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Disappointing Debates : Neither Man Offers Smaller Government
National Review ^ | 10/24/2012 | Michael Tanner

Posted on 10/24/2012 6:57:03 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

All three presidential debates are now behind us. Mitt Romney’s convincing win in the first clash was a game changer, turning a possible Obama landslide into an even race. The debates provided the big boost Romney needed, but for advocates of limited government, the three debates suggested a troublesome four years ahead, no matter who wins. Just a few of the red flags:

The China Syndrome. Although Mitt Romney did make some nods to the importance of trade for the U.S. economy, he spent a large amount of debate time trying to start a trade war with China. Of course, China probably is a currency manipulator (though our hands are hardly clean in this regard — just ask Ben Bernanke). But there is no reason to believe that a more valuable yuan would erase our trade deficit with China. In fact, from 2001 to 2008, the yuan did increase in value by 21 percent relative to the dollar, yet our trade deficit with China actually increased by a third over the same period. And imposing penalties on China for currency manipulation would almost certainly invite China to retaliate on other fronts. Romney’s actions will more likely than not end up costing American jobs in the long run. Moreover, the idea that low-cost imports are bad is an outdated mercantilist principle; in reality, they reduce costs for U.S. consumers and manufacturers.

In the debates, President Obama repeatedly boasted of having saved Americans from the threat of inexpensive Chinese tires. His decision to impose tariff penalties on Chinese tires may or may not have saved 1,000 jobs in the tire-manufacturing industry, as the president claims, but it also cost American consumers more than $1.1 billion in higher tire prices — Americans ended up paying more than $1 million for each tire-factory worker’s job saved. Further, because Americans had to pay more for tires, they had less to spend on other goods and services, meaning fewer jobs in other industries. Studies suggest that on net, the president’s tire protectionism actually resulted in a loss of more than 2,500 jobs. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Chinese retaliated by imposing penalties on U.S. chicken products, costing that industry at least $1 billion in sales. It was almost hard to believe that two reasonably intelligent candidates for president could act so utterly ignorant of basic trade economics.

Cut the Deficit . . . Someday. During the final debate on Monday night, Mitt Romney correctly noted that perhaps the biggest threat to our national security is the crushing burden of government debt. He then proposed to remedy this by spending more on national defense. Defense is at least a proper constitutional imperative, though Romney’s penchant for simply counting the number of ships or airplanes is not an especially convincing case for increasing spending, as Obama pointed out. But further, during the debates Romney also seemed to rule out cuts to Medicare, student loans, government-directed research and development, Pell Grants, and K–12 education spending. In the final debate, he promised to reduce domestic discretionary spending by 5 percent. Since that category amounts to less than 17 percent of total federal spending, such a cut would reduce the deficit by $30 billion per year. It is currently $1.1 trillion. Enough said.

But Romney looks like a skinflint next to President Obama, who could hardly find any government activity that didn’t deserve more spending — sorry —  “investment.” The president made passing mention of “tough spending cuts” to come, but couldn’t actually name any. He did, of course, endlessly repeat his call for the rich to pay “a little more” in taxes. He didn’t mention that his proposed $1.8 trillion tax increases over the next ten years don’t even pay for the increased spending he has called for, let alone begin to cut the deficit. The president’s proposed budgets do reduce the deficit to $575 billion by 2018, but only because of economic growth, not spending reductions. In 2019, they promptly begin to skyrocket again with no end in sight.

The choice, then, is between drowning in an ocean of red ink, or just in a big lake of it.

I Love Bailouts More than You. One of the biggest fights on Monday night was over whether Mitt Romney supported the auto bailout. Obama said he didn’t. Romney said he did. The relevant truth is that the bailout was a disaster for taxpayers, who, if the government divested now, would lose $25 billion. The bailout, which Romney correctly noted started under President Bush, probably did save some jobs in Ohio and Michigan, but those jobs likely came at the expense of jobs in automakers based in places such as Tennessee, North Carolina, and Indiana, where companies such as Toyota, Nissan, and Mercedes Benz have manufacturing plants.

Both candidates need to learn that cronyism is not capitalism. Bailouts may benefit business, lobbyists, and politicians, but their cost is borne by taxpayers, consumers, and the economy as a whole.

I Love Teachers, Too. When it came to increased-spending promises, no area could match education. Romney could hardly contain his enthusiasm for education spending, although he did at least suggest that the federal government should not be directly hiring teachers. Still, from college aid to standardized testing, Romney repeatedly embraced such a big government role in education that it’s hard to believe that Republicans used to call for abolishing the Department of Education. President Obama, on the other hand, does want the federal government to spend on hiring more teachers. He seemed to react with horror at the very idea that the federal government might spend less on some education program somewhere.

Both candidates were correct to point out that improving our education system is crucial to America’s economic competitiveness. But there is no evidence at all that increasing education spending or hiring more teachers will improve education outcomes. Government spending on education has increased by half over the past 15 years without any noticeable improvement in test scores or graduation rates. At the same time, the student-to-teacher ratio at public schools has declined by 11 percent, again with no improvement in outcomes. Given this track record, the bipartisan support for more education spending represents either the triumph of hope over experience, or just pure pandering. (Governor Romney, though, does get points for making a brief nod to parental choice, even if he slid by it so fast that no one noticed.)

The Dogs That Didn’t Bark. As bad as our $16 trillion national debt is, it pales in comparison to the estimated $57–$111 trillion in unfunded liabilities facing our entitlement programs, primarily Medicare and Social Security. Neither candidate has put forward a serious proposal for reforming these programs. Social Security, which is $22 trillion in the red, got fewer than 300 words over three debates, and most of this was Governor Romney’s pointing out the president’s failure to address Social Security reform in his first term. When the candidates did get around to discussing Medicare, it was primarily to attack each other for proposing cuts to the program.

Of course, President Obama has a four-year track record that pretty clearly demonstrates his belief in virtually unlimited government. Romney’s support for big government, on the other hand, may just be insincere, tacking to the middle for political reasons. But on the other hand, Romney might actually be the moderate Massachusetts governor who earned a gentleman’s “C” on the Cato Institute’s Governors’ Report Card for taxes and spending during his time in office.

President Obama has set the bar so low that Romney can probably clear and earn the votes of most fiscal conservatives. But anyone expecting a much smaller, less costly, less intrusive government over the next four years probably shouldn’t hold their breath.

— Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution.



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: debate; government; obama; romney

1 posted on 10/24/2012 6:57:07 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

I think Mitt offered a lot of ideas for smaller government. A liberal wouldn’t be able to recognize a proposal for smaller government however.


2 posted on 10/24/2012 6:59:47 AM PDT by ImJustAnotherOkie (zerogottago)
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To: SeekAndFind

These days you’re mighty insensitive if you suggest that government should not ‘guarantee’ everyone a ‘safe’ path through life. How this largesse is to be created, no one is certain. But the average American is convinced, just as the average European was fifty years ago, that life should proceed without risk.


3 posted on 10/24/2012 7:04:39 AM PDT by LucianOfSamasota (Tanstaafl - its not just for breakfast anymore...)
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To: SeekAndFind
Government WILL be smaller w/o enforced Obamacare; just for starters. Fewer regs on small business; and better tax MO will help as well.

But 'WHATEVER'. . .this election is a choice for America to save itself from the vision of Marx/Alynsky/Mao 'et al'; by choosing that which is closer to George Washington/John Adams and Abraham Lincoln. . .and Ronald Reagan.

. . .and maybe even John F. Kennedy.

Come National Review. . .move on and 'up' FOR America. Our best and 'only' alternative is clear.

4 posted on 10/24/2012 7:15:43 AM PDT by cricket (The Middle Class: Thanks to Obama; those who have not yet been 'buried'; are now; shovel ready..)
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To: SeekAndFind
Government WILL be smaller w/o enforced Obamacare; just for starters. Fewer regs on small business; and better tax MO will help as well.

But 'WHATEVER'. . .this election is a choice for America to save itself from the vision of Marx/Alynsky/Mao 'et al'; by choosing that which is closer to George Washington/John Adams and Abraham Lincoln. . .and Ronald Reagan.

. . .and maybe even John F. Kennedy.

Come on, National Review. . .move on and 'up' FOR America. Our best and 'only' alternative is clear.

5 posted on 10/24/2012 7:15:59 AM PDT by cricket (The Middle Class: Thanks to Obama; those who have not yet been 'buried'; are now; shovel ready..)
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To: SeekAndFind

You don’t dare tell government workers you are going to fire them until after they vote you into office!


6 posted on 10/24/2012 7:21:13 AM PDT by dalereed
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To: SeekAndFind

Romney has to win Ohio and pull soccer moms. It’s regrettable that he can’t tell the truth and win, but that’s the fact.


7 posted on 10/24/2012 7:22:35 AM PDT by throwback (The object of opening the mind, is as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.)
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To: throwback
Romney has to win Ohio and pull soccer moms. It’s regrettable that he can’t tell the truth and win, but that’s the fact.,

If that statement is true, and I believe it is, then we have already lost the republic. We are now complicit in relegating our children to deal with the problem, rather than doing what must be done today, and I'm not 100% sure what that is.

8 posted on 10/24/2012 7:37:01 AM PDT by BillGunn (Bill Gunn for Congress district one rep. Massachusetts)
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To: ImJustAnotherOkie
A liberal wouldn’t be able to recognize a proposal for smaller government however.

An interesting header, really. Agree that a Lib would not 'get it'; no matter what. But who would imagine that Obama would be competing against Mitt; by offering a plan for 'smaller government'. So as well; the "NEITHER" per title; is surprising; or at the least; puzzling.

9 posted on 10/24/2012 7:37:53 AM PDT by cricket (The Middle Class: Thanks to Obama; those who have not yet been 'buried'; are now; shovel ready..)
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To: throwback

“It’s regrettable that he can’t tell the truth and win, but that’s the fact.”

Unfortunately, that is now true in every political race from the Courthouse to the White House. If you follow the results, the candiidate who ultimately wins is the one that promises the most freebies to whomever votes for him/her.


10 posted on 10/24/2012 7:44:49 AM PDT by sport
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To: throwback

Neither of these guys would know the truth if it bit them on the butt.


11 posted on 10/24/2012 7:45:51 AM PDT by stroll
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To: SeekAndFind

A smaller government is not something that can be created by the POTUS, though he can help, but by congress. And it is going to be all sorts of interesting, now that the Democrat-RINO big government coalition has been weakened, what the new Tea Party Republicans are going to be able to accomplish.

Probably the most important position right now is what will the Republican senate majority leader do. If he pays back the Democrats for the abuse Harry Reid dumped on the Republicans, leaving the Democrats powerless for once, then there will likely be some serious government reductions.

The next most important jobs will be the chairmen of the senate and house judiciary committees, to keep federal judges from preserving the big government status quo.

Next will be the house appropriations committee, which actually creates the real budget. Right now, its chairman is the relatively unknown Hal Rogers, from Kentucky. Not particularly fiscally conservative.

He is not particularly liked by the Tea Party, but when the chairmanships are decided, there is going to be a major brawl over who gets this job.


12 posted on 10/24/2012 7:47:45 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy (DIY Bumper Sticker: "THREE TIMES,/ DEMOCRATS/ REJECTED GOD")
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To: BillGunn

I agree. All may still be lost. I don’t see Romney as the solution to the problem, but only the possibility of the beginning of a solution. That’s why I pray.


13 posted on 10/24/2012 7:51:32 AM PDT by throwback (The object of opening the mind, is as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy

If Romney begins to reduce the government by Czar of (god only knows what, etc.) I’d be happy.


14 posted on 10/24/2012 8:19:38 AM PDT by vwbug
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To: SeekAndFind
Good point SAF but it will be lost here...80% of freeperdom has already drank the koolaid

Romney is now infallible, brilliant in debates even if he stumbles and will likely become someone difficult to criticize here soon enough just like Bush, Palin , Cain etc...

this is I suppose human nature but in the case of Romney it's hard to swallow

Romney is a liberal period. Not a Socialist like Obama and he loves this country but he is a liberal.

we all watched this unfold and now it's here

I am voting for him, his sign is in my front lawn but I am under no illusions about him or his advisers...Gillespie...Yoda

we will be flooded with more social moderates in a few weeks and the sound and fury will drown out objectivity like it always does

i am not sure where it all goes this time...will JR allow dissent on Romney?

I cannot see JR doing a complete 180 on Mitt.

I think we will have to battle Mitt same as we did Bush over amnesty...and that was plenty blood here too btw...my own ...for a year.

I just don't buy the Romney is brilliant game...folks are simply sick of the Socialist

15 posted on 10/24/2012 8:28:29 AM PDT by wardaddy (my wife prays in the tanning bed....guess what region i live in...ya'll?)
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To: SeekAndFind

When you are talking to low information voters as Mitt was doing in the third debate, the concept of small and limited govt will fly over their heads.


16 posted on 10/24/2012 8:30:01 AM PDT by libh8er
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To: wardaddy

Mark Levin is not one who has drank the Romney koolaid. However, even he tells people to vote Romney... if only to stop the Obama madness.

Levin claims that unlike Obama, Romney CAN be TAMED by Republican Tea Party activists and PULLED BACK from big government programs by the conservative wing. Obama is a lsot cause.

Baby steps... as they used to say.


17 posted on 10/24/2012 8:32:10 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Bingo. Republicans should not act suprised when Romney acts like a liberal.


18 posted on 10/24/2012 8:42:54 AM PDT by mikeus_maximus (I won't vote for Romney, period. Voting for "the lesser of two evils" is still voting for evil.)
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To: mikeus_maximus
"Republicans should not act suprised when Romney acts like a liberal. "

But to them 'he's our liberal' so then it's OK.

19 posted on 10/24/2012 8:51:28 AM PDT by ex-snook (without forgiveness there is no Christianity)
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To: vwbug

There is a whole litany of ways in which the office of the presidency needs to be pruned.

While czars are annoying, perhaps the most troubling are the clearly unconstitutional Presidential Signing Statements, that usurp power from both congress and the judiciary. They are slowly provoking a constitutional crisis.

Second, the presidency has been ignoring the War Powers Act and the Posse Comitatus Act for far too long. Doing this is a serious threat to the country. We don’t need a president who can willfully start a secret war without congress, or use soldiers against American citizens.

Presidential proclamations used to be unimportant things, but since Teddy Roosevelt, have been used to nationalize huge tracts of state lands, mostly West of the Mississippi. Not only does this have to stop, but the vast majority of these lands have to be returned.

Along with czars, the abusive use of recess appointments has to stop as well. Congress must strictly limit the amount of time in office of such an appointment to that of the actual congressional recess. As soon as it ends, the president must either submit them or someone else to the senate for confirmation.

Every US president since Eisenhower, and even earlier, has recreated a disaster plan by which they would have to take absolute control over the US as a dictator. This needs to stop.


20 posted on 10/24/2012 8:54:58 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy (DIY Bumper Sticker: "THREE TIMES,/ DEMOCRATS/ REJECTED GOD")
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To: SeekAndFind

aside from southern stuff..i agree with Mr Levin 100% and consider him without peer in his field


21 posted on 10/24/2012 11:04:44 AM PDT by wardaddy (my wife prays in the tanning bed....guess what region i live in...ya'll?)
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