Romney Is the One

OCTOBER 2012: AS WE SEE IT

by Jack R. Van Der Slik

It is one of the most precious rituals of American democracy. On November 6 our citizens will go to the polls and freely vote for their preferred candidates for president and Congress. Thank God for that freedom. We pray for people of good judgment to lead us in our nation’s positions of high authority.

With regard to the presidential contest in particular, I would like to suggest what I consider to be significant domestic considerations. Do not look for me to handicap the race, report on the polls, or digress about the mega-meanness of spot-ad TV warfare.

Four years ago, when the presidency was an open seat, candidate Obama based his “nice guy” appeal for popular support on hope for a better future. Now the stewardship derived from the nice guy’s hope deserves scrutiny. By seeking a second term, President Obama invites the people to a referendum on his performance. When Ronald Reagan challenged Jimmy Carter’s appeal for a second term, Reagan famously asked Americans, suffering stagflation, runaway interest rates, and 7 percent unemployment, to judge whether they were better off in 1980 than they had been four years before. A significant majority sent Carter into retirement.

Let me review an Obama triumph that he worked hard to achieve: the Affordable Care Act. By this accomplishment he kept a significant health-care campaign pledge and won a narrow congressional victory to get it enacted. The law frontloaded some pleasing elements—entitling young adults up to 26 years of age to health insurance through their parents’ coverage, promising insurance to uninsured persons with preexisting conditions—but it backloaded rules for paying the bills. Paying the price is not, as the president argued, a legitimate governmental mandate under the commerce clause of the Constitution. The Supreme Court justified it only as a tax to be collected by the Internal Revenue Service. Whether the revenues to be generated will come close to paying for the obligations to be incurred is highly questionable. Some voters will doubtless want to reward Obama for this accomplishment. I judge it to be a significant overcommitment that promises to drag the economy into a morass of costly entitlements. It neglects the crucial issue of medical cost containment, a matter too long ignored under Medicare and now increasingly burdening that health entitlement.

Obama’s presidency has affirmed his credentials and policy orientation as a “community organizer.” Such a one seeks to identify social grievances and mobilize people to demand solutions that typically come via regulations and/or financial expenditures by government or by mandates to states and localities. Typically the people who are mobilized do not expect to pay the costs, just to supply their votes and voices. The cost burden is shifted toward those “more able to pay”—softer words than “soak the rich.” In the short term there is willingness to spend now and let the obligations accumulate as public debt. Despite promises about pay-asyou- go budgets from candidate Obama, the Congressional Budget Office reports that government debt is presently increasing at an unsustainable rate in relation to the nation’s gross domestic product.

In another realm, despite Obama’s words about dealing with legal and illegal immigration, realistic policy proposals are not in evidence. The president, pandering for votes, recently offered up a phony solution: he ordered his administration to selectively not enforce laws on the books—simply to ignore the illegal presence of certain young undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, sees no evil in two matters. The more conspicuous but less important of the two has to do with the Justice Department’s handling of “Fast and Furious,” a flawed scheme to track American guns sold to drug cartel operatives in Mexico. As serious as the policy misdeeds were, the Justice Department cover-up, now protected from congressional scrutiny by Obama’s claim of executive privilege, is equally as serious in its irresponsibility.

Holder’s more significant deficiency relates back to the Wall Street financial crisis that the Obama administration inherited in 2008–09. When fraudulent executives of Enron and WorldCom were defrocked in the 1990s, people went to jail. Yet in the appalling evaporation of corporate equities and assets in a much broader crisis, the Justice Department has convicted no one for those egregious crimes. That is a failure to deal with injustice and to protect the hard-earned savings of ordinary people.

But what about Mitt Romney, the alternative to Obama? The overarching governing principle for the Romney campaign is this: “We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.” That principle will lead a new administration to reshape taxation and policy incentives to bring about much-needed economic growth. Businesses would employ more workers, invest in opportunities, and pay more taxes in a climate of economic encouragement. The matter of job creation does not come from top-down governmental choices. It is about American investment in technology and innovation, not about the government picking winners and losers. The productivity of American workers and entrepreneurs is prodigious, but it can be undermined by governmental intrusions and regulations. The tax code ought to reward capital investment and corporate profits that underwrite jobs, rather than protecting hedge funds and speculation in credit markets.

Romney argues for policies that encourage productivity and social justice in both the United States and its North American neighbors, Mexico and Canada. The Keystone XL pipeline project illustrates the kind of opportunity foresworn by the Obama administration, with costly consumer consequences in both the near and the long term. Romney has targeted the US corporate tax rate of 35 percent as being too high, thus inhibiting American competitiveness in the global economy and holding down wages at home.

Mitt Romney has a track record of administrative achievement and integrity in the private and public sectors. His skill set as well as the prudence, range, and significance of his accomplishments far exceed those of the incumbent president (and my word limits here). Suffice it to say, Romney is the one.

Americans have endured a stagnant economy and 8 percent or higher unemployment despite our president’s best efforts to spend all the dollars that taxes bring in and all that can be legally borrowed. Nevertheless there is no solution in sight, and the nation is no better off than it was four years ago. However, our electoral process offers one practical, tough-love solution: throw the incumbent out.

Jack R. Van Der Slik is professor emeritus of political studies and public affairs at the University of Illinois at Springfield.