I took one for the team last night. While waiting for 60 Minutes with President Obama and Governor Romney to start, I felt like the guy waiting for the hot girl that was 45 minutes late.

There was a football delay (at least the Jets and the Texans won) and commercials (geez, they must have shown 30 in a row before 60 Minutes started). But it was worth the wait.

As usual, viewers enjoyed sixty minutes of pure journalistic intensity, this time targeted at our two presidential candidates. Only 60 Minutes could turn Mike Wallace into a sex symbol, and make viewers wait for it like a guy in heat. But it was worth it.

The show was divided into halves, one per candidate. Key issues discussed per half follow below.

Governor Mitt Romney (journalist: Scott Pelley)

60 Minutes Obama Romney - Romney

  • On Taxes:

    Plans to reduce all tax rates by 20%, and lower the corporate tax rate. Wants to limit deductions and exemptions for high-income earners while removing taxes on investment income for middle-income earners.

    I liked the specifics here. But why do an across the board reduction when the country needs revenue to pay down debt? Also, high-income earners can ignore deductions and exemptions and still pay a low tax rate (which Governor Romney did last year). Middle-income earners pay little in investment income tax, so that cut isn’t a big deal.

  • On Social Programs:

    Wants to repeal “Obamacare” as part of reducing government spending. Plans to move government programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing programs to the state level and cap program growth. Believes these changes will save the government $100B per year.

    A number of states are having trouble managing their current budgets and programs. In fact, many have used their phone a friend option and asked the government for help. It’s like forcing your child to make their own dinner, but having to step in and help before they burn down the house.

  • On Social Security and Medicare (specifically):

    No changes for current retirees and soon-to-be retirees. Wants to reduce Social Security benefits for higher income earners, and execute other means-testing policies. Also, wants to eliminate non-critical programs.

    I agree that higher income earners should have reduced benefits. However, I would be happier if the Governor gave more insight into the means-testing standards. A person could have been rich while paying into Social Security, but broke later on in life and in need of Social Security. I’m talking to you, athletes. I won’t even express the doubt I have about the judgment and compassion of a private equity alum in determining which non-critical programs should be cut.

  • On Foreign Affairs:

    Agreed with portions of the President’s policies. Wants to apply pressure to Egypt – in particular, over protecting US embassies. Plans to take a cost-benefit point of view towards going into battle.

    I like his cost-benefit point of view. But some choices won’t be black and white. This is where Romney’s judgment and values come into play. And that is at the heart of why people are uncomfortable with Romney since it’s not clear who he is inside.

President Barack Obama (journalist: Steve Kroft)

60 Minutes Obama Romney - Obama

  • On Hope and Change:

    Asserted that when he took office, our economy was losing 800K jobs per month. Stated that we have had 30 months of job growth, and sectors rescued.

    I’m personally pleased that we have a robust manufactoring sector — a sector where we’re actually making and selling things. The President will be the first to admit that he overpromised the hope and change part. But who could’ve predicted the exent to which the Republicans would oppose everything he did?

  • On Taxes:

    Stated that taxes are lower on middle-income earners than they have been for the last 50 years. Maintained that middle-income earners have an average savings of $3600 per year now. Wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to reduced government debt. Does not want to cut a deal with Republicans to change policies on middle-income earners instead of raising taxes on the wealthy. Policy changes proposed by Republicans include raising student loan rates, asking seniors to pay more for Medicare, and repealing Obamacare.

    Middle-income earners should have the President’s poster hanging on their bedroom walls. He should be on the cover of Teen Beat and that AARP magazine. He’s on the side of middle-income earners. However, raising taxes on the wealthy is a great thing to say during a campaign–and I believe that the President wants to do it. But I would be surprised if it actually happened. As a result, I would feel more comfortable if he discussed a plan B should raising taxes on the wealthy get blocked.

  • On Jobs:

    Reminded viewers that his Jobs Act may have provided an extra one million jobs if it didn’t die in Congress.

    Inability to bend the Republican Congress and use fiscal policy to improve domestic issues may be the hole in the armor of his presidency. Folks wonder if “Rahmbo” Emanuel would have helped with this dealmaking once the Democrats lost their majority.

  • On Foreign Affairs:

    Reminded viewers that he achieved his foreign policy objectives: he ended the Iraq war, got Bin Laden, and decimated Al Qaeda.

    Questions persist about the next steps with halting Iran’s nuclear program. Iran controls 20% of the world’s oil supply and a key international trade route via the Strait of Hormuz. Plus, tensions in the Middle East have been on the edge since the Arab Spring erupted in 2011. The President does not want light a powder keg and enter into another war in the Middle East to stop Iran’s nuclear program, which contrasts Romney’s apparent inclination.

This episode of 60 Minutes vividly showed the differences between the candidates. It was the kind of appetizer that made you impatient for the main course: the debates.

Just don’t keep us waiting too long for that, okay?

Image Credits:
Mitt Romney:
Barack Obama: Kevis S. O’Brien via Flickr

Mitt Romney returned from whence he be when he’s not on TV nor buying self tanner…

Even though I’m not a fan of many of the Republicans, as a finance person whose ears tingle when I hear more than just catchphrases and talking points, I’m a fan of Mitt Romney.

Not that he’s not guilty of using catchphrases and talking points, but he has had opinions about how to get us our economy back on track that have made me go, “Interesting! Now if only he didn’t say ‘ring bling’ during his campaign…”.

Romney fervently believes that tax cuts are how we can stimulate the economy. He asserts that the majority of our dollars in our GDP are from jobs created in the private sector, and the way to stimulate more job creation is to give those business owners tax breaks.

I agree that more money in their pockets will stimulate business growth and job creation. If I had more money, I would put all kinds of bells and whistles on my blog, and hire someone to get me blueberries.

But the problem with tax cuts and incentives is that you usually only get those when you file your taxes. How about making it such that I don’t have go through an obstacle course in order to get my money?

Tax cuts are useful. But combine that with a cash infusion from the government, and now we’re cooking with butter.

That’s not to say that you won’t have to crawl under barbed wire again to get your government money. It’s notoriously difficult to claim something that’s yours from the government.

But at least with a combination effort–which is what Obama is proposing–we’re not putting all of our eggs into one basket (that basket being the one labeled “tax cuts for business owners”).

Because who files taxes these days anyway? Not Geithner. But I digress…

What I don’t agree with when it comes to Romney’s Economic Deep Thoughts(tm) is having a free market with minimum regulation.

If the market were filled with business people who were honest and not greedy, a free market would operate well. Supply and demand forces would drive price levels, and the market would naturally grow to reflect what consumers need.

But greed combined with diminished regulation led us to several fantastic taxpayer bailout scenarios, including 2008 and the S&L failures in the 80’s (where decreased regulation allowed S&L’s to overlend to make up for the asset-liability mismatch that occurred due to rising interest rates, unfortunately causing the S&L’s to take higher risks).

Mitt, have you read Lord of the Flies? Greed + lack of rules = somebody’s getting killed. And we taxpayers are dying yet again.

We do need oversight, and the percentage of oversight in our economy needs to be greater than the percentage of unregulated activities. It needs to be this way until playing by the rules becomes ingrained in the minds of folks making money.

So Mitt, you’re almost right. I still like you, though. But lay off the self-tanner, it’s winter and you shouldn’t be tan.