The Corner

Maximizing Mitt

Today there is a complete lack of adult economic leadership in Washington. President Obama’s agenda on health care, higher education, and climate change is diverting his attention from the economy. Congressional Republicans are proposing austerity-oriented “spending freezes” and railing against “big bank bailouts” instead of articulating a pro-growth message and policy agenda.


The GOP — and the country — needs Gov. Mitt Romney’s voice front and center in the economic debate. His private-sector experience as a chief executive officer, his record as a turnaround artist, and his expertise on economic and financial matters are head and shoulders above those of any current Republican or Democratic political figure.


Here are some more of the benefits Romney could bring:

– Governor Romney is ahead of the curve in terms of modernizing our economic message. For instance, on regulation, Romney says: “Republicans believe in regulation. You can’t have a free market with people stealing intellectual property from one another, with monopolies being formed, we believe in law and regulation that sets rules for markets. . . . Do we need new regulations? Absolutely. Should regulators be looking at the market in a different way than they did 25 years ago? Certainly.” 


– Romney has demonstrated his ability to craft innovative policy solutions. Last year, he put forth a proposal to create a public-private cooperative that would receive troubled bank assets, then renegotiate loans to homeowners and businesses to keep them performing. The income from the performing loans would then go to the owners of the troubled assets, thereby allowing them to recoup some of their losses.


– Romney has raised some legitimate concerns about the efficacy of “mark to market” accounting, the inside-the-Beltway think tanks’ favorite cure-all for the banking crisis. He said, “I do believe you need to somewhere recognize if you have a toxic asset and present that to stakeholders. Japan took the other route . . . and we have learned from that experience that if you try and hide the extent of the problem, you may not be willing to deal with it.”


– As a Michigan-born son of an auto executive, Romney is uniquely positioned to address the economic fallout that is occurring in the Industrial Midwest. Romney has been a trendsetter in calling for investment in new technologies that will modernize and preserve an industrial base in the country. The GOP has been hemorrhaging support in the Industrial Midwest because its leaders are tone deaf on the economic anxieties of blue- and white-collar workers in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.


– Romney can be a credible voice on the intersection of education and economic competitiveness. He is well versed in the economic challenges presented to our country by a rising China. Romney and the Republican party should lead a national call to bolster our teaching of math and science. This is crucial issue to our long-term competitiveness.

Looking backward, it should have been Romney, not Gov. Bobby Jindal, offering the official GOP response to President Obama’s address. And going forward, Romney should be the GOP’s go-to economic spokesman for media interviews. He ought to give a series of speeches on how to turn around the economy. He should lead an economic task force made of elder statesmen, prominent business executives, global-finance experts, and Nobel Prize winning economists to develop economic policy solutions, with a focus on fixing the banking system.


In the presidential primaries, Mitt Romney’s PowerPoint presentations did not connect to average Americans. But with the economy and stock market collapsing, he could find a much more receptive audience.

– Cesar Conda is a founding principal of Navigators Global. He was a domestic-policy adviser to former vice president Cheney and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Cesar Conda — Mr. Conda, formerly assistant for domestic policy to Vice President Cheney, is a founding principal of Navigators Global, a Washington, D.C.–based public-affairs firm.


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