, and that 35 bucks is a lot of money]
Having a Romney POTUS means Tulia TX didn’t have to be apologized for [google tulia texas drug bust]

heck, with any luck , they can repeal Griswold vs CT; why on earth should what you and your wife do in the bedroom not be subject to hourly inspection by the Feds ?
nuff said ?

239 Will January 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm


240 Robert January 18, 2012 at 11:20 pm

His phony church will be empowered to continue their plan of world domination.

241 Loren F. File January 19, 2012 at 6:28 am

Isn’t that precisely the problem with a guy who “…pays negative taxes, cheated on his mistress with her daughter, fired his Grandmother while at Bain, and lied to kids to get the GOP nomination, etc.”? Since no one he is close to can trust him he is completely untrustworthy and we can’t really have a very good idea of what he will do in office except perhaps that it will be largely self-serving.


242 ezra abrams January 19, 2012 at 10:19 am

given your intro, I wish to receive a grade on my post
I am ok with public grade announcement


243 Floccina January 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm

How about black Americans’ disappointment about the first Black President being voted down for a second term? Is that an important feature in this election. I am almost willing to give Obama a vote on that alone and vote Republican for congress.

Although when push comes to shove I will really probably vote all libertarian.

244 LarryM January 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

I know I’m beating this into the ground, but since I rather suspect from other comments that this honestly isn’t clear to some people, let me spell out the argument explicitly:

(1) There is currently, not just on the left, a notion that the rich should either pay more in taxes for reasons of fairness, or not be given certain special benefits (e.g., the bail out to rich bankers). Along with this, on the left at least, is a perception that the Republicans bend over backwards to favor the rich, and that the Dems should counter this in the name of “fairness.” Of course another argument (again on the left) is that we need to increase revenues and the rich are most able to bear a tax increase. There is nothing inherently envious about these POVs. They may be wrong (see below), but they don’t represent “envy.”

(2) There are, of course, counter arguments to the above – arguments (for example) that taxes on the rich are fair (or even too high).

(3) It’s the next move that is the problem. Honestly I don’t really understand it myself, but it seems to go something like this – “the ostensible reasons for anger at the rich are invalid, therefore the real issue must be envy. ” Stated baldly, that’s absurd, which is why it baffles me that Tyler joins in. Maybe there is some better argument in favor of the “envy” slur? If so, I’ve never seen it articulated.

(4) All THAT said, it seems to me that Tyler’s real point 5 is that anti-wealth sentiment, whatever its cause or merits, in fact results in bad policy. Which is arguable, at least. IMO sometimes true, sometimes not. But you don’t need to make the “envy” slur to make the point.

245 Bill January 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm

It’s funny that no one envies the poor.

246 Jim Smith January 19, 2012 at 10:02 pm

#5 tells the whole story. If Obama runs on an anti-rich populist platform, he will almost certainly win against Romney, and probably by a landslide. OTOH, if he runs as a centrist, he has a chance of losing if the economy doesn’t show improvement (although if we keep gaining 200K jobs a month, Obama will win either way).

Except for Republicans, almost everyone else really hate Wall Street and their wealthy allies, and consider Romney one of them. A brutal class warfare campaign will wipe Romney out.

For me, I could care less what kind of campaign Obama runs, I have three issues that I care about, Supreme Court, social liberalism, and the environment. Obama is far far better than even a truly moderate Republican on those issues. I’m probably closer to Santorum than Obama on the Middle East and foreign policy, but it is a much lower priority for me.

247 Eric H January 19, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Mostly, I think either president will mostly have their hand forced by events. But in the spirit of the thing, for the same approximate reason that only Nixon could go to China, Romney

would close the prison ops in Guantanamo p = 0.6
end to major operations in Afghanistan p = 0.6
close a major overseas base (Germany? Okinawa?). p = 0.7
completely cave on some major piece of environmental legislation p = 0.8

Obama can’t do any of these things because he would “look weak” or be seen as “kowtowing to his environmentalist supporters”.

On the other hand, a higher thought still less than p=0.5 of a balanced budget, loosely tied to some nutty idea about shoring up SS, possibly achieved through some new tax (raise in SS, or perhaps VAT). Obama will never get a tax passed in a Congress in which either side is controlled by Republicans, and nobody wants to blink on spending.

Also, Romney comes out swinging in the Drug War, resulting in a border skirmish with Mexico that leads to very badly damaged relations. p = 0.1

Does anyone remember what a floundering mess the first 8 months of Bush II looked like? Yep, it will be just like that. A symbolic but superficial change in Obamacare, p=0.95.

248 athEIst January 20, 2012 at 12:56 am

Does anyone remember what a floundering mess the first 8 months of Bush II looked like?


and the rest of the eight years too. Ending with the grand finale, the CRASH and TARP.

249 Eric H January 20, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Actually, I believe we would have been better off if he had spent the rest of the 8 years floundering about helplessly instead of being driven to execute one long terrist[sic]-fueled spending spree.

250 LarryM January 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm

It is, indeed, simple math. And the fact that clearly intelligent people like you, and the entirety of the tea party movement (and, to be fair, plenty of people on the “other side”) fail at this basic math makes me weep for the future of our nation.

Dave, did you even read my post? Have you even looked at budget projections past 2020?

Even if we zeroed out the discretionary portion of the budget, and otherwise made no changes in the law regarding SS, medicare, and medicaid, we would eventually need a tax increase and a big one. And no one, anarchists aside, really wants to zero out the rest of the budget (defense, law enforcement, border control etc.). The kind of stuff you and Gillespie are talking about – freezing discretionary spending, etc. – is small potatoes compared to the entitlement issue.

Now, again, you COULD change that by radically revising how those programs are delivered. Argue for that if you wish. But THAT’S the argument to make.

This is why I ultimately can’t remain civil in these kinds of discussions. There is an incredible amount that reasonable people can reasonably differ about. Then you have some people, not content with that,, who, through stupidity, ignorance, or venality, insist on going beyond the bounds of reasonable debate and arguing that 2+4 = 3.

There’s even room here for someone to say: “look, I won’t support a federal tax regime that takes more than 15% out of the economy, and I’ll do what it takes to balance the budget at that figure, even if it means increasing the retirement age to 70 and replacing the current fee for services medicare system with a voucher system that is pegged to the general inflation rate rather than the medical service inflation rate, along with allowing the discretionary part of the budget to shrink in real terms.” That’s a position I don’t agree with, but it is at least mathematically sound and ideologically coherent.

But ignoring long term budget implications of the current medicare program and pretending that we can balance the budget long term without either a tax increase or impacting senior citizens – honestly, that is, or should be, far more embarrassing to you than sh*tting yourself in public.

251 Brian Donohue January 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Why repeal the estate tax? Economically, this tax does less damage than any other tax. Politically, if this is a priority for Republicans, it’s like putting a sign on your chest, proclaiming “We’re for the rich!”

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