As Peter Suderman just wrote, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney just delivered a hi-howarya speech breathtakingly free of policy substance, after a four-day pre-amble of chanting small businesses and tough choices. Even though, as David Harsanyi pointed out here today, details can equal political death, it is equally true that a lack of detail, accompanied by sloganeering and vague uplift, can foreshadow policy disasters to come.
For evidence of which, see: Obama, Barack. Or more topically, just refer to the only real policy section of any speech during the Republican National Convention. It came tonight, from the top of the ticket, and it ain't pretty:
I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.
Presidents don't create jobs. And that number was pulled from the same source as the "five million green jobs" the Democrats were serially promising in the fall of 2008.
First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.
Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.
Hoo-ray for school choice! Also, education is mostly (though not enoughly!) handled outside the purview of the Department of Education, which by the way Romney likes (as he also likes No Child Left Behind). The president should not, cannot, and will not be the prime mover behind bringing overdue choice to K-12 education, though I sincerely appreciate the moral support.
Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements. And when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.
Actually, there were many such shout-outs to free trade throughout the convention, which I appreciated. Though it should be pointed out that it was the last five words of that promise that got the convention crowd hooting on its feet. Still: good, economically significant policy proposal. That's one.
Fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish as have those in Greece, we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.
You know who else promised to cut the deficit? Barack Obama. Also George W. Bush. Without specific action on the prime movers in the federal budget–Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the military -- there is no deficit cut, and the balanced budget is a transparently hollow process.
Do you know what Mitt Romney said about military spending in his speech tonight? He said this:
[Obama's] trillion dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk
So not only will Romney not be cutting the military, he apparently thinks that government spending *does* build job creation. Good to know!
OK, what about Medicare?
His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation— and jobs—in medicine.
So scratch off Medicare. How about Social Security?
I am running for president to help create a better future. A future where everyone who wants a job can find one. Where no senior fears for the security of their retirement.
Social Security stays, too. Look, people: There's very little of significance left to cut.
And fifth, we will champion small businesses, America’s engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most. And it means that we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare.
I remain convinced that "repealing Obamacare" is the Republican version of "closing Guantanamo"–a nice bone for the base on your way toward regaining power, to be discarded upon reaching office. Even if I'm wrong, scrapping the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act still leaves health care as an increasingly expensive burden on many small businesses, since no politician has the guts to break the link between employment and insurance in the first place. Simplifying regulations sounds good, until you realize that our current and previous presidents promised the exact same thing, while regulating their asses off (yes, including George W. Bush).
And–this is important, so listen up!–generic phrases like "champion small businesses" get converted through the sausage-making of government to something Romney should be campaigning against, not for: crony capitalism. Once you politically over-valorize a class within the economy, then that class starts getting special favors, wasteful loan guarantees, and all sorts of government goodies.
Hope you enjoyed that brief detour through policy!
Romney is vowing to replace a tall, handsome president who sold us on vague change with a tall, handsome president who is selling us on vague change. You want action items? He's got your action items right here!
What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound. It doesn’t take a special government commission to tell us what America needs.
What America needs is jobs.
Lots of jobs.