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Happy voting!

Jonathan Chait has a very detailed (6 pages!) summary of the stakes in the upcoming presidential election. I guess the key points are:

  • Romney and Ryan plan to push the Ryan budget through Congress if they win the election, assuming they get at least 50 Republicans in the Senate. They'll use reconciliation to avoid a filibuster. The Ryan budget will essentially destroy any pretense of a social safety net in this country ("It would repeal Obamacare, cut income-tax rates, turn Medicare for people under 55 years old into subsidized private insurance, increase defense spending, and cut domestic spending, with especially large cuts for Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs targeted to the very poor.").
  • If Obama wins, on the other hand, he'll still have to deal with a Republican House and he won't be able to push much through Congress.
  • However, if Obama does absolutely nothing and/or vetoes any bills that come his way, the erroneously titled "Fiscal Cliff" will arrive. This means that the Bush tax cuts will expire, and the "Sequestration" that was part of the previous Debt Ceiling agreement will come into effect, causing automatic cuts in domestic and defense spending. The way sequestration is structured, a large number of defense cuts are automatic but Obama will have discretion in how the domestic cuts are implemented.
  • Therefore, by doing nothing, the deficit would be reduced by $5 trillion.
  • Since Republicans don't want the tax cuts to expire or the defense cuts to happen, Obama potentially has leverage to negotiate. It comes down to how credibly Obama is willing to say that he'll allow the automatic cuts happen.
  • Chait thinks that Obama has finally learned to stop trying to reach a bipartisan compromise but later speculates that Obama might cave anyway during the lame duck session.
  • Most of the above focuses on long term deficit problems. In terms of the short term unemployment problems, if Romney wins, his secret Keynesian side will be revealed (and i actually believe Chait here) and he'll engage in some stimulus, albeit in the form of more tax cuts. Obama, on the other hand, seems (per Chait) to have given up on fixing unemployment and is hoping the economy will recover on its own. I'll add that if the automatic cuts happen, that will certainly crush the fragile recovery (any kind of deficit reduction, even of the type that liberals wouldn't object to, like defense cuts or tax increases, are the antithesis of stimulus).

Oh and then there's the return of the debt ceiling issue, coming up again in February/March.

Chait frames this as a choice with no turning back: "the great stalemate between socialism and social Darwinism will break open and likely turn decisively in one direction or the other." I'm not so sure. I see it more like we're left with the ugly choice of Romney wins and we get the benefit of reducing our tragic unemployment numbers at the expense of true suffering for the poor and elderly vs. Obama wins and, if all the cards are played right, a break-even approach to our long term problems, at the expense of ongoing hardship for the unemployed. I'm not sure why Chait thinks either direction is irreversible. Whatever Republicans pass through reconciliation could theoretically be undone if the Democrats ever got a majority and some backbone, and even if Obama fends off the latest social spending cuts disguised as deficit reduction, it's not like it won't come back again (see Clinton's surplus and the Bush tax cuts). But either way it seems we're looking at an ugly four years ahead.

By fnord12 | October 15, 2012, 3:13 PM | Liberal Outrage


if his first debate performance was anything to go by, i don't seem obama holding out until january for anything. i think the offer of a nap would be enough to get him to cave to whatever the republicans wanted.

Reference from SuperMegaMonkey

On the day before the election Matthew Yglesias makes the case that Romney will be better for short term growth, something i've also mentioned previously. Bernard Finel at Balloon Juice misses the point and resorts to name calling....    Read More: Heads explode

Reference from SuperMegaMonkey

I thought i 'splained this to you people, but i must have not been clear enough because i was looking at the comments on a Yahoo News article (i know, i know: Father forgive me for i am a glutton...    Read More: What is the Fiscal Cliff?