By Bob Cesca: If you haven't seen the stellar political documentary, The War Room, which follows James Carville and George Stephanopoulos during the 1992 Clinton campaign for president, you should absolutely check it out. There's one scene in particular that popped into my head yesterday.
In the documentary, Al Gore delivered one of the best stump speeches in recent memory during which he enumerates all of the "ups" and "downs" of the George H.W. Bush presidency. The economy was down, the deficit was up, etc. He ended the speech by saying, "Everything that oughtta be down is up. Everything that should be up is down. They've got it upside-down and we're gonna turn it right-side up!"
The Obama campaign could make a similar case about the president's record -- but in the opposite way. Everything that should be up is up, and everything the oughtta be down is down. It's simple but effective. For example, these are all 100 percent true:
Job creation is up. Inflation is down. Business profits are up. Consumer debt is down. American auto sales are up. Middle class taxes are down. Prescription drug savings are up. The deficit is down. The stock market is up. Unemployment is down. Consumer confidence is up. Spending growth is down. GDP is up. Wars are down. Home values are up. Bin Laden is down.
There are, of course, other second or third tier indicators that don't look as positive, but these top shelf factors tell a very positive story. In swing states like Ohio and elsewhere, there are very real signs of steady improvement, and, until last week's debate, I didn't think voters were willing to completely reverse course. And reversing course is precisely what Mitt Romney will do by his own admission, categorically repealing all of the president's initiatives and replacing them with something else. No one knows what the specific replacement programs will be because Romney hasn't told anyone.
Let's just call it Romney's "Secret Plan to Fix the Economy."
What do we know about this plan?
I don't know.
Romney said that it involved creating more jobs and that the subsequently larger work force would translate into more tax revenue. The additional tax revenue would reduce the deficit along with his array of severe spending cuts including the elimination of the PBS subsidy (which would save the federal government a massive 0.012 percent per year) and a punitively large $618 billion cut to Medicaid, impacting children, the elderly, disabled people and the working poor. Romney insists that deficit reduction would stimulate economic growth, even though deficit reduction and austerity in the wake of a deep recession usually backslides the economy into a second recession. In fact, I challenge any Republican reading this column to name one example from American history when a large tax cut and austerity stimulated the economy following a deep recession. It can't be done because it doesn't exist.
Two more problems with Romney's secret plan. 1) The number of jobs Romney promised to create would've been created anyway, according to Moody's Analytics and the Macroeconomic Advisors, irrespective of Romney's secret plan. In other words, those jobs will be created even if Romney isn't president. So his secret plan is basically pointless. 2) Romney's tax cuts alone would increase the deficit by $5 trillion over ten years, thus obliterating any savings from increased revenue from all of those jobs (that would've been created anyway).
This is basically all that we know about his plan. And, oh yeah, the secret plan comes with Romney himself who is evidently capable of charming the dickens out of American voters in spite of lying directly to them at the rate of 27 lies in 38 minutes.
Voters who responded favorably to Romney's first debate performance don't realize they're only responding favorably to one version of Romney. What's worse, and I assure you, not one of them can name a single aspect of Romney's secret plan to fix the economy. They were simply well-fluffed by Used-Car Salesman Romney. They probably don't know about "Severely Conservative" Romney, Empathic Moderate Romney or Massachusetts Pro-Choice Romney. Ultimately, they don't know who Romney is. Nobody does. They don't know his core values. They don't realize that he's a different Romney every day. This assessment of Romney goes back nearly 20 years when Ted Kennedy referred to Romney's abortion position as "multiple choice." But, you know, smile and smile and be a villain. We know he's a pathological, cynical liar and a perpetual shape-shifter whose "secret plan" will, in reality, end up being exactly the same as the George W. Bush plan for the economy.
Romney has a plan which he refuses to talk about. Appropriately enough, his plan is just as ambiguous as the hypothetical construct known as Romney.
Will voters choose this murky, elusive agenda over proven successes throughout major sectors of the economy? This week's polls suggest maybe, simply because he didn't choke on his own vomit and turned lying into an art form for 90 minutes on national television. I've been doing this a long time and it continues to confound empirical thought to know that voters will gladly turn down proven success in lieu of a well-placed hand gesture or a grinning zinger from the mouth of a white corporate CEO whose business practices, along with what little we know about his plan, are collectively indicative of the greed and malfeasance that caused the economic crash in the first place.
One thing's for sure: Romney knows how to scam and hustle voters who are too naive and ignorant for their own good. And they will collectively damage everything positive that's occurred since the Great Recession.