Friday, September 21, 2012

The US Election: Economic Policy - do not vote for Romney or Obama

I have already written one post today, and thought I would start some research for another post. The subject of the next post was; analysis of the economic policy of Obama and Romney. The plan was a detailed analysis, point by point. It was going to be a lot of hard work.....or so I thought.

I thought it would be hard work, right up to the moment I visited the official websites for each of the candidates. On arriving at each of the sites, I looked at the links and clicked on the links for 'Jobs and the Economy' (identical names for both sites). I fully expected to find some soundbites, and some general waffle on the section home pages. They are both, after all, politicians.

What I did not expect was that both of the official sites go no further than waffle and soundbite. They are instead filled with vague and unsubstantial content that fails to tell you what you should know; the actual detail of their economic policy. Whilst some might argue that I should trawl through speeches, the endless commentator analysis, I would say one thing; an official website for a candidate for the US presidency should absolutely include the detail of the policy that they plan to enact. It is their official website, and should have, in 'black and white', details of their policy.

If I was a US voter, my answer is simple. I would not vote for any candidate who fails to give an accountable and clear description of exactly what they plan to do on economic policy, and they should do so on their own official campaign website. Neither candidate passes this test.

If you doubt what I am saying, take a look here for Obama, and here for Romney.

Although I say vote for neither, their official websites are not equal. Whilst Obama's site is horrifically bereft of any substantial content, at least Romney makes some attempt to flesh out his economic policy.This pathetic discussion is typical of the Obama website:

Made in America

President Obama has a plan to bring jobs back to the U.S. by eliminating tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and creating incentives for businesses to bring jobs back to America.
Perhaps pathetic is too kind. This is an insult to the intelligence. A further insult is that the links to the policy sections is titled 'get the facts'. It reminds me of Obama's first presidential campaign. Whilst so many people around me were lauding him, I kept asking the same questions; what will he actually do? From my perspective, it appeared that Obama was going to be elected without any real policy commitments and/or would be elected with policy commitments that shifted with the audience for his speeches. His official website follows this pattern. Sorry if it sounds partisan, but it it pathetic.

As for Romney, I have said he is somewhat better. By this, I mean better than pathetic. Not much so. Instead of barely a paragraph of soundbite, there is some 'half-substance'. On the home page, there are some links to policy areas, and some detail of the policy discussion in each area. I have copied 'Mitt's Plan' on trade below in full as an illustration:

Mitt Romney believes that free trade is essential to restoring robust economic growth and creating jobs. We need to open new markets beyond our borders for American goods and services on terms that work for America.
Opening New Markets
Every president beginning with Ronald Reagan has recognized the power of open markets and pursued them on behalf of the United States. George W. Bush successfully negotiated eleven FTAs, encompassing sixteen countries. He also had the vision to commence negotiations with a number of allies around the Pacific Rim to expand significantly the Trans-Pacific Partnership. All told, these agreements have enabled people across the world to come together and build a better future. Economists estimate that the agreements have led to the creation of 5.4 million new American jobs and support a total of nearly 18 million jobs. Looking beyond just our FTA partners, our total exports support nearly 10 million American jobs. These are not just jobs; they’re good jobs, paying significantly above average, and more than one-third are in manufacturing.
  • Reinstate the president’s Trade Promotion Authority
  • Complete negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • Pursue new trade agreements with nations committed to free enterprise and open markets
  • Create the Reagan Economic Zone
Confronting China
China presents a broad set of problems that cry out urgently for solutions. It is time to end the Obama administration’s acquiescence to the one-way arrangements the Chinese have come to enjoy. We need a fresh and fearless approach to that trade relationship. Our first priority must be to put on the table all unilateral actions within our power to ensure that the Chinese adhere to existing agreements. Anyone with business experience knows that you can succeed in a negotiation only if you are willing to walk away. If we want the Chinese to play by the rules, we must be willing to say “no more” to a relationship that too often benefits them and harms us.
  • Increase CBP resources to prevent the illegal entry of goods into our market
  • Increase USTR resources to pursue and support litigation against unfair trade practices
  • Use unilateral and multilateral punitive measures to deter unfair Chinese practices
  • Designate China a currency manipulator and impose countervailing duties
  • Discontinue U.S. government procurement from China until China commits to GPA
Well, there is some kind of half-substance in this. In the original document, the bullet lists are in the the colour normally used for links; I mistakenly assumed they were actual links that would take me to more detail.....but 'no', above is as much policy detail as you get. Not far from useless. For example, for point three of the last section, what punitive measures, under what circumstances, and under what legal framework?  We have no idea, just a vague commitment to so something 'punitive'.

So, given a choice, who would I vote for; neither. With a gun to my head, I would prefer Romney, as at least I have some vague notion of his official economic policy. But I emphasise, 'with a gun to my head'. As such, if you do not have said gun against said head, do not vote. You do not know what you are getting, and have no official 'in 'black and white' position to hold these comedians accountable. This is not democracy, it is a popularity contest with the depth of American Idol. For US readers, think hard about your political system; it looks broken. Don't support it with your vote.

Note: I have seen discussions in the media of their economic policy. Yes, they make speeches, they chatter, they answer interview questions, but where is the 'black and white' detail. The 'this is what I will do' presented in clear terms, as an official position.

If I have missed the location of this detailed policy plan, let me know, and I will correct this page. However, why would they not put such detail on their official campaign sites?  Also, neither website declares itself as an 'officially' endorsed website, but they certainly appear to be the official sites, and I have therefore treated them as such.

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