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Differences between Romney and Obama -- and their impact

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PeteM

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This morning's local paper reprinted a bit on what Romney described as his five main promises if he's elected. The original article is here:

Dana Milbank: Passing and punting on the trail - The Washington Post

Seemed like a good way to compare what the candidates have actually proposed or are doing. The list:

1) Taking advantage of our energy resources. This topic could include a lot of things (natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, etc.). I'll note several differences, but in practice it seems to me that either candidate will have us end up within hailing distance of one another. Here's why. The biggest change we've seen in the past fifteen years has been the discovery of large natural gas deposits. Under Obama, we've actually seen increased drilling for oil and gas: Login to access the Oil & Gas Journal Subscriber Premium features. So, despite all the rhetoric we're not shutting down production, we're increasing it. Natural gas prices are now incredibly low, so low in fact that they are depressing drilling. Market forces will eventually fix that, with even further increases in drilling.

That said, there are lots of differences. Republicans tend to not believe in climate change and, in some cases, science in general. Democrats tend to believe in climate change, and in many cases think it's something we should be worried about. Neither party or candidate seems to have much of a plan for nuclear. Democrats tend to be keen on solar and wind, which are valuable niches but still niches. Republicans seem to think "clean coal" is a proven technology, while Democrats seem more skeptical. Democrats are worried that unrestricted drilling will harm increasingly stressed water sources and want to have some regulations (disclose what's in fracking fluids for example, or insure secure well casings). Republicans want to drill baby drill. We could spend pages debating all this, but it seems to me that in terms of what the average shop owner pays for electricity or what the average commuter pays to fill up (charge?) their cars -- we won't see much difference with either candidate. And, either way, we're alreay seeing a lot more natural gas, more efficient cars, and continued research on many fronts. Likely more environmentally cautious under Obama, but we're still seeing fairly rapid growth.

2) Making sure our schools are second to none.
Most every candidate says this. Bush did it, with his "no child left behind." Obama did it with his "race to the top." Romney is doing it, but without much in the way of specifics or a plan. Conservatives should actually like what Obama has done, to use market incentives and clear metrics to create some competition between states and schools: Race to the Top - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia So far, some states have taken advantage of it and see gains. Teacher's unions tend to not like it (sort of like many Democrats didn't like Clinton's welfare reform). Rick Perry and Texas seemed to not like it on if-it's-Obama-we-can't-like-it grounds. Overall, I'd say that most independent education experts would say this was a significant improvement on Bush II programs. It's hard to know what Romney would do. Given his constituency, one guess would be some sort of funding for charter schools, many of them Christian and prone to teach "intelligent design" a "young earth" and the like. The whole Todd Akin thing gives a bit of a window to Republican views on education. Here's a guy who holds a seat on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology who apparently has little understanding of women's biology and wants to teach intelligent design in schools: Todd Akin (R-Mo.) - The Washington Post Anyhow, it's hard for me to see how Romney plans to make sure our schools are second to none, given that he has no plan and given that the inclination might well be to put guys like Akin (not him, but those similarly minded) in charge.

3) Having trade that works for America. The article said that the closest Romney got to a specific was that he would "crack down on cheaters like China . . ." So would there be a difference? The Obama administration claims that it has filed nearly twice the actions against China as the previous Bush administration. Search for the facts and you'll find Fox-like sources trashing Obama despite his actions on tires, rare earth minerals, etc. and you'll find Obama-friendly sources as the great champion of American trade. What looks to be an unbiased source has Bush and Obama close, with a slight edge to Obama: PolitiFact | President Barack Obama says his administration has nearly doubled rate of China trade cases

There's also the somewhat hypocritical bit where Romney talks of the advantages of free market countries and bashes China, but has a clear history of sending business and jobs there. The reality in all this is that there's a difficult balance between standing up for our trade interests (which Obama has done) and creating trade wars, watching the world go off the dollar standard, etc. All in all, I can't see any significant difference in actual trade policy over the next four years from either an Obama or a Romney administration.

4) Balancing the budget. Here we have a big difference, but maybe a surprising conclusion. Obama wants a combination of increased taxes (mainly returning them to previous levels) and cuts. Romney and Ryan want it all to come out of cuts, while simultaneously restoring the Bush tax cuts AND cutting taxes for the rich still further. Obama has already shown a willingness to embrace some pretty tough cuts (including entitlements), along with new taxes, in the aborted $3 trillion deal with Boehner. He's actually to the right of much of his party. Both parties pushed back on that (Matt Bai's NY Times article is a good read on that, featuring mainly Boehner as a source). Virtually every economist with a functioning adding machine has indicated that neither the Romney or the Ryan plans are workable. Simpson and Bowles say they're not in the spirit of their plan. Yet, still we have the implacable Tea Party and Grover Norquist "no new taxes" dogma. Near the end of his article Bai makes the case that if Romney is elected, it's pretty sure we won't have either compromise or a workable budget: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/m...-who-killed-the-debt-deal.html?pagewanted=all

I think that Republicans do deserve recognition for putting a high priority on dealing with debt and the escalating costs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Social Security we could fix with a few pen strokes. Medicare requires us to stop spending 2x the next big spender nation on health care; a topic we've beat to death elsewhere. Medicaid is going to require a much tougher look -- along the lines of Clinton and welfare reform. The Republican proposal pretty much says "maybe you can find a charity" to all those who are disabled, poor, out of work. The Democrat proposal pretty much says "we'll dig deeper" for funding. Neither is really a very clever or workable solution.

In addition to all this, there is Obama's mixed record on responding to the financial meltdown. I think that most unbiased sources would agree that our costly interventions saved us from a far worse depression, but we did little to reign in too-big-to-fail banks, and that a lot of stimulus money didn't have much bang for the buck. Progressives would hope Obama learned a lesson about trusting his financial advisers (sort of like Kennedy learned about trusting his military advisers in Bay-of-Pigs times). With respect to the auto industry (another topic we've beat to death) most economists would say we're a lot better off, at least for the sort term, by not letting our auto industry fail.

There's also a difference in military spending. Republicans want to increase military spending; part of American exceptionalism and all that. Democrats say our country is already spending more than all the rest of the planet's other countries combined (List of countries by military expenditures - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) and that we ought to try working a bit more with our allies and do a bit less barging into other countries like Iraq. As for the record, Obama has tried to work a bit with other countries and can claim getting Osama Bid Laden as a go it alone victory and getting Gadaffi as a work-with-allies achievement. FWIW, both Obama and Romney talk a pretty hard line on countries like North Korea and Iran. Most folks would say the once-hated-or-loved Hilary Clinton has done a very good job in international diplomacy. Romney's choices??

So, where does all this budget-balancing end up if Romney or Obama wins? A lot depends upon the Senate and House races. My own imperfect crystal balls suggests this: if Republicans sweep everything we'll get legislation that will decimate the middle class, cut the safety net, enrich the top .01% and still not balance the budget. If Democrats sweep everything, we'll kick the can further down the road with maybe a few symbolic cuts. If we end up with Romney needing some Democrat votes, we'll have the implacable no new taxes folks and no compromise. If we have Obama needing some Republican votes (along with the automatic cuts now set to take place) we might actually have a situation where a balanced deal might be possible (but it won't be pretty).


5) Eliminating regulations. This is the one area where I'd say Romney has been fairly specific. His stated intention is to get rid of the Affordable Healthcare Act, Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, drilling regulations, the new consumer finance protection agency, and likely dozens more given both his philosophy, his constituency, and the deep budget cuts he plans. Obama has called for reducing unnecessary regulations, but has only done a bit here and there. For example: Obama cuts five regulations, says it will save $6B

To me, there is a deep philosophical divide between the parties on this topic. Many conservatives don't want to give the government any power, any money, (to paraphrase Norquist "shrink it and drown it in a bathtub") for fear it will oppress them. Some see their guns (like the original founders) as a deterrent to government excess. Many like the idea of money talking (Super PACS etc.) A few go militia crazy on the topic. Bottom line: conservatives fear their government.

On the other hand, many liberals fear corporate power. They think the medical insurance industry is ripping them off; the military/industrial complex urging us to enter wars; the financial industry creating booms and busts where they take money from the middle class no matter what; the oil industry creating fake shortages to rip us off and skirting safety guidelines to pollute our environment. Many think that money and decisions like Citizens United have corrupted the democratic process. They also like safe airlines, food inspections, safe workplaces, etc. A few go "we are the 99%" wild to make their point. Bottom line: liberals fear unchecked corporate greed.

To me there are reasonable fears and real cases on both sides. However, the answer must surely lie in the center. That is, to encourage truly free, open, and transparent markets while having sufficient rule of law and regulations to keep our freedoms from being appropriated, sector by sector, by various overlords of finance, energy, insurance, war, etc. Individuals might reasonably differ on what they fear the most. For me, it is unregulated and near monopolistic sectors like finance (how's your IRA been doing), medical insurance (where are your premiums headed), defense suppliers (tell me again why we spent a trillion and thousand of lives in Iraq), and the like. Bottom line: take your pick on whether you fear your elected representatives (sometimes venial, often not so competent) or the likes of Enron, Goldman Sachs, or Global Crossing (smart guys, working diligently to take some of your money with little, nothing, or a real bust in return). Incidentally, one way to fix this is to elect representatives who you think are honest and competent.

6) Embracing Sharia law. OK, Mitt didn't add this one. But, it's a scary way to get at what I think is one of the umbrella issues in this campaign. Fringe Republicans still like to paint Obama as a foreign-born Muslim, with a secret agenda to destroy the country. Despite all the evidence to the contrary. But, we in the US should rightly recoil from a government where Mullahs tell women how to dress and where fundamentalists find a religious take on education, investment, who their enemies are, and the like. Despite revisionist historians, our own Founding Fathers (especially those like Jefferson and Franklin) were very clear on the notion of separation of church and state. So, where are we now? A majority of Republican supporters have fairly fundamental and evangelical views of religion and state. For examle, they think the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old and want that to be taught in schools. They're not much keen on evolution, DNA, and all the science that goes with it. In states like North Carolina, they've legislated that any science dealing with climate change and sea level changes pretty much can't be considered in planning the location of new buildings and the like. They're also real keen to tell women how to behave. They're not to take contraceptives or plan their families. They and their doctors should go to jail for terminating a pregnancy from a rape. Woman-centered programs like Planned Parenthood should be starved of support at both state and federal levels. Single mothers (damn you, Murphy Brown) are a much greater scourge than their deadbeat fathers. And, don't even get them started on the 10% or so of the population that (gasp) might have DNA (gasp) that tends to have them invite a member of the same sex (we can cure that) into the privacy of their bedrooms. Some other enemies are also pretty clear: bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran (where, incidentally, targeting their nuclear facilities might be a sensible last resort). One might note, in passing, that the Stuxnet virus, aimed at Iran's nuclear faciilties, popped up midway through Obama's term.

A discussion of the religious views of Romney, Ryan, Obama, and Biden has been somewhat spotty and perhaps appropriately so. What could be said of Romney is that he seems a decent man, deeply committed to his faith, with a faith that believes some pretty far out stuff in addition to the usual Christian fundamentalist base line about a young earth and human's dropping smack dab into the Garden of Eden. In any case, he's not talking. Ryan is the sort of Catholic that US Catholic nuns love to hate. He's on record with the same views on conception and abortion as (take your pick) the current Pope or Todd Akin. Obama is a practicing Christian, who ends everything with a God bless, but who gets characterized as a Muslim. He doesn't seem all that keen on merging church and state. Joe Biden is a Catholic of the sort that supports woman's and gay rights. One link on all this: http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/pubs/cfc_archive/articles/TheHistoryofAbortion.asp

The US isn't Iran and we aren't under Sharia Law. And, it's just some (but more than half) of Republicans who hold these merging-church-and-state views. But, more than any other time I can recall, we are moving toward embracing religious/fundamentalist views as a matter of law. In Iran mullahs have a say on education, investment, who their enemies are, and the like. In the US (remember the primaries) our own religious/political leaders have a say on education, investment, and our enemies.

I, for one, am for a world where young folks plan their families, where kids train in fields like molecular biology, where government stays out of our bedrooms, where everyone (including Sikhs, etc.) can practice whatever beliefs they wish, and where we stick to a fact-based approach in everything from what potholes we fix to what investments in biology, climate science, etc. we encourage. We'll see.

There are a couple of questions here. First, is there another great issue that this campaign should address in the next two plus months? Second, is there a better way to predict what may happen with future legislation, given either Republican or Democrat victories in the executive or legislative branches?
 
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oldster

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Well said...well thought out, and as neutral as possible in this politically charged atmosphere that we have created.

This is really the choice of least damaging.
I have been a life-long democrat (born in '35). While I have been unhappy with some of the decisions that have been made, how well and far can Obama swim with his hands and feet tied behind his back?

Middle of the road is a position, not a lack of focus or direction. You cannot paddle a canoe up the river if you always keep the paddle only on one side. You tend to go around circles.

Lee (the saw guy)
 

WILLEO6709

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I think this election is going to come down to 1 issue, the ecnonomy. If unemployment continues to hold or rise less people working = less revenue and more expenses for government.
I don't see Obama's hands tied, he had opportunity in the first 2 years with both houses of congress in democrat control. His choice to not compromise has led to many a stalemate. I don't see where he has much of a record to run on and I'd rather see about anyone else.

I don't trust the New York Times on anything economic. Just the name Sarbanes is enough to make my skin crawl. My experience with the Sarbanes Oxley corporate accountability act was that it created a lot of accounting jobs, added a lot of overhead, put in a lot of Junior VP's, and it all cost money taken from blue collar folks on the factory floors making the product. Its my opinion I could be wrong but I saw it firsthand working in corporate america.
 

PeteM

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I think this election is going to come down to 1 issue, the ecnonomy. If unemployment continues to hold or rise less people working = less revenue and more expenses for government.
I don't see Obama's hands tied, he had opportunity in the first 2 years with both houses of congress in democrat control. His choice to not compromise has led to many a stalemate. I don't see where he has much of a record to run on and I'd rather see about anyone else.

I don't trust the New York Times on anything economic. Just the name Sarbanes is enough to make my skin crawl. My experience with the Sarbanes Oxley corporate accountability act was that it created a lot of accounting jobs, added a lot of overhead, put in a lot of Junior VP's, and it all cost money taken from blue collar folks on the factory floors making the product. Its my opinion I could be wrong but I saw it firsthand working in corporate america.

You raise a couple of good points. The first five of those six issues were from Romney. It's maybe a bit surprising that he talked less about full employment and more about the budget and regulations. It could be the emphasis on the budget is because Ryan joined the campaign? It could be that employment is edging up? I really don't know.

As for what I've seen about Sarbanes Oxley, it doesn't much affect truly small (don't have to comply) or large (it's just lost in rounding error) companies in terms of costs. For those in between their accounting costs are higher (about 1/2 of one percent of sales); perhaps what you saw. Whether that slight extra cost for mid size companies should come out of customers', labors', or managements' pockets is an open question. Sounds like it came out of labors' pocket in your case??

However, there's a counter-balancing positive effect noted in research: investors have greater trust in the financial reports of US companies than, say, their Chinese counterparts. This, in turn, means higher valuations, more investment money headed to the US, a relatively stronger economy, etc. Here in the US it's likely this has also helped our tradition of mid-cap companies doing well. That probably doesn't happen in a country like, say, South Korea.

What I haven't seen is the impact on outright fraud of the sort we saw at Enron (which defrauded about 20,000 employees). I'm still waiting for someone from Goldman to serve time; and it's likely I'll have to keep waiting.

FWIW, I've long been a Wall St. Journal subscriber. Sadly, I find it's editorial slant increasingly displacing its once (and generally still) excellent business reporting. These days the NY Times and WSJ are increasingly going head to head. The Journal has added (to me, stupid) fashion suplements and pretty decent small bits on sports. The NY Times has added much deeper (and often insightful) business coverage. The NY Times David Brooks has long been a smart right of center voice. In any case, you might be surprised at what you'd find.
 

ewlsey

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I think most of you hear him more often than I do but I'm left with the notion that his opinion on matters changes slightly from week to week to suit what he thinks what people (majority) want to hear.

This is the bedrock of the modern US political system. It might have been the bedrock of the old US system too, but I haven't been alive that long.
 

dp

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Location
Puget Sound, Washington
This morning's local paper reprinted a bit on what Romney described as his five main promises if he's elected. The original article is here:

Dana Milbank: Passing and punting on the trail - The Washington Post

Seemed like a good way to compare what the candidates have actually proposed or are doing. The list:

1) Taking advantage of our energy resources. This topic could include a lot of things (natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, etc.). I'll note several differences, but in practice it seems to me that either candidate will have us end up within hailing distance of one another. Here's why. The biggest change we've seen in the past fifteen years has been the discovery of large natural gas deposits. Under Obama, we've actually seen increased drilling for oil and gas: Login to access the Oil & Gas Journal Subscriber Premium features. So, despite all the rhetoric we're not shutting down production, we're increasing it. Natural gas prices are now incredibly low, so low in fact that they are depressing drilling. Market forces will eventually fix that, with even further increases in drilling.

Romney to declare goal of North American energy independence by 2020 | Energy | News | Financial Post

That said, there are lots of differences. Republicans tend to not believe in climate change and, in some cases, science in general.

Do you really want to go here? I can bury you in responses. This is one of the biggest lies making the circuits. The truth is democrats believe the climate should not be changing. In fact the climate has always changed, always will change. Change is natural and normal.

The problem is the alarmists have been caught in a lie. CO2 doubling accounts for about 1º of warming. Nobody denies that. It is a mathematical certainty. The response is logarithmic - the worst is behind us for CO2. The myth of climate alarmism is what happens next. The alarmists use seriously flawed models to show that that 1ºC change creates positive feedbacks that lead to additional warming. Runaway warming, in fact. The problem is every model has been shown to be utterly wrong. They have no predictive skill, and the observed data proves this. It would help if they bothered to include the affect of clouds in the models but they don't know how. The temperature diversion problem - predictions do not and cannot match observed, is not going away.

The alarmists are willing to destroy national economies over this fraud as is happening in California, Australia, and Great Britain where cap and trade has been accepted. What a stinking pile that is. Julia Gillard is about to get her knickers handed to her for dragging Oz into this fakery.

If you are going to use innuendo and false assumptions there is no hope for this conversation.
 

PeteM

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. . . I can bury you in responses. . .

I'm pretty sure you can bury this thread in something. Maybe Metl's right . . .

Two points. First, your quarrel seems to be with the statement that Republicans tend to not believe in climate change. Here's a credible (Time magazine) link: Why Climate-Change Denial Is So Powerful - TIME

That said, I worded this "tend" and would fully agree that one can find lots of Republicans who believe in climate change and even a number who think it is man-made and that we should do something about it. Frankly, it doesn't matter to the main point under Romney priority #1 -- and how it might differ from Obama. It doesn't even matter if you want to give us your bona fides as a climate scientist who thinks the whole thing is a hoax. That's a side show, as far as this thread is concerned.

The main point was and is this: under the current administration we've already started drilling for oil and especially gas at a much higher rate. And, FWIW, both parties have long held "energy independence" as a goal, right back to good old Jimmie Carter. So, I'd be surprised to think the election should turn on a difference between the candidates with Obama's drill lots more, but carefully, and Romney's drill balls out, and maybe not so carefully. Either way, we already have more natural gas than we seem to know what to do with; given its steep discount on a per BTU basis to other energy sources. And, we're already on track to get more of it. All of which is good, even in the not so long term, for the US and perhaps for the climate. About the only difference between the candidates on this huge source of energy is that Romney wants to go a bit faster and Obama wants to make sure we protect water sources along the way.
 

dp

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That said, I worded this "tend" and would fully agree that one can find lots of Republicans who believe in climate change and even a number who think it is man-made and that we should do something about it. Frankly, it doesn't matter to the main point under Romney priority #1 -- and how it might differ from Obama. It doesn't even matter if you want to give us your bona fides as a climate scientist. Irrelevent.

It is relevant in that you open a conversation, an open conversation, with the presumption that republicans are Ludites. Then you expect that to be ignored. Your conversational skills are sadly lacking. The entire term "climate denier" has been thoroughly debunked. Nobody who uses the term can identify what is being denied. The climate is changing. No question. People are involved. No question. The little ice age ended in the late 1800s' and those of us who understand the difference between climate and weather understand we are still in the post LIA warming period. One does not need to have bona fides as a climate scientist to know this. I've never been a mother but I understand the process very well, thank you.

So what, Einstein, is it about climate change that we are denying? Rhetorical - I'm not interested in talking about climate or weather or whether or not non-democrats are Ludites. Maybe you should start from a more neutral position. Time magazine is far from neutral and just repeating the myth about so-called climate deniers. But I do think I'll invite some friends to the conversation.
 
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