D. Dowd Muska


The Case for Barack Obama (Really!)

May 10, 2012

Nuttiness, nonsense, nincompoopery. Imprudent, ill-advised, impractical. Dumb, doltish, duncical.

There’s no way a libertarian columnist could credibly advocate that freedom-loving voters in 2012’s battleground states abandon Mitt Romney. Only a fathead would argue that the cause of limited government is best served by letting the first community-organizer-in-chief have another term.

Well, here goes.

If you live in one of the handful of states that will determine the presidential winner (sorry, Californians and New Yorkers; congratulations, Nevadans and Floridians) here are two verities worth keeping in mind.

First, while the incumbent is undeniably a Big Government Villain, he’s not squaring off against a Limited Government Stalwart. Second, if you’re serious about slashing the welfare-warfare state, the men and women who run Congress are as important as the occupant of the White House.

Wondering what kind of budget-cutter President Romney will be? Read the fiscal-policy section of “Believe in America,” the campaign’s “Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth.”

But prepare to be unimpressed.

The candidate calls for a 5 percent cut in “non-security discretionary spending.” So the bulk of the budget -- i.e., nationalized pensions, socialized medicine, and the military-industrial complex -- isn’t up for trimming. Romney seeks to “guarantee the preservation of the Social Security system for the foreseeable future.” Medicare will live on, too, and Medicaid will be block-granted to the states. (Savings, if any, undocumented.)

Washington’s unsustainable empire abroad won’t be shuttered by Romney -- it will be expanded. After all, “it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon” and “Russia is a destabilizing force on the world stage [that] needs to be tempered.” No fevered, chest-thumping fantasy worthy of The Weekly Standard fails to resonate with Romney and his foreign-policy team. Campaign flacks, of course, are silent on how many trillions of dollars their guy’s willing to spend to enhance America’s blood-drenched commitment to policing the planet.

Okay, you’ll stipulate: Romney’s weak. Bob Dole weak. But Barack Obama? Barack Obama?

Take a deep breath, and recall that no president can spend a dollar, go to war, or do much of consequence without congressional approval. And regardless of who wins the presidency this year, the GOP appears likely to retain the House of Representatives and pick up a few seats in the Senate.

The likeliest outcome of a Republican-dominated legislature and Obama-run executive is … more of what exists today. Gridlock, glorious gridlock. An impasse that has both parties constancy throwing oft-hilarious haymakers at each other. Bipartisanship fetishists wail, “Nothing’s being done!” Their lament is a beautiful lyric to the ears of beleaguered -- and informed -- taxpayers.

We’ve been here before. Republicans controlled both chambers during the final six years of Bill Clinton’s reign. Total federal spending during that period rose by 19.4 percent. Account for population and inflation, and real growth was nearly nonexistent. More impressively, the era saw D.C.’s grab of GDP fall from 20.2 percent to 18.2 percent.

Things got brutal between the Clinton administration and congressional leaders in the late ‘90s. (That whole impeachment buzzkill probably played a big role.) The disdain that Obamaites and the GOP’s fire-breathers have for each other today is almost as strong. It needs to be put to better use. Relations can get nastier. As a wise observer of Washington once noted, when the Ds and Rs are single-mindedly committed to attacking each other, they’re incapable of banding together to prey on the citizenry.

Dedicated to shrinking the federal government? Lucky enough to belong to the small cohort of voters who will decide the presidential victor? Don’t kid yourself that backing Mitt Romney will lead to the policy outcomes you seek. As the presidency of George W. Bush proved, it could push the federal government toward greater expenditures, interventionism, and usurpation of state and local control.

A superior strategy would be to eschew donating to/volunteering for Romney, and devote your money and time to congressional candidates who bravely and unapologetically defend capitalism and free markets. True fiscal conservatives remain outgunned by wishy-washies in the GOP, but progress is being made. Richard Mourdock’s victory in Indiana was an important step. In Arizona, replacing John Kyl with Jeff Flake would be another. The best members of the House’s “tea party” Class of 2010 need help, too.

The GOP’s 2012 presidential candidate is lousy. Nothing can be done about that. So ignore him, even at the risk of keeping an awful incumbent around awhile longer.

The Obama Administration, Part Deux. It won’t be as bad as you think. It might even be fun.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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