In a fine rant for TAP about Mitt Romney’s relative success in convincing people that his private-sector experience will make him a “Mr. Fix-It” for the U.S. economy, Paul Waldman hits on a pretty important point:
Romney does have a lengthy economic plan, but it amounts to the same thing Republicans always advocate: tax cuts, particularly on the wealthy; spending cuts in domestic programs; eliminating regulations; free trade; undermining labor unions, and so on. The closest thing to an innovative idea is the creation of a “Reagan Economic Zone,” which presumably will create wealth through the repeated incantation of the great one’s name.
Which is just the point: if Mitt Romney’s experience in private equity gives him such unique understanding of the economy, why is what he proposes exactly what you’d hear from any Republican who spent his working life in government? It’s partly because Romney is a Republican, and things like tax cuts and reductions in regulation are just what Republicans believe. But maybe it’s also because when it comes to the things government can do to affect the economy, being a businessman doesn’t give you such special insight after all.
Waldman made a similar argument back in 2010 when California was being bombarded with ads from Carly Fiorina and (especially) Meg Whitman touting their business experience as being their top credentials for statewide office.
Ultimately, such “I know the economy” claims usually come down to little more than a personal character reference: I’ve succeeded in one area of life, and so you should trust me to succeed in another. As Waldman notes, you can undermine such claims in different ways:
[You can] comb through Romney’s career and figure out what combination of attacks will create a negative association in the public’s mind when the words “Romney” and “business” are mentioned together. Maybe the key will be his personal wealth and hilarious habit of saying things that reinforce his distance from the struggles of ordinary people, or maybe it will be stories of layoffs at companies Bain Capital acquired, or maybe it will be some new story we haven’t yet heard of.
But ultimately, the argument that corporate titans know more about government policies that might strengthen the economy than anyone else needs a direct hit. If, as appears to be the case with Romney, said titans are essentially arguing that there is no positive government role in the economy and that all his brilliance and experience will be brought to bear on the task of “getting government out of the way” as quickly as possible, why not just elevate a laptop to the presidency, running the best available destroy-the-government software available from conservative think tanks? Mitt’s detractors often mock him as a robot or a cyborg based on his peculiar personality and/or his apparent lack of inhibition about doing absolutely anything it takes to curry favor with today’s voters even if it contradicts what he was saying yesterday. But there’s a more basic point to be made that any fool, or any machine, can implement Romney’s economic platform. As I’ve noted earlier, if he gets a Republican-controlled Congress, a President Romney could whip through his agenda in less than 100 days.
So perhaps Mitt should be asked as often as possible: what will you do as president to revive the economy that anyone with a copy of your platform—or the Ryan budget—could do? Aren’t your talents more suited to being a “job-creator” than a government-destroyer? Give us just one example of something you learned at Bain that the rest of us don’t know, that would create jobs, okay, Mitt?
Don’t know if this sort of line of inquiry would turn votes, but it would sure get under his skin, or his case, or whatever it is that holds him together.
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