Is America in trouble no matter who wins the presidency?

Last Friday, I spoke to a local chapter of the Optimist Club. This Friday, I’m going to make sure no one who reads my blog can possibly have any shred of optimism remaining.

Just kidding. Sort of.

In an election season in which the presidential campaigns take turns making mistakes, making one wonder if either candidate really wants to win this thing, Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics lays out a case that neither side should want to win.

It’s the third in a three-part series; the first two installments were an argument for why Barack Obama will be re-elected, and an argument for why Mitt Romney will unseat him. The third piece boils down to: Be careful what you wish for.

Trende cites four factors that, at this point in time, suggest the winner of this election will see his party (or, in Romney’s case, himself) get rocked in the 2014 midterms and 2016 presidential election.

1. The economy. After reviewing the way we have not sprung back from the most recent recession the way we have from previous downturns, Trende notes:

Now consider that the average post-war business cycle lasts about six years from trough to trough. We hit our last trough in mid-2009, which means we should be due for another recession in the next few years.

We could easily begin to contract before we have fully recovered from the last recession. There are already signs that slowdowns in Europe and China are spilling over to our shores. This is probably too late to affect Obama’s re-election chances, but if it turns into a full-blown recession, it would greatly impact 2014 (when 11 Democrats are facing re-election in states that went for George W. Bush).

2. Debt. Here, Trende writes:

The current CBO projection assumes that we will add $3 trillion in debt over the next decade. But the reality is actually much, much worse than that. This assumes that we go off the famous “fiscal cliff” in December and allow all of the Bush tax cuts to expire, allow the full force of the alternative minimum tax to kick in, allow all of the spending cuts agreed to earlier this Congress to kick in, and greatly slash money paid to Medicare providers. Needless to say, if people see their taxes raised, their doctors stop accepting them for care, and we go into a recession, none of this will be popular.

If we assume Congress won’t allow this to occur, then we are looking at the CBO’s “alternate scenario.” It involves an additional $11 trillion in debt over the next few decades.

Even this latter scenario, he notes, is dependent on CBO’s rosy economic growth projections coming true — even though the economy has consistently underperformed CBO forecasts in recent years.

3. Health care. Trende notes that Obamacare is set to get cranked up in earnest in 2014. He imagines two scenarios:

If Obamacare doesn’t work — if seniors really suffer as a result of the benefit cuts to Medicare; if more people get thrown off their employer-sponsored insurance than expected; if insurers get put out of business because people opt to pay the tax rather than get insurance — it will not be a pretty political situation for Democrats.

Even if it works well, there will be problems. Unlike Medicare and Social Security, Obamacare creates obvious winners and losers. We then get to issues of salience: If people who are tossed onto the exchanges are angrier than people who are no longer denied care for pre-existing conditions are happy, there is a political problem for Democrats. If seniors strongly perceive the cuts to Medicare Advantage, but quickly forget about the “donut hole” being closed, there is a political problem for Democrats. There are dozens of such examples. Maybe they cancel each other out, but I wouldn’t bet the proverbial farm on it.

As for Republicans, Trende only maps out a scenario in which a President Romney and Congress repeal the law but don’t replace it with other reforms. Personally, I don’t think that’s the most realistic GOP scenario. But either way, he is probably right that Democrats will claim any shortcomings would have been better under Obamacare and will swing that club against Republicans early and often.

4. Iran. This, Trende says, doesn’t require a lot of theorizing:

In the next few years, one of two things will happen. Either Iran will develop a nuclear weapon, or Israel and the United States will forcibly stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

No American president wants to be the one who oversees the former. And the disruptions that could ensue from the latter would be massive, especially in combination with any of the other factors listed above. Add in the continued difficulties we face in the region in general (as we saw last week), and the problems there are similarly insurmountable.

***

What does all this mean? Is Trende right that either Democrats or Republicans could “win by losing”?

From a purely electoral-politics perspective, maybe. Of course, that would mean neither man is up to the task of creating better outcomes to these challenges. Which is a pretty depressing thought.

But is it a correct thought? Should we really believe America is doomed for the next four years no matter what happens in November?

Let’s hear your arguments why Obama or Romney would avoid disaster on any or all of these four issues. Think of it as a Poll Position without the poll. Just answer in the thread below.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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798 comments Add your comment

getalife

September 21st, 2012
11:54 am

Economists predict we add 12 million jobs in our President’s second term if the gop does not screw it up.

The gop are in trouble because they hate workers like you Kyle:

“For the fact is that the modern Republican Party just doesn’t have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs. All the party’s affection is reserved for “job creators,” a k a employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families — who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans. ” Krugman.

The gop hate you cons.

Vote them out.

Man up.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
11:55 am

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
11:59 am

I think the basis of the column is sound, Kyle.

The problem is that it has taken us so long to get to this position, that we are closer to disaster than we are being able to fix it. I will say the the ONLY hope to fix it lies in a Romney election, as Obama has shown no inclination to fix the underlying problems we face and has, in act, made them even worse.

And the worst thing is, we’ll likely take down the whole world when we fail.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:01 pm

“Economists predict we add 12 million jobs in our President’s second term ”

Which ones? Huey, Dewey and Louie?

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:03 pm

We are back on the right track and not back in recession like most of the EU. We accomplished this fact with low cooperation from your party and the total costs of four years of obstruction is very high. I feel much better about our future than four years ago and afraid we lost a decade of strong growth and will crawl along like Japan.

I feel going back to gop and reward them for the high costs of obstruction is insane. What good has the gop done for the majority of the American people? There is none.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:09 pm

“What good has the gop done for the majority of the American people?”

Kept this President from running us off a cliff. Kept him from tripling our debt.

Oh, and they did nothing the first two years, as he got everything he wanted without them. Then the country showed him what we thought of his performance in 2010 and took that ability away from him.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:10 pm

Yes, the gop ran on jobs in 10.

They lied and should held accountable.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:11 pm

Should be. My bad.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:19 pm

The surge troops are coming home.

Wars are over in 14 or sooner.

Economy and housing are bouncing back.

Finally passed a health care law and if it fails we get single payer like the rest of the civilized world.

Work on the debt long term and keep pressure on Iran for the next four years.

We are back and now it is time to catch back up with the rest of the world instead of falling back with failed gop party .

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:21 pm

“Economy and housing are bouncing back.”

Maybe in your universe, but in reality, no even close. The only bouncing going on in these two fronts is a “dead cat bounce”.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:24 pm

“The only bouncing going on in these two fronts is a “dead cat bounce”.”

I know steady job growth is not good enough for you but we lost 9 million jobs under w.

We recovered around five million. You dug us a big hole and we are crawling out.

How about some optimism and patriotism for a change?

They BOTH suck

September 21st, 2012
12:30 pm

Kyle

I have mentioned it before.

Economy will be in a funk as long as consumer debt across the board is so high. With consumer spending driving 70% of the economy, it must come down.

We can debate and argue how it can be decreased, but until such time, we will be limping along

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:30 pm

Now, to your question as to how Romney could avoid the near-inevitable disaster (Obama can’t), he’s got to tackle spending first. That’s the elephant in the room. If he can’t immediately show a 5-10% reduction in deficit spending, he’s doomed. To do that, however, he needs a Senate run by Republicans, and that isn’t looking very likely right now (if it ever did despite rosy forecasts to the contrary). If you cannot get the majority to rule the filibuster doesn’t apply on spending issues (and the Dems will never allow that), you won’t get even a reasonable budget through that virtually useless body.

This is why I say that we are likely doomed no matter what. Even if we get someone reasonable and capable in the Oval Office like Mitt Romney, he still has to deal with the chowderheads in the Senate. Now, he did it in Massachusetts, but the stakes weren’t so high and the situation wasn’t so dire then, which is why I am not optimistic about our future if Harry Reid is still in charge.

EJ Moosa

September 21st, 2012
12:34 pm

We won’t be adding twelve million jobs unless we go to war and have a forced draft.

The economy is getting weaker by the day. The Philly Fed indicators point to a recession on the horizon.

And that’s before the financial mayhem scheduled for 2013.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:34 pm

“I know steady job growth is not good enough for you but we lost 9 million jobs under w.”

No, we did not. However, you keep thinking that. And I don’t consider job growth as being “growth” when you have an additional 3-4% of people no longer even working.

“We recovered around five million.”

Not even close.

“How about some optimism and patriotism for a change?”

You may question my optimism all you want, getalife, but you may not EVER question my patriotism.

They BOTH suck

September 21st, 2012
12:34 pm

Tiberius

Hasn’t Romney already stated that with the economy in its current state, he will not be working to make many cuts in spending?

I might be wrong on that, however I think he said something along those lines.

But I agree, we need cut across the board.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:35 pm

Sorry. Make that “no longer even LOOKING”.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:36 pm

romney left Mass. in debt and in bad shape. Worst in job creation. Failed gov. and would be another w disaster.

Both,

I heard on cnn that Americans are paying off their debts so your point is a good one.

If we focus on middle class jobs instead of just welfare for the wealthy that does not need it, we can increase their spending to help our economy.

I believe our President’s plan is a good one.

They BOTH suck

September 21st, 2012
12:37 pm

Tiberius

As long as it is in the rules of this blog, getalife or anyone can question what they want. It might be a ridiculous claim, but they have that right to do so

Whether the one being questioned agrees or even responds is another story.

EJ Moosa

September 21st, 2012
12:38 pm

“I know steady job growth is not good enough for you but we lost 9 million jobs under w.”

Each month the jobs report comes out and each month the rate of job growth is either flat or slowing. it peaked in Dec 2011, Jan 2012, and Feb 2012.

A stronger economy would have show us something different.

It’s not about optimism. It’s about the hard numbers.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

September 21st, 2012
12:38 pm

presidential campaigns take turns making mistakes

LOL, yeah, ummm, right.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:39 pm

“EVER question my patriotism.”

Great, show some then. Prove it.

They BOTH suck

September 21st, 2012
12:40 pm

getalife

I could be wrong, but I see this slow job growth regardless of who gets elected.

At least for a few more years. As consumer debt gets under control and the spending increases, so will the rest of the economy.

Granted there are sectors doing well now, so I am referring more along the lines of the “big picture”.

Again, we can debate and argue how to get there, but until we do, we have what we are going to have.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:41 pm

What hard numbers are you looking at ?

Just Saying..

September 21st, 2012
12:42 pm

Romney can run the US government better than he’s run his campaign.

That is an optimistic thought…

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

September 21st, 2012
12:43 pm

And, on point 1 above, here is a description of how a Fed Reserve Hawk turned into a Dove. The guy now realizes the problem is not enough demand.

Keynes 1
Friedman 0

http://www.salon.com/2012/09/21/a_return_to_economic_sanity/

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:44 pm

ryan is getting booed at AARP.

He wants to end Medicare and deserves it..

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:45 pm

“Hasn’t Romney already stated that with the economy in its current state, he will not be working to make many cuts in spending? ”

Not entirely true, TBS. What he has said is that he’ll be combining and streamlining organizations that duplicate effort or don’t produce a viable “product” and winnow down the size of government through retirements and voluntary separations so that the immediate impact won’t be so severe. Smart move by him, and very business astute.

But I think you are wise to point out the fallacy of the arguments on the left that Romney will slash and burn government spending and gut entitlements to start reducing our deficits. He’s a very smart businessman who knows that “Slow and steady wins the race”.

Gravy Train

September 21st, 2012
12:45 pm

Kyle, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, then we would all have a Merry Christmas.” if, if , if, but…

When are you going to address the plutocrats? Waiting until after the election so you all can create the illusion of party unity for now? I admire the effort it takes for you to be Willard’s lap dog. It takes real courage to swallow your pride like that.

EJ Moosa

September 21st, 2012
12:45 pm

The BLS NFP Seasonally adjusted numbers.

What are you looking at?

During those three months we added 612k in jobs.

The last three months? 273k.

Not an improvement.

Just Saying..

September 21st, 2012
12:46 pm

“…you may not EVER question my patriotism.”

Because I’m special…

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:47 pm

I look at the Labor Department graph our President uses in his ads.

Gravy Train

September 21st, 2012
12:49 pm

Also, your doomsday predictions only enhance the impact evangelicals have on your party. They will gladly hasten the end, because they truly believe that when it happens they are just going to float off to heaven.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:49 pm

“romney left Mass. in debt and in bad shape.”

You lie. Massachusetts had a balanced budget and debt was dropping rapidly when Mitt left office. That was a reversal of the trend left him by the previous governor.

“Worst in job creation.”

Another lie. Unemployment dropped from just over 6% to just over 4% (which even liberal economists consider full employment). When you use only “percentages of growth, without understanding the position they were in to being with, you are lying. Or just grossly uninformed.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

September 21st, 2012
12:49 pm

The guy Kyle quotes can’t even afford a proof reader?

…allow all of the spending cuts agreed to earlier this Congress to kick in,..

They BOTH suck

September 21st, 2012
12:50 pm

getalife

Is that question about hard numbers directed at me?

If so, my contention is not based on a particular set of numbers from Obama or Romney.

It is based on consumer debt and the fact the economy is 70% of consumer spending.

Regardless of who wins, we should all be hoping for a faster pace of job growth, I just don’t see it. Hopefully I am dead wrong

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:50 pm

“Great, show some then. Prove it.”

Voluntarily served in the U.S. military and served my community as an elected official.

How about you, getalife?

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:51 pm

I don’t think attacking our President with lies like sympathizing with terrorists is patriotism.

I don’t think the gop agenda to get our President after a collapse is patriotism.

I don’t think blocking a Veterans job plan is patriotism.

I could go on all day on patriotism with this President in office..

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:52 pm

I support my President and country when our country was in trouble.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:54 pm

No Both,

I agree with slow job growth.

It was directed at EJ Moosa .

mike

September 21st, 2012
12:55 pm

The days of normal business cycles went out with outsourcing.

This is not a downturn, this is the new normal.

Gravy Train

September 21st, 2012
12:56 pm

Guys and gals, I have discovered that Tiberius is really a Mormon plant. That’s why he gets so offended anytime somebody wants to have an open an honest discussion about their cult. So, please take what he says with a grain of salt, he’s going to promote Willard no matter how many other people get alienated along the way.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
12:56 pm

mike,

Agreed. They used the housing bubble to replace all the outsourced jobs.

JF McNamara

September 21st, 2012
12:57 pm

It may be true, but only because we’re the problem. We have real issues that need to be solved, but the voters will vote out anyone who makes a tough decision. No matter who wins, the other party will be bitter and obstructionist, and they will prevent any meaningful change. Republicans blocked many attempts by the Democrats to do anything, and either the trend will continue or the favor will almost certainly be repaid.

Americans are the kids with the maxed out credit card, no real assets, and no way of paying for next month’s rent. Dad is yelling to be more responsible (stop spending) and get a job (raise taxes), but we’re just getting more credit cards instead. It’s probably going to end in disaster unless someone listens to Dad.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:57 pm

There is a difference between “My country, right or wrong” and “My President, right or wrong”, getalife.

You’d know that if you ever took an oath of service to this nation, which I suspect you never have.

Those of us who served took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the CONSTITUTION of the United States of America”, not the President, because we understood that the principles that founded this nation are far more important and lasting than the temporary residents at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 21st, 2012
12:59 pm

“I have discovered that Tiberius is really a Mormon plant.”

Actually, I’m an Agnostic, Gravy Train, so that’s yet ANOTHER thing you’re wrong about.

Bigot.

getalife

September 21st, 2012
1:00 pm

“It is just a piece of paper” w.

JDW

September 21st, 2012
1:01 pm

@Kyle…the blog ate my post again

Gravy Train

September 21st, 2012
1:02 pm

Notice how his blog handle implies impartiality, yet he is always bashing the president and singing the praises of Willard? That is a standard Mormon deception.

Bruno

September 21st, 2012
1:03 pm

I could be wrong, but I see this slow job growth regardless of who gets elected.

At least for a few more years. As consumer debt gets under control and the spending increases, so will the rest of the economy.

TBS–Here’s an article which supports your argument:

http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2011/07/25/household-debt-reduction-spending/

From the article:

“Household debt as a percentage of disposable income has steadily fallen since the latest recession. However, it still has a ways to go before recovering to 2000 levels – what Chris Christopher, a senior principal economist at forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, believes to be the benchmark for when consumers will finally feel comfortable enough to spend more and take on more debt again. In 2000, the debt to income ratio was approximately 100%. It peaked at 140% in 2007 and is at 120% today.”