TAMPA, November 8, 2012 – “We’re all socialists now.”
If all of the pre-election hype about the presidential election being a choice between socialism and capitalism was true, then that statement must be true.
I doubt most Americans believe it.
In fact, Obama is no more a socialist than Romney is a capitalist. Obama has not called for state ownership of the means of production. Romney has not called for a laissez faire economy. Absent the rhetoric, they would both be most accurately described as European social democrats.
For libertarians, the choice between them was “heads the government wins, tails libertarians lose.” It is generally assumed that libertarians would consider Romney the “lesser of two evils.” I don’t think that’s true.
Romney’s rhetoric employed buzz words that both libertarians and conservatives respond to, like “free markets,” “small government” and “less taxes.” Obama’s rhetoric employed universally recognized code words for wealth redistribution like “fairness,” “fair share” and “investment.”
However, when you strip all of that away, the policy platforms of the two men were virtually identical.
Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to help balance the federal budget. Romney does not disagree. Romney stated – over and over again in the first debate – that his plan to lower the income tax rates while simultaneously “closing loopholes” (translation: eliminate deductions) was aimed at getting the wealthy to pay more while giving small business and the middle class a tax break.
When Obama says it, he’s a socialist. When Romney says it, crickets.
It is also widely believed that while Obama wants to run a centrally-planned, command economy, Romney advocated a free market. That isn’t true, either.
Romney was correct to criticize Obama’s wasteful spending on “green energy” boondoggles like Solyndra. However, Romney wants to centrally plan the economy, too. He said so himself.
Immediately after castigating Obama for his green energy fiascos, Romney turned to the camera and explained how his policies would manipulate the tax codes to favor small businesses. That’s not capitalism any more than Obama’s policies are. In a free market, consumers are the ultimate decision makers and it is their choices that pick winners and losers, whether the winners are big or small.
Combined with his other statements about the government making “investments in basic research” and other interventions, Romney’s economy would be just as centrally-planned as Obama’s.
Conservatives believe that Obama will spend more money overall than Romney would have, but that’s not supported by any facts. On the contrary, Romney was able to win the first debate by asserting repeatedly that he was not going to cut spending. When Obama accused Romney of making draconian cuts to education, Romney simply replied, “I’m not cutting education.” Likewise on healthcare, “I’m not cutting Medicaid.”
Romney wasn’t going to realize any cuts by “repealing and replacing” Obamacare. In fact, he emphasized that any savings from Obamacare would be put right back into Medicare, from whence Romney said it came. That’s net zero in spending cuts
And what about Obamacare? Obama earned his “socialist” label almost exclusively because of this program. That Republicans could nominate its author for president is perplexing enough. That they could support Romney after he ostensibly stated that he would replace Obamacare with an identical program takes us straight to bizarro world.
Romney’s own statements confirm this. When pressed about exactly what he would replace Obamacare with, he said that his goal was to “keep the good parts.” (Obamacare has good parts?)
Romney is on the record that his replacement plan would have included a prohibition against insurance companies denying coverage due to preexisting conditions. This is the foundation of Obamacare. It is the reason for the individual mandate. It means that insurance companies are no longer insurance companies. They no longer manage risk. They just redistribute wealth. Romney’s plan would be identical in principle and destructiveness, if different in superficial details.
The one difference between the two men on spending was in military spending. Romney wanted to increase military spending by about $200 billion per year to reverse the trend in downsizing the obsolete U.S. Navy. The best evaluation that one can come to is that Romney would have spent more money overall than Obama has spent or will spend.
This is certainly supported by history. Reagan doubled the federal budget and George W. Bush fell just short of doubling it again. No Democratic president has come close to doing likewise since FDR. The last Republican president who spent less than his predecessor was Calvin Coolidge.
Since then, Republican presidents have proposed the first $1 trillion, $2 trillion and $3 trillion federal budgets. There is no reasonable way to conclude that Romney wouldn’t have proposed the first $4 trillion budget, quite likely during his first year in office.
Finally, Romney didn’t really disagree substantively with Obama on foreign policy. Both men agree that it is the U.S. military’s job and the U.S. taxpayers’ financial burden to police the entire world. Romney only said that Obama was doing it wrong.
While Obama gets undue credit for being less warlike than Bush, his stance on foreign relations is at least a little less bellicose than Romney’s. Obama did not campaign on antagonizing China, America’s chief creditor, or Russia. He wasn’t quite as militant towards Iran, although that may be merely rhetorical rather than substantive.
In the final analysis, Romney’s stewardship of the federal government would have been virtually identical to Obama’s, but would have likely spent more money and would have represented a greater risk of getting the United States into a new war, possibly with an enemy that could actually fight back.
As unbelievable as it might sound, Obama may have been the lesser of two evils.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.