With his confident style and crowd-pleasing smile, Ames, Iowa straw-poll winner Mitt Romney looks like a formidable contender for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. If he’s lucky, he can leave voters so dazzled that they ignore his record.
Rather than see stars, Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Boston’s Northeastern University placed Romney’s rule beneath their statistical microscope. Let’s hope what they discovered is not contagious.
“Our analysis reveals a weak comparative economic performance of the state over the Romney years, one of the worst in the country,” the researchers wrote in the July 29 Boston Globe. Specifically, they found:
‐ As U.S. real output grew 13 percent between 2002 and 2006, Massachusetts trailed at 9 percent.
‐ Manufacturing employment fell 7 percent nationwide those years, but sank 14 percent under Romney, placing Massachusetts 48th among the states, by this measure.
‐ Between fall 2003 and last autumn, U.S. job growth averaged 5.4 percent, nearly thrice Massachusetts’ anemic 1.9 percent pace.
Romney responded August 12 on Fox News Sunday that Massachusetts eventually will harvest his new-business-development seeds. “You’re going to see the product of that generate great results for years to come,” he predicted.
Romney now campaigns on his staff reductions, telling voters: “One commentator said I didn’t just go after the sacred cows; I went after the whole herd.” In fact, as the Boston Globe’s revealed June 29, Romney cut just 603 jobs from the 44,582 positions that he controlled in the state bureaucracy. William Weld, Massachusetts’ Republican governor from 1991 – 1997, used such policies as redundant-hospital closures and privatizations to shrink his tax-funded payroll by 7,700 positions — in his first term alone.
Romney’s vaunted healthcare plan also disappoints. It forces individuals to purchase medical coverage and fines those who refuse. Businesses with at least 11 employees either must offer health insurance or pay penalties. (Democrats overrode Romney’s veto of this provision). The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, a government panel, defines every health policy’s “Minimum Creditable Coverage.” So far, the Pacific Research Institute’s Sally Pipes reports, monthly premiums average $380, not $200, as Romney forecast. The program may cost taxpayers an extra $276.4 million this year, more than double its original $125.4 million estimated expense.
Romney blames tinkering Democratic state legislators.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road as the Democrats get their hands on it,” Romney told a National Review Institute audience. “I was a little concerned at the signing ceremony when Ted Kennedy showed up.”
Romney’s Pontius-Pilate-like hand washing is thoroughly unconvincing.
Bay State Democrats would have struggled to hijack health reform based on tax incentives, choice, and ownership — as GOP frontrunner Rudolph W. Giuliani recently proposed — rather than RomneyCare’s easily seized universal mandates, regulatory boards, and government-imposed standards. (Romney’s campaign did not return calls for comment before press time.)
Romney’s administration fades badly beside Giuliani’s accomplishments.
‐ While Romney failed to persuade Democratic legislators to lower taxes, Giuliani convinced a Democratic city council to reduce or scrap 23 taxes. Consequently, Gotham’s top income-tax rate fell 20.6 percent (from 4.46 to 3.54 cents on each dollar taxed), while Massachusetts remains stuck at 5.3 percent, despite Romney’s unheeded plea to cut it to 5 percent.
‐ Though Romney’s tax burden (revenue as a proportion of personal income) increased 10.8 percent, Giuliani sliced his 17 percent.
‐ Public-assistance rolls slid 5 percent under Romney (albeit, after most reductions already occurred), but they tumbled 58 percent under Giuliani, starting before President Clinton signed federal welfare reform.
‐ Romney watched unemployment wane 5.7 percent while joblessness plummeted 40.8 percent under Giuliani. (Gotham’s unemployment averaged 6.1 percent in 2001, falling to 5.0 percent that May, before zooming to 7.5 percent that December, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.)
‐ Personal income advanced 18.2 percent during Romney’s days, while it accelerated 44.5 percent during Giuliani time.
[Click here for a detailed fiscal analysis of Romney and Giuliani.]
It’s tricky to contrast Romney and Giuliani. New York’s former mayor led a city of 8 million (up 9.3 percent during his mayoralty), and supervised 215,891 public employees (down 3.1 percent from when he arrived, or 17.2 percent, excluding new cops and teachers). Though not a governor, Giuliani governed a metropolis one quarter larger than Massachusetts. Its 43,979 state employees (down 1.4 percent under Romney) served 6.4 million residents (up 0.1 percent).
It would be easier to draw parallels if, like Giuliani, Romney had won reelection, rather than duck a second-term bid that experts widely predicted he would lose. Romney explained to the Boston Globe that he stood aside because, “There was very little that had to spill into a second term that we had any prospects of ever getting done.”
So, what remains to recommend Romney? No doubt, he showed how to succeed in business by founding Bain Capital, which flourishes today. Also, Romney is smooth, charismatic, and handsome. Someday, he could portray George Clooney’s older brother in Ocean’s 14. But, given his flimsy gubernatorial legacy, that doesn’t mean much. In essence, Mitt Romney is just another pretty face.
© 2007, Scripps Howard News Service