Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Presidential Debates

Some random peeves about the U.S. Presidential (and Vice Presidential) debates so far:

  • The obsession with short-term statistics: jobs since Obama took office, price of gas since Obama took office, etc: what's needed to promote the long-term interests of the U.S. isn't to chase short-term statistics. Investments, for example primary education, typically hurt short-term statistics in favor of a large long-term payback. Want to promote short-term jobs and GDP? Blow out the deficit, cut all education spending, and abandon all infrastructure maintenance. Hmmm... seems like the Bush administration. I don't claim Obama has been inspiring on long-term versus short-term focus, but the repeated attacks from Romney/Ryan using short-term statistics undermines their credibility towards long-range thinking.
  • The obsession with fuel prices. It is a myth that cheap fuel is good. It increases auto use which increases pollution, increases carbon emission, increases road congestion, encourages medium-term investment in fuel-inefficient vehicles, renders sustainable energy research and investment uncompetitive, increases long-term investment in sprawled exurbs which cannot be adequately served by public transportation, increases demand for roads which carry a perpetual and high maintenance cost. All of these increase time spent in traffic, reduce public health, and squander land in unsustainable development. I could go on. To the contrary, there is an optimal price for fuel, as there is an optimal price for any valuable resource. The Republicans claim to be proponents of the free-market and should acknowledge this basic fact. Obama doesn't score much higher: his claim owners of federal drilling rights are "hoarding" them, keeping the resources in check: hey, that's what we call "the free market promoting conservation". It's long-term investment. But Romney's focus on the short-term drilling rate shows he's far worse.
  • Apparently the environment is taboo. Score one for big oil and those in their employ: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the Drudge Report. Not a single word was said about the devastating environmental impacts of coal mining, for example. Obama at least hinted that alternatives were better. But "clean coal technology" is oxymoronic.
  • Romney's flip-flopping: I'm a big fan of flip-flopping: reasonable people listen to other views and revise their own. Indeed, someone who never "flip-flops" shouldn't be in office: it suggests their brains congealed at age 21 and they've become drones incapable of independent thought. But Romney's cynical attempt to recast his positions towards moderation since the Republican National Convention reeks of cynicism. His present hints he's going to cap tax credits, which will preferentially tax high earners, is news to many of his supporters. And make no mistake: those supporters funded his campaign and did so with the reliable expectation that favor will be returned. His present promises lack any credibility.
  • Military spending: Obama called Romney on this one, so it's not so much of a pet peeve. But to think that the US needs to increase its bloated, pork-infested military budget by another trillion dollars is beyond cynical. It makes Dwight Eisenhower look like a radical liberal. It's ironic those who never served in the military tend to be those who speak most assertively for increased military spending. This issue alone is sufficient to vote against Romney, for Obama. There's not a chance that Romney's going to cut the deficit while increasing military spending without draconian measures he's not yet described.
  • The assertion that taxes on upper incomes tax small businesses. The reason small businesses may file as individuals is because the individual rates are so favorable. The remedy is to make it more attractive for small businesses to file as businesses, as I think any rational individual would recognize they should.
  • "... since Obama took office". Obama took office when statistics were in a free-fall. It's generally accepted it takes up to a year for administration policies to grab hold. Certainly statistics from the first budget year, rather than the first calendar year, of an administration are more applicable. Yet Romney and Ryan repetitively use this phrase in the debates and in campaigns. It's a classic Fox News tactic, at least from what I've read. Correct me if I'm wrong: I never watch Fox News.
  • "Get tough on China": Romney, like George W. Bush, claimed he was going to get tough on the Chinese, to make them inflate their currency. Sure, I support this, as it makes "shit people don't need" more expensive. Americans clearly consume too much stuff: we've got thousands of acres of long-term storage facilities crammed with it, garages stuffed with it leaving their intended contents parked on crowded streets. I'm a big fan of increasing the cost of imported goods, making U.S. goods, manufactured to higher work and environmental standards, more competitive. But that's going to result in a substantial inflation hit, as conventionally measured (fixed basket of goods). Is Romney willing to accept that? Snort. In any case, manufacturing doesn't magically spring forth from the ether. It requires technology and management which we have virtually abandoned. With the Republican Party obsessed only with eliminating credible science from the curriculum, I don't see them leading the way in changing this.
  • Party-compliant ties. Funny. It makes me want to never wear red ties again.

But this is a bike blog. Who's the most bike friendly candidate? Obama is clearly fitter, and Romney's obsession with lower oil prices implicitly promotes bigger, more powerful vehicles driven further and more often. So Obama wins.

I look forward to seeing how the polls respond, if at all. There tends to be a late surge by the incumbent as people on the fence default to the one in office. Romney has been getting close to Obama in polls but that's not good enough: he needs to be ahead right now. I'm quite confident Obama will win this one if the voters who would tend to support him: young, female, and black, bother to show.

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