Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne recently wrote this about Obama which puzzled me:
An Obama who roared straight ahead hit a political wall. This next Obama is using finesse and subtlety to get to the same place.
Roared straight ahead? Obama? Yes, he appointed two not-batshit-lunatic Supreme Court Justices. But economically, how different would he have been than a Republican? Maybe there would have been more tax cuts and less spending in the ARRA, but even Republicans would have done something. Consider:
What do the American economy and economic policy look like right now on that President Romney branch of the multiverse?
Well, they look a lot like they look right here on earth.
President Romney would have provided support to troubled banks — capital injections and stress tests — but he would have avoided even a few targeted nationalizations of the banking system: He is, after all, a Republican.
He would not have pushed the Treasury to engage in large-scale quantitative easing through the Public-Private Investment Program or large-scale mortgage restructuring through the HAMP home mortgage modification program.
On monetary policy, Romney would most likely have reappointed Ben Bernanke and let the Federal Reserve proceed as it wished. On fiscal policy, Romney’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Mark Zandi, and his National Economic Council Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, would have proposed a fiscal stimulus package that was 60 percent tax cuts and 40 percent spending increases. The Democratic Congress would then have bargained with the administration to produce a stimulus that was 40 percent tax cuts and 60 percent spending.
But, of course, all these policies are exactly what Obama and the Democratic Congress actually enacted.
On global warming, Romney would have abandoned economists’ preferred Pigovian carbon tax for the complicated, corporatist and business-friendlier approach of a cap-and-trade system. But he would have been no more successful than Obama in assembling a Senate coalition to achieve anything.
On healthcare, Romney would have taken his signature Massachusetts health care reform and expanded it nationwide: we would have RomneyCare. But that is precisely what we do have.
I see only two key policy differences between RomneyWorld and ObamaWorld. Had Romney been elected president in 2008 we would not have repealed the military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And had Romney been elected president in 2008, Elizabeth Warren would not now be assistant to the president for Consumer Financial Protection.
Like I said, we also got two not-batshit lunatic Supreme Court Justices. It’s not clear that Romney would have been worse on environment issues either. Likewise, we wouldn’t be having the Social Security IS DOOOMMEEDDD!!! crap either: the political dynamics would be such that the Democrats would stand firm on this, just like they did when Bush tried it.
While Palin would be a lunatic as vice president, no one in the McCain administration would have listened to her. I don’t see McCain being much different than Romney.