Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Second Presidential Debate
The following statements on Tuesday night’s presidential debate from fellows and policy advisors at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below.
“Both candidates did a good job tailoring their positions to the latest opinion polls, making promises they cannot keep, and refusing to answer direct questions. I would say, though, that I thought Mitt Romney shredded President Obama’s policies on energy and the economy and called him out for his lack of leadership on entitlement reform.
“Three things I didn’t hear Romney say that I wish he had:
“First, all this talk about the ‘middle class’ is wrong and divisive. America is not a class society, we are an opportunity society. ‘Middle-income people’ today are likely to be ‘lower-income’ or ‘upper-income’ people in just a few years, based on the choices they make. Mr. President, please stop talking about the ‘middle class.’ It makes you sound like a Marxist.
“Second, Mr. President, you didn’t create jobs, build pipelines, drill more wells, pump more oil, or do any of the things you are taking credit for. You didn’t build that. In fact, your policies have destroyed jobs, banned pipelines and drilling, and impoverished millions of American families. Mr. President, please stop taking credit for all the good things the American people are doing despite your policies.
“Third, tax credits don’t create jobs, or enable people to attend college, or put money in people’s pockets. Only jobs do that. Real jobs, millions of real jobs producing goods and services that people need and want, not the temporary and few-and-far-between jobs created by your ‘stimulus’ subsidies and corporate welfare. Government creates jobs only when it gets out of the way of entrepreneurs, period. Mr. President, stop trying to help; you’re making it worse. Please just get out of the way.”
“I don’t see much difference between the man who gave us Obamacare and the man who gave Obamacare to the man who gave us Obamacare.
“I don’t understand how Romney’s plan to drop tax rates is supposed to boost the economy if rate cuts are offset by ending deductions and exemptions so there is no actual tax cut for people most likely to invest and hire people. But Romney’s plan beats Obama’s plan to raise taxes on those people. Romney’s plan to end taxes on dividends, capital gains, and earned interest would be pro-growth, so that’s good, but it’s really nibbling around the edges.
“I was disappointed in the lack of discussion on spending. Obama referred to the Clinton tax rates and said they resulted in economic growth and a budget surplus. Would have been nice if Romney had pointed out during Clinton’s eight years in office, total federal spending rose 32 percent versus more than 80 percent during the eight years under George W. Bush. It would have been a good lesson for Obama. Then again, Romney might have been in a tough spot because Bush was a Republican whose spending binge was aided by Republican legislators including Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan, who voted for Bush’s Medicare prescription drug plan (the largest entitlement spending increase since the 1960s), No Child Left Behind, the $700 billion bank bailouts, the Chrysler and General Motors bailouts, and earmarks including the infamous ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’ among other things.
“For both candidates and their running mates, actions should speak louder than words.”
“It is unfortunate Romney didn’t point out that 800,000 people living in Germany, Obama’ s prime example of ‘clean energy,’ can’t afford their energy bills. And Germany also faces blackouts because the wind and solar energy can’t produce reliable power, much less at an affordable cost. The government should not be picking winners and losers, mostly losers in Obama’s subsidies and loan guarantees, in determining our energy mix.
“It is unfortunate Romney didn’t emphasize more strongly that Obama is keeping his promise to bankrupt the coal industry, and to bring about skyrocketing electricity bills, and how his Environmental Protection Agency could end up shutting down one-third of our nation’s electrical generating capacity. Without affordable, abundant, reliable energy, the U.S. cannot possibly compete for manufacturing jobs.
“It is unfortunate Romney didn’t point out the taxes in Obamacare amount to some $500 billion, to be paid by people at all income levels.
“It is unfortunate Romney didn’t point out contraceptives paid for by somebody else do not solve women’s economic problems, especially not when their insurance premiums go up $3,000 per year and they can’t find a job. While it may provide free contraceptives and pay for abortions, Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) will deny mammograms and treatments such as joint replacements to women who need them to relieve pain and disability. Obamacare is about redistributing wealth, but also about redistributing care from the sick to the politically favored healthy.
“It is also unfortunate Romney didn’t point out that Obamacare was rammed through in violation of the rules without a single Republican vote. The administration calls it a tax, or denies that it is a tax, depending on its purpose (politically it isn’t, for purposes of defending it in court it is). It has granted vast numbers of waivers to labor unions and other allies. The cost estimate of $1 trillion has already been more than doubled, and it counts on cutting at first $500 billion and now $716 billion from Medicare.
“And while Osama Bin Laden may be dead, as the president said at least twice, how many Al Qaeda flags are flying over American embassies?”
“Experience and life choices will eventually shine thorough. Gov. Romney has struggled successfully to save organizations and communities. He has turned around companies, states, the Olympics by using his well-developed analytical and personal skills. In a long and successful life of service, effort, and learning he has chosen to take on increasingly more difficult challenges and to learn as he worked with others for solutions.
“President Obama has had rewards handed to him without his own effort. He famously ‘doubles-down’ and blames others rather than learning and developing as a manager and leader. He takes the easy road. Lead from behind? So, as these two life strategies come head-to-head, Gov. Romney can draw on vast and deep experience. President Obama has only shallow and narrow skills and limited background.
“The deep and broad versus the shallow and narrow is now on display, both in the Romney-Obama match and the Ryan-Biden match. While last night’s debate may initially be scored as balanced, Romney’s command of the facts and realities, his strength of character, and the depth of his experience will show up in the national consciousness (and the polls) after a few days. Obama just cannot learn enough in a few days of debate prep to compete with a man who has spent his whole life learning. The first debate showed that he realizes this.
“Last night Obama got caught on the Libya question and the tax and finance questions. This will sink him even further in the polls. The differences between the two men are obvious and very much on display.”
“One area where Romney failed to respond effectively to Obama concerned the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. Obama said he deplored men making health care decisions for women. In fact, Obama wants the federal government to dictate what health care coverage women (and men) must get. As is typical of his administration, Obama scorns the free market. Without the contraceptive mandate, women would be free to buy their own contraceptives ($9 dollars a month at Wal-mart for some of the most commonly used kinds), or simply seek out an employer who offers contraceptive coverage as most do.
“Quite aside from the religious freedom issues, employers have every incentive to provide whatever sorts of coverage employees want, although they don’t have the luxury of pretending it’s ‘free.’ They have to face trade-offs that the federal government can pretend don’t exist.
“Obama showed not only a striking lack of confidence in the ability of free markets to provide what consumers want, but an equal lack of confidence in the ability of women to get what they want in those markets.”
“As a committed believer in capitalism and economic liberty, the policy differences between presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are very stark. Regarding taxes, Romney supports broad tax reform including lowering rates while limiting deductions and loopholes whereas Obama supports only raising taxes on the nation’s top earners. Romney missed an opportunity (one of several he missed) by not aggressively pointing out just how little money Obama’s tax hike would raise, even within the liberals’ fantasy world of static economic modeling.
“Similarly, President Obama’s claimed support for exploiting our nation’s vast fossil fuel resources is a tale so unbelievable that one looks for Obama’s nose to be growing every time he says it.
“Barack Obama’s repeated statements that the economy grows best by giving tax credits to the middle class are of a piece with Nancy Pelosi’s belief that food stamps are a great form of economic stimulus.
“Despite Mitt Romney’s economic views and policies being far superior to those of the current administration, they are not as good as they should be. I understand the politics of Romney saying that he intends for the top 5 percent of earners to keep paying at least 60 percent of all federal income taxes. But that is a dangerous, unstable, and (perhaps most importantly) immoral position. After all, as Mart Laar, the former president of Estonia who was deeply influenced by Milton Friedman’s seminal Free to Choose, put it: A steeply progressive income tax is ‘the grand idea of Karl Marx.’
“Although there is a legitimate issue of China stealing American intellectual property, both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama ignore the benefits of China’s providing cheap goods to Americans – even if it comes through an ‘artificially weak’ currency, a situation which I doubt is true to any significant degree at this time given the yuan’s large increase in value since 2006 and its relative stability so far this year. Barack Obama talked about saving ‘a thousand jobs’ by putting tariffs on Chinese tires, but forgets the fact that those jobs come at a cost of more expensive tires for hundreds of thousands of American car owners.
“The problem with the understandable political pandering by both candidates, but especially the populist-conservative approach of Mitt Romney, is that it locks him in politically to positions which are not pro-liberty or pro-growth. They may be good sound bites, and they may help win an election – and in that sense it is hard to object too much because the current administration is so worthy of being turned out – but they are not good policy, either in terms of actual impact or adherence to principle.”
“Mitt Romney properly pointed out that the Obama administration has substantially reduced the number of new oil and natural gas drilling permits on federal lands. This is, however, merely a small component in the current administration’s anti-energy agenda. Regardless of who is elected president for the next four years, we need to produce more affordable energy, not more politically correct energy.”
“The November elections will determine the direction of U.S. climate policy – and, therefore, energy policy and the pace of economic growth, the creation of jobs, our standard of living, and the level of federal budget deficits and inflation. Obama has already promised to make climate change the centerpiece of his concern – with all that implies: ‘Green’ energy policy can be linked to loss of jobs (Keystone pipeline disapproval), rising gas prices (ethanol mandates), and crony capitalism (Solyndra).
“By contrast, Romney is a climate skeptic and Ryan has been quite outspoken – the perfect anti-Gore. The science supports Romney-Ryan, notwithstanding the UN-IPCC, and the bulk of the climate scientists living high on the hog on government grants.
“All of this emerged from yesterday’s debate, but it needs to be spelled out more clearly. Note that Obama no longer promises to ‘heal the Earth and stop the rise of the oceans.’ He was also uncharacteristically quiet about his efforts to make ‘electricity prices skyrocket.’ That’s progress of sorts, I suppose, but does not atone for his miserable economic performance of the past four years in the White House.”
“Energy played an important role in tonight’s presidential debate, scoring as one of the top topics. Unfortunately, the president didn’t have his facts right and didn’t actually answer the question on gasoline prices. The global economy is far worse now, and gas prices more than double what they were when President Obama took office.
“In fact, his comment about increasing jobs in the coal industry is nonsense. In 2012 alone more than 2,000 coal mining jobs have been lost just in eastern Kentucky. Regarding increasing oil and gas production, that is happening on private lands. On federal lands, leasing is down 50 percent from what it was under President Clinton. Increased domestic production will lower gasoline prices from what they might be without more U.S. energy development. President Obama’s record on energy is use less, pay more.”
“The tremendous growth that has occurred in U.S. oil and gas production over the last few years redounds almost completely to the significant advances in oilfield technology pioneered by many of our domestic oilfield service companies and the implementation of such techniques by America’s independent producers and the major integrated oil companies. The president’s attempts to mislead the public into thinking that his policies have been responsible for such growth ignore the important role of innovation within the private sector that has made this driver of improved national energy security possible.
“A reduction in counterproductive and unnecessary regulation going forward would also help clear the path to greater domestic job growth and improved international competitiveness in our manufacturing sector.”
“Romney let Obama off the hook when it came to so-called ‘green’ energy. Obama’s boast about investing in solar and wind went unchallenged by Romney during this second debate. Also unmentioned was the recent crash of Obama’s heavily funded electric car business including now-bankrupt battery maker A123.
“Exposing the failure of Obama’s green policies is an election year winner. Romney allowed the President to avoid a big embarrassment.”
“Both candidates seemed successful in achieving their respective goals tonight, but President Obama had a much tougher task which he did not address, because he cannot: erasing the record of the past four years. I think that will ultimately prove decisive.”
“President Barack Obama is to economic recovery and growth a biological weapon of mass obstruction. If we want an America that revives and thrives, this president must be decommissioned.”
“American constitutional democracy survived another night of wrangling by presidential wannabes, but nothing decisive happened. Given the abysmal Obama economic record, Romney was more convincing on the issues that mean the most to American taxpayers, the bread and butter matters of earning the daily bread. The large amount of largely banal discussion of higher education shows that this is an issue that is of some growing concern to the American people.”
“President Obama and Gov. Romney discussed education as a tangential issue, which is appropriate given that the federal government has no constitutional directive to meddle with education. But it came up twice on two central fronts: Pell Grant subsidies to college students, and in discussing what role culture has in helping prevent gun violence.
“Both candidates displayed a disturbing preference for federal programs that contribute to the national deficit while adding nothing to the national welfare. Pell Grants, for instance, are direct federal subsidies to low- and middle-income households. They have been linked by research with the skyrocketing cost of college because when you increase the money students have to pay for college, colleges increase prices to capture more of that money. They are also a terrible tax expenditure, since only 40 percent of Pell recipients get college degrees.
“Romney and Obama both noted the truth that schools are an integral part to forming vibrant communities and citizens. Both should have gone further to recognize that schools are, however, no substitute for strong families – and indeed cannot do their work without good parents as their foundations. Schools are not and cannot be social service agencies; they are places for students to build on an already-strong family foundation.”
“Missing from the debates so far – with the exception of a brief excursion in Denver – has been a substantive discussion of K-12 education and the federal government’s role in shaping state and local policy. Both candidates have spoken generally about education.
“President Obama touts his Education Department’s Race to the Top grant program. Gov. Romney talks about Massachusetts students’ high standing in reading and math. But we still haven’t seen a real debate on the topic. The federal government this year will spend nearly $70 billion on elementary and secondary education programs, with precious little to show for it. Both President Obama and Gov. Romney seem to agree that the federal government should spend at least that much. But exploring the differences between the two candidates might be helpful.”
“When Gov. Romney said that a necessary consequence of continued large deficits would be tax increases on everybody, this was not exactly correct. Yes, tax increases are a possibility; the more probable consequence is a new inflationary spiral.
“Currently, the Fed is engaging in Quantitative Easing without inflation breaking out because of (a) the depressed state of aggregate demand as the private sector de-leverages, (b) the sequestering of money within banks due to a policy innovation by the Fed (paying interest on bank reserves), and (c) the issue of inflation-indexed securities, especially to foreign holders of treasuries, allaying their concern for inflation. The last, while not a policy innovation – since such securities were first issued during the Clinton administration – the aggressive use of this form of debt is significant. While the delay of inflation has been remarkable, the work of Tom Sargent and Chris Sims indicates that continued large deficit will eventually spark inflation.
“Where Romney was correct on taxes is that the kind of increases in taxes that would be needed to close the deficits that would be forthcoming with the spending initiatives in the president’s proposed budgets would have to be European-style payroll or VAT taxes, not ‘soak the rich’ taxes. The soak the rich taxes would be quite high relative to marginal tax rates on income from capital in other countries (except France). They would be self-defeating. The purpose in proposing to soak the rich is to make tax increases on the middle class palatable.
“The president was good in saying that not all jobs that have been outsourced will return. This is a tough sell, politically. But, economic theory indicates that it is optimal for us, as a highly advanced economy, to specialize in high value-added manufacturing and services. The problem right now is that we’re stuck in depressed economic conditions, well below our capacity. What we need is a vibrant economy, not protectionism.
“A good example of the new economy we’re in is Millikin & Company. For a long time, Roger Millikin, a prominent businessman who generally supported free enterprise, opposed free trade, as the textile industry of the southeast was under pressure from overseas. But, the Millikin company eventually came to embrace the new economy and today is a shining example of how to distribute work around the world, with low-wage production located in emerging economies and high-wage production located here.”
“Tonight’s debate can be summarized simply. Our current president is intent on being the divider-in-chief, constantly targeting one group, and generating envy among citizens. The president wants us to believe that we can help employees by punishing their employers. If raising taxes helps the economy, why are tax-raising states such as California and Illinois seeing their populations move to states with lower taxes while the economies of California and Illinois are declining?
“My middle class family had to go without health insurance while my wife delivered our youngest daughter because of the consequences of Obamacare. The United States needs a president whose chief tactics aren’t stoking envy and division.”
“In the exchange on energy last night between Gov. Romney and President Obama, the president said something that illustrates that he doesn’t understand the nature of profits or he is hoping the voters don’t. As Mr. Obama was explaining why there are fewer permits to drill on federal land, he said that his administration canceled contracts from companies that were not drilling since he decided that they could not just sit there and wait for the time when the prices are high so they could get the most profit. However, that is precisely what we want oil companies to do.
“When the prices are high (and oil is dear) is when we want to encourage more production so supplies will increase and the price hike will be moderated by the introduction of new supplies. Forcing companies to bring oil to the market when prices are relatively low will cause there to be less oil for the market when oil prices spike. If the president’s statement truly represents his administration’s policy, it is a subtle, and counterproductive, form of production policy where the government controls output.”
“Although the president obviously came better prepared this time and found the town hall format more to his liking, the policy differences between these two candidates remain clear, if not stark.
“The president believes that the answer to the nation’s continued economic woes is more of the same top-down government spending directed to favored industries and constituents. His challenger, Gov. Romney, believes in unleashing the power of individual initiative through simplifying the tax code and reducing the regulatory burden of the administrative state.
“As undecided American voters watch the final debate next Monday, they should recognize that the upcoming election has real-world consequences beyond who ‘won’ or ‘lost’ the debate on style points, appearance, or personality.”
“I thought it was very interesting that President Obama did not challenge massive increases in heath insurance costs, as outlined by Romney. This is a significant admission that the ‘savings’ outlined in 2010 do not in fact exist! That is huge to the economy.”
The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.