Mitt Romney: Defender of the Free Market

To the shock of no one, Mitt Romney announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination today.

To the shock of no one, Mitt Romney announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination today.

I cannot, at the moment, find  full text of the speech, but in reading press accounts, I noticed the following:

Romney attacked Obama for expanding the role of the federal government, adding, “we are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy. I will cap federal spending at 20 percent or less of the GDP and finally, finally balance the budget.”

Two rather important points need to be made:

1)  No, we are not “inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy.”  This is utter nonsense of that type that drives me crazy because it is so utterly, completely incorrect.  The basic driver of our economy is the market, albeit a regulated market (like every market on the planet).  This is just another example of the Socialism! battle cry that is utter founded in nothing more than sloppy rhetoric deployed not because the speaker believes it, but because he hopes the hearer will.*  And, quite honestly, I am not sure what it is supposed to mean.

And, of course, the real irony is that the Obama policy most associated with “socialism” in the minds of many voters is the PPACA (aka, Obamacare), but it is a policy nearly identical to the health care reform in Massachusetts ( aka, Romneycare).  Even if one buys the federalism dodge, I am not sure how it would make Romneycare any less “socialistic” than Obamacare.

2)  Even if Romney wins an electoral college landslide in 2012, he is not going to be able to “cap federal spending at 20 percent or less of the GDP and finally, finally balance the budget.”  This is true for two reasons.  The first is that a president can only propose these things, it is Congress who will make said determination about such things (see, for example, the US Constitution on the question).  The second is that even if he gets Republican majorities in Congress, the probabilities are quite high that said majorities would not deliver on such proposals (see, for example, the last time we had unified government under Republican control).  This is the sort of thing that is really easy to say in the pre-campaign, but far more difficult to do in office.**   Even if we assume that Republicans elected in a Romneyful 2012 are going to be massively dedicated to these proposal (which is a problematic assumption) then one has to recognize the very real likelihood that a Democratic minority in the Senate would likely block the massive cuts necessary to achieve said goals.

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*Ok, it is true that though I am a Professor, I am not Professor X.  Hence, I have no mind-reading capabilities.  I am giving Romney the benefit of the doubt that he is actually smart enough to know that this assertion is a crock of an unpleasant substance.  I do reserve the possibility that I am wrong.

**It may shock some of the younger readers to learn, but Romney is not the first candidate to promise severe spending cuts and balanced budgets.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. tom p says:

    Why is it every time I hear a Republican say “balanced budget”, I think of the tooth fairy? The Easter Bunny? Santa Claus?The Ryan Plan to “balance the budget”?

  2. john personna says:

    I decode this as “we must return to our free market fantasy.”

    The truth is that the US, and other market democracies, have been mixed economies for a very long time. You are right that Republicans like to play “free market” versus “socialism,” but the biggest tragedy is that they actually see the world in that false dichotomy.

    They cannot talk about mixed economies. There is only an imagined free market versus an imagined socialist alternative.

  3. anjin-san says:

    inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy

    This is why I can’t take Romney seriously. I would like to take him seriously, he is a bright and capable guy. Perhaps it’s not his fault, there is not really any way to survive in Republican politics without pandering to the crazies…

  4. Murray says:

    At least he didn’t talk about “Real America” or birth certificates or …. etc.

    I just realized how low my expectations are by re-reading the above sentence.

  5. ponce says:

    It’s sad to see one of the better Republican candidates pander to the Republican fringe right right out of the gate.

    Didn’t he learn anything from McCain?

  6. Gustopher says:

    Can’t we just put him in a crate on top of a car, and drive for a couple hundred miles down a highway? He’ll like it.

    Creepy animal abuser.

  7. @anjin:

    This is why I can’t take Romney seriously. I would like to take him seriously, he is a bright and capable guy. Perhaps it’s not his fault, there is not really any way to survive in Republican politics without pandering to the crazies…

    I actually almost wrote something exactly like this when I first started the post and then ended up going in a different direction.

    I know some of the commentators here think I am a pinko of some sort, but the truth of the matter is, I have predominately voted R my whole life. I am, however, to the point where it is hard to find an R to take seriously.

  8. TARP gave the treasury secretary the power to intervene in the markets in any way s/he wants to. So Romney is correct that “we are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy,” at least, we are closer to ceasing it than ever before. But I doubt that he remembers it was a R. president who put us there. And I don’t think it can be argued that Obama has accelerated it.

  9. ken says:

    I know some of the commentators here think I am a pinko of some sort, but the truth of the matter is, I have predominately voted R my whole life. I am, however, to the point where it is hard to find an R to take seriously.

    You didn’t see that the crazy ideology held by your Republicans would, when actually implemented, cause great harm?

    The Republican party has had a platform built upon sheer lunacy for decades now. How long have you been voting?

  10. Neil Hudelson says:

    I predict the day that there is a Republican President in office, is the day that all the wingnuts will proclaim we are back to a free market economy, even if not a single thing changes in government.

    I know, really going out on a limb there.

  11. wr says:

    Oh, and Cheney will be considered a great sage for realizing that “deficits don’t matter.”

  12. tom p says:

    I know some of the commentators here think I am a pinko of some sort, but the truth of the matter is, I have predominately voted R my whole life.

    AaahhhAAA! So you’re to blame!

    I am, however, to the point where it is hard to find an R to take seriously.

    This is why we Ls (almost) forgive you.

  13. lunaticllama says:

    Let’s just note that when Republicans mean free market they mean using the government to enrich corporations. Regardless of the labels, they are a pure corporatist party plain and simple.

  14. ml says:

    Romney will lose the 2012 primary election. Romney doesn’t do too well to win in the South. I would to see Gov. Rick Perry of Texas to run for President.