January 12, 2012
A gargantuan line of credit with Tiffany & Company. Poor
debating skills. Sexual-harassment allegations. Who’s rich, and how they got
that way. Who’ll garner the strongest support from suburban women. Which one is
most like Ronald Reagan.
Can we talk about policy now?
The race for the GOP nod to challenge Barack Obama is over. Barring
a miraculous, last-second surge by Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, Mitt
Romney has wrapped up the nomination. So it’s time for a look at how His
Mittness, if elected, would govern.
Let’s be reckless, and assume that the ex-governor is a man of
his word. (It’s a sketchy postulate to apply to any politician, but
particularly charitable for a notorious flip-flopper.) The best way to divine the
45th president’s domestic policies is to examine “Believe
in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth.”
The 160-page manifesto is frustrating. Some portions are
surprisingly bold, while others are predictably vague. A few recommendations are
downright dangerous. Worst of all, a raft of desperately needed reforms are nowhere
to be found.
The “central issue confronting our country today,” Romney claims,
is “generating economic growth and creating jobs.” It’s a debatable proposition
-- more on that later -- but many items on his to-do list are sure to help the
dwindling number of Americans who make, rather than take, for a living:
• abolition, once and for all, of the death tax
• a 29 percent cut in the corporate tax’s top rate
• federal-employee compensation that conforms to comparable
• repeal of Obamacare
• congressional approval before the adoption of any “major”
• restoration of presidential fast-track authority for free-trade
• expanded access to energy resources on federally controlled
• prevention of “overregulation of shale gas development and
Unfortunately, several of Romney’s priorities will offset the
benefits of lower taxes, throttled bureaucrats, and boosted drilling. He’s eager
to start a trade war with China, seeks to continue government’s misguided
blundering in “job training,” and wants Washington
to maintain its market-warping meddling in energy research and development.
It’s the all-too-brief fiscal-policy chapter of “Believe in America,”
though, that supplies the bitterest disappointment. Romney’s call for a 5
percent cut in “non-security discretionary spending” is an insult to taxpayers
-- exempting both “entitlements” and the nearly $1 trillion handed to the
military-industrial complex shoves more
than half the budget off the table. Amazingly, Romney boasts about capping
federal expenditures at 20 percent of GDP. It’s a goal that the limited-government
movement cannot accept. Within the lifetimes of our oldest countrymen, D.C.’s
share was in the single digits.
Romney’s correct to note that a “sustained revenue decline”
isn’t at the core of the fiscal crisis -- profligate fedpols are to blame. But
he proposes no significant reductions for the greatest cost drivers. (The
“promises made to our current retirees” about Social Security and Medicare must
be kept. Remember that on Election Day, AARPers.) His proposal to block-grant
Medicaid to the states is wise, as is his intention to a reduce the number of
federal employees. But neither will put much of a chink in trillion-dollar
annual deficits, and long-term debt/unfunded liabilities that run well into the
tens of trillions of dollars.
It’s quite clear: The candidate with the perfect hair is no
budget cutter. As Massachusetts
limited-government activist Carla Howell warned, the Bay State
budget was “$22.7 billion a year when [Romney] took office in January of 2003.
When he left office four years later, it was over $25.7 billion -- plus another
$2.2 billion in spending that the legislature took ‘off budget.’”
With persistently high unemployment, a moribund housing market,
and a Dow Jones Industrial Average that has yet to regain its October 2007
high, Romney can’t be blamed for putting nearly all of his “messaging”
chips on economics. But there’s little doubt that his
chamber-of-commerce-approved policy plan overlooks much of the nation’s Washington-induced
The federal government’s rampant subsidies supercharge family
fragmentation. The “War in Drugs” is an expensive, bloody quagmire. D.C.-based
educrats meddle in primary, secondary, and higher education, usurping what is a
state and local affair. Racial preferences, fostered by courts and bureaucrats
obsessed with “diversity,” persist. And the Federal Reserve remains appallingly
unaccountable. Does the GOP’s soon-to-be-nominee have any interest in -- or any
positions on -- these issues?
Yes, Mitt Romney would be friendlier to taxpayers and
entrepreneurs than Barack Obama. But principled advocates of a limited,
affordable national government are looking for something more
than an MBA-in-chief.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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