Five more points on Mitt Romney’s plan to nowhere

Paul Krugman takes Mitt Romney’s five point plan and addresses it point-by-point, but I think there’s a lot more to be said than can fit comfortably into a paragraph each. The White House did the same thing, which I haven’t read.

Here are the points, Krugman’s take, and my take below that.

First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.

Krugman’s take: “This describes what Romney wants to see happen, not what he’d do to make it happen. But to the extent it means anything, it means scrapping environmental protection so that we can drill, baby, drill. Why doesn’t he say that? Because voters care about the environment.”

My take: I’m not sure where these Romney points originated so I can’t blame the Romney campaign for making such a simple geography error, but it’s pretty embarrassing regardless. “North America” is a continent that includes 23 sovereign nations including Canada, the United States of America, Cuba, and Mexico. Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama decides energy policy for North America.

That said, it’s doubtful that any administration can keep such a fantastical promise. The United States doesn’t have enough oil to satisfy all of our energy needs. If we did, we wouldn’t be so reliant on foreign oil today. The hot spot for conservative oil lust is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. No one is sure how much oil and gas there is in ANWR, but the United States Geologic Survey estimated in 1998 that there are between 5.7 and 16 billion barrels of recoverable crude and natural gas liquid.

For context, the United States consumes about 19.15 million barrels per day as of 2010. If every drop in ANWR were recoverable at the top end of estimates, and every drop were used in the United States, it would take less than two and half years to consume those deposits, and then we’d be right back to square one. But it’s not that simple. Estimates say that it could take up to a decade to setup operations in the refuge and reach 100% output, and private oil companies would be doing the work. So it’s not like every drop of oil would flow to the United States for free. It would be sold to anyone in the world who wanted to buy it, for as much money as the oil companies could charge for it.

That’d probably be something like dumping one gallon of gasoline into an olympic-sized pool full of gas and expecting a drop in prices. Would there be one? Probably no more than a few cents, and probably no more than for a few years.

As for coal, the last I heard, the entire planet only has a 600-year supply, and then it’s gone for good. Coal can’t run cars so its use is limited, even if it’s America’s dominant power source today. Plus, as Paul Krugman noted, it’s destroying the planet while we’re using it.

The real problem with nuclear power is that nobody wants a nuclear power plant in their back yard. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission could approve 5,000 new permits tomorrow, and not a single plant would be built within the next year. First, they cost over a billion dollars to build and nobody has the money without big loans from big banks, and banks aren’t lending. Second, again, nobody wants them in their own town. It’s a municipal and state issue, and there’s absolutely nothing the federal government can do about it if people decide that they don’t want nuclear power within 10 miles of their homes and schools.

Finally, Republicans like Mitt Romney have been fighting renewable energy (to protect the oil industry) for generations. Most Republicans are so opposed to spending money on renewable energy that Mitt Romney publicly opposed federal money for wind power in the battleground state of Iowa, harming his own chances of becoming President in pursuit of his anti-clean energy agenda.

The very first point of Mitt Romney’s plan is a fantasy and a lie. America doesn’t have enough oil to make itself independent of foreign supplies, coal can’t run everything, nuclear power has been held up for decades at the state and local level, and Romney actively opposes green technology as part of his campaign platform.

Here’s point 2:

Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.

Krugman’s take: “Again, what does this mean? If it means anything, it means school vouchers — which are unpopular.

My take: There are three ways to address this point. The first is that shifting public money to private schools is socialism.

On a more intelligent level, the second is that shifting public money to private schools is no guarantee of a better education because there is nothing about private schools that makes them inherently better educators. Traditional private schools often provide a better education to children and young adults because they are expensive. The takeaway from that is that private school vouchers would increase government spending while doing little to improve the education that most children will still get through the public system. The better solution, if you’re going to spend more money on education — which Republicans including Mitt Romney strongly oppose — is to spend more money on public education so that private schools aren’t necessary or useful.

The third is that Romney is operating under the incorrect belief that we have a structural employment problem, where unemployment can be lessened by giving the unemployed — presumed to be uneducated idiots by people who fall for this trap — new career training. The real problem, you see, is that lots of companies are desperate to hire. It’s just that nobody has the skills that these companies need.

That is false on its face when you remember that most of the unemployed today lost their jobs because of downsizing due to the recession. It’s not like America’s companies decided 10-14 million of their current employees suddenly lacked the skills that company needed, and fired them. Which is what would have had to have happened in order for a structural employment issue to be real.

Well, it’s not real. While this country could benefit enormously from a better public education system, it’s no magic bullet for the economy.

Point 3:

Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements. And when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.

Krugman’s take: “Trade agreements per se aren’t big job creators — they increase exports, but they also increase imports. And while a confrontation with China is the implicit subtext of the second part, Romney is apparently unwilling to get explicit.

My take: Beyond being unwilling to get explicit, Mitt Romney just sided with China, and against Obama and the United States. Obama announced a new trade complaint will be filed against China over car imports, a decision made within the administration and not by campaign operatives, and Romney immediately criticized it. Meanwhile: “The former Massachusetts governor has promised that, if elected, he will formally designate China a currency manipulator, a step that could trigger retaliatory sanctions–and, many experts warn, precipitate a trade war.

Point 4:

Fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish as have those in Greece, we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.

Krugman’s take: “Romney’s claim that he will reduce the deficit rests on the assertion that he will offset huge tax cuts by closing loopholes — but he refuses to name a single example, because tax breaks are popular. Also, Medicaid — his biggest single spending target — turns out to have substantial public support, too.

My take: Because Romney and Ryan refuse to say which loopholes they would close (probably because they could close all of them and still not come close to offsetting their tax cuts for the rich), a non-partisan analysis by The Tax Policy Center found that government tax revenue would drop by $900 billion per year by 2015, and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects Romney’s plan will increase the budget deficit by $2.6 trillion by 2021.

Politifact rated an ad from the Obama campaign on the issue and their ruling found that Romney’s plan would increase the deficit by $2.6 trillion, while Obama’s would lower it by $2 trillion over ten years (still leaving us with massive deficits either way).

Point 5:

And fifth, we will champion SMALL businesses, America’s engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most. And it means that we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Krugman’s take: “Tax cuts for small businesses actually means tax cuts for rich people; there’s a small subset of rich people who own small businesses. But Romney has to cloak the real policy in mom-and-pop rhetoric.”

My take: Romney will champion small businesses? The Obama administration and Democratic Congress had to overcome a Republican filibuster in 2010 in the Senate to pass a jobs bill aimed solely at cutting taxes and making life easier for small businesses. It took a defection from Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown to break the GOP filibuster.

Democrats tried to pass another jobs bill targeting small businesses, and Republicans — with stronger numbers after 2010 — successfully filibustered it. An independent firm estimated the bill could have created up to 1,000,000 new jobs.

Since losing control of Congress and the White House, there has been no bigger enemy of small business in America than the Republican Party, who have fought tooth and nail against every piece of legislation that could help them grow and prosper since 2010, to purposefully derail the economy so that they could benefit from it.

Those are facts. It’s time for voters to grow up and deal with them.

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