No one is going to accuse Mitt Romney of not having enough specific policy provisions. He released a 160-page book full of them. No one will claim he doesn’t have a brainy economic team. He announced his economic team that includes Glenn Hubbard (former chairman of Council of Economic Advisers), Greg Mankiw, former senator Jim Talent and former congressman Vin Weber.
He rolled it out in Las Vegas in a speech with no text. “No teleprompter,” he cracked. The point was clear: He knows what he is doing and isn’t reading off someone else’s cue-cards. He started off with some premises: Americans should be the best paid workers in the world; the middle class should be a good place to be; we should have a “job-creating machine”; we should be an exporter and on the leading edge of innovation. He was sunny about America’s ability to remain pre-eminent.
As he rattled off stats and painted a picture of the American economic landscape he appeared in command of a large body of data. “Growing the economy is the way to get people to work,”he told the audience, pointing to private sector growth rather than the government. He claimed his plan will result in 4% growth per year in his first term and that it would help spur creation of 11.5 million new jobs.
He stressed the benefits of free trade while promising to go after China for currency manipulation and theft of intellectual property.
In a debate setting or even in an interview it may be hard for Romney to convey the image of competency he demonstrated in an extended speech. His hope is convey that his administration will be a pro-free market, conservative ideas factory. He introduced five bills ready to go on his first day:
The American Competitiveness Act
• Reduces the corporate income tax rate to 25 percent
The Open Markets Act
• Implements the Colombia, Panama, and South Korea Free Trade Agreements
The Domestic Energy Act
• Directs the Department of the Interior to undertake a comprehensive survey of American energy reserves in partnership with exploration companies and initiates leasing in all areas currently approved for exploration
The Retraining Reform Act
• Consolidates the sprawl of federal retraining programs and returns funding and responsibility for these programs to the states
The Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act
• Immediately cuts non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent, reducing the annual federal budget by $20 billion.
He held up his book touting 59 policy ideas, telling his audience it’s available in color on Kindle. And then he detailed five executive orders :
An Order to Pave the Way to End Obamacare
• Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal
officials to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate
and design health care solutions that work best for them
An Order to Cut Red Tape
• Directs all agencies to immediately initiate the elimination of Obama-era
regulations that unduly burden the economy or job creation, and then caps
annual increases in regulatory costs at zero dollars
An Order to Boost Domestic Energy Production
• Directs the Department of the Interior to implement a process for rapid issuance of drilling permits to developers with established safety records seeking to use pre-approved techniques in pre-approved areas
An Order to Sanction China for Unfair Trade Practices
• Directs the Department of the Treasury to list China as a currency manipulator in its biannual report and directs the Department of Commerce to assess countervailing duties on Chinese imports if China does not quickly move to float its currency
An Order to Empower American Businesses and Workers
• Reverses the executive orders issued by President Obama that tilt the playing field in favor of organized labor, including the one encouraging the use of union labor on major government construction projects
More than the specifics, what came through is the message that he’s the technologically-savvy candidate who knows his way around the economy and who is filled with ideas that Obama won’t or can’t propose. It will be interesting to see how Obama’s Thursday speech compares. Romney’s setting down a marker as the can-do conservative economic whiz. We’ll see if the electorate buys what he is selling.