Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Since this is a presidential election year, everyone is focused on the White House. As usual, this election is being hyped as some sort of crossroads in American history: The American electorate will either choose to make an irreversible turn down the road to socialism or conservatives will save the country by electing a Republican president who will restore the American principles of free enterprise and individual responsibility.
It all makes a pretty good story until one attempts to back it up with tangible evidence: Why is Barack Obama a “socialist?” Why is Mitt Romney different?
The first answer you’d get on Obama from most conservatives is Obamacare. That was virtually the single issue for most Tea Party rallies in 2010. Yet Republicans are going to nominate the former governor who pioneered the same program in Massachusetts. If Obamacare makes the president a socialist, then why doesn’t Romneycare make his opponent one also?
Romney answered that question throughout the Republican nomination debates by taking a states rights position. He had signed a healthcare program into law in Massachusetts that was good for that state, but president Obama had been wrong to impose it upon the whole country.
Why the program is socialist when the federal government imposes it nationally but not when the state government imposes it on its millions of citizens is unclear.
However, that point is moot given other facts that came to light following the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare. It turns out that despite repeatedly stating that Obama was wrong to impose the healthcare program on the whole nation, Romney actually told Obama to do exactly that just three years ago.
Bizarrely, Romney continues to make statements to the media that Obamacare must be “repealed and replaced,” but when it comes to squaring off with Obama in a debate, Romney’s advisors will likely steer him away from the subject if they can. Romney isn’t even campaigning on fundamentally changing the role of government in healthcare. “Repeal and Replace” means that Obamacare would simply be replaced by a Republican government healthcare program.
Isn’t that still “socialism?”
The other major plank in the “Obama is a socialist” argument is Cap and Trade. Conservatives see the entire global warming theory as an elaborate left wing hoax designed to undermine free enterprise by convincing people that free markets result in damage to the environment. Not only does Cap and Trade raise more revenue to expand government generally, but it allows the government to control virtually all industrial production.
Defeated in the Congress, Obama has moved the Cap and Trade agenda ahead through the Republican-created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Conservatives blame Obama’s anti-business EPA in part for stagnant economic growth.
Even conservatives who are admittedly lukewarm on Romney generally point to this issue as one upon which Romney will be different from Obama. Supposedly, Romney will appoint “less radical” EPA regulators and thus create a less stifling environment for economic recovery and growth.
Yet, just as with healthcare, Romney has no substantive disagreement with the president regarding the role of government on this issue. Romney pioneered Cap and Trade in Massachusetts. The Wall Street Journal quotes his official statement.
“These carbon emission limits will provide real and immediate progress in the battle to improve our environment,” then-Gov. Romney said in a press release touting Massachusetts as “the first and only state to set CO2 emissions limits on power plants.”
So, Romney agrees that carbon dioxide harms the environment and that the government can and should tax power plants based upon the amount of carbon dioxide that they produce. As with healthcare, Romney has no philosophical differences with Obama on environmental policy. He just says that he will run Obama’s big government programs better.
The list really does go on and on. Will cutting government spending significantly harm the economy? Both Obama and Romney say yes. Undeclared wars? No difference between the two. Can the president imprison U.S. citizens indefinitely without due process? Both say yes. Can the president assassinate U.S. citizens similarly without due process? Yes and yes. Should the U.S. military take an active and even preemptive role in the internal affairs of other nations? Both agree on that, too.
In reality, if there were a rule during their first debate stipulating that the two candidates only debate issues upon which they fundamentally disagree, the debate would be reduced to a staring contest.