Economic Outlook: Don't vote for gridlock

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Nov. 5, 2012 at 12:03 PM
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It has been suggested here that the economic policies espoused by Mitt Romney are what the nation needs to put the economy back on track.

Precisely what that means is a 20 percent lower federal tax bill with a fantasy list of closed tax loopholes that nobody takes seriously, a repeal of a healthcare policy that promises to put runaway healthcare costs back on track, defense spending that is stimulus spending designated for cronies, but placed under military camouflage, giving free reign to big banks once again -- and once again with a fantasy list of regulations Romney says he favors although he won't name them.

Prediction: Romney's first day in office, if there is one, will be the first day he breaks a campaign promise, given his statement that "Day 1" he will name China a currency manipulator. By morning of Day 2 of a Romney administration he will be confronted about this and he will point to the words "if necessary" that he uses pre-election so he can say post-election, "Why didn't you read the fine print?"

On some points, a Mitt Romney that cannot be trusted would be a better deal than the President Barack Obama you trust explicitly.

Obama's over-reaction to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the 2008 financial crisis are like walking into a doctor's office with a wart. Against better judgment, the doctor then prescribes an antibiotic, six blood tests, an MRI, exploratory surgery, pain pills and a laxative for the side effects, because the doctor knows the patient would be disappointed if he or she went home empty-handed. There was a reason doctors in the old days said, "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning." That was because in the morning 99 percent of the patients never called back. They went to work or to school instead.

President Obama doesn't seem to have a "two-aspirin-and call-me-in-the-morning" response and he should. Over-regulation of banks and big oil were sincere, but they were just enormous solutions that failed to confront anything head on. Too many lobbyists spoil the broth every time.

What Romney does not take seriously is the national deficit -- and there's irony in that. The federal deficit is a problem that would be better be solved over 50 years, not 10. But the U.S. political system does not allow for 50-year plans, which is why there is no energy policy to speak of and the tax laws keep changing.

Cutting back on the size of government works on paper if it allows people to feel confident enough to start businesses again. Romney's planning is entirely about big business, cronies who, in theory, will start building factories if taxes are lower and easier to understand.

The reason that doesn't work is the next Microsoft Corp. will be born in a garage, not a board room. The next medical breakthrough will come from a university, not a pharmaceutical firm.

Romney is a top-down sort. President Obama is a bottom-up sort.

In point of fact, the economy needs less regulation right now, but it does not need cheaper money. It does need a leader willing to spend on infrastructure to spark new development.

The most enticing idea that is also organic -- from a university, not the government -- is to set a day for raising taxes in the future. That will scare corporations and consumers into spending now before prices rise. Then the economy will start rolling and maybe the threatened tax hikes could be withdrawn. But there are no politicians bold enough to put that one on the table.

It is, indeed, a top-down or bottom-up choice voters will have to make Tuesday. The true mistake of the past four years has not been President Obama's policies, but the point that Congress went with him part of the way, then got cold feet and left him hanging by himself.

Should Obama win and Republicans be given enough seats to continue with their spoiler role -- that is exactly what the economy does not need. Vote for gridlock is the one most painful outcome that the country could come up with and precisely the most likely.

In international markets Monday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan lost 0.48 percent and the Shanghai composite index in China shed 0.14 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gave up 0.47 percent and the Sensex in India was flat, up 0.04 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia rose 0.37 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain lost 0.48 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany slipped 0.52 percent. The CAC 40 in France lost 1.15 percent and the Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 0.69 percent.

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