Otherwise, you can just read part 3 of my attempt at responsible citizenship. I'm looking at the debate and trying to measure the candidates' positions against the Constitution. I still consider myself a student of the Constitution, but even a student can make an effort! This is mine. I'm still working from page 3 of the transcript.
OK. So I'm still waiting for Mr. Obama to say something of substance, but in this section he's talking about Mr. Romney's plan, rather than his own. Much to Mr. Romney's frustration, since he feels like Mr. Obama is misrepresenting his position. But really, neither of them say anything new, and particularly not as it relates to the Constitution, for the rest of page 3. So. On to page 4. Aaaand the rest of the section on this first question is all back-and-forth. He's going to do this. No I'm not. Well, he's going to do this. Nope, that's not it. It's really not very interesting.
I'm going back onto page 3, trying to figure out what this "approach" is that he's supposedly talking about. It's hard. Mostly he's talking about how Mr. Romney's plan won't work. There is this, from the bottom of page 3:
Obama: Bill Clinton tried the approach that I'm talking about. We created 23 million new jobs. We went from deficit to surplus. And businesses did very well.
Obama: Now, Governor Romney and I do share a deep interest in encouraging small-business growth. So at the same time that my tax plan has already lowered taxes for 98 percent of families, I also lowered taxes for small businesses 18 times. And what I want to do is continue the tax rates — the tax cuts that we put into place for small businesses and families.
But here comes the second question:
This question is somewhat better than the first one (see part 1). But still, the question relies heavily on the President making recommendations to Congress that Congress actually acts upon. Or, he could veto bills that are too expensive. I don't hear about a whole lot of action for the veto pen. But it could probably be used pretty effectively to reduce our deficit. Make Congress pass by super-majority the stuff the President felt was going to run up the deficit. The problem that makes that not very practical is that they make these huge mega-bills that run to 1000 or 2000 pages have so much crammed into them that there's always something in there that the President can be crucified for vetoing. So. Still a flawed question, in my opinion. But better than the first. Let's see what the candidates have to say. Looks like Mr. Romney is first this time.
And the question is this, what are the differences between the two of you as to how you would go about tackling the deficit problem in this country?
I'm going to agree with what he says here. It's not moral to go into debt for someone else. That's slavery. The Founders, those "wise men, raised by the Lord," would not be impressed.
Romney: Good. I'm glad you raised that, and it's a — it's a critical issue. I think it's not just an economic issue, I think it's a moral issue. I think it's, frankly, not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation and they're going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives.
And the amount of debt we're adding, at a trillion a year, is simply not moral.
George Washington: Avoid occasions of expense. . . and avoid likewise the accumulation of debt not only by shunning occasions of expense but by vigorous exertions to discharge the debts, not throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.
Alexander Hamilton: Allow a government to decline paying its debts and you overthrow all public morality — you unhinge all the principles that preserve the limits of free constitutions.Nothing can more affect national prosperity than a constant and systematic attention to extinguish the present debt and to avoid as much as possibly the incurring of any new debt.
Benjamin Franklin: When you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.
It's that power over liberty that concerns me, both my own liberty, and that of my children and future grandchildren. The Founders knew that sometimes the nation would need to take on debts, but they are clear that they hoped it would always be short-term. The fact is, our debt should be telling us that, as a nation, we are living beyond our means. When other nations buy our debt, we are giving them power to dictate our actions - lest the stop buying, or require payment unexpectedly. It also places us over a barrel if they stop buying the debt. What does the household, behind in its credit, do when the creditors say, "That's enough?" It's never very pretty. What will happen when it's not a household, but our nation itself? These sorts of cuts are not fun, but they have to happen. So. Mr. Romney elaborates on his plan for reducing our debt:
Romney: So how do we deal with it? Well, mathematically, there are three ways that you can cut a deficit. One, of course, is to raise taxes. Number two is to cut spending. And number is to grow the economy, because if more people work in a growing economy, they're paying taxes, and you can get the job done that way.
The presidents would — president would prefer raising taxes. I understand. The problem with raising taxes is that it slows down the rate of growth. And you could never quite get the job done. I want to lower spending and encourage economic growth at the same time.
What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don't pass it: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it. Obamacare's on my list. ...
I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I'm not going to — I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That's number one.
Number two, I'll take programs that are currently good programs but I think could be run more efficiently at the state level and send them to the state.
I think Mr. Romney's test makes a lot of sense: "Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?" But I think there should be another one, even before this test: "Is it Constitutional?" We could save a ton by getting rid of unconstitutional stuff at the federal level. Both of the examples that he cites, Obamacare and PBS, are things that fail both of these tests. He also talks about sending stuff back to the States. Again, I like this. It's in line with the Tenth Amendment, though he doesn't actually cite that as part of his reasoning. In not doing that, he leaves some question in my mind: is this a purely practical move, or is it motivated by a desire to conform to the Constitution? I don't think he's going to answer that question here; that sort of question is not popular to ask, and it makes politicians very uncomfortable to talk about it. (It's amazing the number of "cite your Constitutional authority" letters that I send to Congress that never get answered.) They don't like it.
Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
This is something that I think that he could actually do, without needing Congress. It'll cause a whole lot of kicking and screaming, because although nearly every single person I've ever talked to agrees that government is too large, when you start looking at what to cut the consensus seems to be, "Not in my backyard!" When it comes right down to making the actual cuts, people are inevitably happy with the specifics. This is short-sighted. Government produces nothing. People whose jobs in government are eliminated not only are contributing to a reduction of the tax burden (that's where their pay and benefits come from), but they are also returned to the private sector, where they can get a job, or start a business. Either one of those things will contribute to economic growth. If, along with cutting employees, Mr. Romney also reduced the regulatory burden of red tape and hoops that businesses have to jump through, he would ease the transition of these displaced workers back into the private sector. Doing this thing by attrition isn't very efficient, but it would effectively reduce the backlash of the reductions.
Romney: Number three, I'll make government more efficient and to cut back the number of employees, combine some agencies and departments. My cutbacks will be done through attrition, by the way.
This is the approach we have to take to get America to a balanced budget.
Next is Mr. Obama's turn. He starts with some mushy, "those increases aren't my fault" rhetoric. And, to a point, there's some legitimacy in that. It was Mr. Bush who started the bailouts. I was stunned at how seamless the hand-off was on those bailouts. The inauguration of Mr. Obama never caused a single hiccup in the process, near as I could tell. But he could have stopped them. There's been scandal after scandal come out of those bailouts. At the end of the day, making my neighbor pay to keep my failing business open isn't right. If I try to do that on my own authority, it's called theft or extortion or something similar, and I go to jail. But, those who support the bailouts want us to believe that it's somehow morally OK when the government makes my neighbors pay to prop up my business. I don't buy it.
Obama: When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion-dollar deficit greeting me. And we know where it came from: two wars that were paid for on a credit card; two tax cuts that were not paid for; and a whole bunch of programs that were not paid for; and then a massive economic crisis.
And despite that, what we've said is, yes, we had to take some initial emergency measures to make sure we didn't slip into a Great Depression, but what we've also said is, let's make sure that we are cutting out those things that are not helping us grow.