Disingenuous politics

By Nikhil Rao


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]