Thursday, October 18, 2012

Still only better

Elections aren’t just about winning, they’re also about changing people’s minds. Most Americans know we’re headed in the wrong direction. What many of them don’t know is why.

The presidential debates are Mitt Romney’s opportunity to tell them, but he is not up to the task. His debate strategy is to eschew points of contrast and just hammer away at President Obama’s record. For example, it’s not clear how Romney’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy differs from Obama’s, but Obama’s version is evidently worse because of the skyrocketing price of gas. Hey, the proof is in the pudding.

Political junkies like me tune in to the debates to keep score. Non-political observers tune in to contrast the candidates. What they see is two men with similar agendas. Obama failed not because his agenda is fundamentally at odds with natural law, but because he is an incompetent leader. Romney, ever the competent manager, can execute his agenda better.

We don’t want a president only better than Obama. We want someone different. You can’t improve a bad recipe. You have to start from scratch.

Steven Colbert, of all people, gave the most honest, real assessment of Romney I’ve heard to David Gregory of Meet the Press:

He might govern as a technocrat. That sort of seems to have been his career, like the guy from Pepsi who comes in to run GM. He can’t tell us what he’s going to do because he hasn’t seen the books yet. He seems absolutely sincere as a moderate, and he also seemed pretty sincere as a ‘severe conservative.’ That’s not a dig. It’s honest confusion...I know there’s got to be a difference between these two men, or we’re all part of a huge, cruel joke.

Whether Romney wins or not, I’ll remember these debates as squandered opportunities. Never before have Republicans had such a large audience so eager to hear the truth. The town hall format in particular affords us a chance to connect our message personally, to describe the effects of conservative reforms on real people.

If I shared the debate stage with Obama in front of 60 million viewers, I would make sure people saw right away that we were from different planets. The contrast would be clear from the very beginning.

“As a 20 year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors, and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?” To that first questioner I would say:

Thank you, Jeremy. There are a lot of college students in the same boat as you. Your question admits the reality of the terrible economy we have right now: 8-percent unemployment, millions more people who have dropped out of the work force, personal wages down since 2009. It’s tough out there, and there’s no one a bad economy hurts more than new college graduates.

Jeremy, the best thing any President can do to help you succeed in life is get out of the way. Government has gotten so big and so intrusive, especially under this president, that people who run businesses are afraid to hire. The number of regulations impinging on economic freedom in this country has exploded.

Did you know under the president’s new health law, employers pay a fine for not providing “adequate” employee health insurance? The fine is $2,000 per employee each year. That’s huge! But it’s just one rule. There are hundreds if not thousands more rules like it. Taken together, these rules dramatically increase the cost of hiring new workers. They’re a vice on job creators.

That’s number one. Number two is big government also increases the cost of products you buy every day. Let’s face it, what good is a job if it can’t pay for necessities like food or gas or rent? These things are more expensive today because of the government getting between producers and consumers. Every level of production is regulated by government. The pages of regulations oil refiners, farmers, truckers...that everyone must comply with would reach floor to ceiling. Those regulations come with costs that are passed on to you. That means higher prices at the pump. That means higher prices at the grocery store.

As president, I’ll do away with unnecessary regulations. I’ll restore the proper limits on government to protect your economic freedom. I’ll give you a better chance to determine your own success.

If Romney said that, or anything like it, he would have sewn up the election right then. What did he really say? He droned on about government making it easier for students to afford college (which is actually the main driver of skyrocketing tuition costs). Then he assured Jeremy three separate times he knows how to get the economy moving again.

On its face, Romney’s answer was actually worse than Obama’s. Then again, everything Obama says belies his record. So, despite himself, Romney may have earned a draw in the exchange. But overall he failed to make the case for limited government.

Cross-posted at the Red Pill Report.

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