Opinion: You Might Not Like it, But at Least Obama Has a Real Economic Plan

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 12:57 PM

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney discusses jobs and the economy with workers and guests at the Missouri Valley Steel factory on December 16, 2011. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty)

If the American people want a choice between the two major party candidates for president, they saw significant differences last night. As opposed to the first debate, when the two rivals made a point of agreeing with each other, their second encounter drew contrasts. Beyond the meta-analysis about President Obama becoming more aggressive and the viral memes about Governor Romney's "binders full of women," one real take-away for these elusive undecided voters is the candidates' distance when it comes to fixing the economy: One has a plan and one doesn't.

Whether you like President Obama's plan, you can at least acknowledge that he has one he stands by. It involves a clear direction for taxes, with an emphasis on asking millionaires to pay their fair share. The president returned to that theme again and again, contrasting it with the reductions in taxes he has already passed for 98 percent of Americans. He can point to his successes - the rescue of the auto industry, the slow but gradual job growth - and promise to continue that course… and to amplify those efforts with the energy that comes from a second election.

His plan also accounts for how a host of other issues affect the financial security of regular Americans. Reining in medical costs and creating a more navigable healthcare market saves families money. Supporting student loans and changing the rules for how loans get repaid helps young Americans start their careers. From ensuring access to contraception to tackling credit card charges to enforcing better gas mileage for automobiles, President Obama made the case for an array of tools, small and large, the government can bring to the service of Americans everywhere.

Not everyone likes that plan. You might feel that the Obama Administration moved too slow in its first term. You might not believe in his track record. You might share the blame with Republican obstructionism but not see how that will change in a second term. You might not want more of the same.

But it was Romney who offered the most compelling endorsement of the incumbent when he said last night: "I can tell you that if you are to elect President Obama, you know what you're going to get."

By contrast, if you elect Romney, you have no idea what you're going to get.

No idea because his position keeps shifting. Punctuating a career of policy pivots, he has now fully backed away from the tax cuts for the 1 percent that has been part of his plan. He keeps side-stepping which elements of Obamacare he supports. Yesterday, he even claimed he supports access to contraception - a change from his position in the primary. You just don't know what Mitt will do because he's a moving target.

Furthermore, you have no idea what you're going to get because when it comes to details, he refuses to divulge any. He and Ryan almost boast about the fact that they don't have details worked out for how to pay for their tax cuts (in marked contrast with Ryan's extremely detailed and unpopular budget proposals in the past). When asked about job creation, Romney's answer was to trust him - he has a plan. When asked about stimulating the economy, his answer was to trust him - he has a plan. But it must be a secret plan because in his opportunity to share it with a national audience, he demurred.

And when the moderator pressed him on what would happen if the numbers shouldn't add up, his answer: "Well of course they add up."

Trust me, he's saying. But he won't say why.

The Obama campaign throughout has hoped to make this election a referendum on Mitt Romney - an unlikable, out-of-touch poster boy for the 1 percent. However, last night may make this November a referendum on the president - because he's the only one with a track record to run on and a plan he stands by.

You may decide whether you like what he's done in four years. You may choose based on whether you trust his commitment to the next four. But to reiterate Romney's words: "If you are to elect President Obama, you know what you're going to get."

And what will you get if you elect Mitt? Based on last night's performance, it's less likely the American people will find out.


More in:

Comments [6]

Neither candidate nor either party has an economic plan. To have a plan would require them to accept something that the parties haven't been willing to do for decades, the candidates have never understood that they should present as the proof of their plan and that the public would recognize as the basis for whether they are willing to risk their futures and fortunes on the plan that they choose.

If the media would stop focusing on bending over to be 'fair and balanced' between the two parties and insisted instead on being determined to get to the substance of an issue then maybe the public would have a chance. But letting these panderers do nothing more than bloviate on the public airways is a betrayal of the public's interests that they are to serve in being granted those airways.

Oct. 18 2012 11:32 PM

In short accept everything Obama promises regardless of the reality of his economic record and deride everything Romney claims regardless of the reality of his economic record.

This fatuous suspension of disbelief and the economic laws of gravity will come to a collision course in the next four years and we need serious leadership (and serious commentary) to see us through.
Literally the future of the world is at stake since a bankrupt USA imperils all in the 21st Century.

Oct. 18 2012 01:37 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

What a joke Justin.

This "real" economic plan you weave a fairy tale about here is just hot air. He's refused to back Simpson-Bowles anywhere but occasionally on the bully pulpit. He hasn't thrown his political capital behind an actual budget. If he actually had a plan, he would be out there pushing it instead of vomiting vague talking points about a "plan" that he's had years to materialize, and CHOSEN not to.

Oct. 18 2012 01:01 PM
Andy Kay

Are you realy that dumb that you consider raising taxes a plan. Get real!

Oct. 17 2012 07:26 PM
Phil from DC

The only thing you've identified as a "plan" is increase taxes on the 1%...and every economist worth his salt will say that won't come close to scratching the surface on the deficit (much less the debt) or helping create jobs or fixing the economy. All of the other stuff you identified as Obama's "plan" (in your paragraph about medical costs, student loans, and gas efficient vehicles) will do virtually nothing for the economy, nothing relative to the deficit and debt, and nothing regarding jobs. Plain and simple, Obama has NO PLAN for creating jobs, fixing the economy, and solving the debt problem...we'll just get 4 more years of the middle class getting buried, as VP Biden admitted (and the past 4 years were Obama years).

Oct. 17 2012 05:08 PM
Mike from New York

I disagree. I think we know exctly what Mitt's economic plan is, whether he'll admit it or nor: Tax cuts tilted toward the rich and the hope that jobs (in the US this time) will result.

Oct. 17 2012 02:21 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Blog

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a blog, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at



Supported by