So What’ll It Be, “Change” or “Trust”?

The only remotely credible reason for voting or Mitt Romney is that with him comes a loosening of political gridlock and the possibility that something will get done in DC.

What “something” means to those inclined to this argument is almost entirely economic — which is valid as far as it goes in the face of the sluggishness of the heavily obstructed, politically hobbled recovery. But “something” is also inchoate. The middle-class choose to believe “something” will be good for them. But only a very special few have any genuine, realistic hopes of benefiting from a Romney-induced “recovery”.

In his column this morning, David Brooks of The New York Times imagines the effects of the next four years under Barack Obama or Romney. Essentially, he boils it to: Stasis with Obama. A repeat of the last four (or two) years. While under Romney, the GOP’s insurgent wing will move from obstruction of concepts and legislation their adult leaders once supported but reversed and walled off in their single-minded determination to destroy Obama’s presidency (national crisis be damned). Correctly, Brooks reminds readers that GOP politicians, most in gerrymandered-safe districts, are far more fearful of being thrown out of office by a right-wing, Tea Party challenge than the implausible rise of some populist Democrat. A Romney presidency would, he argues, neutralize the Tea Party and relax its grip around the throats of “moderate” Republicans, whoever they are.

Brooks of course is persona non grata with Republican insurgents, and has previously expressed his concerns that no voter anywhere has any idea what Romney will actually do, since the man has at some point over the past six years been both for and against every major issue under debate and has been resolute in avoiding anything remotely specific when it comes to economic management.

In these final days, with closing arguments reduced to “change” (Romney) and “trust” (Obama), I suspect voters swayed by Romney’s message are buying into Brooks’ thesis — that with Romney, “something” will at least change, where with Obama it’ll be another four years of trench warfare.

It goes without saying I’m unimpressed with the quality of deductive reasoning on display in that acceptance. In addition to avoiding a deeper analysis of what kind of “change” Romney is talking about (and who could possibly know, beyond loosening the fetters on “job creators”?), the crowd that wishfully chooses to believe that is simply impatient, and prepared to gamble that more trickle down good for them will come from a return to George W. Bush-style economics/regulation than steady, incremental recovery (from Bush economics) under Obama.

Obama plainly has the more coherent, empirically rooted argument. He has by and large done what he promised to do four years ago. The economy was saved from complete collapse. The government did have to extend credit to the auto industry, and that worked. The stimulus protected millions of jobs. The unemployment rate is falling. The housing industry is recovering. Obamacare will begin driving down every businesses ruinous cost of health care and millions more will be covered than two years ago.  (OK, Guantanamo is still open. But as with home loan modification, full financial industry oversight and re-regulation, GOP obstruction is far more to blame than any other factor).

In stark contrast to a guy who has said everything and yet nothing, Obama’s “trust” argument is more logically resonant. But logic isn’t always what carries elections.

If logic and “trust” mattered there’d be a graver reaction to Romney’s shameless lie of the day — the bit about Obama shipping “all” Jeep manufacturing to China, a claim he apparently pulled off a right-wing blog which mangled it from a Bloomberg story. Worse, when called on it, by the media and Chrysler management, Team Romney’s response was to — double down on the lie.

Point being, “trust” is an antonym for Mitt Romney.

But there are valid questions attached to the Obama-brings-more-of-the-same concern. I also wonder what a second term Obama will be able to do. Avoiding complete conservative control of the Supreme Court is reason enough to reelect him. But … can he use the threat of the “fiscal cliff” to re-set the revenue equations to middle-class advantage? (As opposed to relying on the largesse of the upper classes to toss some crumbs over the castle walls.) No one can possibly know.

On the other hand, you know with absolute certainty that Romney will provide tax relief for the wealthy, many of whom have bolstered their holdings through the recession by increasing the “productivity” of their remaining work force, and have no reason at all to return to pre-2008 wage and benefit scales.

But really, what other trick does the GOP have, other than obstruction? I do not see either Mitch McConnell or Eric Cantor adopting a conciliatory line to a second-term Obama. Both of those guys’ careers depends on remaining hyper-partisan warriors. If you like operating on a worst-case scenario basis, you can only expect them to double-down obstruction, like Mitt Romney with his shameless lie of the day.

What I hope … hope … Obama will do is accept his political reality, re-set his tactics and rally both his base (liberals disappointed with his willingness to deal collegially with one-note adversaries solely focused on his destruction) and the sympathetic middle class to high indignation over the lack of functional patriotism in the GOP’s obstruction.

Even the narrowest reelection victory is a mandate for “change”.

 

 

 

 

32 thoughts on “So What’ll It Be, “Change” or “Trust”?

  1. Joe Loveland says:

    Among the narrow slice of dough-brained persuadeables who now hold sway, I fear Romney’s “change” is a stronger appeal than Obama’s “trust.”

    “Trust” doesn’t work very well for swing voters because they simplistically think all politicians are equally distrustful. They don’t use critical thinking skills to differentiate degrees of trustfulness.

    “Change” does work with them, because while they never know what they want, they do almost always want something different.

    Though I cling to the Josh Silver talisman — http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com — I fear we’re going to have President Romney.

    1. PM says:

      Relax a bit, joe–next week you will be seeing headlines about the Obama victory, with about 290 electoral votes.

      see this: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/10/30/the-nate-silver-backlash/

      the most relevant excerpt:

      So before we deal with anything Silver has specifically said, it’s worth taking in the surrounding landscape: Every major political betting market and every major forecasting tool is predicting an Obama victory right now, and for the same reason: Obama remains ahead in enough states that, unless the polls are systematically wrong, or they undergo a change unlike any we’ve yet seen in the race, Obama will win the election.
      There’s no doubt about that. Real Clear Politics, which leans right, shows Romney up by 0.8 percent nationally, but shows Obama up in Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Romney is up in Florida and North Carolina, but note that his lead in Florida is smaller than Obama’s lead in Ohio. And RCP shows Colorado and Virginia tied. Pollster.com, meanwhile, shows Obama leading by a point in Colorado and Virginia and the race tied in Florida.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        I read that earlier today, and it temporarily made me feel all warm inside. I read all things Josh Silver and Ezra Klein. They are my binkies. I’m feeling a little vulnerable right now.

      1. Brian Lambert says:

        It’s about this point in every post ’88 election cycle that I predict the GOP will stage some kind of Reichstag fire incident … . But since I found a bottle of Red Breast in the back of my liquor cabinet, I too am feeling more mellow.

  2. Erik says:

    Economy is the top line issue, and people are looking for a plan that introduces dynamism into commerce:

    Romney’s plan is:

    Reduce corporate taxes.
    Drill baby drill, Keystone, frack, exploit cheap domestic energy.
    Change Obamacare so that it’s not impossibly expensive to hire people.

    Bottom line: These points would represent change, would inject dynamism, and Romney is credible on them his other flip-flopping aside

    The President’s plan is:

    Raise top marginal rates 4 pts for people with AGIs over $250K.
    Green jobs.
    Reduce corporate taxes.
    Faith in the regulatory state to get the ecomony moving.

    Bottom line: None of this is credible as efforts to inject dynamism. As well, the President is correctly viewed as insincere on corporate tax reductions.

    This is not bewildering. Good for you Joe that you see it coming.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      Erik:

      Canada is energy independent. Any guess at what a gallon/liter of gas goes for compared to here?

      1. Erik says:

        That’s irrelevant.

        If we have a production boom here, a lot of people get put to work, energy gets cheaper, and dollars get allocated to consumerism rather than heat and gas. That’s stimulative.

      2. Mike Thomas says:

        Leinfelder (Resident Genius) –

        There are 21 million drivers in Canada, about 200 million in the USA. Demand drives up cost and limits supply.
        Put some effort into it.

      3. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Answer: It’s the same there as it is here because, of course, it’s a world market. “Drill, baby, drill,”is not the panacea it’s touted to be. The price of gas at the pump does not go down for Canadian drivers because oil is world market. So, sure, where it’s safe and feasible, drill, baby, drill. But Mike, the price, not “cost,” will not be going down as consumption worldwide continues to increase.

      4. PM says:

        You know, Jim, i find it ironic that you have to explain market economics to people who think they are conservative and assume that they understand economics because of that.

      5. Erik says:

        You’re being too flip.

        It’s fair to say that if we have all these fossil resources to exploit that we seem to, and we do exploit them, the trend will be to push the price down and insulate the continental market here from shocks. And a whole bunch of jobs will be created in the process. But the pump price at any moment is not explicitly important. That’s drill baby drill.

        If the President had married his progressive social insurance agenda to a real economic agenda instead of a green jobs economic agenda, Mitt Romney wouldn’t get elected on Tuesday. There’s some worthwhile market economics to contemplate there over the next 4 or 8 years while a new Democrat standard bearer is sought. It would have been fairly easy to jump start this economy during the Obama years.

      6. PM says:

        Gas prices are not important? tell that to Faux News!

        Sorry, couldn’t resist the chance to point out what fair and balanced means to some.

        But back to your point, Erik.
        Yes, exploiting more fossil fuels will tend to lower prices–provided that supply grows faster than demand. At the least, it will tend to dampen price rises. It will, however, have no impact on price shocks (by which i mean an external variable that leads to sharply rising prices). Price shocks will happen no matter what changes on the supply side–they are by definition independent of general production trends.

        And i disagree with your point about jump starting the economy vs. health care. That was never a trade off–Obama essentially did both. He got just as much economic stimulus as he could have gotten out of the Congress–which was not nearly enough. What he got was opposed by the GOP, and by some of the Democrats–people who were generally opposed to the idea of Keynesian stimulus (I seem to remember you falling into that category as well).

        I have heard the argument that he could have gotten more on the economy if he had not gone for health care, but I have not seen anyone made a cogent much less a compelling/convincing argument that there was any kind of trade off there. But if you think you can make such an argument, by all means, have at it!

    2. Jim Leinfelder says:

      Erik:

      Tepid though it may be, The Economist does not share your take on the relative merits of the candidates’ plans for us and backs the President, mainly because of how dubiously they view Romney’s plan:

      “As a result, this election offers American voters an unedifying choice. Many of The Economist’s readers, especially those who run businesses in America, may well conclude that nothing could be worse than another four years of Mr Obama. We beg to differ. For all his businesslike intentions, Mr Romney has an economic plan that works only if you don’t believe most of what he says. That is not a convincing pitch for a chief executive. And for all his shortcomings, Mr Obama has dragged America’s economy back from the brink of disaster, and has made a decent fist of foreign policy. So this newspaper would stick with the devil it knows, and re-elect him.”

      http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21565623-america-could-do-better-barack-obama-sadly-mitt-romney-does-not-fit-bill-which-one

      1. Erik says:

        I somewhat understand the circumstances that foster this dubiousness or Romney.

        This Economist piece grants as fact the Obama administration’s antipathy and / or ignorance of commerce. On the whole, it’s the most apprehensive Presidential endorsement I’ve ever read. It’s not a confidence builder.

      2. Jim Leinfelder says:

        No, it actually doesn’t, Erik. And that it’s not tepid would be the best that could be said of that piece out of Vegas.

      3. Erik says:

        Well that settles that. An NPR story has a source from the administration.

        I gather you’re old enough to have been Woodward and Bernstein inspired. You’ve got a pathetic lack of skepticism here. As the Obama administration is mostly about the President’s narcissism rather than an ideal egalitarianism, I just think your faith is misplaced.

      4. PM says:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-rushed-to-save-diplomats-as-libya-attack-was-underway/2012/11/01/c93a4f96-246d-11e2-ac85-e669876c6a24_story.html

        “The decision to give a comprehensive account of the attack five days before the election is likely to be regarded with suspicion, particularly among Republicans who have accused the Obama administration of misleading the public by initially describing the assault as a spontaneous eruption that began as a protest of an anti-Islamic video.

        U.S. officials said they decided to offer a detailed account of the CIA’s role to rebut media reports that have suggested that agency leaders delayed sending help to State Department officials seeking to fend off a heavily armed mob.

        Instead, U.S. intelligence officials insisted that CIA operatives in Benghazi and Tripoli made decisions rapidly throughout the assault with no interference from Washington.

        “There was no second-
        guessing those decisions being made on the ground, by people at every U.S. organization that could play a role in assisting those in danger,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said in a prepared statement that summarized the chronology of the attack and was made available to news organizations.

        The information does not address the main source of political controversy surrounding the siege: the shifting assessments offered by Obama administration officials over whether the assault was a protest that turned violent or a planned terrorist attack.

        But officials reiterated that the initial intelligence was fragmentary and often contradictory. They said talking points for members of Congress and senior administration officials did not discuss possible links between the attackers and al-Qaeda because the information was classified.

        “It wasn’t until after the points were used in public that people reconciled contradictory information and assessed there probably wasn’t a protest around the time of the attack,” the senior U.S. intelligence official said.

  3. PM says:

    Brian:

    the one thing that you fail to point out is that the argument for Romney is the culmination of the Mitch McConnell/John Boehner strategy–that their refusal to compromise with Obama ( because to do so would give him victories and lead to his re-election) has worked. In essence, this is a reward for those who have been willing to destroy the credit of the United States (remember the debt limit fiasco?) in order to achieve political power.

  4. Brian Lambert says:

    PM: If Romney wins McConnell and Cantor’s grand strategy will be vindicated (within the GOP machinery, if not by historians). Boehner will be … relieved that after every deal with the President he won’t have first get his gizzard torn out by idiots like Joe Walsh and Allen West and then step up to the microphones and blame Obama for failing to seek a “bi-partisan agreement”.

  5. What a clarifying phrase: use Bush economics to recover from Bush economics.
    Conservatives say stop blaming Bush. But do they stop blaming FDR and LBJ for the social safety net?

    1. Erik says:

      Have we gotten something different than Bush economics from Obama? Thing is, Bush blame isn’t a real economic observation. It’s insipid.

      1. PM says:

        Erik:

        I think that, to an extent, you are right. Basically, Obama has been hamstrung in terms of what he was able to do when he came into office. The only possible thing to get our economy out of a massive and deep recession was fiscal stimulus, and given the state of the economy he inherited, the only way to do that was to borrow–and in the sense that Obama was spending borrowed money, he was engaging in bush economics. Of course, Obama was doing this in order to rescue the economy, while bush was doing it to buy his re-election (Medicare part D anyone? Huge tax cuts? Massive war spending?), and they were starting from massively different points (bush had a healthy economy growing robustly and a fiscal surplus, which he then proceeded to ruin, while Obama had massive deficits, huge spending obligations (wars, etc.) and a crashing stock market, a crashing housing market, companies going bankrupt and rapidly growing unemployment ) but your point is nonetheless accurate.

      2. Erik says:

        Thank you PM. Yes, I am right.

        You can extend that. If there’s no difference, then it’s logical that Bush economics didn’t cause the recession. Bush economics and Obama economics are the same in practice, and those attributes can’t be be the cure and the cause. That’s a separate argument though.

        Big thing is there’s no practical differentiation between Obama and Bush economics from the Obama sycophant ought to be able to find a self-righteous perch. It’s imaginary.

        The stimulus saved nothing. We are apparently to assume we would have descended into anarchy and barter without it. We bottomed out at about the same spot we would have.

      3. PM says:

        Erik:

        actually, your logic doesn’t follow at all. You conveniently elided over the different situations that both started from. They were remarkably different. An action is not and never is independent of the situation–shouting fire in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire is disasterous, while shouting fire when you wake up to the smell of smoke in your bedroom might well be the difference between life and death. Context is not only important, it is often determinative.

        Fiscal stimulus is necessary when in a recession (Obama’s context), it is ridiculous when the economy is already near or at capacity (Bush’s context). Similarly, tax cuts can actually lead to increased revenue in some contexts (say, a 95% top marginal tax rate), but will lead to a loss in revenue under other circumstances (like a 35% top marginal rate).

        But, again, this is basic economics…..

        As for your point about the stimulus and where we ended up, most real economists disagree with you–but your point is reminiscent of various partisan talking points that really are without credibility. But, of course, we are at the end of the election, and some seem to be getting pretty desperate…..

        BTW, the idea of extending things is really a form of reductio ad absurdum, a pretty basic logical fallacy.

      4. Erik says:

        Note this:

        The recession was caused by the financial crisis.
        The Bush tax cuts and or lack of govt revenue did not cause the financial crisis.
        The wars and the money spent on them did not cause the financial crisis.

        None of this is to say that Bush was a great steward of the economy. But the trope that Obama is fixing Bush’s bad economy is unpersuasive. Not that most Obama sycophants are nimble with the details anyway, as they just take the trope on faith.

      5. PM says:

        Erik:

        I agree completely that the recession was caused by the financial crisis. And, i further agree that Bush tax cuts did not cause the recession, nor did the wars or the money spent on the wars or the money spent on Medicare part D, etc.

        The financial crisis was caused by lax regulatory oversight and a housing bubble (for which Greenspan probably has more responsibility than bush).

        However, the bush tax cuts and the spending (on wars, nation building, medicare, etc.) did contribute some to the bubble, and most certainly left our economy weakened and far more vulnerable to the effects of the financial crisis. The duration and severity of the recession were amplified by that weakness.

        If what bothers you is the seeming blame assigned to Bush for the economic disaster that Obama inherited and has been fixing, I am certainly willing to cut you some slack and note that i think that it is hard to assign blame for a financial crisis to anyone (I do not think that hindsight is appropriate for assigning blame).

        But Obama inherited a very, very, very, very bad economy. Quibbling about calling it Bush’s economy or not aside, Obama inherited a disaster, and has done a very creditable job of fixing things. Clearly there is a recovery in place, and things are getting better.

  6. bertram jr. says:

    http://www.humanevents.com/2012/11/02/dumpster-diving-in-manhattan-and-other-signs-of-obamas-awesome-hurricane-leadership/

    Suddenly he’s President Bomber Jacket? It is to laugh. A farcical parody. A dystopian and cynical, pathetic and complete reversal of reality. A false projection emanating from where nothing authentic resides, nor ever has.

    You who defend this foolish socialist cretin will, one day, realize your folly. There is much yet to be revealed.

    Oh, the landslide that’s coming.

    Bertram Jr. will be chuckling softly.

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