This is a lengthy, well researched piece that Romney supporters are likely to instinctively recoil at, and detractors are likely to find superfluous. I’m far less interested in the alleged bullying than I am the narrative arc of Mitt’s life. He has lived in a cocoon of privilege and, not withstanding his own considerable work ethic, it’s not clear that he has the personal experience necessary to empathize and understand the plight of those less fortunate than himself. A belief in the power of hard work seems overly simplistic within the context of an elite prep school upbringing, selling stock to pay for an undergraduate education, dual graduate degrees from Harvard, and a career in debt leveraged financial restructuring. This doesn’t naturally prepare someone to appreciate the vagaries of life for those not ensconced in affluence, or the different calculus of risk for those without such a sturdy backstop, and it would only seem to reinforce the personal belief in a strict correlation between achievement and merit. The basic economic question of the election is whose agenda is more likely to provide more opportunity for those not born with the natural class advantages Mitt Romney was. The farcical carrot that we are a nation of the rich and the soon to be rich is a mirage of delusion or deception, self or otherwise. It isn’t inherently a disqualifier, but combined with his economic plan of massive tax cuts for the rich and a large scale dismantling of federal safety net programs, it’s difficult not to cross reference the political agenda with the personal history.
The Romney campaign has been very clear about what the former governor is promising: $5 trillion in tax cuts on top of extending the Bush tax cuts, with those benefits heavily weighted toward the country’s wealthiest taxpayers. Romney himself has acknowledged the lack of details, stating in reference to his tax plan that “frankly, it can’t be scored.” I have been party for many years to searches for “high-income tax shelters” that can feasibly be closed. I know of no reputable expert in either political party who would find that there is anything even approaching $5 trillion in potential revenue to be generated from this source.
Romney has also proposed a massive defense buildup, even while he says he will cut spending deeply enough to balance the budget. I think it’s clear why he won’t tell voters which cuts he would make: In the past, disclosing his planned budget cuts was politically damaging…
This is a consequential presidential election. As the country continues to recover from the largest economic crisis in generations, we need to strengthen the job market, address big fiscal challenges and build an economy that is based on sustainable, shared economic growth. Voters should have a chance to choose between clear alternatives. Obama — consistent with his obligations as president — has laid out a multiyear budget embodying his vision for the future, and it has been evaluated by independent experts. It is time for Romney to do the same.
Mitt Romney has proposed massive new tax cuts and promised to balance the federal budget. How will he achieve these seemingly contradictory goals?
For now, he isn’t saying. And, in fact, his campaign has been sending out vague and somewhat conflicting signals about where the money would come from to finance his rate cuts and other tax reductions.
When Romney rolled out his latest revenue plan on Feb. 22, senior aides were asked how he’d pay for these substantial tax reductions (the Tax Policy Center estimates they’d add $900 billion to the deficit in 2015 alone—about $400 billion from extending the 2001/2003 tax law and another $500 billion in new rate reductions and other tax cuts). Their response: Tax cuts would be funded by offsetting tax increases combined with stronger economic growth and changes in behavior driven by the tax reductions themselves.
The aides did not identify which taxes Romney would raise or estimate the economic effects of his plan. But they were clear that his tax reductions would be funded inside the revenue system. And, at least by their calculation, Romney’s new initiative would not be a net tax cut at all. It would be a classic tax reform—lowering rates while eliminating tax preferences. But it would result in no net change in tax revenues (at least as Romney measures it).
are we really going to try this again? it’s laughable when Romney tells us we can’t afford four more years of Obama, as if we can afford another round of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, a 61% increase in defense spending when we already spend more than nearly every other nation COMBINED and a promise to balance the budget without specifying what he would cut.. rather than trying to out muscle Obama by expanding the already bloated defense budget, maybe he could try honestly detailing his vision for cutting the federal budget? or just be bold enough to release as many tax returns as his father did when he ran for President…
The county maps and polls testifying to the importance of income in predicting the Romney vote within states (the latter have been oddly missing in some newspaper presentations) all suggest that the Republican Party is now divided fairly sharply along class lines as well as religious ones.
In the general election, this may be important. Right now GOP adherents are trumpeting their confidence that the “flock” (as many evangelical ministers might say) will all return to the fold, united in their desire to defeat President Obama. Many of them, in fact, are likely to do this. But we are hardly alone in observing that turnout in the GOP primaries has been mediocre. In a few states, turnout rose above the levels of 2008, but overall, turnout is down.
In the general election, moreover, Romney will have to reach well beyond his base, to independents and those less predisposed toward all things Republican. By contrast with past GOP nominees Romney’s appeal looks modest, limited largely to affluent voters. One may doubt that his endorsement of the Ryan budget will do much to broaden that appeal, either. To win in November, he is likely to need a stupefying large amount of money and a really good Etch-a-Sketch.
And this is my theory of Romney: He’s not conservative, but he’s not moderate either. Why people assume he must be one or the other is another puzzle, because there is a third choice, which is the correct one: none of the above. He’s everything, he’s nothing; he’s whatever he needs to be. And he has shown no political courage to buck his party’s establishment at any point in his career (pursuing health care in Massachusetts was hard, maybe, but not exactly an act of ideological daring). So, if he ever is president, he’ll be whatever the situation requires, which, given that he’ll be the head of a severely right-wing party, means that he’ll be pretty severely right wing.
It is one of Mitt Romney’s most striking anecdotes. The US Navy, he says, has fewer ships today than in 1917, and the US Air Force is smaller than it was in 1947. Notwithstanding that today’s fleets are far beyond the capability of those from yesteryear, Romney says it is evidence that America’s military dominance is at risk.
Romney’s solution is one of the most far-ranging, expensive, and perhaps least understood of his campaign. He has vowed to commit at least 4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product - $4 out of every $100 in the nation’s economy - to “core’’ defense spending, not including many war expenses.
The cost appears to be far greater than when Romney first broached the idea several years ago, when the nation was spending closer to 4 percent of GDP on defense. Under next year’s budget, defense spending is projected to be about 3.2 percent - yet Romney has stuck by his 4 percent vow. Put another way, that means Romney proposes spending 61 percent more than Obama at the end of a decade-long cycle, according to the libertarian Cato Institute.
Enacting such an increase at the same time that Romney wants to slash taxes and balance the budget could cost trillions of dollars and require huge cuts in domestic programs. As Romney’s website puts it matter-of-factly, “This will not be a cost-free process.’’
Mitt’s father, George, was once the great hope of moderate Republicans., Art Shay / Polaris
by David Frum
The moderate Republicans of the 1960s were supporters of the free-enterprise system. They distrusted the then-overwhelming power of trade unions. They disliked the bureaucracy of the New Deal spending programs. Yet they did not altogether oppose social insurance. They favored voucher-style programs that delivered benefits without bureaucracy. Many were drawn to Milton Friedman’s concept of a negative income tax: the government would set a number that every American was entitled to. If an American earned less, he or she would receive back from the IRS a check necessary to bring him or her up to the guaranteed minimum. That idea went nowhere, but many other ideas appealing to moderate Republicans were enacted in the 1960s, forming the basis of much of our modern welfare system. We don’t build public housing anymore. We have Section 8 benefits that enable poor people to rent homes in private apartments. We don’t have a Federal Food Administration. We have food stamps.
What happened to George Romney’s moderate supporters inside the GOP? To a great degree, they fell victim to cultural and demographic shifts in the U.S. As evangelical Southern conservatives and white working-class ethnics migrated from the Democratic Party into the GOP, secular Northern professionals and managers migrated out.
George Romney and those who supported him were economic winners: the more affluent, the better-educated. But they were economic winners at a time when there seemed plenty to go around for everybody. Leaving some of the gains on the table to share with the have-nots looked—in the 1950s and ’60s—like a good investment in social cohesion, especially to people who remembered the pain and turmoil of the Great Depression. Today’s economy looks much more pinched, and today’s winners don’t feel they can afford to share. Today’s winners are looking for leaders who will protect their winnings against what looks to them like a voraciously hostile environment. The GOP moderates were the ultimate “good sports” of American politics. There isn’t much room for such people in an era of “winner take all.”
Everything in Michael Kranish and Scott Helman’s biography “The Real Romney” (HarperCollins) confirms the view that until 2005 Mitt Romney was a liberal Republican cryogenically preserved from the pre-Reagan era. He was a liberal on social issues, such as abortion and gay rights; a champion of government programs, such as universal health care; an anti-protectionist, “open door” internationalist; a private-sector multimillionaire who was also a personal square, completely uninterested in life-style “experimentation”; a reflexively patriotic, flag-pin-in-the-lapel sort of fellow; a wealthy man possessed of the slightly daft notion that although he had been born to privilege, every American has the opportunity (and the wish) to live as he does; a patrician with a deep sense of noblesse oblige. Since 2005, Romney has made himself interesting by getting a lot of people, including those who might vote for him and those who definitely will not, obsessed with whether, and to what extent, and in spite of anything to the contrary he might be saying on the campaign trail, he is still that person.
Today, Democrats are enjoying the spectacle of the well-financed, well-endorsed, sometimes preeningly self-confident Romney getting beat up in primary contests by the ideological equivalents of what prizefighters call tomato cans. But, as is often the case in politics, what doesn’t kill him will make him stronger. Those political palookas are performing the service of identifying the anti-Romney voters as fringe voters—people who have nutty ideas about government, or who are just angry at modern life.
If Romney can dodge and feint his way past all his strange opponents, and discreetly shed some of the culture-war rhetoric he is finding himself obliged to mouth (which may be a challenge), he might arrive in November looking like a plausible candidate of the center, which is the way all Presidential candidates aspire to look. Then it might be the white-shoe Wall Street establishment of fifty years ago against the embodiment of twenty-first-century post-ethnic America. Fantasy politics, but for real stakes.
Like a street façade on a movie set, Romney’s economic plans are designed to project an outward appearance of functionality. But when you look behind their cleverly made-up fronts, there’s nothing to see. Romney’s policy offerings on taxes, spending, and entitlements consistently lack crucial structural details; his campaign seems intent on emulating the outward appearance of policy proposals without providing anything that’s actually workable.
Take Romney’s proposed overhaul of the tax code. Vague on details and short on substance, it’s more like a press release than anything resembling an actual plan to rewrite the country’s massive, complex tax code. The few details it does reveal tend to focus on the goodies Romney would like to offer and less on their price. Romney proposes an across the board tax cut along with cuts to the corporate rate and various other reductions, including a repeal of the alternative minimum tax. Combined, the Manhattan Institute’s Josh Barro estimates that Romney’s proposals would reduce federal tax revenues by up to $5 trillion over the next decade.
In keeping with his vow to balance the federal budget, Romney also promises to make these cuts in a way that’s revenue neutral. How? He’s yet to say. The plan indicates that Romney would rely on dynamic tax effects while closing tax loopholes and reducing spending in order to offset the lost revenue. Which loopholes would he snip? Which spending would he cut? Anyone wondering about these questions might as well ask a magic eight ball, which would at least provide an answer.
There’s an old saw in American political science research that a long drawn-out primary campaign, rather than weakening a candidate, actually makes him (or her) stronger. Proponents of this theory will point to the example of Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign for president and his long slog for the Democratic nomination.
Conventional wisdom and political science: meet Mitt Romney.
It’s certainly possible that Romney has benefited from the series of humiliations and political gaffes that are more popularly known as the 2012 Republican presidential nominating contest, but right now, it’s pretty hard to make that case.
Recent polling tells an ugly story. The latest ABC/Washington Post Poll gives him a favorability of 33% and an unfavorability of 46%; a recent Politico poll puts his unfavorability above 50%. The longer these numbers stay negative, the greater the risk that a toxic public perception of the candidate will be become firmly lodged in the minds of voters.
Romney’s dilemma, of course, is that he is perceived as something of a “Richie-rich”, who is out-of-touch with the economic concerns of ordinary Americans. This perception is due in some measure to the fact that Romney is probably the richest man ever to seek the nation’s highest office.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has hammered rival Rick Santorum on his support for federal pork as a senator, but Romney, too, is guilty of nabbing Washington cash, especially while heading the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Romney sought congressional directed funds — known as earmarks — to help build transportation systems and augment security operations for the Games and argued that such money was vital to putting on the events.
“No matter how well we did cutting costs and raising revenue, we couldn’t have Games without the support of the federal government,” Romney wrote in his first book, Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership and the Olympic Games.
The federal government pumped more than $340 million into Utah in advance of the 2002 Games, funding about 18 percent of the cost, including funds for buses, light-rail construction and a host of security-related projects, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. If costs for rebuilding Interstate 15 and all of the light-rail expenses are added, the federal sum zooms to $1.3 billion.
Turns out public-private partnerships can be incredibly effective. It’s a shame that today Romney is unwilling to defend or credit the role of government in a functioning society, instead preferring to worship at the altar of “free market” economics and the caricature of Reagan the Republican demigod.
Following the bail-outs, the president eventually forced Chrysler and GM into bankruptcy, a step Mr Romney thought should occur naturally. And the government oversaw painful restructurings at both companies, which were largely in line with Mr Romney’s broad suggestions. But the course Mr Romney recommended in 2008 began with the government stepping back, and it is unlikely things would’ve turned out so well had this happened.
Free-marketeers that we are, The Economist agreed with Mr Romney at the time. But we later apologised for that position. ”Had the government not stepped in, GM might have restructured under normal bankruptcy procedures, without putting public money at risk”, we said. But “given the panic that gripped private purse-strings…it is more likely that GM would have been liquidated, sending a cascade of destruction through the supply chain on which its rivals, too, depended.” Even Ford, which avoided bankruptcy, feared the industry would collapse if GM went down. At the time that seemed like a real possibility. The credit markets were bone-dry, making the privately financed bankruptcy that Mr Romney favoured improbable. He conveniently ignores this bit of history in claiming to have been right all along.
Romney spoke about how he would fix the safety net for poor people “if it needs repair.”
Let me suggest one place to fix things: end child poverty.
Whatever the causes of poverty, when children grow up in desperate circumstances - circumstances that they had no role in creating - studies show that they will be more likely to drop out of high school, be unemployed, use drugs, have children out of wedlock and get ill.
In other words, they will be unproductive members of society and cost taxpayers huge amounts of money over the course of their lives.
We know that we have an education problem with the poor. Seventy-seven percent of our kids who entered high school graduated. Compare that with other rich countries: 90% in Switzerland, 91% in the UK, 93% in Finland and 97% in Germany. Studies show that dropouts are twice as likely to slip into poverty than high school graduates.
Children in extreme poverty do badly even when they are smart. A recent U.S. study tracked a group of eighth-graders in 1988. It found that students who did very well on a standardized test but were poor were less likely to get through college than their peers who tested poorly but were well-off.
On indicator after indicator, the U.S. compares badly with other rich nations on not only how impoverished it is but on the facilities and opportunities it is giving the poor. That’s why social mobility has stalled in America. Compared with other rich countries, poor Americans are more likely to stay poor. More than 40% of American men whose fathers had earnings in the bottom fifth end up in the same bracket. Britain, Denmark, Finland and Norway all perform much better.
The sad part is, these statistics are reversible. Compare child poverty rates in America and the UK. You’ll see that the UK’s rates were halved within a decade from the mid-1990s. The U.S. has actually risen since then.
There’s no secret sauce. Tony Blair’s Labour government simply made reducing child poverty a priority through various programs.
So, Romney: Yes, the media took your comments out of context. But you do need to be concerned about the very poor. We all do.
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