The front-runner in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination has formally entered the campaign. There is little to Mitt Romney's opening announcement that isn't predictable; the speech is of interest, apart from the headline promise to limit government spending to 20% of GDP, for its peculiar emphases, especially a xenophobic or simply Europhobic streak that flows into the former governor's attacks on the President. He claims that Obama's domestic and foreign-policy notions, from excessive borrowing to excessive criticism of Israel, are inspired by Europe rather than America. He assumes that Americans will know what he means when he says that "President Obama's European answers are not the right solutions to America's challenges." But I suspect that such comments will be meaningful only to those Fox-fed folks who've been taught to identify Europe with liberal if not socialist decadence. Since he doesn't really specify anything that any European government does apart from borrowing money (as the U.S. does) and presumably running things on a more centralized basis, we're left to infer that the European ideal is something other than what Romney defines as "the American ideals of economic freedom and opportunity."
The candidate offers himself -- the son of the founder of American Motors who was a governor in his own right -- as a model of self-madeness, since he " left a steady job to join with some friends to start a business," young Romney having long longed "to try and build a business from the ground up." Whether Dad helped out is left unclear in the speech, but the candidate clearly worries that he's not quite the perfect role model for what he has in mind, so he tells his dad's story as well. Their business successes are meant to inspire confidence in a President Romney's ability to stimulate job creation. Romney the younger promises to make the U.S. first in the world in job creation. To do so, he'll "make business taxes competitive with other nations, modernize regulations and bureaucracy and finally promote America’s trade interests." He'll also be "a president who cares more about America’s workers than he does about America’s union bosses." That may be well and good, but the real question is whether he cares more about America's workers than he does their actual bosses. To the extent that Romney professes supply-side economics, the answer to that question should be obvious. It should also be obvious from his rhetoric about government encouraging economic growth.
Romney talks of a time when the country encouraged entrepreneurship and job creation, but in those whiggish times it was done by other means than manipulating tax rates -- since there weren't as many taxes to play with. Romney, like many Republicans, appears convinced that entrepreneurs will not be encouraged to create jobs without government manipulation of tax rates, preferably to minimize them. They talk as if there is no other way to encourage job creation than to minimize government. In doing so, they mistake coincidence for causality. That is, since America boomed during a period of relatively minimal government in terms of taxes and regulations -- but with the support of aggressive tariff policies and extensive government spending on infrastructure -- that minimal government was a cause of economic growth, or that growth is somehow inversely proportional to the breadth of government. In a strange sense, Republicans seem more wed than Democrats -- the alleged party of big government -- that the size of government is the key to prosperity, and that the art of government is essential to prosperity. This tempts them to make government the scapegoat for economic failure, when the economy functions to a great extent on its own terms -- as Republicans supposedly believe anyway -- and either booms or fails for reasons independent of the size of either government or the entrepreneur's tax bill. To sum up, Republicans like Romney believe they can stimulate entrepreneurship by controlling the government. While supply-side economics at least has the dignity of academic theory, Republican economics is far more worthy of the "voodoo" label.