Mitt Romney: ‘What we feared would happen is happening’

Last modified: 8/11/2013 1:07:40 AM
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate for president, spoke last week at a fundraiser for the state Republican Party in Wolfeboro. Here’s what he said:

Just look at the economy and jobs picture. We have had five years of economic stagnation. It is inexcusable. If anyone ever needed proof that liberal economics don’t work, these last five years are it. Heartbreaking unemployment with millions having dropped out of the workforce, middle-class families squeezed to the breaking point, far too many of the new jobs are part time and low pay, a growing gap between the wealthy and those who are not, and record numbers rushing into disability and other forms of government assistance.

If your intent was to slow growth of the economy and delay recovery, these are the very things you would have done: raise taxes, impose the highest corporate taxes in the world, layer on massive regulations, tilt the playing field sharply toward unions, slow-walk energy development, impose a complex and expensive health-care code, stumble into an unguided spending sequester, and pile more debt upon the mountain of debt we already have.

How about the Federal Reserve? The Federal Reserve is not under the Administration’s management, of course. I believe that it is doing what it thinks it must to prevent an even bleaker picture by enabling more government debt and by keeping interest rates near zero. But even if it one believes that it is helping the current economy, it comes at a dear price that will be paid by the economy, and by the middle class families, in the future.

I must admit. It has been hard to watch or read the news. What we feared would happen is happening.

The developments in foreign affairs are not much better, although there are a few recent hopeful developments.

Syria is a tragedy. It could have been a victory, for it’s people, for freedom, for America. Our leading from behind meant no real leadership, and into the vacuum rushed al-Qaida on one front, and Russia on the other. Tens of thousands of human beings have been slaughtered, and Iran’s hand there may well become stronger than ever.

Egypt is in turmoil.

Nuclear proliferation and the potential for nuclear terror have advanced, not retreated. Iran accelerates its enrichment, North Korea exports its nuclear technology, Pakistan adds nukes to the more than hundred it already has. Russia modernizes its nuclear arsenal and basks in the huge lead it has in its total nuclear arsenal of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. And we, we shrink our nuclear force and cut back on our missile defenses.

I mentioned that there is a bright spot. I hope that Secretary of State (John) Kerry’s effort to bring peace to the Middle East is a success. He is to be commended for making an effort, particularly after so many years without one having been made.

Several weeks ago, I invited a number of leaders from business, government and philanthropy to join me in a conference. Most of them had been fundraisers for my campaign, so it was far from a representative cross section of the nation. That being said, I asked them to rank each of the challenges and opportunities they felt that faced the nation.

I’ve also spoken with families across the economic spectrum and across the country. I’ve asked them what they think are the country’s major problems. Interestingly, what I hear is very much the same.

First, they felt that the deficit and the debt were our greatest challenge. Like people across the country, they fear where the excess is leading – to Greece, to the troubled nations of Europe, to Detroit?

The deficits have added up to national debt of almost $17 trillion – more than the size of the GDP. Debt held by the public is over 70 percent of that. If and when interest rates return to the historic levels of the last several decades, the interest expense will be about $750 billion a year—that’s more than the budget for national defense or for Medicare. We and our children will be working and

paying taxes in the future to pay the interest on the debt of the past. It is generational immorality.

Second, they were concerned that our businesses . . . are becoming less and less competitive with those of other countries.

Almost everyone sees that our private sector lead is eroding. China’s GDP is on track to pass ours in 15 to 20 years. India is far behind China, but gaining. Russia’s massive energy resources will re-ignite their national wealth.

A decade ago, the conventional wisdom was that the American model of free enterprise and personal freedom was the only path to prosperity; today, a growing number of nations are impressed with China’s model of state capitalism. That model has already allowed China to manipulate its currency so as to move manufacturing from the West to the East. And it is may be highly advantageous in a setting where natural resources are in short supply, as they are predicted to increasingly be.

The world population will grow by 1.2 billion people by 2025, from 6.8 billion today, to 8 billion in only 12 years. Key minerals, energy, and water will be in short supply.

China, Inc. is using its balance sheet to lock up those strategic resources. Our relatively tiny private enterprises watch with concern but hope that the free market will be large enough for their needs, at least until the current executives retire and cash in their options.

Their third greatest concern was education. Education starts in the home, where two parents can invest their time and resources in their children. But two-parent families are in decline, in some part due to government policies. Education in our schools is falling behind competing nations, and college education has become prohibitively expensive. With so much at stake, it is dispiriting in the extreme to see education policy bow to the parochial interests of the teachers unions and the tenured faculty, rather than to the interests of humanity and of the nation.

On these and on all of the group’s top five concerns, the administration has made things worse, not better. It is enough to make some people simply throw in the towel. . . .

I do have some advice for us as a party. I know, I lost. I’m probably not the first person you’d ask for advice. But because we all learn from our mistakes, I may have a thought or two of value.

Mine is this: We have got to stay smart, very smart. Our policies have to be the smartest, the best, the most promising. We cannot change policy to follow popularity; in the end, right prevails. We can change policy if new information shows us that we were wrong – of course, that’s part of staying smart.

Our party leaders have to stay smart as well. New Hampshire benefitted from one of the smartest governors and party chairmen ever, John Sununu. At the national level, the RNC is taking steps to put our voter contact and get-out-the-vote technology in the lead. It has tapped the know-how of some of the best minds in the country. . . .

Staying smart also means backing candidates that can win. . . . It is always tempting to cast an emotional vote, a protest vote, an anger vote, a single-issue vote. Maybe if this weren’t such a critical time for the country, that would be excusable. But not today, and not now. No amount of pique can make up for being in any way complicit for the liberal policies that add to our debt, make us less competitive, and fail in educating the next generation.

Emotion is understandably at play in Washington among some of our fellow Republicans. I badly want Obamacare to go away, and stripping it of funds has appeal. But we need to exercise great care about any talk of shutting down government. What would come next? What would come next when soldiers aren’t paid, when seniors fear for their Medicare and Social Security, and when the FBI is off duty? I’m afraid that in the final analysis, Obamacare would get its funding, our party would suffer in the next elections, and the people of the nation would not be happy. I think there are better ways to remove Obamacare. And we should work to replace it with health care reforms that actually lower costs and give patients – not government – control over their own health care.

As the first-in-the-nation, you will have a big role in choosing our next nominee for president. My guess is that every one of the contenders would be better than whoever the Democrats put up. But there will only be one or perhaps two who actually could win the election in November. Think it through. Stay smart. Get behind those candidates – volunteer for them, campaign for them, vote for them. It is long past time for real change in Washington.

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