Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a crowd of conservative activists Friday afternoon at the Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the American Dream summit in Washington that his goal is to “make government simpler, smaller, and smarter.” Romney outlined his own fiscal policy, criticized the federal government’s wasteful spending and inefficient practices, and focused on his own management experience at both Bain Capital and as CEO of the Salt Lake City Olympics, suggesting that a businessman’s approach can change the culture of government.
“I learned how to balance budgets in business,” Romney said. “In the private sector, you have no choice—you either balance your budget or you go broke. And you spend every dollar like it’s your own, because it is.”
Solyndra, Romney said, represents “how government starts a company,” citing reports that the failed solar power manufacturer with a $535 million federal start-up loan built itself the “Taj Mahal” of office buildings with “spa-like showers.” He contrasted this with how one of his own investment successes, office-supply chain Staples, began its operations.
“Our headquarters was located in the back of an empty food warehouse,” Romney explained. “We got some used office furniture, old Naugahyde chairs. You had to be an athlete to get out of them. Every penny we had went into selling the product and attracting new customers.”
Romney said he brought the same approach to the debt-ridden Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“The first thing we did was change the culture,” he said. “We started with small but symbolic gestures. We stopped renting fancy conference rooms for board meetings and charged board members for their meals: $1 for a can of Coke and $1 for a slice of pizza. We cut the budget for things like decorations, brochures, travel, and motivational speakers…We wanted the entire organization to know that every penny mattered.”
Romney’s loudest applause line came when he told the crowd he would repeal Obamacare. “It’s bad law, bad policy, and when I’m president, the bad news of Obamacare will be over,” Romney said.
Romney certainly might not be the Tea Party’s favorite presidential candidate. But the magnitude of the fiscal mess in the federal government means both Romney and the Tea Party may be realizing that they’ll have to live with each other.
“I like the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” Romney said, while some in the audience booed at the mention of the government programs. “But I refuse to borrow almost $1 billion a year from China to pay for them.” The crowd applauded.