The presidential debate this week was much ado about nothing, and Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama because he was more energetic in distorting the significance of their miniscule differences. What generally has been celebrated by the mainstream media as a wonky debate over substantive disagreements on the economy and medical reform -- "a fundamental choice about the future of America," Peter Baker trumpeted in The New York Times -- was nothing of the sort.
It is absurd to depict this rhetorical stew of superficial nitpicking by two candidates with a proven record of subservience to the Wall Street bandits responsible for wrecking our economy as a meaningful exercise in democratic governance. Both would rather talk about anything but Wall Street's financing and control of both parties and chose instead to dwell on their nonexistent differences over health care reform.
The president gleefully concedes that Obamacare is a carbon copy of the original Romneycare plan in place in Massachusetts, a plan that Obama took to the national level but was similarly designed as an alternative to a single-payer system. Both extend rather than diminish the reach of for-profit insurance companies. Neither plan confronts the cost-control issues at the heart of the health crisis.
On the far larger threat to our economic well-being posed by endemic Wall Street greed, both candidates are clearly wedded to the bailout strategy that saved those responsible for the economic meltdown while ignoring the victims among the tens of millions unemployed and foreclosed. Instead of confronting that topic, they were reduced to brief and meaningless quibbling about the Dodd-Frank law that as Romney correctly pointed out leaves the concentrated power of the five largest banks intact.
Rare was the commentator who grasped, as did David Weidner in The Wall Street Journal, that the six minutes of the debate devoted to Wall Street regulation was bizarrely disproportionate to the crucial role of the financial industry in first creating and then managing the government's response to the crisis: