On Nov. 6, the United States will elect its next president. Naturally, we have a stake in this. With more than 70% of our exports heading south, the Canadian and U.S. economies are inexorably linked, and the winning president could have a profound effect on Canada’s economy.
Both candidates have proposed policy that would be good for Canada, and both have ideas that could do us harm. It’s tempting to go down the list ticking off which proposals would be best for our economy, but that’s a fool’s game. It doesn’t matter what’s best for Canada. At the end of the day, we should endorse the candidate who’s best for America. Because the stronger the U.S. economy, the better off we’ll be.
I think most Canadians already know this, which is why the vast majority support the incumbent, Barack Obama. According to a Forum Research poll conducted for Canadian Business, 65% of Canadians think Obama would do a better job of spurring economic growth, versus 18% who chose his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. Amazingly, despite Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this year, far more Canadians chose him, too, when asked who would encourage energy imports from Canada.
Throughout the election campaign, Romney’s main message has been that Obama already had four years to solve America’s problems and he hasn’t made much progress. “The president has tried, but his policies haven’t worked,” he said during the second presidential debate. But it’s a false argument. Governments cannot turn economies on and off like a light switch. The president can help or hinder the recovery, but this is not China, where the country’s leaders have direct control over large corporations. In a free market, government can only enact wise policy and hope for the best.
It can take years for the results to take effect, and observers with any sense know full well that the dire situation in the U.S. is mainly the result of eight years of disastrous mismanagement by George W. Bush. Similarly, the outcome of most of the new policies implemented by Obama, such as his controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, won’t be seen for years. Despite this, there are already some early signs that Obama has put the U.S. recovery in motion, with initiatives such as his Detroit auto industry bailout showing hints of success.
Had Romney proposed an alternate plan that is clearly better than Obama’s, he would deserve to win. But he hasn’t. His argument that he can cut income taxes for all Americans by 20% without adding to the deficit, and do this by eliminating unidentified “loopholes” in the tax system, makes no sense. Most economists expect the next president will be forced to both cut spending and raise taxes to balance America’s budget. By pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy, Obama is being slightly more (though not completely) honest about what’s coming next.
The main reason Obama should be given a second term is that he is less populist than Romney. He pushed ahead with his controversial health-care plan even when it looked like it was losing him votes. Romney, on the other hand, has pledged to repeal Obama’s plan, despite having helped to craft an eerily similar state health-care program when he was governor of Massachusetts.
As we’ve seen in Spain, Greece, Italy and other countries, when you’re this deep in debt and your economy is stalled, the solution is never pleasant. Obama has shown more backbone, and since he can’t run for a third term, he won’t be distracted by pandering for votes. He’ll have the strength and discipline to focus on what’s best for America—whether Americans like it or not.