Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Aftermath: Reflections on Obama's Re-election

Barack Obama has been re-elected President of the United States.

For starters, Gary Johnson was not a spoiler. While the results are still coming in, as of 11:30pm Pacific, there was not a single state won by Obama where Romney would have won even if every Johnson voter had voted for Romney instead.

Second, there is no mandate. While Obama won, he won with a far narrower lead in both the popular vote and the electoral college than he had in 2008. While Democrats increased their lead in the Senate, Republicans increased their lead in governorships, and the House is on track to be more or less the same as it was. This was very much a status quo election.

On the whole, will we be better or worse with Obama as president?

First of all, expect the fiscal cliff to stay in place. After all, we just re-elected most of the people who put it there to begin with. While I haven't spent too much time learning about the fiscal cliff, Wikipedia claims a 19.63% increase in revenue and a 0.25% decrease in spending, or a nearly 80-to-1 ratio of tax hikes to spending cuts. This will not end well-- and even if our new old government leaders manage to avoid the cliff, the re-elected Obama is in a prime position to extract concessions he was unable to before the election. Any compromise will include more tax hikes than spending cuts, if spending is actually cut at all.

Second, Obamacare will be implemented fully over the next few years. Expect the nation's health, freedom and balance sheet to all suffer. Although to be honest, I don't believe Romney would have done any better.

The national debt will continue to grow. If the fiscal cliff causes a second recession, expect more stimulus and bailouts, probably for Europe too. We may look back at $1.5 trillion deficits and laugh about how small they were. On the other hand, the same probably would've happened under Romney, considering his plan to index military spending to 4% of GDP.

On other long-term important issues, I don't expect Obama to do much of anything. He'll keep ignoring space (mercifully), Social Security will continue to stumble forward without reform, trade deals will be forgotten, immigration won't change. We'll mostly withdraw from Afghanistan on schedule, although the lack of attention the war gets these days means we'll probably keep troops there for the long haul, same as we've still got troops in Germany, Japan and Korea. On trade and Afghanistan, at least, Romney would have been even worse. While Romney may have avoided the fiscal cliff, his insistence to go after China on trade might have been just as bad for the economy.

The main difference between the two candidates in terms of our long-term welfare is this: With Obama's victory, 2016 will see another wide-open primary for Republicans, where we'll have another shot at nominating a true spokesperson for liberty. Had Romney won, we wouldn't get that chance until 2020. So hold onto your hats. It's gonna be a rough four years for liberty, but we made it through the last four. We'll make it this time, too.

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