My impression of Romney as a campaigner: polished delivery, strong on the details, personable, moderate. I don't remember many policy proposals, but the entire field has been rather lean on policy (except 9-9-9), so that's par for the course. I had to look at the goods, so I skimmed Romney's 87-page economic plan."He's seeped himself in the republican orthodoxy with a wink wink and nod and a smile at the camera. I think he can largely free himself from that come the general election." --Atlantic post
The good news is that the plan is not a typical Republican conservative supply-side fairy tale. Of course there's Obama-bashing on every other page, but there's some promising stuff too. What I liked:
- Lower tax rate on cap gains, dividends, interest, but importantly, only for tax payers under $200,000.
- Cut corporate rate to 25% and end rules that discourage repatriation of overseas profits.
- An explicit shout-out to Simpson-Bowles' recommendations on tax reform - broader tax base, simpler, fewer deductions.
- A cap on regulation that measures compliance costs, and doesn't allow an overall rise in compliance costs.
- A bit of respect for Dodd-Frank disguised as criticism.
- Cut, cap, and balance but at 20% of GDP, not the 18% level that most conservatives quote.
- Eliminate estate tax (but this is such a Republican plank, I'm not too surprised).
- Mention of the illusory tax compliance cost of $400 billion a year. I don't believe we spend 2.7% of our GDP in tax compliance. Where the spending is concentrated, in complex business arrangements, will likely remain.
- A poke in the eye at the auto industry over the bail-out--UAW made out, but investors (carefully not called creditors) got screwed. I predict he'll change his tune on this one in the general campaign.
- Only small fixes to Social Security.
- A shout-out to Ryan's plan to voucherize Medicare, but with unspecified differences. This void shows how dangerous a definite policy commitment would be. I doubt that Romney will choose the deeply unpopular voucher approach.
- Turn Medicaid into a block grant. (I'm on the fence as to whether this will be beneficial or not.)
- Support for a balanced budget amendment that is more a strait-jacket than a workable plan.
- Tough talk about sanctioning China for currency manipulation.
- No plan for the uninsured or for lowering health care costs.
- No specific areas of spending cuts, but a reduction of the federal workforce by attrition.
- No proposed federal budget with numbers.
So, my overall impression is that the plan isn't extreme considering it came from a Republican: no major tax cuts, a reasonable goal on regulation. But it fails in two essential ways:
- It isn't a plan unless it contains actual numbers.
- It isn't honest about what will be painful.
...but don't expect a straight answer.
Should I review Michele Bachmann's plan now? ... No, I'll stick to real candidates.
Update 12/13/11. Romney announced his plans for Medicare reform, and they look a lot like Ryan's plan to voucherize the program.The big advantage of vouchers is that the federal government can decide how much to spend year-to-year. A big disadvantage is that it puts cost-containment onto insurance companies. To be fair, cost-containment is the boogey man in all Medicare plans. ...Oh, it's not a voucher, it's premium support. Don't ask me to explain the non-existent difference between the two.
Wall Street Journal review of Romney's plan