Now that there's a little space between me and the two presidential debates, I wanted to assess my own emotional reaction to them given that I've been on Team Democrat for some time now. With the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney took it to Obama, attacking the weaknesses of his first four years. It was frustrating because Obama didn't defend himself well nor did he hold Romney's campaign accountable for their bad ideas.
Going into the vice presidential debates, I was hoping Joe Biden would help do what Obama failed to do. I watched the 2008 primary debates and based on his performance then, I knew Biden is a good debater, usually the best of the group, and more then ready for this task. He has sincerity and passion and those qualities come out. I was looking forward to it.
Let me say, I only caught pieces of the debate, but enough of it that I didn't feel like it was worth my time re-watching the whole thing again later. I think Joe Biden did his job, he defended the Obama record and called Ryan out on some of their policies that demanded a bunch of additional scrutiny. Did Biden go too far? On occasion, and I want to point out how using an example. In fact, this example was on an issue that I think most of this presidential campaign rests. Take a look at this clip:
This I think captures the essential differences between the two presidential campaigns on one of the core issues facing our country.
We are facing the dual and mutually exclusive challenges of a growing debt and high, pervasive unemployment. Given that our unemployment challenges are a direct result of not enough demand for the abundant supply of goods and services, anything the government does to tackle unemployment (cut taxes or increase spending) grows the deficit. Anything the government does to tackle the deficits (increase taxes or cut spending) grows unemployment.
The responsible thing is to grow the short term deficit while addressing long term debt. The way to do this is to slowly, carefully simplify the tax code so that it's fairer, less distortive, but maintain its prorgressive properties as a tool to add some redistribution to our highly and economically dangerous inequities. This means closing loopholes long term, cutting taxes for the poor and middle class in the short run.
You can't do this quickly, every loophole helps certain industries and immediately closing these loopholes would have devastating consequences. For example, closing the mortgage interest loophole would hurt our housing industry. Closing the employer health insurance loophole would put pressure on companies and employees who count on it.
When Mitt Romney claims he can simultaneously close loopholes, grow the economy, make taxes revenue neutral, cut taxes across the board by 20%, balance the budget, and not add a dime of economic burden to the middle class - in other words solve every current economic problem without having to specify how in the world he could possibly accomplish this - he is taking on the role of economic savior every bit as crazy as the hysteria surrounding Obama's presidential race in 2008.
You can't claim to be a miracle worker and give no indication how the miracle can be performed. You can't hide behind the claim that you're laying down principles that will be worked out in a bipartisan way when these "principles" are mathematically impossible.
Where I got frustrated with Romney was that Barack Obama kept calling his bluff (or tried to) by asking Romney how in the world can Romney make up for the $5 trillion dollar tax cut (over 10 years) and Romney refused to admit he would do so as if the 20% across the board tax cut promise didn't exist.
Joe Biden put the impossibility of this position front and center. Ryan was going to use a lot of smart sounding words to give their position the air of sophistication and possibility. Biden interrupted often here to prevent him from getting away with it.
Was Biden rude while doing so? Did he get carried away?
One final point, Ryan was about to use Kennedy and Reagan as examples of how cutting taxes can stimulate growth and that growth can be factored into the deficit mathematical equation. This is the central point made by Romney apologists. First, both Kennedy and Reagan were cutting tax rates significantly higher than what we're seeing today. Second, in both cases, the economic problems being faced then had much more to do with inadequate supply than inadequate demand. The problems were different then, the solutions are different today.
No, Ryan, you are no Jack Kennedy.