Ross argues (my title is a link) that Mitt is positioning himself to follow Franklin D. Roosevelt’s example of “bold, persistent experimentation” if he is elected. In my post “The Magic of Etch-a-Sketch: A Supply-Side Liberal Fantasy,” I effectively argue that—if one is willing to ignore other things Mitt has said—Mitt’s acceptance speech by and large leaves enough wiggle room for him to follow the policies I would recommend. My best guess of what Mitt will actually do can be found in my post Kevin Hassett, Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw and John Taylor Need to Answer This Post of Brad DeLong’s Point by Point.
I explain why I intend to be coy about my own leanings as a voter in “What is a Partisan Nonpartisan Blog?” But I don’t mind telling you that I am genuinely undecided at this point. As you will deduce if you read “The Magic of Etch-a-Sketch: A Supply-Side Liberal Fantasy,” in the vector space of important issues, I don’t think one real-world candidate for president dominates the other. At some point in the future I will write a post expanding on the ethical case for gay rights to fill in one missing piece of the puzzle. I have already written on the ethical case for open immigration in my posts “You Didn’t Build That: America Edition” and “Adam Ozimek: What ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Tells Us About Immigration.” I take both of those issues very seriously, and they clearly favor Obama.
The most important issue favoring Mitt is the issue of restraining nuclear proliferation. Mitt’s acceptance speech convinced me he really would deal with Iran more firmly than Barack. I talk about the importance of that in the beginning of my post “Avoiding Fiscal Armageddon.” Restraining nuclear proliferation is also an ethical issue: one of the few issues that can compare in importance to the ethical weight of gay rights and open immigration—and to the ethical weight of war itself. Restraining nuclear proliferation is something we owe our descendants. We can’t afford to let our war-weariness prevent us from doing what needs to be done to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Here, I want you to remember that convincing one’s adversary that one is willing to go to war can sometimes be the best way to avoid both war and outcomes that are worse than war.
On economic policy, my fantasy “The Magic of Etch-a-Sketch: A Supply-Side Liberal Fantasy” aside, things are much murkier, because—as Ross Douthat emphasizes with his FDR analogy—no coherent account of Mitt’s intended economic policies has emerged. If Mitt is elected, I will certainly hope for the best, and will be reassured if he keeps Greg Mankiw close by his side during his presidency (and appears to be listening to Greg carefully), but at this point I trust Barack’s economic policies more. If Barack is reelected, I think he needs to do much more than he has done on the economic front, starting with Federal Lines of Credit, which you can read about in “Getting the Biggest Bang for the Buck in Fiscal Policy” and the other posts I list in “Short-Run Fiscal Policy Posts through August 23, 2012.” (I promise to post many other suggestions for whoever is our president come January.) At the upper end of what is reasonably possible, I think Mitt’s economic policies look better than Barack’s. But on the downside there are great dangers in the rejection by many Republicans of the conceptual framework of aggregate supply and aggregate demand in favor of a view of macroeconomics in which only aggregate supply matters. This view by many Republicans could easily have negative effects on macroeconomic policy in a Romney presidency even if Mitt himself believes that aggregate demand matters.
Let me end by repeating here one of my tweets about my cousin Mitt:
News flash from Clive Crook: Romney NOT a heartless self-serving capitalist monster.
In the event, Mitt might be a bad president, but some of the things that have been said about him are just wrong. If you follow Clive’s link above, and this link to the testimonial of my nephew Peter Kimball’s father-in-law Grant Bennett, you will see. (Peter is my brother Chris Kimball’s son. You can see Chris’s relatively negative opinion of Mitt in my post “Big Brother Speaks: Christian Kimball on Mitt Romney.”)
Note: I list my other political posts in the index post “Posts on Politics and Political Economy through September 1, 2012.”