Monday, August 13, 2012

Mitt Romney: Go Full Ryan, Fully Embrace Conservative Values

In the wake of being pummeled by ads depicting him as a heartless robber baron who leaves cancer-stricken women to die, Mitt Romney unveiled his VP selection on a Saturday morning at 9am on the final weekend of the Olympic Games. This was not only an effort to stem the tide of negative news coverage, but also an effort to allay conservative fears reignited by remarks made by his press secretary defending Romneycare. Lest anyone forget, in answer to an ad accusing Mitt Romney of killing a cancer-stricken woman several years after she left her job at a Bain Capital owned plant, Mitt Romney’s press secretary stated,

“To that point, if people had been in Massachusetts, under Governor Romney’s health care plan, they would have had health care.”

In other words according to Mitt Romney’s chief spokesperson just last week, if this woman had been living under socialized medicine in Massachusetts, she would have been fine. It is only because she lived in one of the 49 states without socialized medicine that she dropped dead!

In an effort to allay some of those conservative fears, Mitt Romney nominated House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate. As the author of the House Budget Plan, Paul Ryan is the face of Republican efforts to reform entitlement programs and create a more growth oriented economic environment. Mind you, the House Budget Plan does not endorse the Cut, Cap and Balance approach promoted by the House Republican Study Committee. In fact, the House Budget Plan does not endorse a balanced budget amendment at all preferring to balance the federal budget slowly over time, over the next 28 years. That aside, by nominating Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney demonstrated he intends to make reforming entitlements and promoting economic growth the centerpiece of his fall campaign.

In picking Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has overlooked one key area of disagreement between the two, tax policy. Mitt Romney’s tax plan favors an across the board rate cut maintaining the “progressivity” of the Internal Revenue Code, Mitt Romney’s word and a funny one for someone seeking to convince Republican voters of his conservative bona fides. The House Budget Plan by contrast, favors a flattening of the Internal Revenue Code to two individual rates and a significant tax simplification effort. Mitt Romney favors no such effort with the exception of a willingness to phase out or eliminate deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes for taxpayers in the upper income brackets. The problem with the Romney approach is that he does not favor a rate reduction that will equal or exceed the phase-out thus INCREASING the net tax liability of small business owners in the upper income brackets that the ENTIRE GOP Congressional caucus pledged to protect.

Before Mitt Romney announced his VP pick, President Obama launched a character assassination calling Mitt Romney a ‘Reverse Robin Hood,’ stealing from the poor to give tax breaks to the rich. Ignoring the Marxist assumption that it is “stealing” money from low income earners and the federal government money if higher income earners are not taxed as heavily, Mitt Romney would do well to negate this political narrative by endorsing a flat tax that goes beyond the House Budget Committee proposal and is completely flat and independent of income source and taxpayer status. This proposal would tax all income at one rate, no matter the source or status of the taxpayer. It would be hard to argue Mitt Romney is a ‘Reverse Robin Hood’ in such an environment. If you make more, you pay more but you are not penalized for making more. Further, such a proposal would eliminate the negative economic incentives the Internal Revenue Code provides by directing economic activity to tax-advantaged enterprises. Also, such a proposal would eliminate the cudgel legislators wield over taxpayers for directing tax policy. In one instance, tax revenue rose by nearly 80% over a three year period in the early 2000’s when Russia implemented a flat tax. Not only is a flat tax good politics, it is good policy as well.

When the excitement of the VP announcement dies down and the political conventions are over, Mitt Romney will have to combat the same character assassinations that were haranguing him prior to the announcement. On July 31st in Texas, an insurgent grassroots Tea Party candidate shocked the political establishment beating a sitting Lt Governor for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. The Lt Governor was a $20 million self-funded candidate in his fourteenth year of elected office. Yet in the span of two short months, Ted Cruz turned a 150,000 vote deficit after the initial primary into a 150,000 vote win after the runoff election representing a nearly 30% vote swing. He did it by embracing the grassroots, attending over forty Tea Party forums across the state and engaging voters at every opportunity. When the Lt Governor embraced his inner Obama accusing Ted Cruz of being responsible for the suicide of young man, a character assassination similar to the ones Mitt Romney is now facing, voters were in a position to give Ted Cruz the benefit of the doubt. This was not merely because of the ridiculousness of the charge, but also because voters knew Ted Cruz since he had made himself accessible to them. Republican strategists might be quick to dismiss the Cruz win as one of a conservative candidate in a conservative state. After all, the saying goes that Presidential elections are won and lost fighting for “moderate” votes. Yet according to a Yankee Institute survey, a whopping 70% of true blue Connecticut voters support cutting spending without raising taxes. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker survived a recall vote with a 10% margin of victory after signing legislation ending forced unionization. Over 60% of Connecticut voters favor the abolition of teachers unions according to the same Yankee Institute survey.

Mitt Romney needs to leave his Boston Brahmin liberal elitism in Taxachusetts and embrace the conservative values that are held dear by Paul Ryan and represent the core of the Republican Party. Mitt Romney needs to propose policy initiatives that move him closer to Paul Ryan and not use his VP pick as conservative window dressing. Mitt Romney should not shun conservative voters. We are hard working Americans who, after the federal government has racked up $16 TRILLION in debt, have had enough. Win our hearts and minds and the rest will follow. Need proof? Ask Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan!