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An Open Letter to Mitt Romney

3:15 PM, Sep 10, 2012 • By PETER J. HANSEN
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Dear Governor Romney,

Mitt Romney

I am sure you are being deluged with advice, but I hope mine is worth hearing.

You have been running a campaign focused on the economy, especially jobs. It therefore must be frustrating for you that President Obama, with his poor record, seems to retain a small edge in the race.

I wonder, however, if there isn’t a missing element in your campaign. Yes, you ran a successful business, which created jobs, and you have other impressive accomplishments. It is a good record, but it doesn’t really demonstrate an ability to pull our nation’s economy out of its slump. To be sure, it demonstrates more such ability than President Obama has demonstrated. Nonetheless, it’s one thing to identify a problem, say you care about it, and even list some steps you would take to address it.  It’s another thing to convince people that you can really do the job.  Many people wonder, and not without reason, whether any president can really do this job.

So what else might you do?  I suggest that your focus on the economy and jobs would be strengthened by more detailed discussions of policies you would enact, and also of related issues, notably Obamacare and Medicare.  The assertion that you are more competent than President Obama strikes many people as merely that—an assertion.  It would be supported by your speaking in more detail about a range of financial issues.

Bill Clinton’s speech was, in my opinion, the most effective one at either convention.  I don’t need to tell you that much of it was dishonest.  But Clinton offered just the right level of detail—enough to make people feel he really knew what he was talking about, but not so much as to make people’s eyes glaze over.  You know these details as well as he does; I suggest you talk about them more often.  It’s not easy to combine discussion of detail with a large moral vision, as Clinton did; few people have his political gifts (though in terms of actual governing, he was perhaps more fortunate than skilled).  But you’re not running against Clinton.  When it comes to combining policy details with a vision for our country, I believe you can do better than the tired and negative Barack Obama we confront in 2012.  But you need to say more and perhaps take some chances.  Talk about jobs, yes, but also about specific policies and the effect they would have, and about a vision of our economy and society which makes it plausible that your administration will really cause job creation, and that President Obama’s has hindered it and will continue to do so.

You have said that you intend to repeal Obamacare.  I was glad to hear that, but I think people would be impressed by a more detailed explanation of why Obamacare is a step in the wrong direction, how it is sure to drive up costs without improving quality, how a market with some regulation works much better than boards of bureaucrats trying to set prices, and how Obamacare has made businesses less likely to hire people because they face greater expenses in doing so.  It would also be helpful if you spoke simply and clearly about how you would replace Obamacare.  You might choose one theme on which to focus, such as leveling the playing field by ending tax discrimination against privately purchased health care and against health care as distinguished from health insurance; you might explain how Obamacare doubles down on a system which produces overconsumption of insurance, unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork, and higher costs.  All this would be helpful in terms of articulating an alternative vision on health care, but also, and perhaps more importantly, it would demonstrate understanding and ability in economic matters generally.  It would put more meat on the bones of your assertion of greater competence.

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