This presidential campaign season has become one focused largely around sound bites, not plans and goals.
This entire week has been driven by sound bites such as 47 percent of the population being “victims” who do not “take responsibility and care for their lives”(Romney), a week focused on a 14 year old comment on the need for “redistribution of wealth” (Obama), a week where “paying taxes that exceed the minimum of what “are legally due” make one “not qualified to be president”(Romney), and a week in which “Washington cannot be changed from the inside”(Obama).
Now some of these comments are blunders not made purposefully and others are just statements taken out of context. Either way they are what is currently being focused on by the media surrounding the 2012 presidential election. Underlying these sound bites are very real issues, which are being lost in the spectacle of it all. The real issues underlying these sound bites are tax policy and fixing the government.
Both candidates talk about wanting to reform the tax code to make it fairer and achieve deficit reduction. Romney supports the idea that income taxes for everyone should be lower without recognition that if “47 percent” of America is not paying these income taxes then the proposed approach only benefits the wealthier half of America. In contrast Obama wants to raise taxes on some portion of that upper half which alone will not reduce the deficit sufficiently in the long run.
Both candidates pay plenty of lipservice to the need for bipartisanship today. But certainly dismissing 47 percent of the population as not worthy of concern, or believing that the only way to fix the government is from popular outside pressure, rather than working from within Congress, is not very constructive.
As a citizen voting in her first presidential election, I am disappointed with the flavor of the current discourse and the lack of concrete ideas. Politics always has had mudslinging and distracting sound bites, but in this election we are faced with two competing visions for the American government to bring the country out of its economic recession. We know the choices boil down to allocation of taxes and spending, but how either side wants to tackle these and actually achieve the bipartisan goal of deficit reduction is a mystery and certainly not one solved by “gotcha” sound bites.
Congratulations Mr. Romney: Your sound bites have made tax policy the center of this week’s campaign conversation, but I am not sure being at the center of that controversy was how you wanted to bring it back to front and center.
Maybe Homer Simpson’s political approach is closer to our current sound bite political conversation than we would like to think.