Saturday, January 06, 2007

I just read this posting by Robert Novak

During his family vacation in Park City, Utah, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney met with former Bush administration officials who comprise his economic policy team to discuss a tax reform for Romney's presidential campaign.

The meeting included Glenn Hubbard, former chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) who is co-chairman of Romney's economic policy council. Also on hand were former Bush economic policy officials Brian Reardon and Cesar Conda. Gregory Mankiw, another former CEA chairman, is Romney's economic co-chairman but could not attend the Utah meeting because of a knee injury.

Romney, seeking to contrast himself with Republican presidential front-runner John McCain on taxes, has surrounded himself with architects of Bush's tax plan. Vice President Dick Cheney had to cast a tie-breaking vote on the 2003 tax cuts because Sen. McCain had voted against them.

Two things from this post. First, while I believe that tax cuts are good (both because they have the potential to bring in increased revenue and because they limit the size of government), I just hope that these aren’t the people who did the PR for Bush’s tax cut. For anyone who even moderately understands fiscal policy and economics, the tax cuts were a resounding success. However, they were easily attacked as only benefiting the super rich. I believe that Romney is better at making his case for his ideas and policies than Bush, but he should be aware that, while the good of the country is of utmost importance, most people will not take the time to look deeper at an issue than the media label it is given, resulting in loss of public support. Thus, I say, continue to craft a dynamite economic package with the behind the scenes Bush people, but make sure to employ someone other than Bush’s PR people to promote it.

Second, I’m increasingly skeptical of who McCain’s constituency is. According to Novak, McCain voted against the tax cuts in 2003. We know his proposal for immigration was supported by Ted Kennedy and other liberal senators. He opposed the marriage amendment last year, saying it was “unRepublican”. He continues to be the leading supporter of the war. He has labeled his philosophy “Common Sense Conservatism”. I’m not sure what constituency his record appeals to. On some issues, he would seem to alienate the conservatives. Yet his support of the war would certainly alienate liberals. Does that mean that he represents the middle of America in between? I guess that’s what voters will tell us in 2008, but it seems highly unlikely to me that his mix of liberal and conservative ideas will appeal to any base in particular.



Blogger Marc said...

I agree that this will be an issue that could end up helping Romney pretty significantly in the primaries depending on how it is framed.

I would watch the hyperbole though (e.g., "For anyone who even moderately understands fiscal policy and economics, the tax cuts were a resounding success"). I'm not sure how this statement can really be in any way defended. There are a lot of smart and sound economists, a lot of nobel laureates among them that have questioned some of the the tax cuts. There are legitimate differences of opinion here.I don't think it necessary or wise when exploring these differences to demean those with whom one disagrees.

Moreover, I think we should take care in how we frame and label issues. Trying to dismiss opposition to Bush's tax cuts or support for comprehensive immigration reform by simply labeling them "liberal" is (1) not accurate and (2) not much of an argument. Support for hardline immigration policy is actually thought to have cost the Republicans several seats in Congress and the marked gains they had enjoyed among the hispanic community.

That's not in any way to suggest that like immigration or tax cuts or their potential effect on the primaries aren't relevant or should be avoided, I simply think there is much more to be gained through an even-handed discussion which explores these issues fairly.

12:31 AM  
Blogger David Kennedy said...

Oh Marc, you're such a liberal.

Labeling/framing/hyperbole aside, I personally agree with Kyle's point in that I hope Romney would do a better job than Bush of controlling public perception of his tax policy. I want to scream when I hear the phrase "Tax cuts for the rich." Then again, it probably just comes with the territory.

4:07 AM  
Blogger Kyle Hampton said...

You’re right. My statement about the 2003 tax cut was unsupported and probably should have been stricken. Additionally, some of the framing of McCain’s stances was, perhaps, unacademic. However, my intention in laying out some of McCain’s positions was not to dismiss them as illegitimate for the sole reason of being “liberal”. There are legitimate arguments for each position. My purpose was to tease out the issue so that our readers could follow the links and decide for themselves. As the thesis of my paragraph stated, which constituency aligns with McCain is unclear to me because of his stance on issues such as these. I think the question is a legitimate one, though I could have presented it better.

In all, I appreciate the gentle rebuke.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

I hope my reply didn't come off to harshly. I agree with your general point. It will be interesting to see what sort of primary support McCain pulls as the field begins to crystalize and the candidates seek to differentiate themselves. McCain has certainly gone out of his way to try and avoid the South Carolina problem of the 2000 primary (I'm sure crawling back to mend fences with Jerry Falwell was one of the most difficult pieces of crow he's ever had to eat). Will it be enough though. Between Giuliani and McCain, Romney certainly seems positioned to garner significant support from the religious conservatives, most of whom it seems would only vote McCain if they had no other option.

12:36 AM  

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