The NYT is badly confused. While most of us recognize President Obama and Governor Romney as politicians, the NYT somehow came to believe that they are political philosophers. That is the inevitable conclusion that would be drawn from a front page piece headlined:
"a clash of philosophies."
The first paragraph tells readers:
"Somewhere in the wonky blizzard of facts, statistics and studies thrown out on stage here on Wednesday night was a fundamental philosophical choice about the future of America, quite possibly the starkest in nearly three decades."
This theme is repeated throughout the piece.
Of course neither candidate has gotten their position based on their political philosophy. They both managed to get their party's nomination as a result of their ability to appeal to powerful interest groups.
The effort by the article to imply clear philosophical distinctions falls on its face. For example, the piece reports that
"Mr. Obama expressed worry about those who would lose out if government programs are cut too deeply, while Mr. Romney talked about those who feel constrained by excessive government taxation and regulation."
Mr. Romney presumably knows that taxes are no higher today than they were in the Bush administration and that they are considerably lower than they were when the economy was growing 4.0 percent annually in the last four years of the Clinton administration. He also knows that relatively few new regulations have been put in place in the Obama years, so this cannot be a major factor slowing growth. In other words, Romney is saying these things because he hopes that they will have some resonance with the public or at least people who will support his campaign, not because he actually believes them.
Later the piece tells readers:
"Mr. Romney talked about the impact of the continuing economic problems, noting that the cost of gasoline, electricity, food and health care has grown. 'I’ll call it the economy tax,' he said. 'It’s been crushing.'"
In fact, gas prices have generally lagged behind the peaks reached in 2008, so Romney cannot "note" that the cost of gasoline has grown. Electricity prices have also fallen in many areas. Furthermore, Governor Romney surely knows that the price of gas is determined on world markets and the U.S. government's actions have little or no impact on it. So these comments are being said for their political effect, it is implausible to believe that they reflect a political philosophy.
The same logic applies to the next paragraph:
"The Republican focused on the impact on small business of Mr. Obama’s policies. 'It’s not just Donald Trump you’re taxing,' he said. 'It’s all those businesses that employ one-quarter of the workers in America.' He added, 'You raise taxes and you kill jobs.'”
Only a small percent of businesses are structured as proprietorships and owned by individuals who will be subject to the higher tax rate supported by President Obama. These businesses do not employ anywhere close to one-quarter of the workers in America. (If they did, they hardly could be considered "small.") Romney surely knows these facts, so again these assertions cannot possibly reflect a political philosophy.
On the other side, the piece tells readers:
"Mr. Obama expressed worry about those who would lose out if government programs are cut too deeply."
On several occasions, most notably the bailout of Wall Street banks and the promotion of trade agreements that will redistribute billions to the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries, President Obama has clearly put the interest of powerful corporate interests ahead of the interests of middle and lower income families.
In short, the effort to portray the contest between President Obama and Governor Romney as a debate over philosophy is an invention of the media. It has no basis in the world.