Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Disingenuous politics

By Nikhil Rao

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For the greater portion of the past 10 months, former Gov. Mitt Romney has been a mess. His continual blatant pandering and gaffes did him no favors. His own campaign aide once compared the campaign to an ‘Etch-A-Sketch;’ (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/03/etch-a-sketch-romney-aide-suggests-campaign-reset-after-primary/) and Romney very recently demonized the 47 percent of Americans who pay no taxes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2gvY2wqI7M). One could not help but think that, come November, the former Massachusetts governor would fail miserably.

However, that perception has been rudely thrust into the bin as of Oct. 3. Romney was, for the most part, quite impressive during the debates that took place on Oct. 3 and Oct. 11. What many miss is the big picture – despite recovering late in the race, to claim a stately persona that suits him, Romney’s campaign cannot claim to be free of glaring deficiencies, both in policy and rhetoric.

Very often, on this campus, we see leftists unequivocally bash the conservative candidate in a race for political office; let me be clear – this is not one of those instances. This column will not attempt to sway by way of partisanship, but merely hopes to pick holes in often misleading or seemingly misinformed portions of both the contenders’ arguments.

For starters, Romney’s supply-side-favoring partialities take him past the territory of corporations and into the domain of households, where he aims to enforce a 20 percent cut in income tax rates, across the board (http://www.mittromney.com/issues/tax). Where the details begin to lose their lucidity is at this juncture, where one is stymied by Romney’s lack of an explanation regarding the source of payment to offset the tax cuts.

In fact, this non-existence of clear and concrete information is so apparent that even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which provided its outlook for 2022 based on various budgets, has found it impossible to map the effect of Romney’s intended policy on government revenue. It does, however, state that the Republican challenger’s plan will keep spending at 20 percent of GDP, around 2.5 percent below the same projection for President Barack Obama’s plan (http://www.economist.com/node/21563952). That’s fairly odd for one who stands by deficit reduction.

Sticking with the theme of ambiguous policy, we see that both the president and Romney’s purported policy measures provide us with much to moan about. For starters, Romney is Hell-bent on increasing (http://www.economist.com/node/21563956)the United States’ defense budget to cope with security threats at home and across the world, with the possibility that the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya would be cited as evidence for the increase.

While the necessity of such a drastic increase is debatable, such a proposal begs the question ‘Where is the money to come from?’

Obama, for his part, continues to use rhetoric that points to monetary and fiscal stimuli as possible saviors, in that he believes that the aforementioned stimuli possess the power to boost specific industries. Unfortunately, the unbecoming incident involving the renewable energy company Solyndra, considerable amounts of taxpayer money and bankruptcy didn’t do his espousal any favors (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/solyndra-scandal-timeline/).

The penultimate topic concerns reform of the American tax code. Both candidates seem to be worried that the tax code is inefficient for one reason or another. Unfortunately for them, it seems like there are better ways to rectify it than explicitly raising taxes, while keeping deficit reduction in mind.

Instead of bending over backwards to the rampant, misguided, unhealthy and deleterious winds of populism that are buffeting politics all over the world, from a stuttering India to a debt-laden Europe and increasing income tax rates on the rich, the president would do well to close all the loopholes and tax preferences instead.

Romney has propounded this before, which is sensible. However, it probably will not pay for his across the board cuts of marginal income tax rates of 20 percent. As it were, these tax preferences and deductions are skewed in a way that most politicians love to gloss over rather than pin point.

Cases in point: 60 percent of the tax preferences benefit the richest quintile of Americans and the government spends four times as much on housing for the richest quintile than it spends on the poorest quintile via mortgage interest-rate deductions (http://www.economist.com/node/21564407).

In addition to that, the poor who do not pay income taxes are hit with the regressive payroll-tax, to pay for programs that are in fiscal trouble and heading toward insolvency, i.e., Medicare and Social Security. The candidates would do well the show the public that they recognize this and are willing to place sound economic analyses above pandering and populism.

Finally, we come to China and other emerging economies’ relationships with America. During the Oct. 11 debate, both Romney and Obama proceeded to take the discussion on a seemingly innocuous, ‘China-bashing’ tangent. The president admonished the former governor for investing in China while Romney regurgitated his pandering cry to censure China heavily for their trade transgressions.

Such positions are untenable, unconscionable and simply silly.

First of all, railing against emerging economies is hardly a good thing. Such rhetoric seeks to promote selfish economic ideals while ignoring the vast and dramatic prosperity that Western involvement with countries like China and India has brought those countries as well as the ‘West.’ Rising incomes of almost everyone in emerging economies can increase the demand for goods and services of foreign countries, among other benefits.

Secondly, labeling China a currency manipulator and seeking to punish them is misguided. China is ceasing to depress the value of the renminbi (Chinese yuan) and seeking to punish China is likely to set off a retaliation resembling a trade war. Emerging economies are to be looked to as a source of global growth, not scapegoats to be unceremoniously bashed for want of a better political argument. Such a last resort is unbecoming and is somewhat despicable that politicians can cite Chinese and Indian behavior for America’s indigenous problems.

In conclusion, apart from their sensible policies, Romney and the president both propound questionable ideas, use unhealthy rhetoric and seek to please the masses, come what may. The problem is not that Romney is ‘out of touch’ with the common man or that Obama is an alleged socialist. It is quite something else.

Nikhil Rao is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

4 Comments

4 Responses to “Disingenuous politics”

  1. hm on October 25th, 2012 12:45 am

    ok, first get your subject matter straight. it’s not even slightly true that 47% of americans pay no taxes: almost everyone pays payroll taxes (even those of us earning work study $), sales tax, etc. such a well-known falsehood certainly does not belong in the first paragraph of any piece in a professional paper.

    second of all, you and i might agree that most people are stupid; but seriously, are you really trying to pretend that there is nothing but stupid naive groupthink and ressentiment dressed as ‘populism’ behind the wave of class resentment towards the rich globally? when the global economy and its ‘job creators’ prove every day that they will only continue to fail to do anything but press to impose increasingly miserable conditions on the human race in general, in order to preserve the comforts of a few, do you really expect everyone to be as blind as you and to unthinkingly just accept your sneering rhetoric about ‘populism’?

    also, are ’emerging global economies’ a source of growth? hasn’t the ‘growth’ in china and india (e.g.) depended heavily on the expansion of consumer demand in the u.s. and europe, consumer demand which was almost entirely based on credit (since capitalism cannot seem to produce anything tangible anymore) and which such credit has now imploded? do you see anything developing in those countries which is not only not dependent on the failing west, but which won’t reproduce the same problems?

  2. David Hunt '90 on October 25th, 2012 9:09 am

    Both parties are prisoner to the power of the old saying: “Those who take from Peter to pay Paul can always count on Paul’s vote.”

  3. Joe Root on October 25th, 2012 5:00 pm

    One of the major problems completely unaddressed by any political body is the severe overpopulation of the planet. We approach 9 billion inhabitants on a planet that can comfortably sustain less than half of that. Aside from the ruinous consumption and pollution that this creates, which will undoubtedly result in a global catastrophe within our lifetimes (in my opnion), it has spawned unprecedented economic rivalry. The days of the medium-skilled high paying job are over in the U.S., largely due to outsourcing. I agree with hm that the human race in general lives in miserable conditions, and many right here in the U.S. are going to be falling into that category, even many “well-educated” university students who will not have a place in the economy of the near future. For these reasons, it is essential that the U.S. do whatever it can in its self-interest to recapture whatever economic power it had. This will mean taking on China, enacting more trade barriers (or at least currency parity) and, first and foremost, energy independence. When the cost of energy goes down, and the only way to meaningfully achieve this would be nuclear power (for industry and residential) and natural gas (for vehicles) can we begin to lower the cost of production and still pay some kind of living wages. My regret is that beginning with the previous generation, into mine, and now stretching to yours, universities have been poisoning students with apologies for America’s past dominance and behavior. It has made us weak as a nation and weak-willed to do what we must to maintain our standard of living. We are losing the battle, folks. You’ll see when you get out of school. Only energy independence, firmer self-interest and an increasingly skilled labor force can save the future. Another important component to re-setting is the swift and large-scale passing of the baby-boom generation, which has consumed its way to America’s demise. They are a generation of excess which has created every single ill that exists in modern society – drugs, sexual disease, divorce, over-consumption, etc. They cannot die off soon enough. Social security is a mess because the politicians of the past 35 years plundered the system, all part of the baby boom generation. They have rejected much of what made America great and contributed little but drugs, rock ‘n roll and BMWs in every driveway. There is a lot to be done to make this country great again, and I am not sure that my generation or your generation has even been passed on those American traits of ingenuity and hard work to pull it off. that is the really tragic legacy of the baby boom generation. They say Republicans are Democrats with experience. I make $250k and that is barely middle class to live in a big metro area suburb. Wake up kids, blaming the rich is a distraction from the real problems that face us, problems almost 50 years in the making. The only solid real-world advice I can offer is to reject the communist leanings of your UMASS professors and make your way in the world.

  4. J C on October 27th, 2012 3:15 pm

    Romney’s policies have been very clean throughout his political career:
    Romney always falls on the side of whatever people want to hear. Any people. He supports that, and has a study to prove it.

    See Romney’s Etch-a-sketch in action on coal for example.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ4OIG0MyGw
    (or Search Youtube for “Etchy Mitt”)

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