Smith Faculty Opinion Article
April 4, 2012
Giving Mitt Romney the Long Look
With the Republican nomination virtually cinched, Mitt Romney must convince
Americans he can more effectively moderate their cultural wars than President
Obama, and get the economy going on all cylinders again.
Conservatives and liberals have rhetorically impaled him for excessive
flexibility on health care and social issues.
Mr. Romney is an adult, and too much of the national debate is led by over
aged adolescents who cast the world in black and white—tenured academics
supported by taxpayer dollars and endowments, and pundits often catering to
ideologically narrow audiences. They embrace unbending views of a perfect
America, but none have to win votes and govern for ordinary folk making moral
choices and earning a living in much tougher environments.
Fundamentally, he is a center-right politician, but as Governor of
Massachusetts he worked with a very liberal legislature to fashion policies for
health care and other hot button issues.
As president, he would do what editorial writers at the New York Times and
the Manchester Union Leader are hardly compelled to do: compromise to get
something done. However, the Congress would be more moderate than the
Americans can expect center-right solutions, in tune with the majority of
voter sensibilities, and Supreme Court appointees like Justices Kennedy and
Roberts, who actually listen to the arguments and weigh the facts in major
constitutional cases, as opposed to reliably voting the liberal line as do
Clinton and Obama appointees.
As an economist, it is clear to me that Mitt Romney deserves a long hard look
from working Americans who want a better shot at good jobs and opportunities for
Campaigning in 2008, Barack Obama promised to get Americans working again by
getting tough with China’s export subsidies but as president, he has blocked
action against its most lethal weapon—currency manipulation.
The trade deficit with China is slicing $500 billion off U.S. GDP and costing
five million jobs, and Mr. Romney promises to go where Mr. Obama fears to tread.
Candidate Obama chastised President Bush for permitting gasoline to reach $4
a gallon, but as president he says there is nothing he can do. He has continued
bans on drilling in the eastern half of the Gulf, off the Atlantic and Pacific
coasts, and the richest fields in Alaska, and threw up onerous regulatory
barriers where drilling is still legal. Mr. Romney promises to unleash this
potential, which could halve oil imports and increase GDP by another $250
billion and create 2.5 million jobs.
On the budget deficit, Mr. Obama’s Millionaires Tax may be good politics, but
it would hardly dent the $1.3 trillion budget deficit. That requires taming
runaway Medicare and Medicaid costs, but ObamaCare merely throws more federal
dollars at a broken system, and compels private employers to buy more overpriced
insurance—its cost controls will be easily gamed by private providers and prove
just an additional expense.
Republican solutions, crafted by Congressman Paul Ryan, would give the
elderly vouchers to purchase private insurance and block grants to the states to
limit federal commitments. Those would only shift burdens rather than solving
the fundamental problem—health care is too expensive in America.
Thanks to ineffective rationing—all systems ration health care and every
other economic good—and higher costs for everything from ambulance services to
administration, Americans pay about $8000 per person for health care, while the
Germans and Dutch, also with private insurance systems, pay only $4000.
Voters should require Mr. Romney to explain how he will improve on Mr. Ryan’s
solutions before donning an “I’m for Mitt” button.
Mr. Obama’s financial reforms have instigated the concentration of a record
60 percent of all saving and checking deposits among a handful of Wall Street
banks. Those aren’t writing enough loans to finance new homes and small
businesses, greatly handicapping those historically powerful engines of jobs
Mr. Romney’s deep financial experience much better qualifies him to tame Wall
Street—but he has told us little about what he will do other than reform Mr.
The contrast with President Obama should require Americans to give Mr. Romney
a good look, but he owes us more specifics on many tough issues if he is to
deserve the top job.
Peter Morici is a professor at the University
of Maryland School of Business and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International