Follow us:

Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 4, 2012 at 10:15 AM

You call this an economic debate?

Mitt Romney showed up at the first presidential debate, President Obama didn’t. Like the former private-equity mogul that he is, Romney was willing to say anything to close the deal, whether it was truthful or sincere. Obama was in his passive mode, as if he were still waiting for that one elusive Republican vote in the Senate to pass the Affordable Care Act. The moderator was an embarrassment. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post does a good job unpacking a debate low on specifics, especially from the reborn Republican moderate who did show up.

Aside from Romney’s support for qualified mortgages in Dodd-Frank, neither candidate addressed one of the most critical issues facing the republic: The failure to apply the rule of law to Wall Street and the banking “industry.” Neither called for a 21st century Glass-Steagall. Neither discussed the continued danger the boyz pose to the financial system.

At least we were treated to some sober truth-telling about the economic (and environmental and societal) costs of human-caused climate change and the sensible policy responses required. Oh, wait. That didn’t happen, either. We can have “energy independence” (which means finding a way to keep all the cars running) and the president has been insufficiently solicitous about corporate welfare for greenhouse-gas emitters.

Severe income inequality and the loss of economic mobility weren’t on the table. Lots of blather about loving small business was — except for a lack of demands for tougher anti-trust enforcement and removal of tax preferences for Bain-like acquisitions that cause consolidated industries that kill small business. Did anybody go after the cost of endless war and the Military-Industrial Complex. Obama kept talking about military spending that the generals and admirals didn’t even want. But what if they did want it? We should say no and nation-build at home.

A thoughtful debate on the broken trade situation was not to be found. Going after tax shelters in the Caymans and elsewhere — that would have been impolite, I suppose. Investment in infrastructure? The president kinda likes the idea, but didn’t try to explain its importance. Romney was happy to say he’d defund PBS — wow, that will close the deficit, that’s, what, a day or two in Afghanistan? Big Bird will do fine privatized. Amtrak, which along with transit is a perennial Republican target, won’t (and no transportation system, not even highways survives without government help).

Overall, a disaster. Not so much for the president, who will win or not as he tries to nail Romney’s Jell-o to the wall. The big losers were the American people. The Naked Capitalism blog was not kind:

The reason Obama did poorly is simple. He is bad at governing America. He hasn’t solved the foreclosure crisis, the jobs crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the financial crisis, the debt crisis, the health care crisis, or really, anything. He can’t point to very much that Americans broadly like, except killing Bin Laden and the auto bailout. His second term agenda is to cut Social Security, Medicare, frack, cut corporate taxes, bust more teachers unions and pass more neoliberal trade agreements. He is proud of this record. So are his people. But he knows he can’t run on it because it’s unpopular, so instead, he presented himself as a nice likeable guy.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

One place got a boost

From Wednesday’s debate snoozer

Gamblers at Intrade

Comments | More in Politics and the economy

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►