GOP platform dilutes Romney’s focus on economy
The Republican platform represents a major triumph for social conservatives.
Delegates to the Republican national convention will adopt a platform on Tuesday that represents a major triumph for the economic and social conservatives that make up the party’s activist base. The final document, which includes calls to radically transform every entitlement program, moves the party well to the right of where it stood four years ago.
Standard-bearer Mitt Romney has already begun distancing himself from some of the more controversial elements of the document, such as the call to ban abortion under all circumstances, including pregnancies that result from rape or incest. But he has largely embraced many of the platform’s controversial economic planks, such as turning Medicare into a premium support program, establishing private accounts for Social Security and making sweeping changes in the tax code that analysts say would provide most of its benefits to the nation’s richest families.
While he endorsed those planks in phrases that leave him plenty of wiggle room as the campaign unfolds, Democrats and the Super PACs that support them are already highlighting those platform elements in campaign ads in key swing states. That could undermine the carefully crafted image that Romney hopes to present to voters this week and for the remainder of the campaign: That his business experience makes him the Mr. Fix-It that the economy needs.
“Romney is taking a big gamble,” said Norm Ornstein, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “The platform gets in the way of his moving to the center. The more (people) focus on the platform, the less he’s able to focus on redefining his campaign.”
The political task for Romney is straightforward. For most of the first half of the year, he catered to the most conservative elements in the country to win Republican primaries. Then he absorbed a summer of withering attacks by President Obama for his role as a “job destroyer” at Bain Capital. The convention script recasts the former Massachusetts governor as a centrist problem solver who will create jobs. Fence-sitting voters in the handful of states where the election will be decided – though a shrinking share of a polarized electorate – will likely cast their ballots for the candidate they think is best suited to get the nation’s economy moving again.
In any year when the workforce is suffering through an 8 percent-plus unemployment rate, projecting that message should not be a problem. And Romney, like his opponent, will have hundreds of millions of dollars to pour into ads in the final months of the campaign to get that message across, which will be supplemented with hundreds of millions more spent by Republican-leaning Super PACs, which have outraised Obama-leaning Super PACs by a 3-to-1 margin.
As Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom put it last March: “Everything changes” after the candidate gets the nomination. “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again. The problem now, though, is that the platform writers threw a monkey wrench into the Etch a Sketch machine.
The candidate began the process with his choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate. The Congressman from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee has authored three plans to turn Medicare over to private insurance companies while fixing the amount the government will give future seniors to buy those plans. Ryan’s latest effort modified his earlier plan, which would require future seniors (those under 55 years old now) to pick up nearly two-thirds of their health care costs, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis.
While Romney has not said which of those plans he would back – he has endorsed the general concept as the best way to rein in government spending when health care costs spiral upwards, as they inevitably will with the retirement of the Baby Boom generation. The platform also endorsed that approach.
The platform also touched on Social Security, which was once considered the third rail of American politics and an issue that helped the Democrats win control of Congress in 2006. “Republicans are committed to setting it on a sound fiscal basis that will give workers control over, and a sound return on, their investments,” the platform said, a refrain of the proposal that President George W. Bush made in 2005. CBO projects Social Security will exhaust its trust fund reserves by 2033, three years earlier than projected last year. After that, it will only have sufficient cash flow to pay about 75 percent of benefits. Expect to hear a lot more about that plank on the campaign trail from Democrats.
The current program pools all payroll taxes and pays benefits to every retiree from that pool. Giving workers control over their own accounts – the equivalent of a national 401(k) or 403(b) program – would transfer some of the payroll tax into individual accounts that could then be invested in stocks, bonds or other investment vehicles that would be subject to the vicissitudes of the market.
Elsewhere on the spending side, the platform calls for ramping up defense spending for a second consecutive decade, despite the winding down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plank was adopted over the protests of delegates pledged to Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who has somewhere between 150 and 200 delegates in Tampa. They believe, like many on the left wing of the Democratic Party, that the U.S. needs to reduce its footprint abroad and curtail wasteful Pentagon spending.
Romney has called for an 8 percent increase for the Pentagon, which over the next decade would substantially increase the military’s share of the overall economy. He and the platform writers also called for a stronger military footprint in the Far East to counter China, which is seen as a rising military as well as economic threat, and they promised a tougher stance on Iran in the Middle East.
While Romney is a knowledgeable financier who understands the need for countercyclical economic policies during economic crises and recessions, his party’s platform this year – as in the past – called for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. A separate plank sought an amendment that would allow Congress to pass tax increases only with a “super majority” of more than 60 votes in the Senate except in times of war or national emergencies.
Romney would kick off the coming era of government austerity by lowering tax rates on corporations and individuals by 20 percent. A report from the Tax Policy Center estimated his plan would distribute most of its tax relief to families in the top tax brackets.
Tax cuts and higher military spending in the context of attempting to balance the budget can only be accomplished with either dramatic cuts in all other domestic programs or increases in middle class taxes. Romney has said he is for eliminating some tax preferences although he won’t say which ones. The platform backed away from a proposal to scale back the home mortgage deduction.
“It’s impossible in the midst of a campaign to educate voters,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director who now is president of the American Action Forum and a Romney adviser. “Calling for low marginal rates and a broader base is the right way to message this during a campaign.”
Republican pollsters say the American people are ready for many of the far-reaching changes contained in the platform and will look past specific elements that don’t add up or are even contradictory. “The majority of Americans think this country is in decline right now,” said John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster. “They know we need serious reforms.”
Merrill Goozner is a contributor at The Fiscal Times. Subscribe to The Fiscal Times' FREE newsletter.
More from The Fiscal Times:
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The Republicans are massively salivating in expectations of the future Tax Cuts for the rich, and the proposed large increase in military spending, when the war in Afghanistan is nearly over, and the USA is looking forward to a time of savings billions of dollars in no wars. The Republicans can't balance the Budget with these crazy plans for helping our country. What they need to say is the truth, that is, there will be terrible dramatic cuts in Medicare for all the seniors of our dear USA. The Social Security will be privatized to include cuts over 30%, Medical will be cut for the poor, and the recoil results will be diseases in the country that grows to epidemics proportions. All Union shops will be terminated, nurses unions in all Hospitals will be finalized, to cut their high pay, many other deductions will be cut, like Mortgage deductions in a terrible sweep to control the Budget on the back of the American working class. So go ahead fools, and voted, believed in all the double talk of all Tea Party, and Republicans in this lamentable Presidential Convention, and we will be very sorry. You can stop this all, by voting full Democrat in November 2012.
so, either he knows he would lose if he disclosed that information now, or maybe he hasn't figured it out yet... still the old white folks and Fox News crowds cheer for something new, even if they have no idea what it's about.
Does it really make any difference what the GOP platform is? Did it make any difference what the Democrat's platform was in 2008? Is there any real difference between either party in action. Over the past 50 years, both parties have put us in debt, made the tax code ridicules and unfair, expanded the federal governments power and spent recklessly. We are at a point in history where we need to stop buying into the rhetoric and start thinking about how to hit the reset button.
Democrat vs. Republican, Romney vs. Obama, just different flavors of the same nasty soup. At the end of the day neither will positively affect the direction of the country. We all are caught up in the game of politics and are rooting for one side or the other. And just like a sporting event, it really doesn't impact your life regardless of who wins. The only winners are the insiders from each team.
The only answer is for all Americans to stand together and take our constitutional rights to the next level. We have a duty to replace this dysfunctional government with one that truly represents all Americans.
We need to find and elect true patriots, we need to get the federal government back to its original directives and responsibilities. Most importantly, we need to get state leaders to stand up and stop the federal government when it becomes overbearing. It is difficult to refuse federal dollars, but that is the problem. I would rather see government on a more local level since locally we would all have more control. The federal government is supposed to defend the borders and secure the nation. Everything else should be up to the states.
- the Tea Party
How can you dilute water? The only statement Romney/Ryan have made is they want to talk about jobs and the economy and that is where it stops. Is this because they have no idea what to do? They don't even understand why the economy is in a mess. According to them this mess has been created by Obama and things were going great when Bush left office. You want me to trust these two idiots with my future?
The only thing they want to do is kill medicare and hand me a voucher to buy private health insurance when I am 65.
We're tired of the lies and the twisting of facts just to forward an agenda. Do representatives lie because they think the electorate is stupid so they can get away with it? Maybe that's it?
No one wants Jamie Dimon playing with their retirement money.
They'll represent the millionaires and billionaires who the Teas think should pay zero taxes and the poor and middle class should pay ALL of the taxes, the multinational corporations who promise to create more jobs overseas, those who don't believe in climate change, those who want to frack and drill baby drill without restraint or any concern for the environment, those who believe there should NEVER be abortions for ANY reason...ever, those who blame ANY climatic disturbance on the rest of the people in the country who are sinners, those who think gays and immigrants should be deported, those who believe that the government should NOT protect our food and water, and those who want medicare turned into a voucher program - now it's time for true Repubs to take their party back.
Final consumption sales only - no item or person exempt - When a family goes to the grocery store and buys $100 in groceries and the clerk adds $5 for local taxes, $7 for county, $15 for state, $30 for federal tax and $45 to payoff the federal debt. The crap will come out of the American people heads about the cost of government. Socialism, liberalism and big government spending will end that day.
Then give the American people the direct right to decide what they will buy with their tax dollar. (By pass congress). In 4 years the American people will reduce the cost of government by 35% and increase the productivity if our tax dollars by 400% and we will still have the government programs we are willing to pay for.
We have got to reduce the power of congress. Congress is there for themselves and their vested interest groups not for the American people. The vested interests money is to big so congress will always be owned by vested interests, they will never again represent the American people.
If we take taxes off business and get rid of unreasonable regulations. Jobs will move back to America.
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Breaking up big banks is an untested solution to the too big to fail problem that attempts to isolate and dismantle large, troubled institutions while protecting the rest of the economy.
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