*Last week Mitt Romney made his strongest case for being the next president with his strong showing in a debate with President Obama centered on economic issues.
The next day I encountered multiple people that were genuinely surprised and seemingly worried that Obama had no chance to get re-elected. But Romney’s debate performance should be no surprise. The strength of Romney’s campaign has always come from his background as an economic heavyweight.
But how this reputation translates in to being a good president escapes me. The perspective of Romney as the right person to turn around our economy is based on his experience leading a private investment firm. It’s undeniable that Romney’s firm Bain Capital did a great job of making companies profitable; it’s also undeniable that part of that success was the leadership that Romney provided. But how does that translate into being a good president?
One of the keys to success as the head of a private investment firm is laser focus on the problems of one company at a time to maximize said company’s profits. Being president requires attention to multiple situations at once. Turning failing companies into successful companies involves streamlining processes and eliminating unnecessary and costly payroll items (read: jobs/people). Romney has argued that he is a better option for president because he will help create jobs – not eliminate them. Romney’s resume and greatest claim to fame demonstrate that he is not the economic genius to help everyone in the country become rich.
Romney has done a great job campaigning over the past year as a fiscal conservative ready to decrease the federal budget in many areas. Indeed in the debate last week, he drew the line in the sand saying he would determine if something was important enough to borrow money from China. If so it would remain in the federal budget.
What Romney is not willing to cut is our defense budget. There is a definite double standard by Republicans on this subject. While they are quick to point out the inefficiencies of social programs run by the federal government and how these inefficiencies are reason to decrease spending to social programs (if not delete them altogether), Republicans turn a blind eye to the inefficiencies in the defense budget.
The attacks on our country on September 11, 2001 were successfully carried out despite a defense budget that outpaces that of any other country in the world. This defense budget funded the Department of Defense (tasked with keeping the country safe from enemies), the National Security Agency (tasked with keeping the nation secure), and the Central Intelligence Agency (tasked with compiling information about foreign threats to the United States).
It can be argued that all three of the bureaucracies failed at their jobs. And yet Republicans continue to increase spending to these areas. In fact Romney has stated that, despite our military strength dwarfing all other nations on earth, he would increase military spending by trillions. That is not fiscal conservatism.
Romney has also gained supporters, and accolades in the debate last week, because of his plan to cut taxes. Essentially Romney wants to decrease tax rates which would cause the federal government to lose approximately 5 million dollars in revenue. This would put 5 million in the hands of Americans to grow the economy and thereby create jobs. The problem (as I have pointed out numerous times) is that this money would be going to people more likely to pocket any extra money rather than re-invest it.
But even if it were true that they were going to re-invest in their companies and our economy, there is still the matter of 5 million dollars gone from the federal budget. Romney’s solution for this is to close loopholes in tax law to make up the revenue from the tax cut. This a critical issue because economic analysts disagree as to whether it is possible to feasibly close enough loopholes to follow Romney’s plan.
Obama pointed this out in the debate by asking Romney to specify which loopholes would be closed and if they would be enough. Romney remained tight-lipped in response. Obama also drew a parallel between Romney’s plan and the George W. Bush philosophy on macro economics concluding that we as a country have already seen this sort of plan fail and turn budget surpluses in to a budget deficit. But even more problematic is that during the 1980s, when the country experienced great economic growth under President Reagan, this type of economic philosophy ultimately created a budget deficit. While the economy grew, President Reagan cut taxes and raised defense spending. By the time George H.W. Bush became president, he had to raise taxes to try to balance the federal budget ultimately failing. It was not until Bill Clinton that the country’s budget was in the black.
Romney’s economic perspective is a recipe for passing the buck to future generations.
There is no doubt that Obama has not had a successful term as president when evaluating him through economics. And I give Romney credit for pressing this advantage in the Presidential debate last week. Nevertheless I fail to see how he is a better option.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.