The promise of a Romney presidency

But enacting deficit reduction might require a bipartisan deal, and thus a compromise that raises taxes and cuts spending. The compromise will probably look better if Romney is president because those who want to keep taxes and spending down will have more bargaining power.

That is partly because Romney has taken the wiser position on entitlements. He believes the growth of Social Security benefit levels should be restrained, especially for affluent retirees, to match the program’s revenue. He wants to let health-insurance plans compete for Medicare recipients’ business on the theory that it will improve the quality of care and restrict costs. These steps may not be sufficient to the challenge of rising entitlement expenses — the U.S. also probably needs to change benefit levels for today’s Medicare recipients, something both candidates are denying — but they would vastly improve our long-term fiscal health. Obama’s rhetoric during the campaign has ruled out any deal that includes a competitive reform of Medicare if he wins.

— Supreme Court appointments. Romney says he wants to name justices who will follow the law rather than write it. If they take that approach — as modern Republican appointees have mostly done, though never perfectly — they won’t impose the policies most conservatives favor on abortion, marriage, affirmative action and other polarizing issues. Instead they will allow legislatures to set those policies. That’s the right legal result, and the one most likely to promote social peace.

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