I got my absentee ballot today! I already cast my vote and I will send it off tomorrow. For those wondering I voted for Obama! I taught a class on US Foreign policy last semester and I made a deal with my students that I would vote for whoever won in our class election. Of course Obama won so he got my vote. But personally I am neutral in this race, I have problems with how Obama has handled the economy and I have big problems with Mitt Romney's foreign policy.
Obama: the economic crash was not his fault, but I would have liked to see him handle things differently. He had to bail out the banks because if they would have failed everything would have failed, but I think he should have broken up the big banks that were too big to fail. I think he should have focused on the economy and not health care. I think his health care bill should have focused on reducing costs and not expanding coverage (we spend 17% of our GDP on health care!! France is second with 11%). He should have tried to enact real permanent reforms to boost confidence and provide a platform for an increase in production. Obama was all about temporary programs, temporary tax cuts to try to fix things (partially because the Republican house was hard to deal with, but he did have the first two years with a Democratic congress, he just wasted time on health care reform). I also think he doesn't trust the market enough and overestimates the ability of government spending to get the economy on track. The size of the national debt also worries me. His foreign policy has been pragmatic, although still very aggressive. The mass protests against our embassies right now show that our foreign policy still bothers a lot of people (collateral damage from excessive drone strikes for example).
Romney might do a little better on the economy, but only a little. (Energy and regulation policies would lead to higher growth but that might lead to problems down the road) He would slash taxes, raise spending on defense which leads me to believe that he has the same view on budgets as Obama, as long as the economy is growing they don't matter. They just have a slightly different strategy on how to get the economy growing again. Of course the biggest problem with Romney is his foreign policy. He believes that America is safest by preventing non democratic countries from increasing power (China and Russia). He also believes that America needs to dominate the world to maintain the global liberal order. I think these strategies were ideal for the post WWII world, but are not needed anymore. I think with nuclear weapons we will never have to worry about a full fledged war with China or Russia. China and Russia both have enough problems that they will never increase their power to a point where they would threaten our security (a multi-polar world would not threaten us, a unipolar world with China or Russia as the pole would). I also think that the global liberal order is established enough to keep it operating without a dominant US. Romney's extreme support for Israel could lead to more conflict and certainly will lead to more anti-US sentiment in the Middle East. This all has a cost. It might be $200 a barrel oil, it might be another war, or future terrorist attacks. His aggressive policy towards China and Russia could cause trade wars which would hurt the very liberal order that we are trying to maintain.
I would have liked to see a candidate with a different idea about both money and the role of the US in the world. I think the US should try to stimulate the economy by external sources of money, rather than just printing it (FDI, tourism, recapitalising money invested abroad by US companies). Also, tax reform (different from tax cuts) would have been nice to see. I would have liked to see the US cut spending in unproductive areas (defense spending in Europe, Japan, and almost everywhere) and then invest that spending into areas that could increase productivity (worker training, education, energy efficiency, tax reform, and so on). No one will every be able to answer the question why do we need to spend over 1 trillion every year on our foreign policy. (Defending Taiwan and Israel are not good enough answers).