A rather confident and relaxed Mitt Romney went on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. It is quite obvious he thinks the race will be won or lost on the economy and his ability to convince voters that a Romney presidency would get us out of the Obama economy:
I think it is a jobless recovery and — and if it’s a recovery at all. It really doesn’t look like a recovery. You’re — you’re not seeing the kind of job growth that keeps up with population growth. You’re not seeing any wage growth, so it’s — it’s not at all what a recovery’s supposed to look like. It’s really not the kind of recovery people had expected. Normally when things go down as deeply as they did they come rebounding, but it’s now been how many months? Forty-three months with unemployment above eight percent. And this last month, it was surprising to me, it was not only the anemic job growth, but that three or four times as many people dropped out of the labor force as were added as net new job holders. . . .
Well, actually, the president has — has kept in place a series of policies that have made no progress against unemployment and a shrinking job market. That the number of — of individuals that are in the job market today is at almost — well, a 30, 40 year low. People can’t find work. If this president’s re-elected you’re going to see chronic high unemployment continue for another four years or longer. You’re going to see low wage growth if any growth at all. And of course there’ll always be this fiscal calamity at our doorstep, a crisis potential at our doorstep the kind that you’re seeing in — in Europe today. I — I have — there’s no question in my mind, if President Obama is reelected you’re not going to see our unemployment picture change dramatically. You’re not going to see us create the jobs we need to create or the rising incomes people need.
The media have accused Romney of being nonspecific about his tax plan. (At least he has both an individual and corporate one; the president does not.) He explained: “I can tell you that people at the high end, high-income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those — those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise, they’d get a tax break. And I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention. I am not reducing taxes on high-income taxpayers. I’m bringing down the rate of taxation, but also bringing down deductions and exemptions at the high end so the revenues stay the same, the taxes people pay stay the same. Middle-income people are going to get a break.”
This won’t fly with the media (the same people who never ask Obama where his tax plan is or where his entitlement reform plans are), which will continue to press him for details.
It is instructive to see how the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction report handled the issue. The report didn’t specify the deductions, credits and exclusions it would take away in exchange for lowering tax rates. Instead, the report told us what items would be kept and left everything else in the mix (pp.30-31):
Congress and the President must decide which tax expenditures to include in the tax code in smaller and more targeted form than under current law, recognizing that any add-backs will raise rates. The new tax code must include provisions (in some cases permanent, in others temporary) for the following:
• Support for low-income workers and families (e.g., the child credit and EITC);
• Mortgage interest only for principal residences;
• Employer-provided health insurance;
• Charitable giving;
• Retirement savings and pensions.
Additional tax expenditures could be added to the provisions above, but must be paid for with higher rates. Furthermore, the revised code must increase or maintain progressivity, across the income spectrum, relative to the alternative fiscal scenario. In enacting tax reform, Congress and the President should design appropriate transition rules that minimize economic distortions, achieve the necessary revenue targets, and allow taxpayers to adapt to the changes.
Simpson-Bowles went on to say that “the precise details and exact transition rules should be worked out in a variety of ways by the relevant congressional committees and the Treasury Department,” but then gave a menu of possible changes. There is no reason why Romney could not take the same approach.
Romney was also asked about repeal of Obamacare and its impact on people with preexisting conditions:
I say we’re going to replace Obamacare. And I’m replacing it with my own plan. And, you know, even in Massachusetts where I was governor, our plan there deals with preexisting conditions and with young people. Everybody…
Well, I’m not getting rid of all of health-care reform. Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their — their family up to whatever age they might like. I also want individuals to be able to buy insurance, health insurance, on their own as opposed to only being able to get it on a tax advantage basis through their company.
Some in the left-wing media who haven’t paid much attention to Romney’s policy speeches and plans thought this was a change for him. Poppycock.
Romney and his advisers said exactly the same thing in June when Romney revealed the basics of a market-oriented approach to health care. This isn’t that hard: Romney will repeal Obamacare. He has always favored protection for people with preexisting conditions who move from one employer-provided plan to another or from an individual-purchased to an employer-provided plan. (ERISA law already protects insureds who move from one employer plan to another employer plan.) For those entering the health-care market (ie. didn’t have coverage before), Romney has proposed high-risk pools that would make coverage more affordable for these people. The pools have to take everyone. In short, Romney covers the gamut of preexisting conditions situations without the individual mandate.
There were two other interesting exchanges, both showing that Romney has come a long way in relating to average voters.
First, on Clint Eastwood: “You — you don’t — you don’t expect to have a — a guy like Clint Eastwood to get up and, you know, read some speech off a Teleprompter like a politician. You expect him to speak from the heart and that’s exactly what he did.”
And on his faith: “I’m convinced that — that my background and my heritage and my faith has made me the person I am to a great degree. The Judeo-Christian ethics that I was brought up with, the — the — the sense of obligation to one’s fellow man, an — an absolute conviction that we are all sons and daughters of the same God and therefore in a — a human family is one of the reasons I am doing what I’m doing. It would have been very easy for me to just stay in business. I like business. That’s fun. But when the Olympic request came along, Ann said, ‘You’ve got to do this, this is important.’ And when I ran for governor, this is important, and now when I’m running for president. I think that comes in part from this Judeo-Christian ethic of — of service and commitment to one’s fellow man.”
Romney is finally sharing more of himself and more of what he wants to do. He’s got two months to go, and there’s every reason for him to do more of this. He’s an effective spokesman for himself and should do more of the Sunday shows. The more Romney talks about himself and his agenda, the more comfortable voters will become with him. Any other course is folly.