I had the opportunity to watch the presidential debate last night in the peace and quiet of my basement without the kids running around. The debate was supposed to be broken down into 6 segments, with 3 segments on the economy (job creation, taxes, and balanced budget), 1 on health care, and 1 on the role of government along with opening and closing remarks.
I have been leaning towards Obama from the outset. My original enthusiasm was liberal social values and an educated person as president. Those have not changed, but what really swayed me toward Romney in the debate last night was the role of government and governance.
In terms of this ideology, I thought Romney was well prepared and resonated with my own opinion of government. Obama started out with safety and then delved into education and government spending citing the transcontinental railroad and the National Academy of Sciences. Romney also resonated with defense spending but spent more time on liberties and the pursuit of happiness (choice). I think the most relevant government programs that were not addressed are the National Institute of Health and DARPA.
Going back to the opening topics, I struggle with Obama’s message on the economy. By providing incentives for green energy versus traditional energy, we are indeed picking winners and losers. That does not help anyone. Clear specific regulations help everybody. Some programs are up to government, such as pipelines which will put people to work and provide valuable infrastructure. I struggle with Romney creating 12 million new jobs through small business. If history is any guide, 6 million of those jobs will be lost by 2020.
Given the Republican tax pledge, Obama’s plans to reduce spending will not get through. I think Romney’s plan will hurt the middle class. The 5 most common deductions (loopholes is not the correct word) are home mortgage interest, charitable donations, income taxes paid, real estate taxes paid and medical and dental expenses. I see at least a couple of these going away or being capped. However a cap on charitable deductions may hurt the 1% more than anybody else given the scam of buying a piece of art, having it appraised at a ridiculous value and then donating it to charity. I agree with a lower tax rate and fewer deductions.
On education, I also resonate with Romney more than Obama. Obama’s plan to hire more teachers will not do anything if those teachers are under qualified or hampered by an oppressive teacher’s union. Obama’s best remark was having private companies work with community colleges to provide specific job training. Romney’s point of having lower income kids go to the school of their choice resonated with me as well. Rather than fund bloated public institutions that may or may not be successful, kids should be able to choose to go to local schools, charter schools, private schools or on-line schools.
I do believe a country’s future depends on education. America is home to some of the best schools in the world, but access is rightfully restricted to the best and brightest. If the costs of these schools are not affordable, that problem should be solved with supply and demand, not by lower the cost of borrowing. That did not work with housing and will not work with education.
The healthcare topic is much trickier. I am not well versed on the Affordable Health Care Act, but I do believe that forcing Americans to buy health care is not constitutional. I also believe there is a poor safety net for the uninsured. Neither Obama nor Romney made a significant point in terms of health care. Romney kept harping on a 15 person non-elected board making health care choices. Obama did not say anything, insisting that costs would come down once the Affordable Health Care Act was fully implemented.
Overall I was very impressed by the preparation of Romney. The most compelling facts were undisputed: 23 million people out of work, 1 out of 6 in poverty, and 47 million on food stamps versus 32 million on food stamps. 50% of college graduates this year not being able to find work was disputed, but not by much. The “trickle-down government” title was particularly interesting as it flew in the face of Reagan’s trickle-down economic theories as well as Obama’s.
One interesting number was highly disputed. Obama kept referring to Romney's $5 trillion in tax cuts, which he repeatedly denied. He stated no tax cuts which would increase the deficit. The tax cuts will only be revenue neutral by eliminating deductions for everybody.
I am no longer willing to vote based on my beliefs on abortion rights, gun rights, or gay rights. I am anxiously waiting to listen to the vice presidential debate along with the next two presidential debates in order to determine my vote for president.