Economy & Budget

The case against Governor Romney is the case against President Obama

President Barack Obama, searching for traction after his Bain Capital attacks failed, will shift to firmer ground this week, going after Mitt Romney’s political and policy record as Massachusetts governor. 

ABC News has “obtained”  (hmmm… I wonder who gave it to them?) a 14-page research document that “reveals the breadth of material Democrats plan to deploy, listing dozens of examples of Romney rhetoric and corresponding video clips from 2002, 2012, and the comparative results in Massachusetts.” Team Obama will highlight all the failures and unfulfilled promises of Gov. Mitt Romney. 

Seems like the topic of “unfulfilled promises” would be an area best avoided by Obama, but it’s nice to see we’re moving on to Phase 2. And so soon.

Why have attacks on Mitt Romney’s private equity career backfired? I suspect most voters aren’t as turned off to the workings of private equity, risk, creative destruction, profit and/or belt tightening as Team Obama probably imagined. They may, it turns out, be far more concerned with the “investments”  Washington makes in unproductive public taxpayer projects that Washington specializes in — and that concern has turned into a potent counterpunch from Romney. 

Massachusetts holds similar pitfalls for Obama. After all, what’s the case here? That Romney didn’t go far enough? That he wasn’t a big enough lefty? Romney enacted a health care plan that looked a lot like Obamacare. Cato’s “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors” rated Romney a “C”. According to the report, Romney passed a $500 million increase in various fees and proposed $140 million in business tax hikes through the closing of “loopholes” in the tax code.

The state ranks 47th highest in property tax and 34th in corporate tax rate. In fact:

While Romney sped a $275 million capital-gains tax rebate, scored property-tax relief for seniors and secured a two-day, tax-free shopping holiday, he imposed $283 million in business “loophole closures” and $501.5 million in increased fees on marriage licenses, gun registrations, gasoline deliveries, real-estate transfers, and more. Under Romney, the Tax Foundation calculated, Massachusetts fell from America’s 29th most business-friendly state to No. 36.

Sounds like what Obama has in store for the rest of us. Is Obama going to blast Romney for supporting tax increases and more spending? Isn’t that supposed to create jobs?

And what’s the Obama case regarding low unemployment rates in the Bay State? ABC, for instance, does the work of trying to dismiss Romney-era low unemployment rates that were at 4.7 percent:

Economists say the dip in unemployment under Romney — from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent — was largely because so many residents left the work force.  Job growth did go up with net positives in three of four years Romney served, but the pace was well below the national average during a boom time.

“He sold the same hooey in MA ten years ago, and then turned in one of the worst performances of any gov in the USA. 47th in job creation,” senior Obama strategist David Axelrod tweeted last week, hinting at the direction of the attacks to come.

Is that what economists say? So then surely “economists” must also say the same thing about today’s 8.1 percent national unemployment rate. How can the administration attack a 4.7 percent rate when they celebrate a 8.1 percent unemployment rate in which the labor force participation rate had dipped to a new 30-year low of 64.3 percent. If the labor force had remained constant since Obama came into office the unemployment rate would be over 11 percent. 

Now, if you’re conservative, you’re going to be pretty disappointed with Romney’s record as governor. But the GOP nominee does have a solid case to make: “All the things you support, Mr. President — more spending, higher taxes and tighter regulations — did not work to create jobs in Massachusetts.  It made the state unfriendly to business, rather than competitive. I have learned my lesson. Have you?”

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