Much was made Wednesday night about Mitt Romney's "passion" in his debate performance with President Obama. He talked about deficits as a "moral issue," and not just a fiscal issue. But again and again he refused to offer any details about how he would handle all the most pressing problems. He would eliminate financial reform, overturn national health insurance reform, close the Department of Education, and slash taxes on the wealthiest Americans. But he offered no information on how he would prevent another economic meltdown, or insure all Americans, or continue to improve education once the Ryan domestic spending cuts were implemented.
If the deficit is a moral issue, he failed to enumerate any reasons why his own tax rate is half what most working Americans pay--and why wealthier individuals shouldn't step up to the plate the way they did during the roaring 1990s. President Obama pointed out that President Clinton had implemented higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans to drop the deficit, and everyone did better economically. Mr. Romney completely sidestepped the lessons of history in this regard.
Mr. Romney repeatedly cited the number of people on food stamps, but seemed to imply that cutting funding for food stamps would help solve the problem. He said he wants to make sure no one is denied medical insurance for a preexisting condition, but offers no willingness to embrace the cost (ie. the personal insurance mandate) that he himself imposed in Massachusetts residents to make it happen there. He wants to cut everyone's taxes, but says the cuts will be "revenue-neutral" without acknowledging he would have to end the mortgage and other deductions that are a saving grace for middle class families.
Dick Cheney famously said that "deficits don't matter," but apparently many conservatives believe that this is only true when a Republican is in office. The message of the first debate was that, despite the fact that he cannot offer any details on his plans for the future, Mr. Romney should be trusted with the reins of government due to his possession of some abstract competence to lead. The debate made clear that the inevitable result of a Romney presidency would be further explosion of the deficits, further exacerbation of the disparity of wealth in the US, higher spending on weaponry, and less spending on education. Health spending will continue to escalate, but fewer people would be insured. There was no mention of abortion or end of life care.
By every measure of Catholic social justice, "the Romney plan" would come up short. Without a credible intellectual effort to think through how he would address any of America's pressing problems, Mr. Romney appears to feel passionately at present solely about the importance of getting himself elected.