Forget the private equity sideshow. The real issue for November is the huge gap between President Obama's and Mitt Romney's visions for Washington.
Few issues illuminate the presidential candidates' wildly divergent views on the appropriate size and role of the federal government more than taxes and spending.
For President Obama, fiscal policy is a means for preserving the country's safety net; promoting education, environmental protection, and other social goals; raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help to pay down the budget deficit and address income inequality; and boosting the domestic economy through manufacturing tax breaks and infrastructure programs, with the hope that both will create jobs.
"We don't need to be providing additional tax cuts for folks who are doing really, really, really well," Obama said at Northern Virginia Community College earlier this year, after the release of his fiscal 2013 budget. "Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep investing in everything else--education, clean energy, a strong military, care for our veterans? We can't do both. We can't afford it."
The president's view of government is considerably less radical than Mitt Romney's. Obama would keep the government largely intact and recognizable to those it now serves. A hallmark of his budget is the preservation of entitlement programs for children, seniors, and the poor.
Romney's fiscal proposals lay out a much different future, with a smaller, streamlined federal government that turns a handful of programs over to the states and that ultimately provides a social safety net for fewer people. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said that his fiscal 2013 budget blueprint, which the presumptive GOP presidential nominee backs, prevents the safety net from becoming a "hammock" that "lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency."