Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Agony of Analyzing Romney's Economic Proposals

We had a good run with this blog in 2008 and enjoyed the feeling that our small efforts to consider the substance of economic policy may have played some non-negigible role in helping to elect Barack Obama.

We've sat out this round for a mix of reasons--mostly the tug of our real world jobs and families, but also because actual evidence-based policy discussion has been non-existent in this campaign on the Republican side, making it hard for us to critically engage Romney's proposals.

For example, in 2008, McCain and Palin at least provided enough detail on their tax proposals that the Tax Policy Center could study those proposals, and then we were able to produce our own extensive discussion based on the TPC's numbers. This time around the TPC had to make heroic assumptions to say anything about Romney's vague proposals, and in his most recent statements, Romney has rejected one of the key assumptions, yielding a mathematically impossible tax plan. Jonathan Chait nails it:

The basic problem for Republicans is that their highest policy priority is to cut the effective tax rate paid by the richest 1 percent of Americans, but the vast majority of the voters don’t share that goal. Handling that problem is the single biggest challenge the Republican party faces. Normally, when a party has an extremely unpopular position, it just jettisons it. But Republicans care so much about this goal that they won’t give it up.... [T]he only way they can get elected is to obscure the real trade-offs and make up a bunch of fake numbers.
Several of us behind Economists for Obama in 2008 had advised political candidates in various capacities before, and we know from experience that campaigns often stretch to present their economic proposals in the most favorable light. But this is a far cry from what Romney has done--which is to refuse to present coherent proposals.

How can people with a genuine interest in understanding and critiquing Romney's ideas respond to this situation? I haven't figured that out--other than just pointing out that 2+2≠5. In any case, although we won't be in full force like in 2008, we may jump in here and there with our reflections between now and November 6.

Spectacular jump in probability of Obama victory

Intrade now shows a 67% probability of Obama re-election, up from 58% just 5 days ago.  If present trends continue, his odds will reach 160% on Election Day.