Mitt Romney: Defender of the Free Market
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.
*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.