With the Romney record on social issues all over the ideological map, the standard fallback line used by Romney partisans is that his outstanding business management experience and, by extension, his allegedly brilliant performance managing the liberal state of Massachusetts, make him a great presidential candidate. This record, we are told, qualifies him to not only be president but should earn him the support of the conservative movement.
However, business management experience does not necessary guarantee a person will govern as a conservative. There have been many liberal presidents with business experience; one that comes readily to mind is Jimmy Carter, who managed a peanut farm business. Indeed, the RINO population is full of businessmen and some of America’s leading businessmen are liberals who supported the candidacy of Barack Obama.
The goal of conservatives is to scale back government, not manage big government more efficiently. Ronald Reagan had little business experience, but he also knew the business of government was carried out by people he appointed so he set about appointing conservatives. The lesson Reagan left us is that when it comes to governing, a candidate’s worldview is far more important than business experience, primarily because one’s worldview will determine whom you appoint to carry out the duties of government.
Nevertheless, for the last six years Romney and his supporters have cultivated an image of Romney as a fiscal superstar who ran a very tight ship as Governor of Massachusetts. Indeed, Romney has repeatedly claimed in his first year of office, he “turned a $3 billion deficit into a nearly $1 billion surplus, without raising taxes.” However, that’s simply not true and neither is almost every statement his campaign has released about his gubernatorial record.
The reality is that Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts was an economic disaster for the state. The biggest myth of all, perhaps, is that he didn’t raise taxes. The reality, however, is that Governor Romney passed a host of new tax and fee increases, hitting the corporate world hard and devastating job creation. As Peter Nicholas, chairman of Boston Science Corporation, stated, “tax rates on many corporations almost doubled because of legislation supported by Romney.”
The Cato Institute reported that in his first year as Governor, Romney “proposed $140 [million] in business tax hikes through the closing of ‘loopholes’ in the tax code.” But what Romney labeled as “closing loopholes” actually resulted in the doubling of tax rates for certain businesses. As Nicholas explains, “Romney’s tax policies were not helpful for many small businesses…when Romney took many IRS subchapter S businesses in Massachusetts and almost doubled their tax rates, it was an important disincentive to investment, growth and job creation.” As Joseph Crosby of the Council on State Taxation wrote, “Romney went further than any other governor in trying to wring money out of corporations.”
Romney also raised taxes on business again in 2004 and 2005, for a grand total of $309 million levied upon the corporate sector. He then signed a bill to allow local governments to increase taxes on business property, tried to raise taxes on hotels (but was stopped by the Democrat legislature!), joined a coalition lobbying congress to tax internet activity, and supported a tax on out-of- state commuters.
Nor did Romney fight the passage of higher rates on death taxes; indeed, when this issue came up in the legislature, his official position was “no position.” Now, there’s a profile in courage. Moreover, Governor Romney raised gas taxes two cents a gallon and also supported a federal gas tax hike. He also proposed an excise tax on SUVs and a new sales tax on all used cars.
Indeed, Romney failed to reduce any of the myriad taxes Massachusetts imposes on its citizens, even though the previous two Republican governors, William Weld and Paul Cellucci, were both able to reduce tax rates. As Governor Cellucci confirmed, Romney “did not have any broad-based tax cuts in his four years as Governor.” Indeed, while Romney raised over a hundred different fees and taxes, the two previous Republican governors signed more than 40 tax reduction bills, even though Democrats controlled the legislature.
Nor are there any taxpayer groups in Massachusetts in agreement with the notion that Romney never raised taxes. As the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation stated, “fees and taxes have increased more than $700 million per year under Governor Mitt Romney….” In his first year alone, Romney actually set the record for the most fee increases enacted by any state, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. For a detailed list of the fees and taxes raised by Romney, go here: http://romneyfacts.com/assets/Romney_taxandfee_hikes.xls
We should not also forget that Governor Romney refused to support the Bush tax cuts, and while campaigning for Governor refused to sign the “no new taxes” pledge, calling it “government by gimmickry.” He only signed the pledge once his presidential campaign began. One should also not forget the new taxes and penalties imposed on all businesses by RomneyCare.
By Romney’s last year in office Massachusetts was ranked by the Public Policy Institute of New York, on its Cost of Doing Business Index, as the 4th most expensive state in which to do business in. Data compiled by the Tax Foundation reveals that during Romney’s term, the per capita tax burden increased from 9.3% to 9.9%, a .6% increase. In real dollars, the per capita tax burden increased $1175.71 during Romney’s term.
Contrary to the Romney spin machine, he didn’t “turn a $3 billion dollar deficit into a nearly $1 billion surplus.” Rather, the deficit was $1.3 billion according to Factcheck.org, and he balanced the budget with mostly tax and fee increases with very few spending cuts. As documented by the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, Romney “proposed four budgets while in office…each budget increased spending over the previous year.” As Club for Growth echoed, Romney’s last budget “was a whopping 10.12% larger than the preceding fiscal year.” Out of the 25 freshmen Republican Governors rated by the Cato Institute on fiscal issues, Romney had the 2nd worst score.
Indeed, Carla Howell, president of the Massachusetts-based Center for Small Government, is blunt about Romney’s fiscal record: “Romney claims to have cut the Massachusetts budget by ‘2 billion.’ Sometimes he claims he cut it ‘3 billion’….but these cuts were merely budget games….not only did Mitt Romney refuse to cut the overall Massachusetts budget, he expanded it. Dramatically….Romney initiated massive new spending –without any prodding.”
Romney often boasts about how he left a budget surplus at the end of his term, but this is also a myth. The Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation and the conservative Massachusetts think tank, the Beacon Hill Institute, both challenge the notion of a Romney budget surplus. In fact, Romney left a billion dollar deficit for his successor.
Moreover, Romney’s budgets were full of pork and he was infamous for lavishing money on staff salaries, incurring outlandish travel expenses, and granting pay hikes for state officials and lawmakers. Moreover, he had no problem with corporate welfare, granting millions to local corporations in an effort to persuade them to NOT leave the state, hardly a sign of a fiscal conservative. Speaking of welfare, one must not forget one of Romney’s goofier welfare schemes when he actually set up a program to buy new cars for welfare recipients – and repair them for free! Gosh, what an incentive to get off welfare!
Not surprisingly, job growth was devastated by Romney’s policies. The Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation says that under Romney, “job growth has been anemic.” According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate was 5.2% when he assumed the governorship and 5.3% by the end of his term, a figure significantly higher than the national average at the time: 4.6%. But Romney’s unemployment figures are actually much worse when one factors in that Massachusetts was 2nd in the nation for the number of people departing the state in search of employment elsewhere. Since they’re no longer residents, these people weren’t counted in the unemployment statistics.
According to labor market economists Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin of Northeastern University, manufacturing employment during the Romney years “declined by 14%, the third worst record in the country.” Using Federal Bureau of Labor statistics, the same scholars wrote that “from 2001 to 2006, Massachusetts ranked 49th in the nation in job creation…”
The only state worse off was Louisiana, thanks to Hurricane Katrina. Boston Globe business columnist Steve Baily wrote, “There are 40,000 fewer people in the workforce than when Romney took over.” This view was echoed by the Boston Herald’s business columnist, Bret Arends, who wrote, “During the four years Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, it had the second worst jobs record of any state in America…it wasn’t a regional issue. The rest of New England created nearly 200,000 jobs.”
Another way to judge a state’s economy is to look at the Gross State Product statistics kept by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Between 2001-2005, the percent GSP increase for Massachusetts was an anemic 8.44%, one of the lowest five-years increases in the country – 44th out of 50 states.
As Andrew Sum summarizes, “as a strict labor market economist looking at the record, Massachusetts did very poorly during the Romney years…on every measure you’ve got, the state was a substantial under-performer.”
It is clear that the actual Romney record is far different from how it’s being portrayed by the Romney campaign and prominent supporters such as Ann Coulter. But why should we be surprised? Romney has shifted his views on virtually every major issue so it stands to reason that he has also shifted his views on fiscal issues. That Romney governed as a liberal but now spouts fiscally conservative platitudes is completely consistent with his overall record.
Only when Romney first started to prepared to run for the Presidency seven years ago did his views suddenly change. He hired an army of image consultants and pollsters and, wham zam, he changed into a “conservative” overnight.
Indeed, this writer has documented that Romney has changed his position on over thirty key issues as he completed his metamorphous into a conservative. We expect politicians to change their mind on one or two issues over the course of a career, but when one changes their mind on EVERY foundational issue shortly before a run for the presidency, we must be skeptical. Indeed, it is difficult to accept Romney’s conversion on so many issues as authentic. This is why conservatives do not trust him.
Presidents are under enormous pressure to compromise; if the president does not have a long history of adherence to a particular worldview, he will flip-flop all over the ideological map. Even Ronald Reagan was pressured into compromising a few times despite his forty-year history of advocating conservative principles. Romney has no such history. Before he began to campaign for the presidency, Romney never attended conservative functions, spoke at conservative events, or wrote articles of interest to conservatives. Romney’s social circles are dominated by liberal Republicans and indeed, in the 1960’s, his father was one of the national leaders of the GOP’s liberal wing. We forget that George Romney actually walked out of the 1964 GOP national convention to protest Barry Goldwater’s candidacy. Moreover, Romney’s mother actually ran for the U.S. Senate as a pro-abortion candidate, which, in the pre- Roe vs. Wade era, was considered quite radical.
Indeed, just a few years ago Human Events newspaper listed him as one of America’s “Top Ten RINOs.” And just four years ago, in 2007, Mitt Romney was a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, at the time America’s leading liberal Republican group. The RMSP embraced the liberal position on social issues and made the stopping of ANWR drilling one of its top legislative priorities. Yes, now Romney calls for drilling everywhere, but four years ago, he had no problem belonging to a group committed to stopping drilling in Alaska. RMSP also opposed the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and set up a 527 campaign committee that received funding from far left funder George Soros. It’s no wonder Romney distanced himself from Reagan while campaigning for Governor when he said, “I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.”
Then there’s Romney’s long history of supporting Democrats. He was not even a registered Republican until 1993. Previous to that, Romney supported Democrat Paul Tsongas in the 1992 presidential primary. Moreover, Romney made contributions to Democratic congressional and senatorial candidates as recently as 1992 and in 1993 supported the election of Democrat Rocky Anderson, perhaps the most liberal mayor in America. Anderson, a former ACLU director and Planned Parenthood attorney, called for the impeachment of President Bush. Indeed, Romney even produced a campaign commercial for Anderson, which one can watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuFe9_BCvXY
It is also forgotten by many that in 1994 Romney was bashing Republicans for supporting the extremely mild “Contract with America” which he claimed was “a mistake” and said was too partisan, even though its most ideological plank was its call for a balanced budget. Gee, how radical.
So yes, his supporters are correct when they claim Romney’s gubernatorial record was a great success. Romney not only became the first governor ever to implement government controlled health care but his administration was also the first in the nation to implement a Cap and Trade program. He was indeed an historic governor – for liberalism, that is. And now he may be the GOP nominee. Is this a joke? Can someone please wake me up?