After weeks of bemoaning the fuzzy message and lackluster Boston campaign apparatus, conservatives should breath a sigh of relief regarding the Romney-Ryan campaign. No, it’s not just because the polls are tightening (Right Turn hasn’t taken early polling all that seriously, if you’ve noticed). It is because just in the nick of time the Romney-Ryan ticket has found its message: President Obama has been a killer for the middle class and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t set a new course.
You can rightly say that this was the campaign’s intent all along. After all, Romney’s five-point plan was to bolster the middle class. But it was hardly clear until the last week or so that this was the central theme for the remainder of the race and a message that could potentially cut through the media fog.
Romney is now releasing on TV his well-received “Many Americans” ad:
That seems to be the framework for the campaign’s new push to highlight the current state of the economy (rotten) and what is ahead (higher taxes, more debt, anemic growth) if we don’t dump Obama.
Romney is helped by the growing realization that the “recovery” has been in some respects worse than the recession. Reason magazine’s Tim Cavanaugh writes: “The mortgage crisis has become so grave that some city governments are threatening to deploy their eminent domain powers to seize loans at high risk of default. Seven municipal governments, including three of the 50 largest cities in California, have declared bankruptcy. Wealth creation in America has become so difficult, and wealth destruction so common, that in many respects the recovery, which is not a recovery at all but a period of indefinite stagnation, has become worse than the “Great Recession” that allegedly ended in 2009.” He observes:
A June Federal Reserve study revealed that the median value of pretax family income fell 7.7 percent between 2007 and 2010; during the same period, median net worth declined a whopping 38.8 percent, and mean net worth dropped 14.7 percent. . . . At $62.9 trillion in the first quarter of this year, household net worth is still almost $5 trillion below where it was in 2007.
As if having fewer dollars weren’t bad enough, the dollars have been, according to the strict definition of the word, decimated. Consumer Price Index inflation has robbed the dollar of 10 percent of its value since 2007. . . .
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. personal savings rate (disposable personal income less outlays), which briefly topped 6 percent in 2009, has averaged below 4 percent throughout this year and is now close to 3 percent. That rate was 10 percent as recently as the late 1980s.
Also headed steadily downward is the equity portion of real estate owned: Mortgage debt makes up 55 percent (and growing) of all real estate assets in America. . . .According to a July report from Bianco Research, aggregate personal debt has increased since the recession ended.
In the “recovery,” more earning power was lost than during the recession. (“In December 2007, real median household income was $54,916. It had fallen to $53,508 when the recession ended 18 months later. But by June 2012, real median family income had fallen to $50,964.”) And health-care insurance costs have spiked. (“A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust, reveals that the average cost for a family health care plan offered by employers in 2012 jumped by 4 percent to $15,745 from last year’s $15,073, while single coverage rose by 3 percent to $5,615.”)
Romney's argument about the middle class is also helped by Obama’s odd mix of second-term agenda items. They are either counterproductive (raise taxes on the wealthy, including small business), insufficient (hire teachers when unemployment is still over 8 percent) or delusional (keep Medicare the way it is).
Romney, however, still must elevate his own middle-class economic recovery plan beyond the bullet-point stage. In his 1979 presidential campaign announcement, Ronald Reagan had this to say about what he would be doing if elected:
We must force the entire federal bureaucracy to live in the real world of reduced spending, streamlined function and accountability to the people it serves. We must review the function of the federal government to determine which of those are the proper province of levels of government closer to the people. . . .
By reducing federal tax rates where they discourage individual initiative — especially personal income tax rates — we can restore incentives, invite greater economic growth and at the same time help give us better government instead of bigger government. . . . In short, a punitive tax system must be replaced by one that restores incentive for the worker and for industry — a system that rewards initiative and effort and encourages thrift. . . .
It is no program simply to say, “Use less energy.” Of course waste must be eliminated and efficiently promoted, but for the government simply to tell people to conserve is not an energy policy. At best it means we will run out of energy a little more slowly. But a day will come when the lights will dim and the wheels of industry will turn more slowly and finally stop. As President I will not endorse any course which has this as its principal objective.
We need more energy and that means diversifying our sources of supply away from the OPEC countries. Yes, it means more efficient automobiles. But it also means more exploration and development of oil and natural gas here in our own country. The only way to free ourselves from the monopoly pricing power of OPEC is to be less dependent on outside sources of fuel.
The answer, obvious to anyone except those in the administration it seems, is more domestic production of oil and gas. We must also have wider use of nuclear power within strict safety rules, of course.
Romney wouldn’t have to change a word, come to think of it. The genius of Reagan was that he explained why conservative ideas worked; he didn’t have to characterize them as conservative. He simply explained what he was going to do and why it would be a success. That’s the next step for Romney in elevating his middle-class-recovery message. He might even start tonight.