By Harrison Covall
Governor Mitt Romney will be the first to tell you that his economic policy, and in fact all of his policies, are vastly different than those of former President George W. Bush. However, these pronouncements are usually devoid of any policy specifics, save for lip service regarding the “closing of loopholes”, “reductions in government spending” and “strengthening America”.
Admittedly, a lack of specificity in policy proposals does not disqualify one from becoming president, and in fact, constitute one of the inherent advantages of being the challenger—namely, the ability of a candidate to run on vague promises against an incumbent who is bound by the record of both the successes and drawbacks that stem from policy implementation. However, if the bedrocks of your domestic agenda parallel those of the Bush administration, policies that predicated one of the most disastrous decades in American history, greater transparency would certainly be politically advantageous. Moreover, if your opponent, President Barack Obama, has helped rescue the American economy from ruin and has stewarded it along the winding road to regained prominence, a lack of specificity becomes a glaring weakness that must be examined.
In 2000, George W. Bush ran on a promise to increase “economic freedom” through tax cuts and rolling back regulations, and upon entering the White House, he implemented both policies: signing two massive tax cuts and deregulating the financial industry. Neither policy proved effective, as the $2.2 trillion budget surplus inherited by the Bush Administration evaporated and the financial industry took increasingly egregious risks that eventually pulled the carpet out from under the American economy. By the end of President Bush’s second term, he had amassed the worst economic record since Herbert Hoover, overseeing record highs in unemployment and reductions in jobs, stunted economic growth, and severe drops in median household income, new firm creation, and participation in the work force.
Although few and far between, the policy specifics that can be derived from the Romney plan indicate that, beyond simply embracing the Bush economic agenda, he intends to go even further.
First, cutting taxes? Whereas the Bush tax cuts reduced the amount paid by the top 1 percent by 7.3 percent, the House Republican budget, authored by Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan and embraced by Governor Romney, reduces taxes on the top 1 percent by 11.7 percent. Don’t worry, those cuts will be paid for by closing “loopholes” and “reducing government spending”, right? They will certainly be funded by cuts, many of which involving the removal of popular tax benefits, with 62 percent of the cuts effecting low-income individuals. These cuts would also lead to a $2,000 tax increase for families with children making less than $200,000.
But surely we won’t spend as much money on the military now that we are out of Iraq and almost out of Afghanistan? Not quite. Governor Romney’s defense plan increases military spending by $2.1 trillion more than the amount requested by the Pentagon.
What about those pesky regulations put in place to prevent banks and financial institutions from driving up their profits while simultaneously holding the American economy hostage? House Republicans not only voted to repeal every aspect of Dodd-Frank, the most comprehensive banking reform ever passed, but they also want to repeal provisions meant to “wind down” failing banks in order prevent the catastrophes seen a few years ago.
I should clarify something: I strongly believe that Americans should vote for a presidential candidate and not simply against the opposing candidate. That being said, pointing out the fact that Gov. Romney’s stated agenda is based upon the underlying ideals of the Bush administration is not, in of itself, a reason to vote for Barack Obama. However, examining President Obama’s track record, which occurred in a dire economic environment, not only lends support to a vote for the President, but also suggests that if allowed to continue, the policies of his administration will put America and its economy on a path of sustained growth and development.
When the President came into office, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs (losing nearly two million jobs in the last four months of 2008) and the GDP had shrunk by 8.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, as the Recovery Act began to be fully implemented in 2010, job losses stopped and millions of jobs were saved or created. Additionally, in order to lessen the country’s economic woes, President Obama signed into law a tax credit that cut taxes for 94.3 percent of Americans. Although congressional Republicans continue to refuse to vote on the American Jobs Act, which would lower taxes for workers and small businesses, give aid to state and local governments, expand unemployment benefits and help rebuild the American infrastructure, the private sector has created over five million jobs in the last thirty-one months, and there have been increases in manufacturing not seen since the mid-1990’s. Oh, and the stock market has risen nearly 70 percent since January 20, 2009— the fifth best all-time growth in the stock market among presidents (trailing only FDR, Clinton, Coolidge and Eisenhower).
Gov. Romney is entitled to develop his policies in any manner he sees fit, but ask yourself: is a plan based on economic policies that turned a record surplus into a record deficit really the right direction for a country that is still attempting to drag itself out of an enormous economic hole? On the other hand, should we continue on a path to economic success, paved by policies that have already paid dividends and reinforced with new policies, such as the American Jobs Act that will allow for sustained growth?
The contrast is stark, but the choice is clear. A second Obama term will let the current policies continue to heal the economy and will allow for a strong foundation upon which future successes will be built.