I missed almost all of the first debate but watched most of this one. My quick sum-up of the action was the Obama was straightforward, prepared, and much more energetic than in the first debate. While I don't think he has been a great president, he has nonetheless acted on a number of matters in ways that move us away from the disastrous policies of the Bush years--fairer immigration actions, more interest in the middle class and jobs, wise action to save the auto industry when Romney would have allowed one of the midwest's major industries to rot on the vine, attempting to move the corporate tax debate away from giveaways for the multinationals and towards more reasonable tax policies, movement on health care reform (though still not towards the single-payer option that we must eventually embrace), movement on financial institution reform through Dodd-Frank (though still not sufficient control of the financialization of the economy).
Romney, quite frankly, came across as an arrogant shell who doesn't have any substance underneath the expensive coif of hair and Armani suit. He constantly blames Obama for the Great Recession that stemmed directly from the failed Bush economic policies favored by the Republican party's right wing, the same policies that Romney and Ryan want to re-install if they take over the White House. He consistently fails to acknowledge that the deficits under Obama were temporary ones caused by the trillions of dollars of unnecessary Bush individual and corporate tax cuts, the Bush preemptive wars, the class warfare of tax policies that favor the 1%, privatization of education and the militaryh, and the financialization of the economy egged on under Bush by the right's misguided views of "free" trade (meaning business can run over the workers and the environment at will and pay less taxes even while causing more societal harm). Romney (as Obama noted in the debate tonight) goes George W. Bush even further--he would ruin Medicare by turning it into "voucher-care" that was insufficient to meet vulnerable seniors' needs, and he would destroy Social Security by privatizing it so that seniors are at the whim of the stock market and Wall Street traders for their very livelihood.
Yet this guy born with a silver spoon in his mouth and with a family of connections to power really thinks that he got where he is on his own! What a laugh. And then he thinks that he can bamboozle the American people by saying "I know how to do that" about creating jobs, getting rid of the deficit, creating growth, solving immigration, making us "energy dependent in 8 or 5 years" and everything else he can promise us. But he doesn't think he has to bother to tell us anything about how he will do that. Often when asked specific questions, he fell back on his "The last four years with Obama have been awful and I feel your pain" absurdity, His claim of empathy with the ordinary folks asking questions in the audience was absurd because one only has to harken back to that tape of his disdain for the 47%--and his arrogant view that anyone in that group was dependent on government and unwilling to take personal responsibility for themselves--to know that he doesn't really give a damn about ordinary folk like those in the audience tonight. He'd follow that with another claim that he would fix everything because "I know how to do that", yet in every instance there was nary a specific word about exactly what he would do.
One thing is for sure--Romney's view that cutting tax rates across the board by 20% will jump-start the economy is "nonsense", as even conservative GOP economist Bruce Bartlett acknowledges. See Bruce Bartlett, Romney's Tax Plan and Economic Growth, Economix Blog, New York Times (Oct. 16, 2012) (statng that "the idea that tax reform will jump-start an economy suffering from the after-effects of a cyclical downturn is nonsense" and concluding that "even if Mr. Romney’s plan is enacted as proposed the growth effect will be small to nonexistent").
On taxes, Romney now claims that he will not cut the amount of taxes paid by the top 5% but will give everybody else a tax cut. Note that isn't the same that he has said for months on end, when he made clear that everybody would get the same 20% rate reduction (which would give the wealthy a huge dollar cut, and the middle class a piddling cut) and mocked Obama for wanting to hold the upper-crust more accountable for helping reduce the deficit. He claims he'll not increase the deficit, even though he wants to cut taxes and eliminate the estate tax and increase military spending. He won't say what deductions he'll cut or what protections for the poor he'll keep. He claims the numbers add up but won't tell us what the numbers are. I think it's perfectly clear: he won't say how he can do that in a revenue-neutral way because it can't be done. The New York Times editorial yesterday chimed into the growing list of reputable organizations asserting that his numbers simply don't add up, noting "the many deceptions in the campaign’s blue-sky promises of low taxes and instant growth." See Editorial, Mitt Romney Needs a Working Calculator, New York Times (Oct. 15, 2012).
[The Joint Committee on Taxation] asked its staff what would happen if Congress repealed the biggest tax deductions and loopholes and used the new revenue to lower tax rates. The staff started adding it up: end all itemized deductions, tax capital gains and dividends as ordinary income, and tax the interest on state and local bonds, along with several other revenue-raisers.
Mitt Romney says he can lower tax rates by 20 percent and pay for it by ending deductions. The joint committee’s math makes it clear that that is impossible. Id.
Note that Romney doesn't intend to tax dividends and capital gains at the same ordinary income rate that us ordinary folks pay on our compensation income, so he wouldn't even get to a 4% reduction in rates with his version of tax "simplification." He wants to keep allowing people like him to get a tax-advantaged "preferential rate" on carried interest that they get as their compensation in vulture capital "private equity" funds that buy up American businesses and load them with debt and offshore their jobs. He wants to keep taxing capital gains and dividends at the ridiculously low rates achieved by the Bush tax cuts that were a major factor in driving us from surplus to deficit. He even wants to cut capital gains and dividend and interest tax rates to zero for those making less than $200,000. (Of course, that group doesn't have much of that kind of capital income--it is mostly the province of the very rich at the top. One suspects the rate cut for the upper middle class that would apply to is just a prelude, like most of the Bush-era tax cuts, to a Republican push to eliminate taxes entirely on capital income, which Romney and Ryan have supported in the past.) He wants to cut taxes for the huge multinational corporations and encourage them to continue moving our jobs offshore.
There is no way that such a tax policy makes sense for America. It will let the rich get richer, when we are already at a point where the middle class is shrinking because of the way big business has grabbed all the productivity gains for the managers and owners and left ordinary workers hanging out to dry.
Reaganomics--with its push for privatization, tax cuts, militarization, and deregulation--stabbed at the heart of the US economy. The Bush tax cuts drove us from surplus to deficit in one fell swoop and set the stage for the Republican obstructionist games that have gone on during the four years of the Obama administration, in which the radical right GOP has cared more about pushing for extremist policies beneficial to the wealthy and the big corporations they run rather than considering what is good for the country. Romneyomics would be even worse--right-wing market fundamentalism at its most extreme, with the rich making off like bandits and the rest of us left to scramble for crumbs. Surely the American folk aren't going to buy this idea of rehashing the very ideas that got us into the Great Recession mess from the guy who says "I know how to run the country because I got rich as a vulture capitalist".