TAMPA, October 4, 2012 — The early consensus after last night’s debate between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is that it was a win for Romney. That depends upon how you define “win.”
Certainly, Romney came off as more confident in his answers, while the president seemed distracted at times. However, if this was a battle of ideas, then the outcome was about as uncertain as professional wrestling. Anyone who was listening could tell that this wasn’t a real fight. Big government was the predetermined winner the minute that Romney was nominated.
Yes, Romney made a few references to “competition” and “private markets,” as did Obama. But neither of them is interested in giving free markets a try. In that sense, Obama was at least a little more honest, except when he made the ironic statement that “the genius of America is the free enterprise system.”
The first segment concerned the economy and “creating jobs,” something the government has no role in whatsoever in a free market. The only valid government policy to create jobs from a free market perspective is one that stops the government from doing what it’s already doing. Neither man proposed this.
For many decades, the federal government has employed the same ruse in an attempt to centrally plan the economy while at the same time claim it is fostering free enterprise.
Step One: Tax the living daylights out of everybody and everything.
Step Two: Give “targeted tax cuts” to firms in sectors the central planners think should grow.
This is just thinly disguised wealth redistribution and neither Romney nor Obama object to it at all. Romney rightly criticized Obama for directing $90 billion (Romney’s number) toward green energy firms like Solyndra, which later went bankrupt. Then he basically said that he’d do the same thing to try to skew the market towards small business.
In a free market, private investors and consumers decide where capital is going to be directed by their own, un-coerced decisions. They do not make those decisions based upon whether they might be stolen from a little less or not. In a free market, the businesses that survive and thrive are those that serve customers best, whether they are big or small.
Right now, government intervention favors big business. The free market answer is not to intervene on behalf of small businesses. It is to not intervene at all. Neither Romney nor Obama understand this.
Both men also confirmed that they aren’t going to cut any federal spending. When asked what he would cut, Romney replied that he would cut Obamacare, but would take all of the savings from that cut and put it back into Medicare, from whence Romney claims Obama took it.
That’s net zero in cuts.
His next statement took him right back to Republican Dream World. He will also cut PBS. That he could even bring this up with a straight face is a credit to either his willpower or his detachment from reality. PBS costs about $445 million per year. The federal budget is $3.8 trillion. Do the math.
As for other cuts, Romney confirmed he’s really not making any. When Obama peddled the canard that the Paul Ryan budget would make draconian cuts to federal spending on education, Romney truthfully answered, “I’m not cutting education.” Ditto for Medicaid. Ditto for the whole federal monster. Romney isn’t going to cut a penny. He’s going to increase spending. So is Obama.
Both men said they agreed that the government should mandate that health insurance companies must accept patients with preexisting conditions. That means that health insurance companies should stop being insurance companies. Insurance is by definition a business that profits from taking on risk. For a monthly premium, they guarantee to pay the expenses associated with certain conditions if the customer contracts one of them. This removes the financial risk of illness or injury from the patient and transfers it to the insurance company. That’s what you are buying when you buy health insurance.
That definition assumes that the future is uncertain. Once you are already sick or injured, there is no uncertainty. There is no risk model. It’s no longer insurance.
Forcing insurance companies to pay for preexisting conditions changes them from managers of risk to government-sponsored wealth redistributors. Those who aren’t sick or injured are forced to pay for those who are. The costs are merely spread over the whole population. Neither Obama nor Romney has any objection to this.
The most relevant question concerned the role of government. Not surprisingly, neither candidate remotely argued that the government was playing a role in American society that it shouldn’t. The government should centrally plan everything. My central plan is better than yours. That is as far as this “philosophical debate” went.
After a while, it just got silly. I started daydreaming about “A Night to Remember,” the 1958 dramatization of the Titanic disaster. I imagined the first mate of the ship rushing onto the bridge just after the ship struck the iceberg.
“Captain, I think I can save the ship, but you’ll have to get me some help with these deck chairs.”
The American public seems to think that will help.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.
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