I actually like Mitt Romney. In fact, one thing I’m grateful for in this fall election is that we’re genuinely choosing between two moral, decent guys; family men, good folks. This isn’t by any means inevitable. It’s not terribly hard to imagine this election being between Newt Gingrich and John Edwards, for example. Scary thought, that.
I know we’re not supposed to like Romney, we liberals; we’re supposed to be appalled by the Cayman Islands’ accounts, we’re supposed to construct ‘Romney’ as a cross between Scrooge McDuck and Bernie Madoff. I don’t. He’s a private equity guy. He made his money honestly, and according to the ethical practices of people in his profession. Nor do I see his policies as suggesting some core of rottenness in his character. He’s a Mormon patriarch writ large. I know fifty of them in my stake. Call him Friday night and tell him you having a moving van arriving Saturday morning, and he’ll be there, bright and early, work gloves tucked into his belt, a smile on his face.
I have another reason to think well of him. I live in Utah, and remember the Olympics here with great fondness. He did a good job, showing up with the Games in shambles and managing things efficiently. The Salt Lake Games were a triumph–I give him full credit.
Having said all that, I can’t imagine voting for him, and I think his election would be a disaster for the country.
Both Romneys, good guy Romney and hopelessly-wrong-on-policy Romney were on display in his recent speech at the NAACP convention. I applaud him for accepting an invitation to speak at the NAACP. I saw headlines calling his speech a cynical ploy for white voters. I don’t see it that way. I think he was genuinely hoping to persuade people to vote for him. Knowing that African-American voters are skeptical about him, he went anyway, and made a case for his candidacy. And the case he made is a good one, in this sense–he assumed that African-American voters are primarily concerned about the economy, and so he made that the focus of his message; how his policies will help the middle-class.
But the specific policies he proposed are utter nonsense. I’m sorry for putting it so strongly. But let me make the case.
He said he had five specific proposals. Number one: “First, I will take full advantage of our energy resources, and I will approve the Keystone pipeline from Canada.” President Obama favors the Keystone pipeline too. It’s going to get built. It won’t create ‘a million jobs’ as Romney suggested. It’s more like 10,000 jobs, half of them in Canada. The way TransCanada counts job growth is misleading–if they create 10, 000 jobs, and the job takes two years, they count it as 20,000.
Second: “I will open up new markets for American products. We are the most productive major economy in the world, so trade means good jobs for Americans. But trade must be free and fair, so I’ll clamp down on cheaters like China and make sure that they finally play by the rules.” Fair trade negotiations with China have been on-going for fifteen years. We have no leverage in negotiating with China.
Third: “I will reduce government spending. Our high level of debt slows GDP growth and that means fewer jobs.” If this were true, it would be because our debt has driven up interest rates. Interest rates have never been lower. “If our goal is jobs, we must, must stop spending over a trillion dollars more than we earn.” This is like saying ‘in order to eat healthier foods, we first must go water-skiing.’ Cutting spending means firing federal employees. It doesn’t make sense to eliminate jobs in order to create jobs. “To do this, I will eliminate expensive non-essential programs like Obamacare, and I will work to reform and save Medicare and Social Security, in part by means-testing their benefits.” Obamacare isn’t non-essential for poor families desperate to find affordable treatment for their sick kids. And ‘means-testing’ means cutting benefits.
Fourth: “I will focus on nurturing and developing the skilled workers our economy so desperately needs and the future demands.” Basically, he’s talking about education reform. But since he’s talking about cutting in half the Education Department budget, I’m not sure what specifically he means here.
Fifth: “I will restore economic freedom. This nation’s economy runs on freedom, on opportunity, on entrepreneurs, on dreamers who innovate and build businesses. These entrepreneurs are being crushed by high taxation, burdensome regulation, hostile regulators, excessive healthcare costs, and destructive labor policies. I will work to make America the best place in the world for innovators and entrepreneurs and businesses small and large.”
Wow. Where to start? Cutting regulation, cutting corporate taxes, eliminating unions, and allowing businesses to eliminate health insurance benefits. That’s what he’s saying.
Okay, I’m not opposed to cutting some very specific regulations. I think Dodd-Frank is a poorly conceived legislation. I wouldn’t even mind reforming Sarbanes-Oxley. But the ‘cut regulations’ rhetoric is what got us into this mess in the first place. Bond markets were essentially unregulated; that’s what went wrong. I agree that Dodd-Frank doesn’t fix the problem. But what we need are stronger regulations, not weaker ones. And ‘hostile regulators?’ Aren’t cops supposed to be hostile to crooks?
What he’s proposing is Bush-onomics, redux. Cutting taxes for rich guys, again? We want to add another ten trillion to our debt?
He began his speech by saying that he doesn’t just care about rich guys. Rich guys will be fine, he says. He wants prosperity for everyone. But his policies, vaguely worded though they are, will raise the deficit, raise unemployment, and increase the income gap between rich and poor, while making it all the more difficult for poor folks to get affordable health care. That’s if we’re lucky, and we don’t get another massive recession.
I think he’s a good guy. I’d love him to be my home teacher. I think his policies are massively wrong-headed. I can’t imagine a circumstance under which I would vote for him.