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Sanjay Sanghoee Headshot

Obama and Romney: the Economic Dream Team?

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If this idea sounds like a joke to you, it's the type of joke that Jon Stewart might crack: funny but with an edge of truth to it.

This presidential race is all about the economy. Without food on the table, we will all be too hungry to care about anything else. Knowing this, Mitt Romney has focused on attacking President Obama's judgment on fiscal issues -- most recently citing Solyndra, a manufacturer of advanced solar panels that collapsed in 2011 after receiving a $535 million Energy Department loan guarantee in 2009. Obama, for his part, has made Romney's mercenary business model at Bain Capital the centerpiece of his campaign against the Republican.

Then this week, both men gave speeches laying out their very different approaches to fixing the economy. That's great, except I don't know which end is up anymore.

On one hand, Romney is right: the president has a poor track record making "public equity" investments; but on the other hand, the Republican plan for America is asinine, based on nothing but making the rich richer so that maybe they might throw a few crumbs to the middle class and poor. Clearly we are faced with a Devil's Alternative.

So the million dollar (literally) question is whether there is a way to eliminate all this bickering and create an arrangement that can actually benefit the economy?

The answer is yes. Romney should send Obama his resume ASAP, and the president should hire him without delay. I'm sure his references from Bain will check out.

It is a fact that Romney was successful at making profitable investments for Bain, while Obama has been unsuccessful at doing the same with taxpayers' money. But the presidency is about a lot more than the profit motive, and returns on investment cannot be measured solely in economic terms. While the White House's economic policies may not have generated a financial windfall, they have had other valuable effects, such as the prevention of an economic collapse after the financial crisis, the creation of jobs (not a lot, but this is despite Republican sabotage), at least some semblance of Wall Street reform and other societal gains. In addition, the president has tackled important issues from healthcare and the War in Afghanistan to gay rights with reasonable success.

Romney may have been a successful CEO, but Obama has been a successful commander-in-chief, and there is a big difference between those jobs. Just because Romney generated healthy profits for one constituency -- shareholders -- does not mean that he is necessarily qualified to run a country with multiple constituencies, often with conflicting interests.

So the right roles for these two men are the following: Barack Obama should remain president, and Mitt Romney should become America's Economic Czar (with clearly proscribed powers). This way, Romney could sharp-shoot our economic problems, but without the ability to do silly things like cut taxes for the wealthy or eliminate regulations that are needed to protect consumers.

True public service is one where people apply their best skills in the right sphere, without ego, and without overreaching. In this case, Romney could actually do some good as long as his nuttier ideas are kept in check by Obama, and the president can benefit from Romney's talent at making smart financial decisions.

Now if only the politicians could think so clearly.

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