Friday, August 10, 2012

The Romney Plan

My friend Bob asked rhetorically on his Facebook page the other day, "Why do the candidates and spokespeople for them not realize how frustratingly ridiculous and evasive they sound when they 'stay on message' rather than just answering questions?" My answer was simple: "Because they think we're stupid. And most of us are, because we let them get away with it instead of insisting on real answers to the tough questions they don't want to answer because it would show that the emperor has no intellectual or policy clothes."

Both of the major campaigns are guilty of spouting half-truths, evasions, and the occasional outright lie, but more than that they are guilty of omission ... of pontificating in grand generalities and providing no specifics on which we can base a decision on which candidate to hold our nose and vote for. This is because as soon as you get specific you have to defend your own position (which can be difficult and embarrassing), rather than just kicking back and criticizing the positions of your opponent

GOP presidential wannabe Mitt Romney has been heavily criticized for not laying out any specifics of the policies and plans he would implement as president. President Obama is short on specifics, too, but he's the sitting president - you can see every day what he does, what he supports, what policies he advocates and how well (or poorly) they work. Governor Romney's task is to make the case that he can do better. Our task is to decide whether he's convinced us that it's worth it to vote for him. Has he?

You be the judge: from his campaign website, here is Mitt Romney's Plan for a Stronger Middle Class ... with my questions and comments:

Energy Independence

Increase access to domestic energy resources. What this means is "remove all restrictions on domestic mining and drilling." This is fine, as long as the potential impact on the environment is acknowledged. I grew up with the sight of bright yellow and red streams and vast mountains of ugly mine tailings in the mining regions of central Pennsylvania. If this is what we are willing to live with, go for it.

Streamline permitting for exploration and development. See above.

Eliminate regulations destroying the coal industry. The elimination of job-killingTM regulations is a standard GOP refrain, but it's useful to remember why individual regulations were imposed in the first place. Some were intended to improve workplace safety, some to protect the environment, and some were political gifts to various campaign contributors, designed to hinder one industry for the benefit of another. It would be useful to know which specific regulations are "destroying" the coal industry, why they were originally imposed, and what the impact of eliminating them would be.

Approve the Keystone XL pipeline. This one is so wrapped up in politics and contending sets of statistics that nobody can know what the ultimate result of its approval would be. This one is far beyond rational discussion.

The Skills To Succeed

Give every family access to a great school and quality teachers. Exactly how do you intend to do this, particularly given the GOP's attacks on overpaid public workers and relentless campaign against  public workers' unions? And - by the way - "great schools and quality teachers" are paid for by (gasp!) taxes ... to which the GOP is opposed in principle. How do we pay for those schools and teachers?

Provide access to affordable and effective higher education options. Great idea! How do you propose to do it? If you are opposed to student loans that help students pay for higher education, what is your plan to bring down the cost of education to make it more affordable without loans?

Focus job training programs on building valuable skills that align with opportunities. I'm not quite sure what this means, other than trying to encourage more vocational-technical education opportunities to train blue-collar workers.

Attract and retain the best and the brightest from around the world. This is a good idea and it's what America has always wanted to do ... but it isn't consistent with a strong anti-immigrant stance that makes potentially valuable new citizens question whether they are really welcome*.

Trade That Works For America

Curtail the unfair trade practices of countries like China. Great idea! How?

Open new markets for American goods and services. Great idea! How?

Build stronger economic ties in Latin America. What does "in" Latin America mean, as opposed to "with" Latin America? Do you propose to eliminate NAFTA? If so, what is your proposal to replace it?

Create a Reagan Economic Zone to strengthen free enterprise around the world. I'm not quite sure what a "Reagan Economic Zone" is, and I can't find any objective information about it. Maybe this is a good idea, but with no details, it's just fluff that invokes the name of a Republican demigod**.

Cut The Deficit

Immediately reduce non-security discretionary spending by five percent. What specific cuts do you propose, and what is their impact?

Cap federal spending below twenty percent of the economy. This is easy to say, but requires an assessment of what spending will be cut. So, what spending do you propose to cut?

Give states responsibility for programs that they can implement more effectively. I personally think this is a great idea ... programs should be implemented and managed at the level of government closest to the issue. Which specific programs do you propose to transfer to the states, and how do you know that the states are financially prepared to accept and run them?

Consolidate agencies and align compensation of federal workers with their private-sector counterparts. There is no doubt that there are many parts of the federal government that are bloated in size or of questionable necessity. But "consolidating agencies" puts people out of work, and "aligning compensation with their private sector counterparts" implies that: (a) there are private sector counterparts to all federal jobs; and (b) that government workers are overpaid. It would be nice to see some specific proposals for these consolidations and alignments.

Champion Small Business

Reduce taxes on job creation through individual and corporate tax reform. "Taxes on job creation" is a buzz-phrase. What specific taxes inhibit job creation, what reforms do you propose, and how do propose to make up the revenue deficit (since "tax reform" in this context almost certainly means "tax reduction")***.

Stop the increases in regulation that are tangling job creators in red tape. As I noted above in the discussion of the coal industry, regulations were originally imposed for what seemed (at least at the time) for good reasons. What specific regulations do you want to stop, why were they imposed in the first place, and what is the impact of eliminating them?

Protect workers and businesses from strong-arm labor union tactics. No argument. However, it's useful to remember that the original reason unions were formed was to protect workers from ... abuse by businesses and employers. Over the years, the unions lost their focus, were exploited by organized crime, and became a large part of the economic problem ... but that doesn't mean that they don't have a real purpose. Without the unions, who protects the workers from their employers?

Replace Obamacare with real health care reform that controls cost and improves care. I'm still waiting for the details of whatever you propose to replace it with. And it's worth noting that many elements of the much-derided "Obamacare" were originally developed by conservatives and were incorporated into the President's plan in order to make it more appealing to conservatives (think of the individual mandate). Health care is an issue of tremendous importance to Real People ... it deserves more than broad, useless generalities. Exactly what do you propose, Governor Romney, and how will it be better than "Obamacare?"

Okay, that's my assessment of Governor Romney's "Plan for a Stronger Middle Class." In short, I don't think it's actually a plan, and it certainly doesn't provide enough specifics to let me decide if it will build a stronger middle class or not. On the surface, it looks as if it's more business-friendly than middle-class-friendly; if you believe that helping business helps the middle class, you'll support it. I don't see the details that would allow me to decide.

Over to you, Governor.

On Sunday, we'll look at President Obama's "plans" and "policies" the same way. But first, we'll have our much-needed Cartoon Saturday. Be here.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* I have published my own detailed plan for immigration reform, which appears to be too logical for acceptance.

** Who would never be accepted by today's Republicans as one of their own.

*** If your answer is "cut government spending," please indicate - specifically - where and by how much.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

We definitely need some specifics on how these glittering generalities will be turned into practice. As for cutting back on regulations regarding exploiting domestic sources of obtaining oil and coal, we have the BP oil well and strip mines in KY, TN, and WV as cautionary tales.

I'm all for getting quality teachers; but where are these coming from? We need concrete programs.

And I'm 100% for reduction of waste and government size -- but where is this fat (hopefully) going to come from?

The Bastard King of England said...

We live in an age where the dominant information is the factoid and the sound bite. A recent Time article pointed out that the respective campaigns are both playing more on emotions, acting outraged, rathen than on facts.

"Just the facts, Ma'am."
Sgt. Joe Friday

And not cherry-picked facts, either!

Duckbutt said...

Undeniably, higher education costs have outstripped wages and salaries; but this is due to a variety of factors, including sudents attending state universities having to assume a larger share of costs for their educations, the multiplication of administrators, waste, and poor scheduling.

Deregulation of oil and gas can have unwanted (and costly) environmental consequences.

But concerns that people have regarding government growth should really target Federal government growth, not state or local government growth.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Not very much on specifics, is he?

Mike said...

Job-killing regulations help control people killing capitalists.