POLITICAL NEWS Analysis
(AP) By all accounts, economic issues will determine whether President Barack Obama wins a second term or is ousted in favor of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
But voters, especially the independents who will decide the outcome of the November election, still haven’t heard the cruel specifics of how either candidate plans to fix the still wobbly U.S. economy.
Romney decries what he calls a “prairie fire of debt” sweeping the country, but he is campaigning on promises to cut taxes, a move that would further deplete shrinking government coffers. He has not explained how he would reduce government spending, nor has he outlined what tax deductions and loopholes he would end as a means of covering the revenue shortfall.
The non-partisan Tax Policy Center figured Romney’s plan would erase $900 billion from tax revenues when it would become effective in 2015. He doesn’t say what spending cuts would be needed to cover lost tax revenue, but they would have to be massive.
Medicare, the government health insurance program for Americans at age 65, Social Security, the government pension system for older people, and many other social programs that keep Americans from falling into poverty are among the limited places available for cutting in the federal budget. That is especially the case given that Romney wants to increase military spending.
Obama wants to increase taxes on millionaires and would not renew portions of the tax cuts for high-income Americans that were put in place by President George W. Bush and expire at the end of this year. He would leave cuts in place for Americans who are making up to $250,000 a year.
Obama, like Romney, has not been specific about how he would attack government debt. Social Security and Medicare are not on the agenda.
The president let die a plan by the deficit commission he set up in 2010 to study ways to reduce the spiraling debt. It called for an end to popular measures such as tax deductions for home mortgage interest and gradual changes to reduce the huge spending burden from Social Security and Medicare.
“The half-truths we’re hearing from both candidates is depressing,” said Buie Seawell, chairman of business ethics and legal studies at the University of Denver College of Business.
“The heart of the problem for voters is the unwillingness of our leaders and candidates to tell us what it will really cost to fix the economy. Both sides are talking about one thing but not willing to talk about the other,” he said.
Obama is particularly vulnerable in this election because of the slow pace of the U.S. recovery from the Great Recession brought on by the bursting of the housing bubble. The decline went to depths not seen in more than seven decades, with the near collapse of the American financial system in late 2008. Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 8.1 percent, and economic growth, while positive, has been anemic.
Romney argues that his record as a businessman-he amassed a fortune estimated at about $250 million as head of Bain Capital, a private equity firm-makes him the ideal choice for the White House and stew- ard of a more robust recovery. Obama counters that Romney was a brutal capitalist killed jobs in the name of corporate profits.
“It’s a whole lot easier to come up with criticism of Obama than to outline policies that will work,” said Maclyn Clouse, director of the Reiman School of Finance at the University of Denver. “Romney has got to come up with some specifics. He clearly can criticize Obama, but I think he will score far more points if he can get specific about how he’s going to help the small businessman or woman, for example. His people will have to find things that the electorate truly believes might work. Peo- ple have heard enough of vague calls for tax cuts and tax reform.”
There still are more than five months until the election, sufficient time for both Obama and Romney to divulge the unpleasant specifics, the painful cuts Americans must face to right the economy and begin climbing out of the morass of national debt.
Seawell isn’t optimistic.
“There’s nothing better than losing an election for the right reasons, for having told the truth about what needs to be done. Obama should be willing to lose this election for the right reasons. But it’s an anathema these days to consider taking that course. Today’s candidates think the only goal is winning.”