Back to Reagan

June 18, 2012 by Jim Edsall

In his 54-minute speech on the economy in Ohio on June 14, 2012, President Obama claimed that electing Mitt Romney would mean a return to “the policies of the last decade”, that is, to the economic policies of George W. Bush. Romney’s policies are indeed like those of a former president, but that president is not George W. Bush. It is Ronald Reagan.

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, former Clinton advisor Joe Trippi lauded Obama’s speech as right on target for 2012. Why? Because the President is desperate to make this election a contrast between himself and Romney, rather than a referendum on his own performance. The tactic of trying to tie Romney to Bush is a clever one, as recent polls show that 65% of the American people believe that the economic downturn is still either largely or at least partly due to Bush. Trippi believes that speech effectively reset the debate.

Romney has thus far successfully kept the focus on President Obama and his failure to turn the economy around, particularly the unemployment rate remaining above 8% and economic growth remaining below 2%. He emphasizes the while Barack Obama is a nice man, he is clueless about the economy, having had no executive or business experience prior to becoming president. Romney’s other best angle of attack is in pointing out that Obama has no new ideas, and he can point to the Ohio speech as evidence.

However, Romney doesn’t need to focus solely on Obama’s failures. He has his own vision for economic recovery, and it is reminiscent of the policies of Ronald Reagan. Romney’s proposed policy initiatives include lowering marginal income tax rates while closing tax loopholes, lowering the corporate tax rate, eliminating the capital gains tax rate for people earning LESS than $200,000.00, and eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax. According to the Tax Policy Center, Romney plans to reduce current income tax rates by one-fifth across the board, making the top income tax rate 28%. In 1986, Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill passed a tax reform plan that eliminated tax loopholes and lowered tax rates, making the top income tax rate 28%. By the end of Reagan’s second term, the American economy had created nearly 20 million new jobs. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis the economic growth rate was at 4.2%, and real GDP had averaged 3.2%. Bush only reduced rates. Like Reagan, Romney will reduce rates AND close loopholes to pay for them, which will stimulate economic growth and produce more revenues to the Treasury.

Romney has also announced plans to boost the economy through tapping more of America’s own energy resources, increasing supply which will reduce costs and our dependence on foreign oil. Chiefly this will be accomplished by lifting Obama’s moratorium on offshore drilling, increasing permits for drilling on federal lands, opening up the mud flats in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, and approving the Keystone Pipeline. As Peter Ferrera writes in Forbes, under Ronald Reagan, deregulation in the form of eliminating price controls helped end OPEC’s stranglehold on oil supply, and resulted in the price of oil falling by 50% (Reaganomics versus Obamanomics- Facts and Figures”, May 5, 2011). Romney’s policies would create similar results, and the energy savings would go directly into consumer’s pockets.

Reagan passed Social Security reform in 1983. Like Reagan, Romney and the Republicans in Congress are also prepared to tackle entitlement reform, with ideas including increasing the age of eligibility and the amount of income taxed, and implementing means testing, which will help to preserve Medicare and Social Security for generations to come. Bush only wanted to privatize entitlements. Romney’s policies, like Reagan’s, would reform, strengthen and preserve them.

On yesterday’s Fox News Sunday, Joe Trippi was joined by fellow liberal commentator, Juan Williams. Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard and former Bush advisor Karl Rove were on the panel providing counterbalance. Williams first contended that Romney is vacuous with no ideas, then contended that Romney’s ideas for lowering individual and corporate tax rates and increasing domestic energy production “aren’t enough to turn around the whole economy.” Bill Kristol said that unless Romney comes up with a better message, he fears for the results of the election. The Romney campaign can counter the clever but inaccurate narrative of the Obama campaign, and commentators like Trippi and Williams, with this better message: Romney is not going back to the policies of George W. Bush; he is going back to the highly successful policies of Ronald Reagan.

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