Obama on the Economy

I listened to the president’s speech on the economy and thought it was … long. What’s odd is that he started the very long speech with the observation that the contrast between his vision and Mitt Romney’s is stark.

And he’s right.

If you wanted a concise version of the speech it’s this. Obama thinks there are a lot of worthwhile things the public sector does—give old people health insurance and pensions, build transportation infrastructure, finance K-12 schools, subsidize college tuition—and that in order to pay for those things we should raise taxes on high-income people. Romney thinks that higher taxes on high-income people people would be really bad for economic growth and that Obama is overestimating the value of these public sector undertakings so we should cut them instead.

Unfortunately, far and away the least plausible portions of the speech were the ones where Obama tried to explain how re-electing him would lead to his vision becoming law. He’s quite persuasive on the point that an Obama re-election would block Romney from doing various perhaps-objectionable things. But the idea that a second term for Obama will change the fact that 41 Republican Senators can and will filibuster any Obama ideas that they don’t like (i.e., basically all of them) doesn’t add up. Fundamentally, the very depth of the divide between the parties that Obama highlighted at one point in the speech makes it extremely unlikely that the other stuff he was talking about will happen. Sharp polarization, party discipline, and a political process with many veto points just don’t go very well together.