The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Vagaries of Vagueness

As I've looked back on the blog's entries lately, I notice a lot of political entries (it is a presidential election year, though, so that makes sense), and that, further, a lot of those entries are fairly negative pieces. That's unfortunate, but rather hard to escape in this year, I think, because, in part, one of the campaigns has made a deliberate decision to avoid explaining its candidate's policies, and how they would be implemented should the candidate--Mitt Romney--prevail.

In late March, Romney gave an interview to Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard which Hayes described:
Mitt Romney wants to eliminate government programs and shutter cabinet agencies. Doing so, he says, is “the critical thing” that needs to be done in order to bring government books back into balance and to begin restoring the promise of America. “Actually eliminating programs is the most important way to keep Congress from stuffing the money back into them,” he told me in a 30-minute interview on March 21. It’s a smart answer and a deeply conservative one.

But Romney, ever cautious, is reluctant to get specific about the programs he would like to kill. He did this in his bid for the Senate 18 years ago and remembers the political ramifications.

“One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education,” Romney recalled. “So I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we’ll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now.”
Just last week, the Romney campaign reaffirmed this strategic axiom:
Advisers say the campaign has no plans to pivot from its previous view that diving into details during a general-election race would be suicidal.
The Romney strategy is simple: Hammer away at Obama for proposing cuts to Medicare and promise, in vague, aspirational ways, to protect the program for future retirees — but don’t get pulled into a public discussion of the most unpopular parts of the Ryan plan.
“The nature of running a presidential campaign is that you’re communicating direction to the American people,” a Romney adviser said. “Campaigns that are about specifics, particularly in today’s environment, get tripped up.”
So for all of the campaign's talk of wanting to have a policy debate, Romney and Ryan won't tell us what their proposed policies are and, just as important, how how they want to implement them--what cuts will be made to what programs, who will pay for the tax cuts they want to give the wealthiest Americans, how they intend to reform Medicare--maybe by turning it into, as Ryan has proposed, a voucher program, or where they stand on the widely unpopular GOP budget, or the details on any issue.

But governance is in the details. So for example, the Affordable Care Act seeks $716 billion in savings from Medicare, and tries to obtain them without cutting services, contrary to how the Romney camp has portrayed it. You may think this will lead some providers to not take Medicare patients, or to trim the non-required services they provide to attract patients. It may even work out that way, although the law tries to disincentivize providers from such behavior. But it's a real plan in the real world, and you can, if you have a mind to, get into the specifics.

You can't really do that with the Romney campaign, because they won't give you anything except bromides--we'll use business know how and common sense! We'll cut your taxes (in fact, he'll almost certainly raise them, unless you are quite well off), fix the deficits (although the 2011 Ryan Plan increases the deficit), and restore the economy without stimulus or any other government intervention (never mind that looming "lost decade" brought about by austerity policies in Europe). Just trust us. (Rather hard to do when the campaign is outright lying about Obama and welfare reform).

And here's where the whole thing just becomes not policy but theology. The Romney camp is asking we the people to accept vague premises, and abstract postulates, which do not provide any details as to what they want to do and who pays. And to the extent that they have provided specifics in the past, the effects they have promised do not hold up--the premises are faulty. But, more to the point, Romney doesn't want to tell you what he'll do if he gets elected, because he's sure you won't like it. It would be "suicidal" if he did tell you. Take the hint.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

My response was too long. Let's just say, we really need to look at what we value, and what we hope to accompish. Life is sort of likee the out come.