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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

"There is no shame in being ignorant about  political issues and candidates. Such ignorance is often unavoidable, given the many issues out there and the fact that we all have shopping on eBay to do. But at least in important situations, like for voting for the leader of the free world, it is wrong for us to inflict our ignorance on our fellow citizens by voting on issues and candidates we know nothing about."


Re-election would ensure he is accountable for the mess he inherits from himself.

We spent last night at the Wriston Lecture, the Manhattan Institute's annual gala. As you can imagine, at the reception all anyone wanted to talk about was the election, which turned out to be the next day. As the Manhattan Institute is a conservative think tank, everyone we talked to was hoping Mitt Romney would win. But the range of moods ran the spectrum, from a guy confidently predicting a Romney landslide to any number who were anxiously expecting Barack Obama to win.

In an effort to be different, we tried making the case for optimism in the event of an Obama victory. We cited Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the German philosopher who argued in "The Theodicy" that "this universe must be in reality better than every other possible universe." If that's true, and if this universe gives us a second Obama term, how bad could it be?

Obama has spent the past four years explaining away his failings by essentially arguing he is the best of all possible presidents--that he has done as well as any man could given the "mess" he "inherited" from his predecessor. It is certainly true that he took office under adverse circumstances. But so will whoever takes office Jan. 20. In fact, things are about to get a lot worse because of decisions taken but deferred during the Obama years.

The mess today's winner will inherit includes not only high unemployment and slow growth but impending policy changes that threaten to make those problems worse. On Jan. 1, unless Congress acts, the Bush tax cuts expire--or, to put it another way, "massive, job-killing tax increases" are about to take effect (that quote is from President Obama). If Obama gets his way--which he likely would if re-elected--Congress will forestall the hike only for taxpayers making under $200,000 or $250,000 a year. That would be good for those fortunate enough to have jobs, but it would not change the tax increase's job-killing nature, as it would hit investors and small businesses hard.

Then there's ObamaCare. Although enacted nearly three years ago, it was written so that most of its provisions would not take effect until the next presidential term. "The bottled-up rules to set up President Barack Obama's health care reform law are going to start flowing quickly right after Election Day," Politico reports. "As soon as Wednesday, the gears and levers of government bureaucracy are likely to start moving at full speed again."

Already, The Wall Street Journal reports, ObamaCare is killing jobs: "Some low-wage employers are moving toward hiring part-time workers instead of full-time ones to mitigate the health-care overhaul's requirement that large companies provide health insurance for full-time workers or pay a fee." And ObamaCare includes an additional massive, job-killing tax increase (on investment income), also scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

That's the mess a President Romney would inherit from his predecessor. He'd have to spend much of his political capital persuading Congress to undo this legislation, and quite possibly with a Democratic Senate majority.

If Obama is re-elected, he will inherit this mess from himself. There will be no blaming George W. Bush for a two-term Obama presidency. History will hold Obama accountable for the results, and the electorate will hold his party accountable in 2014 and 2016. As H.L. Mencken observed: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."

Leibniz's theodicy, by the way, was fallacious. He reasoned from a priori premises about the nature of God that it was logically necessary for the actual world to be the best of all possible ones. But that is another way of saying that the alternatives--all "possible worlds" that are either better or worse than the actual one--are logically impossible. If it's "the best of all possible worlds," it's the only possible world....


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