The Candidates: Mitt Romney

Second time’s the charm, or at least former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney hopes so.  I’ll say it right off the bat, I think Romney is the only Republican who has a chance at winning in 2012 because he is the only Republican candidate even pretending to be moderate (Huntsman doesn’t count).

As far as his position with the Republican base, Romney is actually more vulnerable than he was in 2008 because of the association of his Massachusetts health care plan with Obamacare.  Despite predictable attacks from the other candidates, so far Romney has remained glib, vowing to repeal the legislation.  Ironically, despite being a weaker Republican candidate than he was four years ago, he seems far more likely to capture the nomination simply because he is the only contender that isn’t right-wing crazy.

In addition to his record as a Governor, Romney thinks he is especially qualified to become President right now because of his former job as a CEO.   With jobs the central focus of his campaign he is touting his record of job creation in both offices.  His record is mixed, but he has a plan to supposedly create 11.5 million jobs.

As refreshing as it is to actually see any sort of plan from a Republican candidate there is nothing very innovative about it.   It’s the same old tired story; cut taxes, ease regulations, cut spending, bla bla bla.   On day one of his tenure in the Oval office he promises to submit five Bills to Congress and sign five Executive Orders.

Bills

  • The American Competitiveness Act:  Lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.  This has been a Republican fixation with repeated remarks that the current rate is much higher than other nations.  While this is true, through exemptions and off-shore holdings the effective tax rate is often much lower.
  • The Open Markets Act:  Free trade with Panama, Columbia and South Korea.  While I support free-trade, I don’t see how this creates jobs.
  • The Domestic Energy Act:  Look for more oil.  I don’t see how this can make significant impact on job creation either.  Theoretically, tapping undiscovered natural resources could temporarily lower gas prices, but such money would probably be better invested in alternative energy.
  • The Retraining Reform Act:  Make the States try to find jobs.  This is consistent with Republican ideology of returning power to the States, but the problem is they have no money.
  • The Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act:  Immediately cut non-security discretionary spending by $20 billion.  This does little to actually balance the budget, but would affect all of those popular social programs.

Executive Orders

  • An Order to Pave the Way to End Obamacare:  Tell the states to ignore Obamacare and figure out reform themselves.  While innovation is needed, Congress needs to act to reform Medicare (especially part D).
  • An Order to Cut Red Tape:  Undue all Obama era regulations and prevent any regulatory expansion.   Because Wall St. learned their lesson right?
  • An Order to Boost Domestic Energy Production:  Drill baby drill!  The environment be damned.
  • An Order to Sanction China for Unfair Trade Policies:  This is the most interesting part of Romney’s jobs plan because there are serious issues with China’s currency manipulation.  The White House contends that such direct confrontation could backfire.
  • An Order to Empower American Business and Workers:  Reverse all of Obama’s Executive Orders favoring organized labor.  Because corporations don’t have near enough leverage over their workers.

According to his campaign, by the end of Romney’s first term his proposals would lead to GDP growth averaging 4 percent per year over four years; 11.5 million additional private-sector jobs; an unemployment rate reduced to 5.9 percent and a reduction in spending of $1.6 trillion less than the projected amount under the current administration.  While there are some initiatives that could increase jobs, how Romney’s campaign came up with these figures remains hazy.  Even as such, these projects are hardly an improvement over the status quo according to current CBO projections.

Romney also continues to tout the need to cut spending, despite the fact government stimulus is necessary during recessions.

Every dollar that the government borrows for its operations is a dollar that cannot be invested in productive private sector activity. Runaway federal spending crowds out private investment. At a moment when the public sector is flourishing as never before, it is unsurprising that the private sector has withered.

This is pure nonsense.  This line of thinking comes from the belief that government spending comes from taxes, but these are already at historic lows.  In a recession private investment and demand falters, so government spending compensates by stimulating demand.  Analysis shows stimulus saved this economy from becoming worse, but the facts don’t seem to matter.

Other lines of Republican attack in the primary will be Romney’s well known flip-flopping.   Perry botched the job explaining it in the last debate, but here is a brief summary.  Of course, every turn has been to the right.

  • Abortion: When campaigning for Governor he supported a woman’s right to choose, but now only under cases of rape or incest.
  • Gay Rights:  Romney now supports “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.  He says he supports gay rights, but doesn’t support gay marriage.
  • Gun Control:  Mitt used to support strong gun laws, but joined the NRA in 2006 before starting his run for President.
  • Campaign Finance: Back in 1994 he wanted to abolish PACs, but now he is really enjoying them.
  • Immigration:  Romney used to support immigration reform plans, but now derides any sort of amnesty and doesn’t want their kids to get an education either.

On a final note, one of the big issues that Mitt has yet to face this go around is his Mormon faith.  Personally I don’t think this should be an issue, and I universally despise the “religious question” Presidential candidates face.  However, eventually it will come up and could possibly alienate Evangelicals.

The thing to remember on the campaign trail is that facts don’t really matter and everything  is Obama’s fault.  Maybe it’s just in contrast to the other Republican contenders, but I feel Mitt is smarter than that.  Like every other candidate he will attack and try to differentiate himself from Obama, but the question is how much is for show.  While flip-flopping is a sin for politicians, I see it as evidence that he has some common sense hidden under the rhetoric.  Perhaps  Romney is just doing what he has to do to appeal to an increasingly radical party.

Romney represents the vestiges of a once grand old party that actually saw the need for compromise.  Massachusetts is exceedingly moderate if not Democratic, but Romney was able to succeed out of political pragmatism.  Now in his turn to the right we see what the GOP has become.   There is no more room for moderation, evident by a similarly painful transformation McCain underwent in 2008.

Mitt may be handsome and Presidential, but he also suffers from a blandness that does not energize voters.  Much like John Kerry he could capture the anti-Obama vote by default, but lacking the organic idealism that energizes the electorate.  He is currently the only Republican candidate who can appeal to the whole country and not just the insular Republican primary voters.  But that’s not enough, and such is the problem Republicans are facing in the race next year.

Obviously I still take issue with a lot of what Mitt Romney has to say, and I find him less than compelling, but I have a sense of nostalgia for what he represents.  He is the establishment candidate in a political landscape overrun by Tea Party dissidents.  If he fails to capture the Republican nomination, then the civil war is over and the party of Reagan will officially be dead.  I am not saying the establishment is desirable, but it is preferable to fanaticism.  Of course I will be voting for Barack Obama in 2012, but at least the thought of Romney as President doesn’t make me run for the hills.

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