Political Animal


September 17, 2012 10:20 AM Plans

By Ed Kilgore

So this morning there’s all kinds of speculation about Mitt Romney once again “rebooting” his campaign to respond to complaints about his lack of policy specificity. But there’s a fundamental misunderstand that often creates confusion about Romney’s “plans.” In the real world, he, his running-mate, and pretty much the entire GOP is committed to “plans” contained in the Ryan Budget. When the Romney campaign, however, talks about its “plan” it’s the “five-point-plan for jobs and growth,” which is wildly less specific and actually pretty misleading.

Here’s Mitchell Landsberg’s brief summary of the “five-point plan” for the LA Times:

* Achieve North American energy independence by increasing access to domestic fossil fuels, streamlining regulations and the permitting process, drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and approving the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada. “No. 1, we’re going to take advantage of our energy, and that’s going to create millions of jobs.”
* Improve education and job training, in part by increasing school choice and changing the way teachers are hired and evaluated. “We’ve got fix our schools…. It’s time for us to put the kids and the pts and the teachers first, and the teachers union behind.”
* Curtail unfair trade practices, especially those of China. “I will call China a currency manipulator and stop them in their tracks from killing American jobs.”
* Cut the federal deficit by reducing federal spending below 20% of GDP. “You’re not going to get entrepreneurs to go out and start an enterprise … unless they realize we’re not headed to Greece.”
* Champion small business by cutting taxes and regulations, and by overturning Obamacare. “We need small business to grow. … Small businesses have been crushed these past four years.”

The guts of the Ryan Budget is in items 4 and 5, obviously, but is described pretty generally. You don’t hear any talk about “entitlement reform” or about a health care system that will radically reduce access to public or private insurance or about devolving the entire social safety net to the states with radically reduced funding. And in terms of emphasis, Romney’s talking a lot more about the less significant parts of his “plan,” notably all the very noisy China-bashing.

So when conservatives (or for that matter, MSM critics) complain about Romney never offering any policy “specifics,” and he says he is too being specific, or is about to become specific, it’s this “five-point plan” he’s talking about. And while this formulation avoids the toxic political vulnerability of the Ryan Budget, it’s not going to make “the base”—which wants an in-your-face, controversial domestic policy debate—very happy.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on September 17, 2012 10:34 AM:

    I do so love how Conservatives want Romney and Ryan to give more details about their great plans to fix the economy.


    Why do they think they’re not doing that?

    The people calling for that don't realize that their Conservative arithmetic doesn’t add up - but what does add up when it’s explained to people, is that it subracts money and services from the lower and middle classes, and adds that money to the rich, who don’t need the same services as the rest of us do.

    Conservative are the only ones who don’t realize that Conservatism has completely failed.


    If it hadn't, they wouldn’t have to keep running on “God, guns, and gays,” now would they?

  • Hedda Peraz on September 17, 2012 10:35 AM:

    Specifics lose, not gain votes!
    Mitt needs to continue with his "Less Filling! More Taste!" campaign, because of its broad to appeal to both sides.

  • Shadow on September 17, 2012 10:42 AM:

    Opening ANWR to oil production, school choice, deregulation and spending cuts? That's not a new plan. It's the perennial GOP agenda ... good for anything that ails you.

  • schtick on September 17, 2012 10:43 AM:

    gulag, the only thing you left out is anti-abortion and anti-birth control. Other than that, you and Hedda have said it all.

  • FlipYrWhig on September 17, 2012 10:53 AM:

    Are we even supposed to know WTF he's talking about when it comes to China? There's an ad I've seen a few times with Romney's angry face gnashing its teeth about "cheating." I have no idea what he's talking about, or what he'd do to stop it. What a clueless git.

  • ron byers on September 17, 2012 10:54 AM:

    The Romney economic plan is the same plan Republicans trot out every election. They really need to return to the drawing board.

  • Ken in Madrid on September 17, 2012 10:57 AM:

    Paul Krugman had a nice blog this morning on Romney's 5 Point Plan. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/five-points-to-nowhere/

  • DRF on September 17, 2012 10:57 AM:

    Romney is a bad candidate, but the fundamental problem with his candidacy isn't him personally, it's his party. The classic Nixonian strategy of running to the right in the primaries and to the left or center in the general election no longer works.

    The Romney campaign knows that, in order to attract voters beyond the Republican base, he needs to articulate policies which appeal to the middle, but every time he starts to do that, the base rebels, sharply criticizes him, and reels him back in. As a result, his campaign message has been incoherent and lacking in specifics.

    cund gulag is correct--Conservatives want him to provide policy specifics, but their program is unpopular and isn't going to attract voters from the independent/undecided segment of the electorate. Those policies which won't repel the center will repel the right. This is a can't-win situation for Romney. I doubt that a candidate with the skills of a Bill Clinton could solve this dilemma.

  • Grumpy on September 17, 2012 11:00 AM:

    Achieve North American energy independence by... approving the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada.

    How would exporting Canadian oil via the Gulf of Mexico make the US more energy independent?

  • Bo on September 17, 2012 11:03 AM:

    The MittWit has pretty much painted himself into a corner. The "specifics" of his "plan" heavily depend upon pixie-dust. But, even if voters could be convinced to believe in pixie-dust, very few of them could be convinced to believe in Willard.
    At this point, all the MittWit's got going for him is a handful of monied backers, the Rovian plutocracy and a negative campaign. That won't be enough.

  • stormskies on September 17, 2012 11:04 AM:

    It's all fucking bullshit, lies, and yet more deception. For example, increasing the domestic oil production, the Keystone Pipeline, and all that. The reality, that the corporate media NEVER points out is that all the oil we produce is SOLD ON THE INTERNATIONAL OIL MARKET. None of it is reserved for home use whatsoever. Just more fucking deception that is enabled by the corporate media. Of course.

    And it's the same corporate media that has invented the 'story line' that if the election is just about the economy that pathological liar Romney will win. And of course the repeat this over and over. The reality is that his economic plan, as we know here, is simply a replay of Bush, and worse, including a $2,000 increase for most Americans while the rich will receive even bigger tax breaks that is paid for by most Americans.

    And, within that, deregulating yet again the financial industry that is the cause of our almost total economic collapse in '08. And those deregulation's were the result of the Repiglicans and Bush.

    That's just for starters. And yet the corporate media tells us that if the election is just about the economy the automaton called Romney will win. Based on exactly what ?

    And to think that literally millions of Americans will vote for this fucking creep NOT KNOWING ANYTHING about what he actually wants to do is it's own indictment as to the nature of a vast amount of our fellow citizens.

    You know the 50% that believe that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and the humans co-mingled with the Dinosaurs. Or the 20% that believe the the Sun revolves around the Earth. Or the 65% who can not name of the current VP of our country. Or the 35% that still believe that Obama is a Muslim.

    And it's these kinds of cretins and imbeciles that could determine who our next president is ?

    God help us.

  • c u n d gulag on September 17, 2012 11:05 AM:

    Mitt will tell us how AFTER he's elected

    Until then, we'll all have to take it on faith that it's true.

    "Faith" - the other last refuge of a scoundrel.

  • c u n d gulag on September 17, 2012 11:06 AM:

    Mitt will tell us how AFTER he's elected

    Until then, we'll all have to take it on faith that it's true.

    "Faith" - the other last refuge of a scoundrel.

  • Calvin Ross on September 17, 2012 11:54 AM:

    Five-point plan aside, what weakens Mitt is the poverty of his ideas:


    Thinking people get that and don't sign on.

  • bigtuna on September 17, 2012 12:04 PM:

    1. The China stuff is a bit more serious, and bad, and I think is a first-tier issue. All the noise and bluster plays to the nativist side of America, and feeds the lower middle class frustration with the various international economic conditions; started by Nixon, and pushed ahead by Clinton.

    IF Romney Ryan were to be elected, and IF they were to go through with thier games regarding China, do we really think China would sit around and do nothing? Might they not slow down, or stop, buying our debt? And wouldn't that raise short term, and long term, rates, becuase we'd have to replace thier purchases with others, who might likely demand a higher rate that the Chinese are willing to pay ??

    THis relationship, like much of our international policy issues, is very complicated. And of course, RR don't do complex. We will return to our "muscular, non apologetic, US interests uber alles" policies of Bush II.

    2. Energy. grrr.. There is so much nonsense here. The US is completely self sufficient in coal; and natural gas; and we export each. The only major energy source we import is oil. We currently import abut 8 million bbls oil / day. We use about 18 million/day. When they talk about energy independence, it really means oil independence. Much of that 8 mm bbl/day comes from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuala.

    Where would these millions of jobs com from? They are complete fiction. Replacing imported oil with domestic oil, if it existed, does not create millions of jobs. There are about 100,000 people on EARTh in the professional ranks of oil and gas finding. Maybe a few 100 k more in drilling, pipelines, etc. A few 10's k in refining - but changing from imported to domestic oil doesn't change that - oil is oil, and a Houston refinery works on Mexican oil the same as with US oil. Oil prices are set by international trade and economics. IF we were to find another 1-2 mil. bbls / day domestically, and we brought in Keystone [which will happen with a longer route around NB], global demand will still dictate the prices. Global recession = price drops; global growth = price increases.

    The US is, in fact, seeing an uptick in domestic production. Relatively stable economic policies, a decently educated workforce, political stability [not having North Dakotans shooting at your oil rig workers helps], implementation of new technologies [developed in the private and public sectors], and new big finds in North Dakota, South Texas, and the deepwater Gulf of Mexico are the causes.

    In short, if you don't care about global climate change ... the system has kind of worked. THe price demand, along with our mature, operational infrastructures, worked to respond to this, often in public-private partnerships. Basic economics, and basic governmental and private sector efforts, worked.


  • Peter C on September 17, 2012 12:11 PM:

    According to the US Energy Information Administration (http://www.eia.gov/naturalgas/crudeoilreserves/) the entire US oil reserves (as of 2010, latest date available) was 25.2 billion barrels. Accoring to Rueters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/17/us-usa-api-monthly-idUSBRE87G0UQ20120817) our DAILY consumption of oil fell in July to 18.062 million barrels. Thus, even if all our reserves were readily available, if we use oil at the current rate, our oil will last less than 4 years (3.82 years). Oil Independence is an absurdity; with the best information, it would last us only 4 years.

    Again, arithmatic demonstrates that it has a liberal bias.

  • BuffOrpington on September 17, 2012 12:17 PM:

    The Romney/Ryan two-point plan.

    1. Do good.

    2. Avoid evil.

    We'll tell you which is which after the election.

  • Zinsky on September 17, 2012 12:46 PM:

    Maybe Willard can ride Ann's prancing horse into the debates and win voters over with his princely demeanor.

  • Doug on September 17, 2012 7:35 PM:

    Why do I get the feeling that should Romney actually get specific about his "5 Points", he'd not only lose any chance of getting ANY as-yet-undecided voters, but he'd ALSO lose quite a few of those non-base Republicans?
    You know, the ones who DON'T automatically push the buttons for anyone with an "R" behind their name...