When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, he hung the Misery Index around Jimmy Carter’s neck. It consisted of the sum total of unemployment and inflation. Today, we have a different set of ailments. Instead of unemployment coupled with inflation, we have a toxic blend of unemployment, debt, home foreclosures, and bankruptcies. Their sum total is what we can call the Obama Misery Index. It is at a record high; indeed, it makes even the malaise of the Carter years look like a boom. Unemployment has fallen, but it’s fallen to a level that is still, by any historical marker, a national disaster. To suggest it as an achievement is to engage in what Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously called “defining deviancy down.”
Where should we go from here? Having spent my career in the private sector, I know a thing or two about how jobs are created and how they are lost. The most important lesson I learned is that there are three rules of every successful turnaround: focus, focus, and focus. Turnarounds work when the leader focuses on what’s most important.
…What the occupant of the Oval Office needs to do, and do now, is focus on getting Americans back to work.
Take taxes. Our employers pay the highest rates in the world, tied with Japan, and higher than such societies top-heavy with government as Italy and France. Our small companies are hit particularly hard. If employers are going to start investing and hiring, we must reduce the burden. We can offset the lost revenue by ruthlessly eliminating corporate loopholes and the special deals that reward political influence and punish productivity. We also need to stop taxing companies that make money overseas if they want to bring it home. Encouraging companies to keep money abroad makes zero sense. As much as one trillion dollars kept abroad may be at stake; a sum that size invested here would create hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of good, permanent, private-sector jobs.
Our out-of-control fiscal policies are also impinging directly on the labor market. The failed stimulus program cost around $800 billion. Obamacare is going to cost another trillion. The denizens of the White House appear not to know it, but employers and entrepreneurs worry a good deal about the federal deficit and the federal debt. They look at the future and see that the government’s spending binge will mean higher taxes, higher interest rates, and a much weaker dollar.
IMO Mitt Romney is the best-prepared Republican candidate for President and the only candidate with national reach. For example Romney’s “PAC sent out yet another wave of contributions to 45 Republicans in Congress who received a total of $93,000 in donations. These contributions came on top of the $208,000 that was delivered to 90 U.S. Senate and House Republicans since the start of 2011″. IIRC Romney has corresponded with just about every GOP State legislator in the USA.
I hear two objections to Romney - Romneycare and Mormonism. Romney’s religion should be a plus from my point of view – my Mormon friends are among the best people I know. South Park in the “All About the Mormons” episode, after totally ripping on Mormon history, moralized:
I have a great life and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the Church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy.
IMO Romneycare is tougher to address than religion. The libertarian Cato Institute published “Lessons from the Fall of Romneycare”, noting that when Romneycare was implemented:
…observers on both the Right and Left praised the program. Edmund Haislmaier of the Heritage Foundation hailed it as “one of the most promising strategies out there.”
…Today, however, Romney seldom mentions his plan on the campaign trail. If pressed he maintains that he is “proud” of what he accomplished, while criticizing how the Democratic administration that succeeded him has implemented the program.
…Before RomneyCare was enacted, estimates of the number of uninsured in Massachusetts ranged from 372,000 to 618,000. Under the new program, about 219,000 previously uninsured residents have signed up for insurance. Of these, 133,000 are receiving subsidized coverage, proving once again that people are all too happy to accept something “for free,” and let others pay the bill.
…between half and two-thirds of those uninsured before the plan was implemented remain so. That’s a far cry from universal coverage. In fact, whatever progress has been made toward reducing the ranks of the uninsured appears to be almost solely the result of the subsidies.
…Originally, the plan was projected to cost $1.8 billion this year. Now it is expected to exceed those estimates by $150 million. Over the next 10 years, projections suggest that Romney- Care will cost about $2 billion more than was budgeted.
…as Massachusetts has shown us, mandating insurance, restricting individual choice, expanding subsidies, and increasing government control isn’t going to solve those problems. A mandate imposes a substantial cost in terms of individual choice but is almost certainly unenforceable and will not achieve its goal of universal coverage. Subsidies may increase coverage, but will almost always cost more than projected and will impose substantial costs on taxpayers. Increased regulations will drive up costs and limit consumer choice.
The answer to controlling health care costs and increasing access to care lies with giving consumers more control over their health care spending while increasing competition in the health care marketplace- not in mandates, subsidies, and regulation.
Romney needs to develop a consistent narrative for Romneycare (signed into law in 2006 – note that he vetoed much of the legislation but was overridden by Democrats). Democrats have since made additional changes to the program. The program appears to be marginally effective at best for bringing in uninsured residents but costs have sky-rocketed.