Why do people care who won the debate?
Because it's a sport.
Because they like to cheer for their guy, and trash talk the other guy.
Because they want confirmation that their choice is the right popular choice.
All that is of course idiotic. Who won the debate would be really important if we were trying to decide who should be debater-in-chief, but we're not picking an Olympic forensics champion. (The ancient Greek Olympics did in fact have an oration competition.)
Debate skills don't matter in a candidate. Here's what matters: Are the candidate’s ideas good, can he he implement his ideas and govern effectively, and will he govern with integrity?
You know what’s not on the list?
How many people think he won the debate. I don’t even care who I think did better.
Rick Perry’s candidacy fell apart after he famously couldn’t remember what three federal departments he was going to cut. It’s embarrassing for him, but more embarrassing for us that we cared more about his gaff than the actual policy of cutting those departments (bet you can’t name them either).
The news media isn’t helping at all. Expect for the next few days to hear little more than how Romney beat Obama into submission with Jim Lehrer’s limp corpse. What you won’t hear much about is the substantive discussion about Medicare:
OBAMA: First of all, I think it's important for Governor Romney to present this plan that he says will only affect folks in the future.
And the essence of the plan is that you would turn Medicare into a voucher program. It's called premium support, but it's understood to be a voucher program. His running mate...
LEHRER: And you don't support that?
OBAMA: I don't. And let me explain why.
ROMNEY: Again, that's for future...
OBAMA: I understand.
ROMNEY: ... people, right, not for current retirees.
OBAMA: For -- so if you're -- if you're 54 or 55, you might want to listen 'cause this -- this will affect you.
The idea, which was originally presented by Congressman Ryan, your running mate, is that we would give a voucher to seniors and they could go out in the private marketplace and buy their own health insurance.
The problem is that because the voucher wouldn't necessarily keep up with health care inflation, it was estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year.
Now, in fairness, what Governor Romney has now said is he'll maintain traditional Medicare alongside it. But there's still a problem, because what happens is, those insurance companies are pretty clever at figuring out who are the younger and healthier seniors. They recruit them, leaving the older, sicker seniors in Medicare. And every health care economist that looks at it says, over time, what'll happen is the traditional Medicare system will collapse.
This is a pretty simple concept. Under Romney’s version of Medicare you’ll get a check from the government you can use to buy whatever insurance you want, or you can use it to buy Medicare.
Private insurance companies will only take the lower-risk seniors, the people with expected annual health care costs of less than $6000. This is no different from private insurers welcoming healthy, young folk, and turning away people with pre-existing conditions. Anyone with higher expected health care costs will have to go to Medicare.
Say we have two seniors, Senior A with expected costs of $2000 and Senior B with expected costs of $10,000. The government has $12,000 to spend to provide them with health care. Under the Obama plan, they’re both enrolled in Medicare, and the government spends its $12,000 to provide for both of them and comes up even.
Under the Romney plan, the government takes its $12,000 and gives Senior A and Senior B both a $6000 voucher. Senior A goes to a private insurer, and Senior B goes to Medicare because the private insurer wouldn’t check his tonsils with a 10-foot tongue depressor. Senior A pays $6000 to his insurer which turns a $4000 profit. Senior B pays $6000 to the government which is now running a $4000 deficit.
Here’s another way to think of the Romney plan. The government asks for $12,000 in tax revenue. A few months later, it asks for another $4000 because it spent $4000 of your tax dollars to drive up the profits of a private company.
The news media could be discussing the idea that the voucher program might create an incentive to reduce health care costs so that private companies can realize a profit. If someone has $6000 in expected bills and you can provide that care for $5000 – kaching! And then we could have a debate over whether private companies do provide the same level of care at lower costs, and if they’d try to lower costs by reducing quality of services.
But, you’re not going to hear that. You also won’t hear much about Romney’s China Debt Test.
ROMNEY: What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don't pass it: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it.
You won’t hear whether Romney intends to apply this to the Bush tax cuts. Boy, wouldn’t that be an interesting question? Neverminding the dubious assertion that extending the tax cuts will help the economy, even accepting the argument, it’d be interesting to hear whether Romney thinks it's worth borrowing from China to do so.
I actually think that’s a really interesting test. The analysis over a government program can’t just be “is this good” or even “is this good at the price” but “is this good enough to debt finance?” A JD from Fordham is "good" but probably not worth taking out $275,000 of debt to get.
We won’t hear any of that though. Instead we’re going to get a bunch of people talking about who won (Romney), why he won (Mormon voodoo), and what Obama can do to turn things around (get back on cocaine).