The first presidential debate turned out to be a “teaching moment“, as our hubris-struck President so often likes to aver to when he embarks on his frequent lectures to others from his lofty perch of accumulated wisdom. The problem is that it was he that got schooled that night, as the debate’s primary theme of America’s financial condition and the economy exposed one of his greatest weaknesses.
Mitt Romney looked very confident and comfortable, as the subject matter was right in his wheelhouse. His answers were on point, accessible to the audience, and sensible. As the debate progressed, Romney’s command of finance, business management and the impact of government on the economy proved overwhelmingly superior to Obama’s, even after the latter’s four years at the helm of our economy. No surprise there, as Barack the Harvard University student spent way too much time ranging the halls of their Law School and apparently not a single minute inside Harvard’s vaunted Wharton School of Business.
Particularly humorous was the moment when Obama the Great Pretender took that condescending tone with Romney over why the challenger’s economic proposal’s wouldn’t work, saying “You know…It’s math.” Romney’s a decent, respectful man by all accounts, but even he had to be stifling a laugh at being told how things really are by someone too ignorant to know how much they don’t know.
Romney repeatedly swatted away the phony tax increase talking points that the President served up like darts. His comeback illustration using his sons’ repetition of something to attempt to make it sound plausible was a funny yet very poignant point, aimed not only at the President but at his cohorts in the lame stream media.
The longer the debate lasted, the more it exposed the President’s lack of economic understanding. One area that really stood out was education. Both candidates spoke of the need for education, yet Obama touted government programs (handouts) and the “need” for even more affordable college education. When Romney pointed out that 50% of college graduates are unable to find a job in this economy, the President acted as if he hadn’t heard and returned to the same mantra.
Ohio University Economics professor and director of the Center for College Affordability & Productivity Dr. Richard Vedder addressed this issue in a speech at Hillsdale College in May of 2012. In outlining several problems with the current federal education assistance programs and their economic consequences, Dr. Vedder said the following:
Perhaps most importantly, federal student grant and loan programs have contributed to the tuition price explosion. When third parties pay a large part of the bill, at least temporarily, the customer’s demand for service rises and he is not as sensitive to price as he would be if he were paying himself. Colleges and universities take advantage of that and raise their prices to capture the funds that ostensibly are designed to help students. This is what happened previously in health care, and is currently happening in higher education.
Dr. Vedder’s point is that the federal government’s monopoly on student education assistance and the subsequent artificial suppression of education loan interest rates has produced the unintended (but predictable) consequence of high inflation in college tuition, leading to a much greater debt load for each graduate to work off or default on in the years after college. The government’s insistence on making below-market rate, taxpayer-guaranteed loans to an ever-broadening group of applicants without evaluating how each student might eventually be able to repay the loan or their potential benefit to the economy, has produced a boom of loan defaulters while at the same time causing an explosion in tuition prices.
If Romney’s free market was the primary arbiter of who qualified for a college loan and on what merits, there would be two results: lower costs due to competition among schools for the available funds, and fewer Ethnic Studies majors bagging your groceries or washing your car. Both would be positive changes.
Another crystallizing moment was when Romney answered the President’s phony assertion about tax breaks for companies who export jobs overseas. Without rancor, Romney responded by saying “Mr. President, I have been in private business for over twenty-five years, and I have no idea what you are talking about.” The President’s expression, as he was caught using yet another fabrication to cover his lack of knowledge, was priceless.
These are but a couple examples of countless times during the debate where Romney’s competence and Obama’s dearth were brought into sharp focus. The President’s increasing discomfort clearly indicated that he knew he was outclassed. Style may play well in popularity contests but substance is what matters in problem-solving. The emptiness of Mr. Obama’s resume is going to continue to be the issue of this election campaign. All Romney has to do is show up and provide facts and genuine expertise.
Like the old Billy Preston song says, “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing. You gotta have something, if you wanna be with me.”
You know, Mr. President … it’s math.
Image courtesy of Love Krittaya; public domain