I live in Alabama, which means my vote for whom shall head the executive branch of the government of these United States of America is effectively meaningless. Mitt Romney will win in Alabama, and by a long margin. Even John McCain won in Alabama in 2008, and by a long margin. Alabama will not cast its electoral college for Barack Obama, no matter how many cutesy little bumper stickers saying “a blue dot in a red state” people in my hipster neighborhood affix to their Volvos and Subaru’s. And the blue-dot-surrounded-by-red logo is remarkably less visible this time around. That’s the problem with appealing to society’s faddish impulses when running for political office. Political fads aren’t any more durable than the half-life of the latest, greatest, next generation iPhone iteration. Live by the fad, die by it. Openly supporting Obama these days seems passé, like carrying around a Motorola Razr used to feel cool, until it wasn’t. My guess is the final tally of Alabama’s popular vote will be something in the neighborhood of 65-35% in favor of Romney.
Because my vote doesn’t matter (if I even bother to exercise the franchise), I ought to be able to view things somewhat objectively. Here’s what I see.
So far as the long-term health and viability of the republic is concerned, Obama’s presidency has been an unmitigated disaster. In every challenge the republic has faced since he’s been in office, he’s made things worse, not better. He crows about his accomplishments, from saving GM and Chrysler, to reengineering the health care industry, to killing Osama bin Laden and other enemies of the republic via targeted assassination, to saving the economic system through doling out government money to favored constituencies. But Obama’s short-term fixes in each of the cases have weakened the structural integrity of the republic’s foundation.
The cost of saving GM and Chrysler was a bankruptcy that usurped and rewrote existing bankruptcy and contract law for the sole purpose of protecting and paying back one of Obama’s biggest supporters, the United Auto Workers. There is no reason now to believe that GM and Chrysler have finally turned the corner on understanding how to profitably manufacture automobiles, and well, why would they? They know the answer to their market failure is political leverage. But turning two private companies into government sucklings does not, of itself, weaken the structural integrity of the republic’s foundations.
The sua sponte rewriting of contract and bankruptcy law to serve the political whims of the chief executive, however, does. The particular contract and bankruptcy law affected by Obama’s actions, though not of primary importance, is derived from a process created by the covenant between a government and the people it purports to serve, the essence of which is that the covenant is binding on both parties and can’t be adjusted without common agreement. Obama turned the covenant on its head, dictating new terms on the fly. The Obama Administration would undoubtedly claim that the American automobile manufacturing industry was about to fail, and drastic measures were thereby justified.
But automobile manufacturing in the US was hardly about to fail. Automobile manufacturing plants throughout the South were humming right along; to be sure, at reduced output due to recessionary sales declines, but none were about to fail. What was about to fail was an outdated, inefficient, union-based system of organizing the manufacture and sale of automobiles. Long-term economic strength is enhanced, not impaired, when inefficient entities are eliminated via market competition.
Instead of calming the hysteria of the moment and allowing the orderly liquidation of a couple of industrial dinosaurs, Obama took advantage of the chaos to reward his political allies, in the process rendering a portion of Constitutionally-derived contract and bankruptcy law a nullity. Obama made a bad situation worse.
The mechanism through which health care is delivered and paid is unremittingly broken. There is no health care market. There is simply legions of people gaming the system to try to make a buck off the federal government medical reimbursement regime, and legions in concert with them to demand that every little physical discomfort imagined or suffered be the problem of everyone else (i.e., the government) but them. Obamacare did nothing to change any of this. It simply pulled a few more people into the system, on the pain of annual “penalties” for failing to opt in, while not doing anything to mitigate the runaway obligations of its signature program, Medicare. Medicare will ultimately bankrupt the US if nothing is done to rationalize it. There is no limit to how much money can be spent to keep granny alive a little longer. But paying for hip replacements for people in the last months and years of their life who have no real chance to ever productively move about is not a policy that strengthens the long-term viability of the republic. In healthcare, particularly so far as it concerns Medicare, the republic is investing gargantuan sums of money with no expectation of return, and Obama has done nothing in four years, including his politically divisive initiative on health care insurance. In so far as Obamacare is yet another layer of bureaucratic confusion to overcome in rationalizing health care, it has done nothing except complicate the problem. Obama, again, took a bad situation and made things worse.
But, all hail Obama, for having engineered the assassination of Osama bin Laden, no? Perhaps killing bin Laden finally avenged the attacks on 9-11. But bin Laden was only one of many enemies of America targeted for assassination by the Obama Administration. He was perhaps a legitimate target. He wasn’t an American citizen, and was the putative head of a loose coalition of malcontents and n’er do well Islamic fundamentalists who at least supported and crowed over the fantastically successful attacks on September 11, 2001. But the Administration apparently drew on the experience to conclude that anyone, citizen or foreign, who harbored resentment or anger at the US deserved much the same in treatment. A priori, if you hate America and hail from Arabia, a Predator drone lurks in your future, even if you happen to be an American citizen. It is now a routine matter (terrorist Tuesdays) for President Obama to personally order the assassination of foreign nationals, or even US citizens, who are believed to harbor terrorist sympathies.
Let that set in for a moment. Since Obama was elected, it is now standard operating policy that the President of the United States orders the assassination of its own citizens. This is, again, taking a bad situation and making things worse. If Obama were Republican, there is no way the opposition party would be letting this go on without howls of derision echoing throughout the land. But Obama does it, and his supporters believe it affords him street cred.
Lastly, Obama’s much supported and commensurately vilified stimulus program. In a way, the stimulus was nothing compared to the stimulus afforded by the now routine federal government deficits well in excess of a trillion dollars for each of Obama’s four years. But it was a boondoggle, through and through. The stimulus program was perceived by the Administration as substantively no different than the rescue of GM and Chrysler—a crisis not let to waste—as the Administration directed the stimulus to its pet industries and political lackeys. Obama took a bad situation, and in a craven, Chicago-style political calculus, directed it to his own self-aggrandizement.
But as bad as Obama’s been, would Romney be any better? There’s no way to know without which he accedes to the throne. Romney has a history as an American capitalist, with all the good and bad implications thereby attendant. But, being a former governor, he has administrative leadership experience, something woefully lacking in the new American messiah elected in 2008. Romney could be no worse than Obama. Every time Obama has had a chance to strengthen the foundations of the republic, he has instead weakened them. There is nothing to lose with a Romney presidency. Not that my vote here in Alabama matters, I would cast it for Romney. He’s the cleanest dirty shirt in this presidential campaign.