Can Mr. Romney Deliver A Prosperous Economy?

Full disclosure: I could never vote for Mr. Romney. Infamously, he made climate change a punchline, even as the Arctic sea ice hit a record low volume last month: compared with 1979 levels, it is down 80%. Yes, four-fifths of the way to zero.

Back in the USA, the past summer's drought--typical of what climate models tell us to expect more and more often--cost us an estimated $25 billion in insured crop losses alone. It's already kicked off another spike in global food prices; similar events in Russia in 2010 helped jump-start the Arab Spring, leading to the Libyan Revolution and the current Syrian civil war.

Meanwhile, Mr. Romney is "unsure" of the reasons for the warming we are observing today:

Scientists are nearly unanimous in laying the blame for rising temperatures on greenhouse gas emissions… [But] climate change has been going on from the beginning of the world… Even the apparent unity among scientists is not a sure indicator of scientific fact.

So Mr. Romney is not going to set rational policies in the best climatic--which means economic--interests of this nation.

Drought outlook for US, late summer 2012.  Image courtesy NWS-CPC & Wikimedia Commons.
Drought outlook for US, late summer 2012. Image courtesy NWS-CPC & Wikimedia Commons.

However, let's forget all that; some (unlike me) may feel that there is no climate crisis, or that we can't do anything about it.

But everybody would like to see a more fiscally secure and properous America. Can Mr. Romney deliver that?

Mitt Romney, February 2011.  Image by Gage Skidmore, courtesy Mr. Skidmore and Wikimedia Commons.
Mitt Romney, February 2011. Image by Gage Skidmore, courtesy Mr. Skidmore and Wikimedia Commons.

His prescription consists of massive tax cuts, which he expects to stimulate the economy via the private sector. These cuts are to be paid for by the elimination of deductions and other simplifications of the tax code.

The trouble is, analysts do not find enough potential savings in deductions and other simplifications to compensate for the tax rate cuts, expected (as President Obama pointed out) to amount to $5 trillion over ten years:

The difficulty is that there is no fully detailed Romney plan that explains how he would reconcile his twin goals of reducing tax rates across the board and then closing enough loopholes to make it revenue neutral. The Tax Policy Center concluded it could not be done without raising taxes on the middle class — hence the Democratic ads — but the head of the Tax Policy Center cautioned: “I don’t interpret this as evidence that Governor Romney wants to increase taxes on the middle class in order to cut taxes for the rich, as an Obama campaign ad claimed. Instead, I view it as showing that his plan can’t accomplish all his stated objectives.

Mssrs. Obama and Romney in caricature.  Image by DonkeyHotey, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Mssrs. Obama and Romney in caricature. Image by DonkeyHotey, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The respected conservative British magazine, The Economist, agreed:

Yet on the hardest question--explaining how he would keep his pledge to lower tax rates across the board while avoiding adding to the deficit and at the same time avoiding regressive changes to the tax code that would hit the middle classes more than the wealthy--Mr. Romney again failed to provide clear answers. He also repeated false claims about Mr. Obama cutting hundreds of billions from Medicare programmes for the elderly.

Shipbuilders under the USS Bonhomme Richard.  Mr. Romney plans to to increase the Navy’s shipbuilding rate from nine to 15 ships per year within the first 100 days he’s in office.
Shipbuilders under the USS Bonhomme Richard. Mr. Romney plans to to increase the Navy’s shipbuilding rate from nine to 15 ships per year within the first 100 days he’s in office. | Source

This trouble is worsened by Mr. Romney's plan to increase military spending. His platform calls for raising defence spending to 4% of GDP, and increasing the active-duty military roster by 100,000. The projected 10-year cost: $2 trillion.

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, commented on Romney’s plan, as reported in Defense News:

If you put all of the promises together, it doesn’t all add up. The administration may change, but the math remains the same. If you want to increase spending on defense over the next decade and reduce the deficit, then that necessarily means sharp reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid or sharp increases in taxes, or some combination of the two.

The picture that emerges is that Mr. Romney will, if he carries out his plans, be forced to eviscerate government. I understand that Mr. Romney, like most Republicans, wants a smaller government. But there's 'smaller' and then there's 'ineffective.' Do we really want the latter?

And if we are willing to tolerate the losses of service--more crowded classrooms, closed parks, longer lines and more restricted hours at the license bureau, tax office or library--are we sure that there isn't a hidden cost?

Closed entrance to Mount Ranier Park, Washington.  Image courtesy Joe Mabel & Wikimedia Commons.
Closed entrance to Mount Ranier Park, Washington. Image courtesy Joe Mabel & Wikimedia Commons.

A largely unremarked facet of the slow recovery over the last three years is the loss of public sector jobs, and its impact on the wider economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, state and local governments have shed 627,000 jobs since June 2009. That is large, but not compared to the 'jobs gap' of 9.8 million. (That's the number of jobs which would bring the economy to 'full employment.')

But there are three indirect job costs:

…the jobs the public sector should have gained just to keep up with population growth, the jobs lost in the private sector due to direct public-sector job declines, and the jobs likely lost when state spending cutbacks on transfer programs were made.

These bring the total 'jobs deficit' to 2.3 million.

The EPI continues, "If all of the 2.3 million jobs had been filled, it is likely that the unemployment rate would now be between 6.7 percent and 7.5 percent." They add that this jobs deficit creates "an enormous drag on the economy."

So what will be the impact of another round of government layoffs on the wider economy? Will increasing the 'jobs deficit' still more lead to a buoyant economy? Or will this be yet another "enormous drag?"

Source

Lastly, I must note a painful irony: Mr. Romney, in his infamous "47%" remarks, decried those who supposedly identify themselves as victims and refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and well-being. Yet he paints the entire country as a 'victim' of Mr. Obama's well-intentioned but misguided "trickle-down government" policies.

Apparently, all responsibility lies at Mr. Obama's door; the least effective Congress in many decades gets a free pass; the Republican policy of austerity and especially its recessionary consequences remain unacknowledged.

It may be that some austerity is merited. Certainly the deficit situation needs to be addressed. But is the Mr. Romney's plan really the way to do that? It's hard to tell, since he won't tell us just what his plan really is.

He does tell us that his tax cuts are 'pro-growth,' and he does tell us that he will provide 'leadership.' But apparently he wants us to follow him blindly.

Update: 10/16/2012

Following two Presidential debates, and one Vice-presidential one, Mr. Romney still can't or won't say just how he will pay for his proposals. (I'd elaborate, but what more is there to say? We still have no specific accounting of his numbers on this crucial point.)

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Comments 15 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

In my opinion, the Romney/Ryan ticket would be disastrous for the U.S. were they to be elected to the White House. I fervently hope that will not be the case. Unfortunately, there are many voters who DO follow this duo blindly, not realizing that in so doing, they're hurting their own best interests, particularly economically.

Voted Up++

Jaye


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, Jaye. Economics are a bit off the beaten track for me--one reason why I read the Economist, I hope to 'absorb' a bit of the dismal science without actually studying it properly! But I really struggle to see how Mr. Romney can square the economic/fiscal circle, as he appears to be trying to do. And, like you, I worry about that.


i scribble profile image

i scribble 3 years ago

Another good article. I believe a Romney presidency would be "game over" for the country, as the Keystone XL pipeline will likely be for human civilization. It will be hard enough to stop the pipeline under Obama's watch; it seems almost unstoppable. Do you plan to attend Bill McKibbon's climate activism event in Atlanta next month? I would like to go but probably won't make it. At about 4 hours away, it's still the closest event to my home in SC.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks! I'm not sure, though I'd like to, also. Work commitments may get in the way.


Marquis profile image

Marquis 3 years ago from Ann Arbor, MI

So how did Obama and Biden help the U.S? People followed the Obama/Biden duo blindly. I guess that is OK? Obama was the worse thing to ever happen to the U.S. politically and economically.

Mitt Romney would be a breath of fresh air.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

I don't expect to convince you, Marquis, as you plainly have a very strong opinion. But I have a very hard time relating the comment "People followed the Obama/Biden duo blindly," to any reality I observed.

Yes, Obamacare was enacted, and some stimulus programs were, too. But overall, Congress has been extremely uncooperative during this Administration. Even before the House went Republican, the Senatorial Republican caucus used procedure to great tactical effect to block administration initiatives--and it has been highly convenient for the Republican caucuses in both chambers. They can refuse to follow, then blame Mr. Obama for the results of their actions (as in the case of slow job growth as laid out above in this Hub.)

Another sterling example of that is the pending 'financial cliff' cuts, and particularly those applying to the military. They've been used by the Romney campaign as stump fodder, and blamed on the Administration. Yet they are entirely Congressional in origin, and can be resolved only by Congress, which after all Constitutionally holds the power of the purse. It's as if Mr. Romney expects the Administration to take Congress by the hand and teach it how to tie its laces. But I'm starting to rant.

As to Mr. Romney being a breath of fresh air, you certainly can't mean that in the literal sense, as he has gone out of his way to push his support for Big Coal, and to attack the EPA. His energy policy, as I've written elsewhere, is basically "Drill baby, drill" on steroids. So America's air under his leadership would likely be much less fresh than it is now. (Not your point, perhaps, but ironic, no?)


Marquis profile image

Marquis 3 years ago from Ann Arbor, MI

Doc Snow, so you missed how bias the media has been in favor of President Obama? Let us talk about how President Obama surrendered his law license from the state of Illinois.

There was speculation surrounding the issue of perjury in swearing that he never used the name "Barry Soetoro" when he clearly did most of his life.

It is on record.

The media showed very little interest in that. Also, President Obama's social security number was alleged to belong to a man from Connecticut deceased a very long time.

Would this not count as identity theft or even identity fraud? The media showed very little interest again. President Obama had no connection with that man.

If we are going to speak on tactical procedures being used against the president, I will direct your attention to how many times Democrats did the same thing against President George W. Bush.

If I may recall, when Obama was Senator briefly, he played a good role in helping the Democrats filibuster qualified judges for judicial nomination. These judges were Samuel Alito, Janice R. Brown, William Pryor and Priscilla Owen.

The Democrats also did a great job blocking the Patriot Bill, the Energy Bill, the Border Security Bill and the Parental Notification Bill while George W. Bush was president.

I know that the Obama Administration is anti coal. He seems to not understand how many American businesses are tied to coal mining. He would kill thousands of jobs, yet he continues his dance about providing jobs nonsense. President Obama's unrealistic energy goals would sacrifice over 1 million jobs between 2011 - 202o. Even the EPA gave an estimate that the coal industry would have to spend $10 billion dollars annually to comply with air toxin and mercury standards.

The National Economic Research Associates think that it would be twice as much. Nearly 200,000 jobs will be lost every year and we both know President Obama does not need any more job losses on his watch.

Did you know that the state of Indiana gets most of her energy from coal? If President Obama and the Democrats get their way, Indiana would have to pay far more than what she can afford.

We both know that the Hoosiers would never pull for a Democrat again. It is terrible to conceive a U.S. president intentionally tearing apart an industry that fueled America's early economic development.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

All of which has nothing to do with what I wrote. I find your lead allegations pure tin-battery, frankly.

And yes, coal did a lot to build America (and indeed, our whole modern world.)

But the cost has been to raise the CO2 concentration of our atmosphere by 40%. That has meant an increase in mean global temperature of more than a degree Fahrenheit, and is expected to mean about as much again over the next few decades *even if CO2 levels somehow stopped rising.* It doesn't sound like much, but the consequences so far have included tens of billions of dollars in economic losses and tens of thousands of casualties. (Hub in preparation on this very topic.) Coal is the worst form of energy for greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course local economies need to transition away from it. Indiana has already made some steps in this regard:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Indiana

It's a bare start, but that is the direction we need to go. (And, FWIW, cheap natural gas is pushing us away from coal much faster than anything the President has done.)


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Marquis, I am not approving your second comment. The repeated assertion that concerns over climate change are 'junk science' are a giveaway that your intent is just to spam this comment thread.

Please take it elsewhere (including comment threads on more relevant Hubs of mine.)


Marquis profile image

Marquis 3 years ago from Ann Arbor, MI

Did I sound like Obama a little? After all, he never really answers a question.

It did have everything to do with what you wrote. Democrats are hypocrites. They do the same things that you accuse the Republicans of doing.

That was MY POINT that you missed entirely.

Humanity single-handed lets go of CO2 to the tune of thirty gigatons a year. That is far more than all the coal plants combined in the U.S. And besides, plants need the CO2 that the human body releases as a waste by product. Attacking coal and coal plants is futile.

Please understand this, every climatologist will tell you that the temperature on Earth has been much colder and hotter than what it is now. Remember the Ice Age? What warmed it up? Was it global warming or did coal burning exist back then?

Did you know that one way to stop global warming is to turn off your computer and monitor? Who would listen to Doc Snow complain then?

Also, stop worrying about CO2 and coal. It is no use to grow grey. Here is some thing which may make you feel better.

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/geoengineering_carbon...


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Marquis, I'll play on this one, for once. But please try to keep it a little more focussed if you wish to comment.

1) OK, your point is that Democrats are hypocrites, too. Duly noted.

2) a) Yes, the CO2 from "humanity" is more than the CO2 from US coal plants. So?

b) Yes, plants use CO2. So?

c) "Attacking coal and coal plants is futile." Well, then, why are you so worried about such attacks?

3) a) Yes, temperature on Earth has been much hotter and much colder. So?

b) It is currently believed that CO2 does most of the warming which ends Ice Ages, with timing set by cyclic orbital changes which initiate the process of deglaciation.

4) Well, if electricity were generated with renewable energy, I could click and cursor to my heart's content, now couldn't I? Something to aspire to.

5) I'm already gray, so too late on that. But I'd really like to have the next generation's world be food-secure and reasonably predictable. It won't be, if we keep carbonizing our atmosphere--no matter how much geo-engineering we try.


Marquis profile image

Marquis 3 years ago from Ann Arbor, MI

Yes, plants use CO2. So? I am not trying to make like CO2 build up in the atmosphere should be ignored, I just do not see it at crisis level as you do or people like you do. Plants use CO2 that humans and even those coal plants let out. So, that is what I meant.

"Attacking coal and coal plants is futile." Well, then, why are you so worried about such attacks? I am not worried. You are the one who is worried. I just gave rebuttals as to why coal and coal plants are useful.

Yes, temperature on Earth has been much hotter and much colder. So? You stated the following:

" but the cost has been to raise the CO2 concentration of our atmosphere by 40%. That has meant an increase in mean global temperature of more than a degree Fahrenheit, and is expected to mean about as much again over the next few decades"

So I gave a rebuttal that there were no coal plants that contributed to that or the Ice Age.

I already explained my position on renewable energy. Also, I am not hysteric about carbon when it can not be helped. I am not going to make villians of coal or coal plants either. I am a skeptic about those who point fingers.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

1) The fact that plants use CO2 has nothing to do with whether or not the CO2 build up is "at crisis level," and frankly neither do your feelings or mine. It's a question of evidence, and the willingness to look at it honestly.

2) Useful, but dangerous too.

3) Coal plants (and other bits of technology) *have* contributed, mightily, to the temperature rise we've observed--and to that which is still to come.

4) You are welcome to be a 'skeptic,' but please be an honest one--one who looks at the evidence in its totality.

You might start here:

http://hubpages.com/politics/Global-Warming-Scienc...

And, IMO, that would be a more appropriate place to discuss climate change.


HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Excellent Hub, Doc Snow. Mitt Romney and the Republicans have all decided to ignore or deride Global Warming because they feel it would kill their almighty businesses. When will they wake up and realize that it is killing our planet? They need to use their business acumen and invest in business solutions before it is too late.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, "H."

The irony is that green "business solutions," to use your phrase, can be very profitable indeed. But to have a "solution," you must first recognize that a problem exists. That seems to be tough for a large proportion of the GOP just now.

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