Why Romney Might Boost Growth More Than Obama

Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally on Sunday in Newport News, Va.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Like the vast majority of Slate staffers I’ll be voting for Barack Obama on Tuesday for the usual liberal reasons. I like my marriage equality, my legal abortion, my environmental regulations, my financial assistance for the poor, etc. This was not a hard choice for me, and I don’t imagine any federal elections being a hard choice for me for the foreseeable future since the partisan alignment on those topics is very firm and individual candidate attributes are much less important than party affiliation for these purposes.

But as I also said, strictly with my Moneybox hat on, I think it’s a very tough call, but Romney would probably be better for short-term growth.

Personally, ever since narrowing my beat somewhat I’ve felt a little liberated to think more clearly about these topics, but I feel like a lot of pundits play it the wrong way. Mostly, pundits seem to just vote for the candidate they agree with about abortion but then produce lawyerly columns making “the case” for the candidate they prefer. But the fact is that in terms of “the case” the decision is dominated by uncertainty. A new debt-ceiling crisis would be really bad. I don’t think a Romney administration would feature one, but I could easily be wrong about that. All this speculation as to what will or won’t happen to gridlock post-election is very difficult to say. I’d really love to see smart immigration reform happen over the next four years. Obama’s theory that the way to get reform would be to re-elect him and show the GOP that their anti-immigrant tilt costs votes makes some sense. Then again, we seemed closer to immigration with Bush in the White House than with Obama. But Bush was always a pro-immigration politician, whereas Romney has been a relatively (by Mitt Romney standards) immigrant-hostile politician. So who knows?

Yet insofar as I have to guess, I think short-term growth will be faster under Romney than Obama for three reasons. First, in the post-1980 era you get bigger budget deficits with Republicans in the White House than with Democrats, and that’s a good thing in the short-term. Second, the Federal Reserve seems to be biased and delivers looser monetary policy with Republicans in the White House. Third, Republicans are much more likely to promote short-term economic growth at the expense of environmental concerns.

That’s not a “reason to vote for Republicans”—if anything, I think it’s the reverse—but it’s certainly a reason to think Romney would be better for short-term growth. As I’ve said before, it’s pretty easy to draw up climate change mitigation policies that also boost short-term growth, but there’s no sign that Obama and the House GOP are poised to agree on a grand bargain that delivers a massive green tax shift. That’s too bad, and the fact that it’s not even on the table as a hazy, in-your-dreams possibility is a huge failure of imagination on the part of the American elite, but it’s the reality.

But, again, trying to forecast the legislative dynamics of the next four years is really hard. It makes a lot more sense as a voter and a pundit to try to form some consistent partisan preferences and then just vote for the party you like better. What America needs under either president is expansionary fiscal and monetary policy, immigration reform, and a green tax shift, and in theory you could get some or several of those things with either party in the White House.