Morning Jay: Mitt Romney and Modern Conservatism
6:00 AM, Oct 19, 2012 • By JAY COST
This kind of emphasis on growth, prosperity, income, and jobs is reminiscent of the economic conservatism exemplified by McKinley-Coolidge-Reagan, but so also was the way Romney tied pro-business economic policies to mass prosperity.
Consider this, one of Romney’s best lines of the night:
This is such a succinct summary of modern economic conservatism even Calvin Coolidge would be impressed. Helping businesses grow creates jobs, raises income, and spreads prosperity for all citizens.
Not only that, but Romney was careful not to fall into the trap of cronyism. He made an important distinction:
In this day and age, big business is in Washington, D.C. looking for access. It is small businesses that stand to be helped the most by true economic conservatism, not the rent-seeking big guys, who have proven themselves to be well satisfied with Democratic or Republican governments.
Following the lead of the early modern Republicans, Romney even issued a stark warning to China:
The switch happened so long ago that most people alive today really have no personal memory of it, but economic conservatives used to favor tariffs strongly. That was back when American industries needed protection from more advanced competitors, especially in Great Britain. After the World Wars of the first half of the 20th century, America arose as the unparalleled world economic might, free trade advanced businesses more than protectionism, and hence conservatives changed their views.
But China’s systematic cheating – and the price American workers have paid for it – requires a response from economic conservatives. And Romney delivers it right here.
As the above chart illustrates, Romney connects this philosophy again and again to jobs. That is the core economic argument of conservative Republicanism, one that the left has never understood. It is not elitist; it is an inherently republican philosophy: the belief that smart pro-business policies generate growth, and therefore jobs, and therefore prosperity for Americans all across the country.
William McKinley was the first modern Republican to articulate this idea, and we saw Mitt Romney do it again this week – in a way that should make any conservative proud.
Jay Cost is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, available now wherever books are sold.
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