Last week, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney came in for a well-earned pounding from three bellwethers of the Supply Side right. The Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, and Forbes.com Opinions acidly critiqued Team Romney for failing to lay out a compelling agenda. The WSJ on July 5th, Romney’s Tax Confusion:
“The Romney campaign thinks it can play it safe and coast to the White House by saying the economy stinks and it’s Mr. Obama’s fault. We’re on its email list and the main daily message from the campaign is that “Obama isn’t working.” Thanks, guys, but Americans already know that. What they want to hear from the challenger is some understanding of why the President’s policies aren’t working and how Mr. Romney’s policies will do better.”
Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, freshly back from a private audience with Romney, that same day published a widely noted piece in The Blog, Dukakis, Kerry … Romney:
“So, speaking of losing candidates from Massachusetts: Is it too much to ask Mitt Romney to get off autopilot and actually think about the race he’s running?
“Adopting a prevent defense when it’s only the second quarter and you’re not even ahead is dubious enough as a strategy. But his campaign’s monomaniacal belief that it’s about the economy and only the economy, and that they need to keep telling us stupid voters that it’s only about the economy, has gone from being an annoying tick to a dangerous self-delusion.
“As Frank Cannon and Jeff Bell, among others, have pointed out, the economy is not an automatic path to victory. It does provide a favorable backdrop for this year’s campaign. But what are voters to think when they hear the GOP nominee say, as he did yesterday to CBS’s Jan Crawford, ”As long as I continue to speak about the economy, I’m going to win”? That they’re dopes who don’t know the economy’s bad, but as long as the Romney campaign keeps instructing them that it is bad, they’ll react correctly and vote the incumbent out of office?”
Forbes.com Opinions editor John Tamny rode in, guns blazing, on July 8 with It’s Time for Mitt Romney and His Economic Team to Grow Up. It promptly went viral.
“Obama is seemingly begging voters to make him a one-term president, but what remains unknown is whether or not his competitor in Mitt Romney deserves to fill his seat. Recent comments from his campaign should at the very least give voters pause. … The Romney campaign’s China position on its face speaks to economic illiteracy, and worse, it’s an insult to all Americans.”
“’The idea that somebody other than Beth Myers, Eric Fehrnstrom, Matt Rhoades, Stuart Stevens and Peter Flaherty are going to call the shots, it’s just plain wrong,’ Rath said, ticking through Romney’s closest advisers, including Rhoades, the campaign manager, and Stevens, the chief strategist.”
Nobody who matters is calling for Gov. Romney to purge his political team. But a weird disconnect seems to be evident between Romney’s political operatives, his policy team, and his message.
Obama is beginning to look like a president with Carter’s policy competence and Nixon’s ethics. Unemployment remains stuck, once again, at a horrendous 8.2%, while the Obama administration bends the Constitution into unrecognizable shapes and in prosperity-thwarting ways. Republicans are united — both its elites and conservative base, aligning with the Tea Party and independent voters — that free market principles are the recipe for job creation. Not since Reagan have the GOP’s elite economists been so eloquent, so outspoken and so consistent in advocacy of free markets and liberty.
For example, Prof. John B. Taylor, possibly the academic economist most respected by the Congressional wing of the GOP, publishes First Principles: Five Keys to Restoring America’s Prosperity. This is an unflinching demand for free market remedies for what ails the American economy. It is a perfect complement to Romney’s economic advisor Glenn Hubbard’s Seeds of Destruction: Why the Path to Economic Ruin Runs Through Washington, and How to Reclaim American Prosperity.
Both works are cut from similar cloth, attacking the damage being done to American prosperity by intrusive government policies and laying out solid free market “keys to restoring America’s prosperity.” In First Principles, Taylor writes candidly about “Who Gets Us In and Out of These Messes.” He lays out practical mechanisms for “Defusing the Debt Explosion” (through spending cuts), explains why, and how, “Monetary Rules Work and Discretion Doesn’t.” He lays out how to go about “Ending Crony Capitalism As We Know It.” He writes knowledgeably about how to reform (and restrain the ruinously explosive growth of) entitlements in ways that will improve rather than undermine lives. He reinforces the importance of America again providing good, solid, free market leadership to the world.
“The life of the law,” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote, "has not been logic, it has been experience.” Young “Juice Box” pundits such as Ezra Klein now rule the left. Brilliant stylists, they by and large never have held either a real job or even a real policy making position. John Taylor has been in and out of the cauldron since the Ford administration. He brings to bear first hand experience — and recognition of consequences. Taylor is especially trenchant in his critique of current Fed chairman Ben Bernanke:
“Considerable empirical work now supports the view that the interest rates were too low for too long in 2003-2005 and were a major factor in the housing boom and bust that resulted. I first presented the evidence in the summer of 2007. Many Fed officials—including Ben Bernanke, who was there—were not pleased to hear my findings. … The way out of this predicament is … to reform the Fed. … As we have seen, under such reforms the Fed should focus on long-run price stability within a clear framework of economic stability. … [T]he Fed should publish and follow a monetary rule as its means to achieving long-run price stability.”
Prof. Taylor is more genteel in his presentation than many of my Tea Party, conservative activist, libertarian, and independent voter friends. But his respect for free markets and the first principle of liberty is in accord both with the Republican base and the mood of the voters.
Obama’s failed presidency has brought about a Republican and national consensus that good money, low tax rates, spending cuts, humane entitlement reform and sensible regulation are, just as Taylor says, the keys to restoring America’s prosperity. We have an empirically grounded formula for prosperity. It is consistent with America’s DNA, a formula established in liberty. The left has only shopworn dogma.
The presidential candidates address an electorate that presents as eager for just such a credible message of, and formula for, economic growth and traditional values. It therefore is baffling that the Romney communications team has to be kickstarted by The Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, and Forbes.com to speak out as to “why the President’s policies aren’t working and how Mr. Romney’s policies will do better.” Memo to Team Romney speechwriters: Onward to prosperity through free markets and don’t hesitate to spell it out. John Taylor, and before him your own Glenn Hubbard, show how to get started. Bring it on.