Now that the debates are over, platforms delineated, ballots out and election year opera entering its final acts, it seems a good time to summarize.
Regardless of who wins the presidency, America faces some serious questions whose urgency will not allow prolonged deferral.
On the economic front, which has universally claimed the mantle of deciding theme for this election, the biggest difficulties will be debt and economic growth. In terms of debt, nothing will be accomplished absent movement on the entitlements issue. The next administration will no longer enjoy the luxury of either pretending a problem doesn’t exist or merely fiddling around the edges. The former has been, and lamentably continues to be, the Democrat’s approach, while the latter has all too often been employed by Republicans.
This does show some hopeful signs of change, however. Both Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan appear willing to embrace vital Medicaid reform in the same sensible manner welfare reform was handled in the 1990’s — by returning its administration to the appropriate level, the states. As with welfare reform, the question will persist on why money for this program needs to make a detour to Washington D.C., rather than simply stay in the states in the first place. But one must focus on attaining first base as a prerequisite to crossing home plate.
More serious thought must be devoted to the issues of Medicare and Social Security. Again, the Democrats’ approach is disturbingly ostrich-like, as exemplified by President Obama’s claim Social Security is “structurally sound” and the repeated howls of protest from the president and congressional Democrats at any mention of fiscally responsible reform. Nevertheless, the issue will confront the nation in a profound way in due course. And a solution, wanted or not, will need to be proffered. For starters, Washington will need to divorce itself from the phobia surrounding vouchers and privatization.
More prominent in the collective American mind is the issue of jobs and economic growth. Here the two presidential candidates have staked their ground in as clear a way as we can hope to expect in modern politics. President Obama’s preferred course of action will be little different from the previous four years: taking cash from the right pocket of one person, putting it in the left pocket of another and pretending something new was created.
The effect of the Obama stimulus program is best described using 20th century economist Henry Hazlitt’s broken window analogy: It’s no different from someone throwing a rock through a storefront window and claiming to have created a job for a window repairer. That they did, in the same sense that Obama’s spending billions on public projects does, but at what cost to the storeowner? The money the shopkeeper must put out giving that “job” to the window installer is money that would have otherwise been spent in a more productive way, perhaps to buy a new piece of equipment, hire a new employee or invest in a startup that will hire more people. These are all actions that grow the economy and create wealth — unlike that of the rock-chucker, who inefficiently forces economic actions that ultimately create nothing at all.
When the left derisively dismisses conservative claims about the government’s inability to create jobs by smugly pointing to various public workers such as police, firefighters, the military and the like — unsurprisingly, they rarely mention hordes of bureaucrats from any of the thousands of acronymed federal and state agencies in such discourses — they’re missing this crucial point. Government can only create a job by taking from the private sector. As a society, we accept a certain amount of such taking to provide for a few basic things — military and police protection, the legal system, etc. But after a certain point, the exercise becomes economically prohibitive. Romney/Ryan gets this. Obama/Biden does not.
Finally, a quick word on foreign policy. The president’s primary job, before any other, is to represent the United States in front of the world — to our friends, our adversaries and those who slip into either category at their convenience. We ought to considering as the holder of that position someone who exudes the competence and resoluteness the job requires — someone who’s not too inclined to seek the approval of other nations whose interests by geopolitical definition are often contrary to America’s before pursuing a course of action he deems to be in America’s best interests. We need someone equally at ease deploying Henry Kissinger or Douglas MacArthur and possessed of the wisdom to know when each is required.
In every applicable category, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are better positioned to assume the duties required of chief executive than their opponents.