Implicit in Mitt Romney’s closing argument for the election is the idea that only he can stop House Republicans from destroying the economy:
“Unless we change course, we may well be looking at another recession,” Romney told a crowd in West Allis, Wisconsin.
Romney said that Obama “promised to be a post-partisan president, but he became the most partisan” and that his bitter relations with the House GOP could threaten the economy. As his chief example, he pointed to a crisis created entirely by his own party’s choice — Republican lawmakers’ ongoing threat to reject a debt ceiling increase. Economists warn that a failure to pass such a measure would have immediate and catastrophic consequences for the recovery.
“You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress,” Romney said. “He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy.”
Let’s just parse this out. There are a number of fiscal matters to be decided in the coming months, and if they all come out to the negative, simple mathematics tells you that we’re looking at a recession. The economy is in modest shape but not the kind of condition to withstand a serious blow on the order of a 5% snap back in GDP from the fiscal slope. Add in the debt limit and the hostage demands around that and you have a prescription for Congress causing an economic slowdown.
Romney is basically telling the public to play the percentages. In a divided government with Obama in the White House and John Boehner carrying the Speaker’s gavel, chaos will reign (thanks to redistricting, the chances for Democrats to take a House majority this year is remote). The Tea Party cannot be controlled. They will set off a bomb and take down the economy. With a Romney/Boehner pair, we will see cooperation and stability.
This analysis completely neglects the US Senate. With Indiana trending away from Republicans and Missouri probably a lost cause, Republicans will not have the majority there under most scenarios. That means that the flip side of Obama-Boehner is Romney-Reid. In case you weren’t aware, Harry Reid doesn’t care for Mitt Romney.
“Mitt Romney has demonstrated that he lacks the courage to stand up to the Tea Party, kowtowing to their demands time and again. There is nothing in Mitt Romney’s record to suggest he would act any differently as president. As governor of Massachusetts, he had a terrible relationship with Democrats, cordoning himself off behind a velvet rope instead of reaching out to build relationships. And in the near-decade that Mitt Romney has spent running for president, both his words and his actions have shown that pleasing the far right is more important to him than working across the aisle.
“Senate Democrats are committed to defending the middle class, and we will do everything in our power to defend them against Mitt Romney’s Tea Party agenda.”
This is easier said than done, with a caucus that could include the likes of Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly (the Indiana Blue Dog neophyte), along with threatened 2014 incumbents in red states like Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Mark Begich. But Reid would have the power to set the agenda in the Senate, and Romney would find that as a barrier.
In truth, the way the election looks with four days out, gridlock is in the future in virtually every realistic scenario.
Bill Gross’ rant about the state of American politics is hyperbolic, but it does get at a certain truth about the fragmented nature of our political system, which resists mandates for action in favor of these all-consuming checks and balances.