Consultant in Chief

Instead of planning to cut government, Mitt Romney is repackaging the same old Republicanism.


For the last three years, the Republican Party has been driven by what it's against. Since taking office, President Barack Obama has created a target-rich environment for the GOP: an $800 billion stimulus that failed to deliver on promises to reduce unemployment, a $1 trillion health care overhaul that remains deeply unpopular, three years of record spending, and a $5 trillion increase in the national debt. 

In 2010, the party successfully unified around an anti-spending message that helped it retake the House. And the base has rallied around the cause: When Fox News asked Republican primary voters about their priorities in October, 76 percent responded that economic issues "such as taxes and government spending" would be most important in deciding their votes for the party's presidential nominee. Yet even as Republicans frame the 2012 elections as a referendum on the size and scope of government, the party allegedly in favor of reducing both is on the verge of nominating for president not a small-government firebrand or a free market apostle but a management consultant more interested in tweaking hated policies than doing away with them. 

He's not just any consultant, of course. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP's last presidential nomination, earned an estimated $250 million fortune in the management advice business—first as a consultant, then as CEO of a private equity firm spun off from his consultancy. Romney turned around a series of companies, helped introduce major innovations to the art of business management, saved a Winter Olympics from the brink of scandal and bankruptcy, and even righted the ship when one of the most prominent management consulting companies in the world was foundering. Then he applied the lessons he learned along the way to his gig as the Bay State's governor, with mixed results. And now Romney is bringing his life-long business-strategy ethic to the uphill task of running for president. 

After squeaking out a victory in the January 3 Iowa caucus, Romney was well positioned to win the GOP nomination. But the consultant's road to the White House is paved with built-in contradictions, which Romney has a tendency to display all at once. At a speech in Washington last October, for example, the candidate made his pitch to conservative activists, unveiling a framework plan to cut spending and reform Medicare. Warning that it would require "tough choices," he talked up the need to identify $500 billion in annual federal budget savings. There are "a lot" of federal programs that should "either be dramatically scaled back or cut," he said. "We're going to eliminate or cut programs that are not absolutely essential—even when we like them."

What tough choices was Romney willing to make? Which popular programs would he eliminate? Just at the part of the speech where you'd expect some details, he shifted focus, promising to "preserve our commitment to a military that is so strong that no nation would ever think of testing it." In fact, Romney swore he would "reverse Obama's massive defense cuts." And the alleged budget-cutter wasn't done criticizing the president for his spending reductions. Later in the same speech, he even scolded Obama for weakening Medicare, vowing to "protect" and "improve" this most budget-busting of entitlements. Obama is "the only president in history," Romney said, almost in wonder, "who has cut Medicare for seniors." Rest assured that a Romney administration would reverse those cuts, too.

On paper, Romney was supposedly offering the gathered conservatives a vision of a "simpler, smaller, and smarter" federal government. But most of what little he offered in the way of specified cuts were drops in the ocean of a $3.6 trillion budget: defunding Amtrak ($1.6 billion a year) and Planned Parenthood ($300 million), eliminating foreign aid (which cost $49 billion in 2011) to "countries that oppose American interests," reducing the budgets of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (less than $1 billion a year combined). 

The gap between Romney's cautious proposals and the GOP grassroots' anti-spending fervor might seem like a paradox, but it's easy to see how it came about. The last time Republicans held power in Washington, they jacked up discretionary non-defense spending by more than 60 percent, passed a new prescription drug entitlement, created a major new security bureaucracy that now costs $50 billion a year, and helped pass a $150 billion economic stimulus plan. The party's most recent nominee for president was so enthusiastic about the Troubled Asset Relief Program that he suspended his campaign to help it pass. 

In running an election roadshow that rails against bad policy while proposing only to tinker with it, Romney is holding up a mirror to the weaknesses and internal contradictions of the client he's pitching. He is doing what top management consultants always do: presenting the customer with a slicker, better packaged, but fundamentally unchanged version of itself. 

A Consultant's Consultant

The old joke about management consultants is that they charge you to drink your coffee and then tell you what it tastes like. But the most successful consultants—and by any definition, that includes Mitt Romney—tend to do more than simply sip and summarize. 

At its core, the business is based on problem solving. Management consultants ask the same basic question over and over again, explains Avik Roy, a former health policy analyst at the Romney-founded firm Bain Capital and current senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute: "If you've got a problem, how do you then break the problem down into discrete parts that we can then empirically address?" The job requires narrowing down mountains of data into a few key metrics, then feeding the information back to the client in executive-friendly formats such as PowerPoint slide shows, colorful pie charts, PDFs splattered with bullet points, historical line graphs, and so on.

Clients come into the process with a problem-solving challenge of their own: figuring out what they really want. Often, Roy says, that turns out to be "political legitimacy and blame dispersion for unpopular decisions." Solving that problem requires a certain diplomatic sensitivity as well as a judgment-free willingness to roll with the punches. "This is a client-oriented business, so you need to be client-oriented," Roy explains, which means ensuring that the final product isn't too upsetting. "You want them to be satisfied with the output." 

Consulting work has defined Romney's private-sector career. From the time he left school until the time he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1994, Mitt Romney never had a job that didn't involve some flavor of management consulting. After graduating in the top 5 percent of his class at Harvard Business School in 1975, he headed straight into the upper echelons of the burgeoning consulting industry. He spent a few years at the Boston Consulting Group, then joined Bain & Company, another top-tier consultancy. He founded the company's private equity offshoot, Bain Capital, in 1984. But he didn't leave management consulting behind. 

According to Stephen Kaplan, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, private equity investors in the early 1980s focused primarily on financial engineering, "where they would borrow the money, they would give management a lot of equity, and then they would monitor it. But they didn't really help on the business side." That changed with Bain Capital. Romney's "big innovation," Kaplan says, was "to bring consulting resources along with the financial engineering." 

That innovation helped make Romney a rich man. Today Romney's estimated worth is somewhere between $190 million and $250 million, much of it acquired during his tenure as Bain Capital's top executive. Romney so excelled at the job that he eventually became a consultant's consultant. When his former colleagues at Bain & Company ran into financial trouble in 1990, Romney was called back in, named CEO, and asked to turn the business around. With the help of new management and financial restructuring, he did.

What did Romney get out of the turnaround? Not a hefty salary. At that point, he was so wealthy that he hardly needed it, reportedly taking a symbolic paycheck of $1 a year. A few years later, when he was brought in to save the Salt Lake City Olympics Committee after the organization's management ran into trouble, he donated his entire $1.4 million salary to charity. 

Romney wasn't in it for the money; he was in it for the love of the game. "He's doing what comes naturally," says Scott Meadow, a friend and former venture capitalist who worked with Romney on multiple business deals during the last 25 years. "He enjoys the creativity that goes with problem solving, and he's good at it." For Romney, the turnarounds at Bain & Company and the Olympics were just fresh problems that needed to be solved. 

Governor Romney

In 1994 Romney ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts as a Republican against the liberal icon and longtime incumbent Ted Kennedy. He lost by 17 percentage points, but he didn't give up his political ambitions. As he had helped so many businesses do, he took stock and adjusted his strategy. In 2002 he ran for governor, touting his business experience and promising to resolve a budget crisis without raising taxes. He also looked left, reaching out to the state's liberal voters and assuring a local TV reporter that he was a "moderate…not a partisan." "My views are progressive," he said. This time he won. Romney, who reportedly invested $6 million of his own money in the campaign, again declined to take a salary. 

When Romney took office, the most pressing difficulty was that Massachusetts was in the midst of what The Boston Globe described in 2008 as a "fiscal meltdown." The state was short $650 million for the current year's budget, and budget planners quickly realized that the following year would be even worse. Without a course correction, the deficit was projected to run as high as $3 billion—in a state with a $23 billion total budget. 

Romney and his team repaired the budget using a process similar to the one he used in his days as a management consultant: gather data, identify key metrics, define the problem, apply a solution. But this left him with little choice but to go soft on his campaign promise of no tax hikes. 

Romney staffers broke the budget down into its component parts, then settled on what they understood to be the main problem: insufficient tax revenue. In particular, they told the governor, the state was losing money because  Massachusetts banks were avoiding taxes by moving money into minimally taxed real estate trusts. So Romney charged his revenue commissioner with collecting from the banks. He also imposed what the Club for Growth, a low-tax advocacy group, would later describe as "a slew of fee hikes and tax loophole closures," totaling $259 million in 2006. Although he would also convince the state legislature to allow $343 million in cuts to both city and state functions, Gov. Romney throughout his tenure continued to impose hundreds of millions in new fees while eliminating targeted tax breaks. And as the budget picture brightened, his appetite for spending restraint weakened: According to the Club for Growth, the state's proposed 2007 budget was 11.2 percent larger than the previous year's. 

But Romney also made sure to remain client focused. And his new clients, which included both the liberal-leaning population of Massachusetts and the state's Democratic legislature, wanted universal health insurance. The state already boasted the highest insurance coverage rate in the United States (around 94 percent), but the public wanted even more: According to a 2008 report in the journal Health Affairs, polls showed majorities in favor of expanding coverage. The Bay State's "favorable political environment," the article concluded, "encouraged leaders to act."

This time, when Romney acted, his process was explicitly consultant driven. He hired a team of health care consultants at McKinsey, a longtime Bain & Company rival, to investigate the state's uninsured population. The preliminary work on the law was conducted in an ideology-free zone. "They didn't approach it from the standpoint of 'free market—yay!' or 'equality—yay!'?" says Roy. Instead, it was the usual consultant's method: "What is the problem? Let's analytically define the problem." 

In his 2010 book No Apology, Romney writes that breaking down the uninsured population went a long way toward convincing him that universal health insurance was achievable. That population was made up of a few discrete classes of people, including the poor, young men who were self-employed or working for small businesses and wealthy individuals who could probably afford to purchase their own insurance. Romney describes another important discovery as "a collective epiphany": The state's uninsured were already receiving health care thanks to a federal law requiring hospitals to treat all comers; this was known as "uncompensated care." 

The health policy overhaul Romney eventually signed off on had a solution for each of the groups. The poor would be shuffled into the state's Medicaid program, the lower middle class would be given subsidies to purchase newly regulated private insurance through a state-run health exchange, and everyone else would be required to purchase health insurance or pay a fine via a provision that became known as the individual mandate. Meanwhile, the plan would help offset the cost of the subsidies by eliminating the need for an expensive hospital-based safety net for the uninsured. It was a perfect consultant's solution: built out of a handful of data points and targeted to solve a few narrowly defined problems. 

It was also intended to be marketable, at least in the sense of furthering Romney's political career. "What Romney had in mind when he got behind this idea," says David Tuerk, the executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute, a free market think tank at Suffolk University in Massachusetts, "was creating a signature piece of legislation and getting himself to the presidency." 

Consultant Solution, Consultant Problems

But the characteristically consultant-driven solution resulted in characteristically consultant-driven problems. One peril of the hit-and-run advisory model is that consultants don't tend to stick around to ensure that their advice is followed, or that it works as planned. And under Romney's 2006 health care overhaul—dubbed RomneyCare—little has worked as planned. Romney declined to run for a second term, leaving office in January 2007. But in the years after his signature legislative achievement, RomneyCare has gone on to exacerbate the long-run problems it was supposed to head off. 

The plan's tripartite health coverage scheme—Medicaid, mandate, and subsidies—did manage to increase health insurance coverage, although not quite to 100 percent; according to state data, about 98 percent of the population is now covered. But it failed to eliminate spending on the hospital safety net. In fact, in recent years the cost of uncompensated care has steadily increased, rising 5 percent between 2008 and 2009 and a whopping 15 percent the following year. 

Cost problems have plagued the program almost since its inception. In an April 2006 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Romney promised that under his plan "the costs of health care will be reduced." Yet the overall cost of the program is projected to run roughly $2 billion over budget during the next 10 years. According to a June 2011 paper co-authored by the Beacon Hill Institute's Tuerk, state health expenditures have gone up by a total of $414 million since the law was passed, while private health insurance costs have risen by $4.3 billion. The cost spike has been big enough that state health-insurance commissioners have worried publicly that it may jeopardize the system's continued existence. They have also cautioned that medical spending could push both employers and patients into bankruptcy. Romney's Democratic successor, Deval Patrick, has cited those additional costs to justify more taxes and fees, including a $1-a-pack hike on cigarettes and $89 million in added fees for state-based health insurers and providers.

Nor has the law had much success in restraining the state's fast-rising family health insurance premiums, which on average cost more than in any other state in the nation. In a 2010 study, economists John F. Cogan and Daniel Kessler of Stanford and Glenn Hubbard of Columbia—the latter now the leader of Mitt Romney's economic advisory team—found that RomneyCare "increased single-coverage employer-sponsored insurance premiums by about 6 percent in aggregate, and by about 7 percent for firms with fewer than 50 employees." 

Perhaps Romney's promise of reduced costs was merely a convenient bullet point, a way of paying lip service to the client's interests. His advisers—in particular, Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber, who was instrumental in conceiving the program's structure—have made clear that they never believed cost control was part of the plan. "You can't do cost control before coverage," Gruber told The Washington Post in 2009. 

"The Romney people try to have it both ways," says Tuerk. "They say we were wrong, that costs did go down. But also that they never intended to control costs." Indeed, Romney's response to the law's failures has been to dodge and redirect blame. He has repeatedly argued that his support for the law, in particular its controversial insurance mandate, was aimed at creating a system built on "personal responsibility." Yet the result of the law has been not a flood of people newly paying their own way but a dramatic increase in handouts. Eighty percent of the newly covered are receiving subsidies from the state.

Romney and his aides blame other failures on provisions inserted by the Democratic legislature and shoddy implementation by Patrick. Asked about the law in a December interview, a domestic policy advisor to the Romney campaign quickly brings up both factors, singling out the Patrick administration's decision to calibrate the law's minimum coverage requirement in a way that is both more generous and more expensive than Romney would have preferred. 

Political Failure

But the law was not merely a policy failure. It was also a political failure—at least in the sense that it did not sufficiently burnish the Romney brand. Quite the opposite. That's because in 2010 President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, his signature achievement as well as the recent law most reviled by Republicans. 

The problem for Romney is that ObamaCare bears more than a passing resemblance to his Massachusetts plan: a massive Medicaid expansion, regulated private insurance exchanges paired with generous subsidies for the middle class, and a mandate that all Americans carry government-approved health coverage or pay a fine. ObamaCare, in other words, looks suspiciously like a federal clone of RomneyCare—not the best selling point for a presumptive Republican nominee in a restive electoral year. 

These days, Romney is strident in his opposition to ObamaCare, promising to repeal it (eventually) if elected. That position is tougher than the one he took in 2010, when he said, "I hope we're ultimately able to eliminate some of the differences, and repeal the bad and keep the good." Yet a national adoption of the Massachusetts plan may have been  what Romney had in mind when he signed his own signature legislation into law. During his first presidential primary campaign, Romney enthusiastically touted the plan's national possibilities. "We have to have our citizens insured, and we're not going to do that by tax exemptions, because the people that don't have insurance aren't paying taxes," he said at an Iowa debate in August 2007. "What you have to do is what we did in Massachusetts. Is it perfect? No. But we say, let's rely on personal responsibility, help people buy their own private insurance, get our citizens insured, not with a government takeover, not with new taxes needed, but instead with a free-market-based system that gets all of our citizens in the system. No more free rides. It works."

In October of that year, Romney told the Republican Jewish Coalition: "I think we'll be successful nationwide. My plan, by the way, allows every citizen in America to get health insurance." Asked by CNN's John King at the time whether RomneyCare was a good model for the nation, he responded with a big grin, "Well, I think so." 

These days, he thinks not. In an October 2011 debate on CNN, Romney insisted, despite evidence to the contrary, that "in the last campaign I was asked, 'Is this something you would have the whole nation do?' And I said no."

As a consultant, Romney was able to give advice and move on to the next client. Even as a private equity investor, he rarely had to stick with a single project for a long period of time. So what if the solutions didn't always work as billed? There was always another deal to be sold, another problem to be defined, another solution to be proposed. This may help explain why candidate Romney seems so much better at defining public policy problems than defending his own solutions.

Or maybe Romney is just miffed that he wasn't consulted on Obama's reform. To this day, his campaign continues to defend RomneyCare and suggest that it has applications beyond Massachusetts. A Romney policy advisor who declined to be quoted without campaign approval told me that, in general, Romney favors other states working off the Massachusetts plan, but tailoring it to their own situation. On the stump, when he is accused of blazing the trail for ObamaCare, Romney frequently replies, "If that's the case, why didn't he call me?"

Obama didn't call Romney, but he did rely on substantial advice and insight from several of the same advisers who played key roles implementing the Massachusetts plan: John Kingsdale, who ran the state's health insurance exchange starting in 2006, and economist Jon Gruber, who helped design the framework. Records obtained by MSNBC show that the consultants met with top Obama administration policy officials a dozen times while ObamaCare was being drawn up. And if Gruber is to be believed, the Obama plan is a virtual carbon copy of Romney's. "[Romney] can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he's just lying," Gruber told The Washington Post in November. "They're the same fucking bill." 

At this point, anyone hoping to pin Romney down on the relationship between RomneyCare and ObamaCare might as well try to nail an egg to the wall. In a lengthy November interview with Fox News host Bret Baier, a visibly uncomfortable Romney reiterated his recent claim that the law was good for Massachusetts but not for the nation. He told Baier that his "entire view" on the subject was laid out "clearly" in his book.

Reading No Apology is indeed clarifying, but probably not in the way that Romney intends. The first printing of the hardback summarized RomneyCare's achievements and national implications with the line, "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country." When the book came out in paperback, that line was gone. 

(Flexible) Corporate Strategy for America

Still, a close reading of No Apology is essential for Romney watchers. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary politician's book, designed to attack Obama's policies, defend Romney's record as governor and businessman, and serve as both a preview of his campaign and a layman's guide to the policies he now favors. The writing is clear but scrubbed of personality. There are dull, soft-touch anecdotes about Romney's personal life, which reveal nothing of importance (apparently he hates weeding). There are broad discussions of policy bookended with cheery platitudes about American greatness. 

But on closer examination, it becomes clear that the book is better understood as a sort of corporate strategy document. Except instead of focusing on a particular business, it offers a strategic vision for all of America. 

No Apology opens with a survey of the marketplace for global power. Romney describes the "four strategies to achieve world power." There's the Chinese strategy based on free enterprise and authoritarian rule, the Russian strategy based on energy authoritarianism, the Iranian strategy of violent jihad, and the American strategy, which prizes economic and political freedom. The presentation-ready, four-part schema all but conjures up a drop-down projection screen and laser pointer.

Romney outlines these countries' operational strengths and weaknesses, their core missions and their potential as threats to the client's front-runner status. Jihadism is a "strategy based on conquest and compulsion"; the Chinese are "an enormously practical and intelligent people," but they lack the "rule of law and regulation that shapes free enterprise elsewhere"; Russia's power is based on "energy and commodities" as well as "the strength of its science and technology sectors." Later in the book, Romney widens his scope to examine industrial effectiveness in other countries, such as Japan, citing consultant's reports on international differences in productivity.

Seen through Romney's eyes, these are America's competitors, each with its own business model and product line, organizational theories and distribution channels. He seems to conceive of his job as proposing a strategic vision that will help America compete and retain its position as global market leader. More often than not, the core of Romney's pitch is about competent management and smarter implementation—an America that is more efficient, better optimized, more focused on its core business.

In No Apology, Romney allows that the United States is "not perfect" and that "America will remain the leading nation in the world only if we overcome our challenges." But his strategic vision seems tailored to flatter the client. It is inspirational rather than radical, highlighting strengths rather than attacking weaknesses. 

So avowedly anti-radical is Romney's blueprint that he advocates continuing programs he believes do not work. He concedes that Medicare will go bankrupt but promises to preserve and protect it. He insists that government is generally not the "source of new ideas" or "where innovation is commercially developed," but also stresses that NASA and the military provide "frequent exceptions" to the rule. When American industry is challenged by foreign competition, Romney says he doesn't "look for protectionist policies as an answer to the company's problems," yet he also avers that there may be "occasions when government properly should protect a domestic industry from foreign competition." It is a consultant's tap dance, hedged into strategic vision oblivion. 

Even the policies of which Romney is most critical are not policies he would undo. Instead, he would tweak and tailor them, refining their processes through savvier implementation and a surer bureaucratic hand. In his book, Romney blasts the Obama administration's handling of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the financial rescue package passed under President George W. Bush in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown: "TARP as administered by [Treasury] Secretary Timothy Geithner was as poorly explained, poorly understood, poorly structured, and poorly implemented as any legislation in recent memory." Yet he has nothing but praise for the original policy itself and the Bush administration leaders who passed it. "Secretary [Henry] Paulson's TARP prevented a systemic collapse of the national financial system," he writes. 

Romney's problems with Obama's $800 billion stimulus package are nearly identical. He says that after Bush's $152 billion stimulus in 2008—about which Romney has no apparent complaints—it became clear that "another stimulus was called for." 

"The stimulus that was passed in early 2009 will accelerate the timing of the start of the recovery," he writes, though not as much as if the plan had been designed to maximize the incentives for job creation. Calls for a new stimulus package would be wrong; the right course would be to "fix the current stimulus" (the book was published before most of the stimulus money had been spent). 

Since the start of the primary campaign, Romney's team has sought to give the impression that their candidate is more deeply opposed to Obama's stimulus. In September, he released an apocalyptically moody ad pairing Obama's soaring promises about the spending package with dark music and statistics showing the economy's less-than-spectacular recovery. Later in the ad, a series of small-business owners appear one by one to dismiss the stimulus bill as worthless, while a spending ticker labeled "stimulus spending to date" ticks rapidly upward in the corner of the frame. In September, Romney told voters at a New Hampshire town hall event that he "never supported the president's recovery act…no time, nowhere, no how." 

The distinction between Romney's support for properly managed stimulus and his criticism of the Obama plan as passed is murky enough to give even his advisers pause. Asked over the phone whether it would be fair to say that Romney supports stimulus spending as long as it's the right kind of stimulus spending, Romney's policy advisor starts to answer, then pauses for several seconds before responding hesitantly that he has the impression that's true but will need to check further. 

Pick any political issue, and there's a good chance Romney has taken more than one position on it. He has been both ardently pro-life and staunchly pro-choice. He has described immigration reform proposals that create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as both "reasonable" and an intolerable form of amnesty. He supported caps on campaign spending and new taxes designed to create a public funding source for elections, then denounced the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act for "hurt[ing] First Amendment Rights." In 1994 he proudly noted his lack of alignment with the National Rifle Association while supporting waiting periods for gun purchases and bans on the sale of assault weapons; in 2006 he joined the NRA, praising its work in defense of the Second Amendment. 

If flip-flopping is Romney's greatest weakness, his business experience is probably his greatest strength. But can the two be separated? Consultants don't have ideology; they have strategy. Their job is to take their current client's side, whatever it is, and put a good polish on it while restoring whatever's underneath. 

Think about what Romney actually did while running Bain Capital. Stephen Kaplan, the Chicago business professor, argues that he should get credit just for having run something. But former Bain Capital partner Eric Kriss, who also worked with Romney in the Massachusetts governor's office, has warned people not to read too much into the gig. "Mitt ran a private equity firm, not a cement company," Kriss told The New York Times in 2007. "He was not a businessman in the sense of running a company. He was a great presenter, a great spokesman, and a great salesman."

Those who have worked with Romney cite his flexibility as a virtue. "He's spent his entire life in a world that's constantly changing, where he has had to modify his thinking in order to address problems," says Scott Meadow, his friend and former business partner. "I think it demonstrates something that I've always seen: an ability to adapt and change, and a willingness to accept that his thinking evolves. And not being afraid to change his mind and go in a different direction because that seems like the appropriate thing to do." Meadow says Romney is "loyal to success," whatever form it takes. "He's flexible because he's had to be," Meadow says. 

A Consultant for the GOP

Which is why Romney's book, his speeches, his debate performances, and his interviews are not necessarily indicators of who Romney is and what he believes. Aside from being rhetorically pro-business, Romney appears to have no consistent ideological outlook. The best way to understand his campaign is as a top-of-the-line consultant's report on the contemporary GOP. 

His first set of major policy proposals, a 150-page PDF document titled "Believe In America," has all the worst hallmarks of consultancy. It also reflects the baseline incoherence and inconsistencies of the client. 

The document is heavy on information but light on insight, long on minutiae yet short on solutions. It has no sense of proportion: An appendix offers a 59-point list of "policy proposals that will get America back to work," from minor bureaucratic tweaks ("establish fixed timetables for all resource development approval") to specific legislative updates ("reduce corporate income tax rate to 25 percent") to undefined wholesale federal overhauls ("undertake fundamental restructuring of government programs and service"). The proposals Romney does elaborate on tend to be carefully couched in the language of possibility and technocratic tinkering. "A robust investment tax credit, extending the write-off for capital expenditures for an additional year, and a lower payroll tax," he writes, "could each have a positive effect if properly structured." Implementation—management—is the key.

This constant hedging appears designed to avoid commitment whenever possible, but it also mirrors the indecision of the Republican base. Medicare—the single biggest driver of America's long-term debt—is mentioned just three times in "Believe In America," including a familiar jab at Obama for cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health care overhaul. By the beginning of October, Romney could be found cajoling GOP voters in Florida with the line, "When you see your friends with signs that say keep your hands off our Medicare, they are absolutely right."

Romney's eventual Medicare overhaul proposal, unveiled that month, was yet another attempt to have it both ways. Like House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Romney embraced "premium support," a softer variant on individual vouchers that would give each Medicare beneficiary a set amount of money with which to purchase his own insurance plan from a menu of government-approved options. But perhaps sensitive to the barrage of criticism Ryan has taken for proposing to "end Medicare as we know it," Romney opted to keep a government-run, fee-for-service Medicare plan as an option. "Unlike the Ryan Plan, Romney's approach keeps traditional Medicare available as one of the insurance plans that seniors can choose among," Romney's campaign explained on his website. (A few weeks later, Ryan offered a version of his own plan that includes a Medicare-like option.) 

Yet Romney's plan doesn't quite preserve Medicare as it has always been offered; under his plan, even "traditional" Medicare would be subject to the limits of premium support. Asked whether Romney's plan could reasonably be described as ending Medicare as we know it, a Romney policy advisor admits that the structure of the program would be altered in the future. Why the hedge? Despite Romney's oft-stated belief in the power of competition, he is not confident about it in the case of Medicare. His policy advisor warns that the effects of competition are still unclear, and it would be a mistake to eliminate a fee-driven system that has worked for years. Yet the whole premise of reform is that Medicare doesn't work. In No Apology, Romney talks about the "burden" the program imposes. When outlining his reform proposal in October, he warned that "Medicare will go bankrupt at some point." 

In this, his second primary campaign, the problem that consultant Romney has chosen to solve is not the Medicare crisis, the federal debt burden, or sluggish economic growth. Instead, it is how to appeal to a Republican Party torn between Tea Party activists and Beltway moderates. Romney's insistence on having it both ways at every opportunity reveals not just his own incoherence but a party with irreconcilable goals: a leaner federal government that cuts no major programs, a balanced budget with a beefed-up defense budget, entitlements that are reformed and reduced but never cut or changed. What does Mitt Romney believe? Like the PDF says, he believes in America—and anything America wants him to believe. 

Peter Suderman is an associate editor at reason.

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  1. In the end, Obama will be the anyone-but-Romney candidate. Contemplate that on the tree of woe.

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  2. It’s nice that Reason prefers candidates with substance like Santorum.

    1. Fuck, I was coming in here to spoof you with some, “Waaah! Reason is picking on Mittens! Waaah! He’s totally better than Obama even though they are virtually the same! Waah!” but the real deal had already beaten me to the punch.

      1. Seriously Reason has shown no preference for Santorum. I’ll give you this Tulpa Santorum is the worst of the bunch but all three of them are fucking awful.

        1. Actually I’d put Gingrich on the bottom, but it’s close. Which makes the GOP field sans Paul just a Santorum sandwich.

      2. I’m always one step ahead of you. That’s why I’m up here and you’re down there.

        1. When it comes to logical fallacies, you truly are the master. You’ll get no argument from me.

    2. Tulpa continues his slump: guessing incorrectly, yet again, about other people’s motivations and desires.

      1. You’re just saying that because you’re jealous.

    3. Don’t confuse having substance with being a substance.

      1. Santorum: It’s what’s for dinner!

  3. From my favorite Demotivator: “Consulting: If you’re not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

    1. Or as an old friend and co-worker put it…

      The Consultant’s Credo: In confusion there is profit.

    2. It’s all about the after-work.

  4. Santorum had a big day yesterday – here’s a look at the man behind the vest. Please share.


    1. I don’t want to see behind the vest. He makes me vomit enough as it is.

    2. I know what’s behind the vest…

      “Ricky. Start the re-actor.”

      1. Let’s completely mix up some scifi for Ricky Cumfarts.

        “The Santorum must flow.”

        1. “Santorum is coming.”

          1. “This should be agony. I should be a mass of aching muscle ? broken, spent, unable to move. And, were I an older man, I surely would… But I’m a man of 30 ? of 20 again. The santorum on my chest is a baptism. I’m born again.”

            1. “One does not simply walk into santorum!”

              1. Kirk: “SANTORUUUUUUUM!!!”

              2. “I’ve got Santorum…in front and behind!”

                1. “If it santorums, we can kill it.”

                  1. “murotnaS! murotnaS!”

                    1. Mos Eisley: you will never find a more wretched hive of santorum and villainy.

                    2. “The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy, but these are new. They look human… Santorum, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait ’till he moved on you before I could zero him.”

                    3. They mostly come out in santorum…mostly.

                    4. “Hey, buddy. You got santorum in there, or what?”


                      “Fuck you, asshole.”

                    5. “The Santorum mostly comes out at night. Mostly.”

                    6. “Soylent Green is Santorum!!!”

                    7. Beat you to that one, BP, at 4:18 ^_^

            2. Santorum at the party, Richter!

          2. I got five Santorums to feed.

        2. Sir! The anus, sir! It appears to be…jammed!

          Jammed?…Santorum. There’s only one man who would dare give me the santorum! Lone Starr!

          1. THIS!!!

        3. Can we add fantasy fiction into the mix?

          “Winter is shitcumming”

          1. nope try again

    3. I don’t know how I feel about yesterday…

      Part of me wants to cry knowing that so many of my countrymen agree with a man like Santorum. Part of me wants to crack a little smile at the thought that the GOP is on the path to an explosive convention.

      1. I kind of expected Minnesota and Missoura might break favorably for Santorum as midwest and upper midwest manufacturing blue-collar states. But Colorado surprised me. I expected less religiousity, more liberty-leaning, and more professionalism among them.

        Tim Tebow has turned that place into a shithole apparently.

        1. My principal at the financial firm I work for is a former atheist biology teacher from Colorado. The quiet type of atheist, not in-your-face militant kind.

          Some of the stories he told me when I was on a long drive described a very religious so-con state. He described a great deal of social oppobrium due to his non-participation in religious things. For example, the administration was wigged out that he wasn’t enthusiastic about teaching Intelligent Design to his students.

        2. Colorado Springs/El Paso County turned out to vote quite heavily. The Denver suburban counties seem not to have.

          1. Fox and CNN told us voting for Paul would be a waste of time, so we stayed home and smoked a bowl instead.

    4. You left out Santorum’s role in the K street project, picking candidates for lobbying jobs in DC on bhealf of Senate Republicans.

      As long as the Gayz Menace is suppressed, Santorum has noooo problem with crony capitalism plundering the un-politically-connected.

  5. After squeaking out a victory in the January 3 Iowa caucus, Romney was well positioned to win the GOP nomination.

    When was this written? Last I heard, Romney squeaked out a loss in Iowa…

    1. Our print production schedule means we have to send pieces to the printer quite early. This piece was finalized just a few days after Iowa, when the count still had Romney winning (just barely).

  6. In 2010, the party successfully unified around an anti-spending message that helped it retake the House.

    In 2010, the party successfully unified around an anti-Obama and anti-Democratic Party message. As always, that consisted of various wings of the party (hawks, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and the always popular “exactly the same stuff except we’ll be the ones in charge” wing) sublimating their differences.

    1. To be fair, they rocked the anti-spending rhetoric, so long as it was against spending on the National Endowment for the Arts, but left 75% of the federal budget known as SS, MC, and Defense alone.

      It is a bit of a stretch to say they embraced an entirely anti-spending message when they campaigned on the Medi-Scare cuts in PPACA.

  7. Holy fuck Chrome 17 is fast and it fixed all the problems that cropped up with adblocking and reasonable the last month or so.

  8. The first printing of the hardback summarized RomneyCare’s achievements and national implications with the line, “We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country.” When the book came out in paperback, that line was gone.

    Just gotta ask: Is that line in the eBook?

  9. I’m gonna need to start charging Overtime.

  10. If Romney gets elected, he won’t do shit but make Obama’s worst shit “bi Partisan”. That of course won’t stop the Democrats and the media from blaming the continued decline of the country on Romney’s radical rightwing, libertarian nihilism.

    So other than giving a bunch of party hacks I can’t stand political jobs, what exactly is the upside of Romney winning? I don’t even buy the whole court appointment angle. Suiter, Warren, and Stevens were all Republican appointees. So it is far from certain Willard won’t fuck those up too.

    If on the other hand, Obama wins, there would be some upside. First, it would prevent the Democrats and liberals from blaming the country’s problems on conservatives. Second, it would probably help the Republicans in Congress. People may vote for Obama because they don’t like Mittens, but no one wants another 2009 where him and Pelosi are in there running the country without any adult supervision. My guess is that a likely Obama win would cause a lot of people to ticket split hoping Congress keeps him under control.

    So Obama would be left with no mandate, since his party would have lost seats in Congress and he his running a totally negative it wasn’t my fault campaign. He would be facing a hostile Congress. Since he has shown no ability to either work with the other side or move public opinion, he would be a lame duck from day one. All a second term Obama could do is executive power grabs and run arounds around Congress.

    Now, I suppose it is possible that he could irrepairably damage the country like that. But I doubt it. More likely he would do a bunch of infuriating and corrupt payoffs to supporters that didn’t do that much long term damage. Meanwhile, he would continue to discredit liberals and the Democratic party and put them on the blame line for all of the country’s problems. I can’t see the Democratic party emerging from that as anything but a shell of its former self.

    I certainly won’t shed any tears over Obama losing. And I still think he will. But I am not sure it wouldn’t be better if he won.

    1. Speaking of making shit bipartisan:

      The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats ? and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats ? support keeping Guantanamo Bay open,


      And get this: Depressingly, Democrats approve of the drone strikes on American citizens by 58-33, and even liberals approve of them, 55-35.

      It’s hard to imagine that Dems and liberals would approve of such policies in quite these numbers if they had been authored by George W. Bush.

      As General Hayden said the other day, “We needed a court order to eavesdrop on [Alawki], but we didn’t need a court order to kill him. Isn’t that something?”

      1. That is a good counter argument in favor or electing a Republican no matter how bad. It is clear that Democrats and liberals will under no circumstances hold one of their own accountable for abusing civil rights. They will however, gladly hold a Republican responsible. A Republican President is much more constrained as a result.

        1. Fuck civil rights. I want better economic policy and nothing constrains Republicans from doing bat-shit crazy stuff in that realm.

    2. John,

      I agree with this analysis, and want to extend it.

      In 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008 the elections went to people who made a convincing case that they were going to reform government and get it off of people’s backs while streamlining and making more efficient the services it provides.

      The electorate is pissed at the government giving give-aways to politically connected people. For a significant faction of Americans this means a pseudo-libertarian cutting of spending while leaving ‘critical’ safety nets in place.

      With the possible exception of Ron Paul none of the Republican candidates have any serious reform plan.

      Thus, another four years in the wilderness might teach the Republicans= establishment to stop promoting ersatz limited government candidates but to go for the real deal.

      1. I doubt that. They will convince themselves that they would have won if only they didn’t have to pander to the small government nuts.

        The only real hope is that by 2016, a Republican President and Congress is forced by events to do the right thing because they will never do it on their own.

        1. Eh, another real hope is that a truly moderate Dem President is combined with a Republican Congress and they cut government in a bipartisan manner, or with great acrimony, whatever works.

          1. The problem is that there are no moderate Dems left. The Kos wing owns the Democratic Party. That is really the heart of our problems. The Republicans deserved to lose in 2008. And they deserved to be totally out of power for more than two years.

            But the Democrats have gone so fucking insane that voters had no choice but to put the Republicans back in control of the House and nearly the Senate in 2010. The country desparately needs moderate Democrats who will kick out the hard core leftists. As it is, the only alternative to Republicans is turning the country over the public employee unions and the greens. And that is no alternative.

            1. Cuomo in New York appears to be getting a reputation for cutting spending. (And since he’s a Dem, no protests.) Is it entirely undeserved?

              1. I don’t think so. I think a few liberals are waking up to the fact that they can’t get their ponies if the public employee unions take all of the money. The problem is he is just taking on the unions to use the money elsewhere. He is not really cutting the size of government.

            2. I seem to recall the Blue Dog Democrats torpedoing the card check law, the public option part of Obamacare, and reinstating the assault weapons ban.

        2. The only real hope is that by 2016, a Republican President and Congress is forced by events to do the right thing because they will never do it on their own.

          I wish I could say you are wrong… 🙁

      2. I certainly understand the Romney-averse crowd here. But truth be told, I consider him the most palatable option outside of Paul (or GJ on the libertarian ticket). Romney strikes me as a shrewd enough chap to say what he needs to say to get elected, but also well-informed enough to know what the big issues are.

        He refuses to address entitlements, but a man of his background surely recognizes the complete absurdity of the entitlement state. Maybe he is just trying to avoid scaring granny until he secures the nomination.

        Sadly though, he also seems like the kind who will pass politically popular legislation once in office (hence Romneycare in Mass). Truth be told, I think he offers a significant improvement on Obama. That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing Obama beat him if only to provide the opening for Rand Paul in 2016.

        1. Romney strikes me as a shrewd enough chap to say what he needs to say to get elected, but also well-informed enough to know what the big issues are.

          He refuses to address entitlements, but a man of his background surely recognizes the complete absurdity of the entitlement state.

          Err, is this supposed to be an intentional parody of all the libertarians and moderates who supported Obama because of what a smart man like that must have been really thinking, no matter what he told the rubes?

          1. Not that I’m saying that I like Gingrich or Santorum at all, I would pick Romney second out of that set of four. But your comments still strike me as astoundingly similar to what was said about Obama by hopeful people. (And David Brooks still seems to be saying the same things about Obama.)

            1. I was never wooed by language as much as record. And in that regard, although Newt is the guy with the more silver tongue and needlessly verbose lexicon, Mittens actually has experience in financial analysis.

              I care not how well or poorly a person speaks. Hence why I’m sometimes alone in thinking Obama or Newt (depending upon the company I’m in at the time) complete fools, all style and no substance. The only endearing quality to Mittens is that he was resoundingly successful in a field that is largely about financial accounting. That gives me at least the glimmer of hope that he recognizes the problem, which is more than I can confidently say about Newt, Santorum, or Obama.

          2. First off, Romney has actually demonstrated his smarts in the real world, in several different pursuits: the Olympics, capital management, etc. The biggest organizational responsibility BO had before 1/20/09 was when he edited the law review, and who knows what happened with that.

            But even if he is being completely forthright in his support of the entitlements, so what? NO ONE is going to get elected who directly attacks entitlements. It’s that simple.

            1. Oh, all that’s fairly true, I can’t disagree with it much. It’s just that if a politician can’t get elected doing something, it means that he also can’t get re-elected, win midterm elections, keep his popularity up, etc., doing those things.

              So it all means that none of it’s likely to happen. Which we knew anyway.

              1. means-testing for SS and Medicare is not quite as noxious to the public as getting rid of it altogether, and would save oodles of cash.

                But you’d have to be extremely careful about approaching it, because your opponents will definitely use the opportunity to paint you as against all SS and Medicare (be they Dems or GOP). Part of the problem with politics being a game these days rather than serious business.

                1. Boehner has been tweeting that the Republicans have been offering means-testing on Medicare Part A for the payroll tax cut, and the Dems are refusing.

                  The Dem position is, as always, raise taxes on the rich Yes, cut spending on the rich, Nay.

        2. He would definitely be an improvement over Obama. But that is a pretty low bar. I just don’t know if he would be enough of an improvement. The worst thing that could happen is for Romney to get in there and not fix things allowing another nut leftist to get in there in 2016.

          1. But that is a pretty low bar.

            Is it lower than a limbo stick at carnival time?

        3. MassCare didn’t occur in a vacuum. The solid blue legislature had some even more statist universal health care plans lined up.

          1. Sure it didn’t. And if Romney would come out and say that and admit it was a horrible mistake, I would probably vote for him. But he won’t do that. So he is either a liar or really believes it. Either way, I can’t vote for him.

            1. That’s a piss poor reason to hand the election to BO.

              1. Why? If he believes in Romneycare, he is just as bad as BO.

              2. I think that gridlock with a Republican Congress would be better than GWB style progress.

                In 2008 this wasn’t an option, the Congress was definitely going to be Democratic. In 2012 I’m not so sure. I don’t want unified Dem control, but I might prefer Obama + GOP Congress to Romney + GOP Congress.

                1. How do you like Obama + GOP congress now?

                2. Let’s see:

                  Recess appointments while Senate is in session? Check.

                  Instructing the EPA to regulate CO2? Check.

                  Starting wars in Libya and soon Syria? Check.

                  Running guns to Mexican drug gangs and then using this as an excuse to require new reporting requirements for gun dealers? Check.

                  Writing into the law that the president has the authority to unilaterally kill or detain anyone he deems a terrorist, anywhere on the globe? Check.

                  yeah, BO + GOP congress is working real well.

                  BO is the problem, and getting him out of the picture has to be the #1 priority.

                  1. Starting wars in Libya and soon Syria? Check.

                    Writing into the law that the president has the authority to unilaterally kill or detain anyone he deems a terrorist, anywhere on the globe? Check.

                    You don’t think Romney would have done these two?

                    You want to oppose war, then your choice is probably GOP President plus Democratic Congress, and even that is close.

                    And I think things would be slightly better with a GOP Senate as well. The House isn’t the entire Congress.

                    An actual GOP Congress would get more bills to Obama’s desk.

                    As far as actual accomplishments, I take credit in that SOPA and PIPA appear to have been stopped, unlike similar bills in basically every other Administration/Congress combination.

                  2. Instructing the EPA to regulate CO2? Check.

                    That would be after the House sunk more intensive regulations.

                    The recess appointments would be getting much more attention with different Senate control, naturally. But even recess appointments are also a consequence of a slowdown in his normal appointments, which is a good thing.

    3. Everything that you’ve complained about BO doing since 1/1/2011 has been done with a hostile Congress. You’re only a lame duck if you feel constrained to follow the law and the constitution, which he doesn’t.

      And it’s by no means a given at this point that the GOP takes back the Senate and doesn’t lose the House in 2014.

      And yes, Souter was a bad appointee. But I’m willing to risk the small possibility of a Souter as opposed to the certainty of a Kagan type, which is what BO would replace Scalia and Kennedy with. And even Souter was at least an old-school liberal like Breyer and Ginsburg, who cared about civil rights. The Sotomayor/Kagan types that BO will appoint will be the new kind of authoritarian leftists.

      Romney is no one’s idea of a great reformist president. I wish Dr Paul could get elected but “not gonna happen”. But if you think Mitt will do anywhere near the mischief against the country that BO has done and is waiting to do after his reelection, you’re bonkers.

      1. Of course he won’t do mischief. But I have no faith that he has even a shred of competence. And yeah Obama doesn’t feel constrained by the law or Constitution. And you think having an out of control Democratic President doing wildly unpopular and illegal things is going to be good for the Democratic Party? How exactly will Dems take back the House with the Community Organizer and Chief around their necks?

        Other than maybe if we are lucky, put a decent person on the court, name me two positive things Mittens would do?

        1. Romney has demonstrated competence in the business world time and time again. So if you have no faith it’s a willful lack of faith on your part.

          Mitt will gut Obamacare from the inside, end the EPA’s quest to regulate CO2, end the FCC’s drive for net neutrality, and deregulate in other ways if it is possible.

          Don’t forget, the convoluted process for making and repealing laws at the federal level is like having bars on every window in your house: once the robber is inside your house, they actually work against you. Gridlock is the friend of the status quo, not necessarily limited govt. So it’s going to be very hard work to undo the damage BO and his pals have done (and yes, that which Bush did before).

          1. “Very hard work” sounds like the kind of thing we can’t expect Romney to do. Offering tinkering changes to make things “work better” sounds more like his style.

            1. I actually agree.

              I’d rather have someone not doing the very hard work needed to improve things than someone working to make them worse. You?

              1. I’m not sure that Romney can be particularly trusted not to work to make things worse.

                Either way, Obama or Romeny, we’re going to get George W. Bush’s 4th term.

      2. I disagree. Sotomayor has been surprisingly solid on civil liberties.

        1. Yes, Sotomayor has been better than expected. Kagan unsurprisingly bad.

        2. Tell that to Citizen’s United.

          1. She’s been a lot better than the W appointees on civil rights.

      3. But I don’t like GWB appointing the new kind of authoritarian rightists. Give me Scalia and Thomas over Roberts and Alito any day.

        The only defense is that apparently Democrats would prefer authoritarian rightist judges to libertarian ones.

        1. So they’re more likely to filibuster libertarianish ones.

        2. Roberts and Alito are bad in the way right-wing judges are usually bad (though Roberts hasn’t been as bad as Alito).

          Kagan has been bad in both wings’ ways.

        3. “The only defense is that apparently Democrats would prefer authoritarian rightist judges to libertarian ones.”

          Both political parties push for one thing in all aspects of their influence: Increased government influence. What changes between parties is in what spheres they shoot for.

          Supreme court is no different. A libertarian judge who sees the constitution as a document that restricts the government? Get’em out of here!

    4. I sadly agree.

      Lame duck Obama + TeamRed control of both houses seems like the best outcome, at least selecting from the fairly likely outcomes.

  11. Romney didn’t have a big innovation and didn’t create Bain Capital. The idea for Bain Capital came from Bill Bain himself. Romney took the easiest, lowest risk way of running it.

    [Romney] explained to Bain that he didn’t want to risk his position, earnings, and reputation on an experiment. He found the offer appealing but didn’t want to make the decision in a “light or flippant manner.” So Bain sweetened the pot. He guaranteed that if the experiment failed Romney would get his old job and salary back, plus any raises he would have earned during his absence. Still, Romney worried about the impact on his reputation if he proved unable to do the job. Again the pot was sweetened. Bain promised that, if necessary, he would craft a cover story saying that Romney’s return to Bain & Company was needed due to his value as a consultant. “So,” Bain explained, “there was no professional or financial risk.” This time Romney said yes.

    1. But once he took the opportunity, he was wildly successful.

      And it says something that Bain held young Mitt in such high esteem he was willing to make such guarantees. A history of driving hard bargains is not the worst thing to have in a president.

      1. Agree that driving hard bargains is a good skill to have. However, a guy so spineless that he would require Bain to lie to cover up for him if it didn’t work out strikes me as a bad quality for a president. One would hope that a guy that risk averse when it comes to his reputation would transfer that risk aversion to send troops to war, but he doesn’t seem to have issues with that.

        And 37, only a decade younger than Bill Bain, is not all that young.

  12. What happened to the post about the Chrysler ad?

    1. It’s in the shop.

    2. The jingoist’s masturbation material starring Clint Eastwood? ugh

  13. I was all for Romney until this indexing the minimum wage with inflation crap.

    Why does he set the bar so low??? How about indexing the minimum wage with the average hourly rate of a Banes consultant. I’m sure he can figure that one out. You know, since all economists are in virtual agreement that price controls lead to market imbalances in everything EXCEPT labor!

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  15. As a long-time consultant, I must respectfully disagree with your characterization of our profession.

    The best consultants are capable of maintaining their independence and authenticity in the face of corporate politics – not adapting to them. In fact, that’s a requirement for longevity in this reputation-driven field.

    I often have to tell clients what they do not want to hear. They rehire me because they know that I will call it like I see it.

    Most corporate executives have plenty of yes-men/women. They need candor and an external perspective.

    It’s telling to me that Romney was sent off to form Bain Capital rather than continuing to progress towards partner in Bain Consulting. If he was that great with clients, they would have never let him go.

  16. And all this time I thought spending originated with Congress. If Congress will make the cuts, do you think Romney will veto the bills?

    Or do they just pay you by the word?

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