Who to vote for . . .

The presidential election sits two weeks away.

I won’t advocate either candidate. It’s a personal decision. However, I’d like to use this forum to raise some issues that do not get adequate attention.

My personal opinion is that a highly important (perhaps the most important) power a president (potentially) holds is appointing Supreme Court Justices. These nine individuals are appointed for life and have meaningful influence on the social fabric of our society. Four of the current sitting Justices are more than 70 years old (see below, in order of tenure on the Court):

 

Justice Date of Birth Appointed by Sworn in
Antonin Scalia 3/11/1936
Age: 76 yr 7 mo
Ronald Reagan 9/26/1986
Served: 26 yr 0 mo
Anthony Kennedy 7/23/1936
Age: 76 yr 2 mo
Ronald Reagan 2/18/1988
Served: 24 yr 8 mo
Clarence Thomas 6/23/1948
Age: 64 yr 3 mo
George H. W. Bush 10/23/1991
Served: 20 yr 11 mo
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 3/15/1933
Age: 79 yr 7 mo
Bill Clinton 8/19/1993
Served: 19 yr 2 mo
Stephen Breyer 8/15/1938
Age: 74 yr 2 mo
Bill Clinton 8/3/1994
Served: 18 yr 2 mo
John G. Roberts 1/27/1955
Age: 57 yr 8 mo
George W. Bush 9/29/2005
Served: 7 yr 0 mo
Samuel A. Alito, Jr. 4/1/1950
Age: 62 yr 6 mo
George W. Bush 1/31/2006
Served: 6 yr 8 mo
Sonia Sotomayor 6/25/1954
Age: 58 yr 3 mo
Barack Obama 8/8/2009
Served: 3 yr 2 mo
Elena Kagan 4/28/1960
Age: 52 yr 5 mo
Barack Obama 8/7/2010
Served: 2 yr 2 mo

 

There are two other highly noteworthy factors to bear in mind for this upcoming election.

First, the president is responsible for appointing the Chairman of the Federal Reserve (in past elections, this has not been an important consideration as the economy was stable and monetary policy was not controversial). Obama has demonstrated a commitment to easy monetary policy (low interest rates, facilitate access to debt). Romney has been critical of excessively easy policy.

The Fed Chair is supposed to be a nonpartisan position. The chairperson wields tremendous influence. Ben Bernanke (appointed by Bush and supported/reappointed by Obama but not favored by Romney) is a smart individual. The programs he stewarded during the Great Recession (ie TALF, TARP, and a whole litany of ‘alphabet soup’ programs) were instrumental at avoiding an accelerating financial downward spiral. However, it is far more contentious now as to whether his platform of printing money to boost asset prices is helpful or if it is even potentially harmful. This is a very complex topic, but, if you have an opinion, it is extremely important and should be a factor in your vote. I won’t interject my own personal opinion on this topic in this particular post.

Finally, I think healthcare deserves a moment of consideration. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the 2,000+ page-long healthcare reform law, aka PPACA or Obama-care) is incredibly complex and deserves its own blog post at some point. Suffice to say, there is much good that came from the law (in my humble opinion) but also many inadequacies yet to be addressed. Partisan bickering has prevented productive discourse on meaningful change. I find this heartbreaking.

What is good about PPACA:

  • elimination of lifetime caps on medical benefits
  • expansion of coverage to older children under family plans (up to age 26)
  • steps toward ensuring coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions
  • expansion of healthcare coverage in general

What is bad about PPACA:

  • Foremost, there is little included to control healthcare costs
  • Savings (or revenue from PPACA) come in the early years, while costs build and grow over time. The Congressional budget office scores every law over a ten-year period. In such a time frame, PPACA essentially looks to be budget neutral. Going forward (in future ten-year periods), it will be massively costly
  • A bureaucratic, presidentially-appointed panel (called the IPAB) is slated to unilaterally decide cuts to impose in future years. This is both unpalatable and actually unlikely to be implemented (Congress does not want their power to be usurped).
  • Many of the cost containment measures are unpopular and are likely to be repealed. I say this not because of a particular point of view, but it seems to be the pattern of behavior of our lawmakers time and time again.

Romney has stated that he will try to repeal PPACA. However, he has said that he will maintain some of the beneficial components of the law. Ultimately, regardless of the election outcome and changes to PPACA, healthcare will continue to be an enormous political topic, both because of the social and fiscal implications. Much good has already been done, and I expect most of that to remain in place regardless of who is the next president. Accordingly, I think this third point is subordinate to the first two. Even so, it is a critically important issue and merits some consideration.

As far as the economy being a factor for your vote, temper expectations and avoid ascribing much credit or blame. Obama inherited a terrible economy. He is not responsible for the high unemployment rate. Neither Romney nor Obama will ‘fix’ the current challenging economy. This economic downturn is the result of years of imprudent behavior on the part of governments worldwide.The incoming president might influence business confidence at the margin, but presidents don’t create jobs, and I expect a tough job environment to remain the status quo regardless of who is the next president.

Hopefully these factors raised here will come to mind when people consider which candidate will get their vote.

source: Supreme Court Justices

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