For those of you who may have been unaware of this social earthquake worthy of a Britney Spears wardrobe malfunction, on Monday's presidential debate Republican candidate Mitt Romney swore that, as governor of Massachusetts, "We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said: 'Can you help us find folks?' and they brought us whole binders full of women."
Way beyond the fact that Mitt's new fable has already been debunked -- he never asked for the Binders Full of Women in the first place -- the rest of his feminist rant implied that the new (male) job creators in Mitt's New American Dream will be so god-damned desperate that they will hire anyone in sight. Including women. For his part, President Barack Obama has talked about abortion rights, health care and equal pay. It doesn't take a NASA scientist to figure out how the Binders Full of Women who are paying attention will vote.
Way beyond the meme cycle, the problem is actually Mitt's Binders Full of Baloney. OK, California is the future, for better or for worse -- the possibility of physically seceding and navigating the Pacific towards Asia (or the bottom of said Pacific) included. But how could any sentient US being believe in Mitt's "plan" for a New American Dream featuring less taxes, an even freer hand to the very wealthy and a currency and trade war against China starting on "day one"?
Show me the money. And while we're at it, be afraid -- be very afraid -- of the world according to Mitt (or rather his neo-con advisers). Russia is a strategic enemy. China is a commercial enemy. And the US must raise hell -- again -- all across the Middle East; so expect the Return of the (Medieval) Dead, as in "you're either with us or against us," part II.
Back to the economy, Obama did try in the debate to force Mitt to point out all the deductions and credits he would get over with under his "plan" to cut taxes by 20% without reducing overall revenues and without reducing the minimalistic taxes paid by the wealthy. Yet even the coyotes in the Mojave desert know Mitt's numbers don't add up. It's as if Mitt the Binder is selling a dodgy second-hand Dodge but will only reveal the vehicle's true condition after clinching the sale.
Instead of trying to compete with China, Mitt wants a trade/currency war. From 2002 to 2011 the US created a mere 48,000 new jobs for architects and engineers. Moreover, Mitt simply refuses to admit that the root of all the malaise boils down to US corporations "exporting" American jobs offshore, wholesale. Obama at least admitted "some" (in fact all) of these jobs will never come back. And by the way, a conga line of bipartisan economists -- wishful thinking or not -- has been arguing that up to 2016 the US will come up with 12 million jobs anyway, no matter who's on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Instead of Binders Full of Women, Mitt could well try to explain his Binders Full of Economic Promises, asking for much needed help from Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia Business School, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Dubya, and arguably Mitt's top economic adviser. Essentially Mitt cannot offer any specifics about his plan because even Hubbard can't.
No surprises on the plan's key objectives; "Stopping runaway federal spending and debt, reforming our tax code and entitlement programs, and scaling back costly regulations."
Hubbard does not explain how Mitt's plan would reduce federal spending as a share of GDP to 20% (thus Mitt cannot explain it). Hubbard does emphasize the cut on corporate income tax, and a vague "broadening" of the tax base so "tax reform is revenue-neutral." Once again, no specifics, so Mitt gives no specifics.
The end of "regulatory impediments to energy production and innovation" essentially means the old Republican theme song Drill, Baby, Drill. Hubbard also believes in the 12 million new jobs mirage, plus an extremely vague "millions more after that due to the plan's long-run growth effects."
So if the dean of Columbia Business School, for all his expertise and good intentions, is this vague, talk about Mitt The Binder.
Does this sea of vagueness matter? It does. Poll-cruncher extraordinaire Nate Silver has remarked, sharply, that "the candidates were roughly tied when Public Policy Polling asked them how the debate swayed their vote, with 37% saying the debate made them more likely to vote for Mr Obama, with 36% for Mr Romney." So it's dead heat all the way -- no matter the binders in question. Hollywood would call it a cliffhanger. Still Binders Full of Women will likely cast Minerva's vote -- not those perky California girls, but a few quiet ladies in Colorado, Virginia and Ohio.
1. Group Behind Romney's 'Binders Full Of Women' Doesn't Remember Story The Way Romney Does , TPM, Oct 17, 2012.
2. Glenn Hubbard: The Romney Plan for Economic Recovery, Wall Street Journal, Aug 1, 2012.