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“Still With Worrisome Fundamental Beliefs”: It Says A Lot That A Strong Economy Is Bad News For Mitt Romney in 2016

Nothing says democracy like a private-equity-manager-turned-governor whose dad ran for president facing off against a governor-turned-private-equity-manager whose dad was president over, you guessed it, the presidency.

That’s what we might get, though, if Mitt Romney, who’s “considering” a run in 2016, and Jeb Bush, who’s already formed a political action committee, end up duking it out over the Republican nomination. (Romney started out in private equity before becoming a governor, for those keeping score at home, while Bush was a governor before getting into private equity). But before we, well, get too far into the horserace, we should remember that Romney, at least, lost in no small way because he didn’t have anything approximating a policy agenda.

Think about that. Romney was a professional presidential candidate for almost five years by the time Election Day rolled around in 2012, and he still didn’t have a coherent strategy for the economy by then. His tax plan was a mathematical impossibility: he would have had to either abandon his tax cuts for the rich, raise taxes on the middle class, or run much bigger deficits to make it work.

And his economic plan, well, we’re still waiting for it. Romney told his donors that “if it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy” and “we’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost to the economy.” And that was it.

Romney really thought President Obama was scaring away a recovery, so all he had to do was win and then do nothing. Now, to be fair, doing nothing has actually worked out okay for Obama since he got re-elected, though not by choice, as the combination of more monetary stimulus, less fiscal austerity, and time have healed the economy enough that unemployment has started falling fast.

In fact, joblessness is already lower after two years, at 5.6 percent, than Romney said he’d get it in four. But, as you might have noticed, the recession put us in such a deep hole that there are still plenty of problems that need fixing. Romney, though, didn’t have a plan to take advantage of can’t-go-any-lower interest rates to rebuild our infrastructure. Or to help underwater homeowners refinance their mortgages. Or, more on this in a minute, to increase worker wages.

Romney, in other words, just ran against the economy, and hoped that would be enough. It wasn’t. And it shouldn’t even be an option in 2016, when unemployment could be as low as 4 percent. The question then won’t be how to get jobs, but rather how to get good ones with good pay.

Now, Romney is ideologically flexible. But he seems to have some worrisome fundamental beliefs that would hurt him if he runs in 2016.

After he lost the presidential race, Romney blamed his loss on Obama giving “gifts” to minorities and women, and warned that “this is really serious” since “we’re following the path of every other great nation, which is we’re following greater government, tax the rich people, promise more stuff to everybody, borrow until you go over a cliff.”

Does that sound like somebody who would try to boost stagnant wages—which should be the issue of 2016—by, say, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (and the ranks of the “47 43 percent“) like a lot of conservative wonks want to?


By: Matt O’Brien, The Wonk Blog, The Washington Post, January 12, 2015

January 15, 2015 - Posted by | Economic Policy, Election 2016, Mitt Romney | , , , , , ,

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