Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What, Exactly, Is Mitt Romney's "Economic Platform"?!?

Obscured by his tax return controversy, international bumblings, and general awkwardness is Mitt Romney's lack of specifics on how he's going to fix our economy. An economy that, BTW, might actually be headed back in the right direction if last week's jobs report becomes a trend. Romney, of course, seems to be betting his entire campaign on his success as a businessman. Of course, running a venture capital firm is about as akin to running a country as being an And-One streetballer is to becoming an Olympic gymnast. That is to say, not very much.

Romney could, of course, simply run on his success as Massachusetts Governor. But his single term was so successful he opted not to run for re-election because his awful approval rating indicated he had no chance of winning. He could also choose his stewardship of the Winter Olympics, but hell, we're clearly just splitting hairs at this point.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein recently explored Romney's lack of campaign specifics.
Romney’s offerings are more like simulacra of policy proposals. They look, from far away, like policy proposals. They exist on his Web site, under the heading of “Issues,” with subheads like “Tax” and “Health care.” But read closely, they are not policy proposals. They do not include the details necessary to judge Romney’s policy ideas. In many cases, they don’t contain any details at all.

Take taxes. Romney has promised a “permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal rates,” alongside a grab bag of other goodies, like the end of “the death tax.” Glenn Hubbard, his top economic adviser, has promised that the plan will “broaden the tax base to ensure that tax reform is revenue-neutral.”

It is in the distance between “cut in marginal rates” and “revenue-neutral” that all the policy happens. That is where Romney must choose which deductions to cap or close. It’s where we learn what his plan means for the mortgage-interest deduction, and the tax-free status of employer health plans and the Child Tax Credit. It is where we learn, in other words, what his plan means for people like you and me. And it is empty. Romney does not name even one deduction that he would cap or close. He even admitted, in an interview with CNBC, that his plan “can’t be scored because those details have to be worked out.”

Romney’s plan spans 369 words. He would “promote alternatives to ‘fee for service.’” Which alternatives? It’s a mystery. He would “end tax discrimination against the individual purchase of insurance.” That can mean any of a couple of huge policy changes. It could mean, for the first time ever, that employer-provided health plans are taxed — a massive tax increase. It could mean that all spending on health insurance is made tax free — a giant, and expensive, tax cut. Which is it? Romney doesn’t say.

On financial regulation, Romney would “repeal Dodd-Frank and replace with streamlined, modern regulatory framework.” That is literally his entire plan. Three years after a homegrown financial crisis wrecked the global economy, the likely Republican nominee for president would repeal the new regulatory architecture and replace it with … something.

On deficit reduction, Romney’s plan “requires spending cuts of approximately $500 billion per year in 2016.” He has not released spending cuts that come anywhere close to that goal. He does have some nice words to say about the Ryan budget, but Romney advisers have told the media that their candidate disagrees with large parts of it, including the Medicare cuts.
In some ways, I totally understand this approach. Providing specifics gives your opponent more things to pick apart and compare/contrast. Being purposely vague avoids such pitfalls, and allows you to keep your focus entirely on attacking your opponent's specifics, something the Romney campaign's been quite good at, even when they haven't been totally telling the truth. Still, with debate season on the way, Romney's gonna have to say something sooner or later, or he's gonna run the risk of being shown up on a national stage.

When pressed for details, Romney provides little more than tax cuts and rolling back regulations, apparently unaware that we're in massive debt and a lack of regulations was the primary reason for the economic cliff we drove off of. In a perfect world, instead of parroting the now pointless "eliminate Bush tax cuts for the rich" line that's clearly getting his campaign nowhere, President Obama would mention all the above.

But whatever mojo his campaign had in 08' is obviously gone.

Question: Do the lack of specifics in Romney's "economic plan" concern you? Is this a smart campaign strategy? Other than Ron Paul, would any of the various GOP 2012 candidates have played this card any differently?!?

blog comments powered by Disqus

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.