Mitt Romney has focused his run for the presidency on the superior skills he developed as a successful businessman, asserting that he alone has the knowledge, the experience, and the personal grit needed to repair the U.S. economy. Let us accept for a moment that Romney’s preferred narrative is true, i.e., that he actually was a respectable and honorable businessman, not just a predatory capitalist who bought up failing companies so he could enrich himself by stripping them of their assets and putting their employees out of work. If Mitt is the real thing, one should expect a president who will be a careful and cautious manager, making rational decisions based on available information, because whether businesses succeed or fail frequently depends on making the right judgments at the right time. Government admittedly provides services that do not exactly fit into a normal business model, but there nevertheless exists a broad consensus that a rational process should prevail that confers benefits on most of the citizens most of the time. As the dissatisfaction of most Americans with the status quo derives from the belief that the federal government is reckless and unresponsive and does not actually address the needs of the people, Romney’s claim that he can right what is wrong in the economy provides a compelling reason to vote for him.
In domestic policy, a businesslike approach would mean that you balance income and expenses so that you pay your bills because no business can avoid bankruptcy if it constantly runs a deficit. And in terms of foreign and defense policy it means that you pursue objectives that are in the national interest and that are both achievable and affordable because no country can long survive if it spends money that it does not have attempting to do things that bring no actual benefits.
So how does a businessman who becomes president actually fix what is broken? Well, first there is the federal budget, which drives both domestic spending and foreign adventures. Given the size of the deficit, there is no alternative to reducing spending combined with increasing revenue. One might well argue about precisely where to reduce spending, but it would seem to me that the approximate trillion dollars that are budgeted annually on what is referred to as defense is at least partially discretionary spending because it can be reduced substantially and quickly by cutting back on Washington’s overseas commitments. It could be done without damaging social programs that actually provide benefits to the American people. And to raise additional revenue to narrow the budget gap, rescinding the Bush tax cuts that have frequently been described as being for the wealthy would also be a good place to start.
So what are Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan proposing? Making the Bush cuts permanent and adding on more breaks for the wealthy by reducing the tax brackets, which will shift the tax burden onto America’s vanishing middle class. Someone making a million dollars will pay $285,000 less in taxes under the Romney plan. And there will also be increased defense spending. Ryan has accepted the necessity of changes in entitlement programs that tens of millions depend on, including Social Security and Medicare, rather than touching the Pentagon budget because the “first job of government is to secure the safety and liberty of its citizens.” That means the trillion-dollar-plus annual deficits will continue indefinitely, at least until the United States completely runs out of money, which might be sooner than anyone thinks possible. If the U.S. dollar were not a world reserve currency, enabling the Treasury to print money, it would have likely happened already.
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