Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Obama still doesn't have a second-term agenda

Facing criticism from several in the media that he wasn't giving voters a reason to vote for him by not presenting an agenda for a second term. the Obama campaign issued a booklet yesterday that purports to be that agenda. So, two weeks out from the election he suddenly has a plan. As you might expect, there is not much there there. The WSJ has looked through the booklet and describes how empty it is.
Voters may okey doke themselves if they believe this document, which is heavy on backward-looking and discredited factoids and light on economic specifics. For example, Mr. Obama wants to spend money to hire 100,000 math and science teachers for public schools. Isn't that what happened in 2009? And didn't his own Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, say that class size barely matters to education outcomes?

The President says he'll use community colleges to train another two million workers "for good jobs that actually exist," perhaps to distinguish these from the jobs he said the 2009 stimulus would create but actually didn't. And he says he'll create a million new manufacturing jobs by 2016 via a new temporary tax credit for U.S. companies that expand domestic hiring.

All of this is merely a kind of Junior Achievement version of the stimulus, trying to create jobs with more government spending that isn't affordable, or temporary tax favors that fail because they are, well, temporary. Businesses hire based on total employee costs, not one-off tax benefits. Since 2009 the country has lost 610,000 net manufacturing jobs, despite such preferences.
There is some empty rhetoric pretending that he supports our oil and gas energy production although he is still predicting that in 23 years 80% of our electricity will come from "clean" energy sources. So it's obvious he doesn't mean his talk about supporting gas and coal.

So what else is he promising? Not immigration reform. That is ignored as I guess he hopes that Hispanics will believe his promises just as they believed him before his first election.

Otherwise, all he is promising is more of the same.
Perhaps you've heard that the President wants to raise taxes on the top 2% of U.S. taxpayers. If you haven't, well, the pamphlet mentions that once or twice. Left unsaid is that this plan increases revenue only between $50 billion and $80 billion a year, a rounding error in the $1 trillion-plus deficit era. Mr. Obama does claim to have a plan to reduce the gap by $4 trillion over the next decade. Mostly this comes from unwinding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are already being unwound and assorted budget gimmicks.

But what about a grand budget bargain? Won't that be Mr. Obama's crowning second-term achievement? The pamphlet's sections on health care and entitlements show that his real budget priority is to preserve all of the government he expanded in the first term.

He promises to protect the Affordable Care Act from repeal or Republican amendments. He also says he'll "protect retirement security" by opposing "efforts to gamble Social Security in the stock market"—which no one is proposing—and "stop proposals to turn Medicare into a voucher system." Having thus stopped serious entitlement reform, he'll be left to fiddle around the edges with the usual cuts to providers or reducing benefits for seniors he thinks are "rich."

Mr. Obama's real agenda is to lock in the historic spending levels of 24% or 25% that he achieved in his first term, with ObamaCare spending set to grow by leaps and bounds after he's left office. Taxes and spending are already set to rise unless Congress acts to stop it, and the President won't let House Republicans do that.

One of Mr. Romney's most effective arguments is that Mr. Obama's second term will reprise his first. The President's new-old pamphlet with new-old ideas proves Mr. Romney's point. The guy is tapped out.
So Romney is right to ask why we should believe that anything would be different in our economy in a second term under Obama. All he's proposing is more of the same. It hasn't worked yet and there is no reason to believe it would work if we did more of it. A vote for Obama is a vote for our economic situation to continue.