Monday, June 18, 2012

I Am the Walrus

Who should be tied to the cement block known at "W."?

As things continue to be tight in the race for President, President Obama's whole campaign seems to hinge on convincing people that Romney's policy vision is the same as that of George W. Bush, and thus will yield the same underwhelming results.  Obviously, any success linking Romney to Bush is a winner for Obama, considering Bush's approval rates were down below 30% when he left office.  However, is it true?  Is Romney advocating the same legislative themes that Bush enacted?  Lets look at a few of the bigger issues and see how they compare:

Tax Reform:

We have all heard of the Bush Tax cuts which lowered tax rates for all Americans, and the claims of their detrimental fiscal impact.  If you think lower taxes do NOT stimulate the economy and hurt the deficit (I would disagree with you), you need to be asking why President Obama EXTENDED the Bush tax cuts another 2 years.  Further, ask why he is now only seeking tax increases on the wealthy which, obvious to anyone who can do basic math, will do little to improve the deficit.  

Romney is advocating a 20% reduction in tax rates for ALL Americans and a reduction in corporate income tax rates to 25%.  On the surface, this seems similar to the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.  However, Romney is advocating getting rid of many of the special interest deductions, something Bush did NOT do, thus tax revenues would be much closer to even.  This is a BIG difference because Romney is advocating a policy that provides incentive to produce more while minimizing the impact to deficits, that is VERY PRO GROWTH.   

Wall Street Legislation:

Obviously, the financial meltdown happened under George W. Bush and he got the blame, fair or not.  But what policies did he enact that directly impacted the meltdown.  First, Bill Clinton signed the law that repealed Glass-Steagall Act (which separated commercial banks, investment banks, and insurance companies).  If you want to know why banks got "too big to fail" do not blame Bush.  Second, Bush did put into place Sarbanes-Oxley to improve corporate accounting (Not my favorite, but if you like government regulation, he did it).  Probably turning a blind eye to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (who guaranteed these horrible loans with taxpayer money), either by under regulating them, or even worse, not privatizing them, was his biggest controllable blunder as they became a huge tax payer liabilities in the bail out.  Of course Obama has done nothing to reign in these horrible monsters because he loves big government.  What is Obama's policy...same as Bush.  Bailouts and government intervention when they decide it is OK, and meek reactive regulation reform (Dodd-Frank), that does little to prevent the problem, but handcuffs people trying to do business (like Sarbanes-Oxley).   

What does Romney want to do?  He wants a system where we are able to let banks (and auto companies and pet stores) fail and minimize the government involvement and taxpayer risk (like Freddie and Fannie).  The idea seems pretty simple, if you know you can fail, you will take on less risk and work harder to be competitive.  Neither Bush nor Obama get that.

Health Care:

We all know about Obama-care, and the insurance mandate which places heavy burden on small businesses.  So, what did Bush do?  His key piece of legislation on health care was to enact Medicare Part D or the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit.  He basically added an enormous extra benefit to seniors expansively growing the size of Federal government and the size of entitlements.  Yikes, Bush and Obama are getting dangerously close here.

How about Romney?  He clearly wants to scale back on entitlements through phased in retirement age increases, premium support Medicare, and repealing Obama-care to reduce the massive debt burden on our children. 

Deficit Spending:   

Bush and Obama are spot on here.  Bush spent more on wars in the wake of 9/11, and Obama more on social programs in the wake of the financial crisis.  But make no mistake, neither one made any progress in scaling back our long term fiscal outlook and both doubled the national debt.  This is horrifying to all Americans who want to see our country continue to prosper for decades and centuries, as you can easily see the end game being played out in Greece right now.

Romney has shown an affinity to reducing debt by 1) reducing long-term deficits and 2) creating pro-growth tax, regulatory, and energy policies.  As government continues to get bigger, it crowds out investment from the private sector which is required for sustainable growth.  Romney understands this much more than the last two occupants of the White House.

The bottom line, do NOT get fooled by the fact that Romney is a Republican and Obama is a Democrat.  That makes NO difference on the real critical issues around the economy.  Take a hard look at the policies and plans of the two candidates, and see how they stack up to each other.  You will find that Obama's defining polices align with the policies enacted during the tenure of George W. Bush, and you will find that Romney policies and rhetoric are closer to those enacted during the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

I will cede that if you are focused on abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, or many other social issues, you will likely see the boilerplate platform stance from each candidate.  However, when we have millions of people struggling to find a job or put food on the table and a government rapidly approaching bankruptcy, do you really see the next President focused on any of these social issues?  I hope not.

This election is too important for us to believe candidates who make false claims.  If you are voting for Obama, on many key issues, you are getting similar policy to what happen under "W."  I urge you to look deeper than the headline.