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Mitt Romney: The Frontrunner for Now

The son of a prominent Michigan auto executive, Mitt Romney seems an ideal candidate for president. He has served as Mormon missionary, lead in business, headed the organizing committee of the Winter Olympics and effectively served as governor of the state of Massachusetts.

Background

Willard Mitt Romney was born in 1947, the son of prominent Michigan auto executive George Romney. Like most young men in the LDS (Mormon) church, he served 2 ½ years as a missionary. Upon returning from his mission in France, he married his high school sweetheart, Ann Davies, and graduated as class valedictorian from Brigham Young University. From there Romney moved to Massachusetts and graduated from both Harvard Law and Harvard Business School with high honors.

Political Career

After a brief but successful career as a management consultant and then head of a private equity investment firm, Romney was ready to enter the world of politics. He won his first-ever bid for the Republican Senatorial candidate but had the dubious task of then running against longtime incumbent Ted Kennedy, one of the nation’s most famous liberals and an enormous force in state politics. The Kennedy campaign staff had no problem using a religious argument against Romney, which was ironic considering the vicious attack made on Jack Kennedy’s Catholicism when he ran for president in 1960. Though he ran a good campaign, the gap was far too wide to close and win the election.

Romney moved back to Utah in 1990 to assume leadership as the head of the organizing committee for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.  Though the Olympic effort had previously been plagued by scandal and financial problems, he was widely credited with the $100 million profit earned by the 2002 games, despite increased post-9/11 security costs.

By 2002 Mitt Romney had returned to Massachusetts to cash in on his business success by using his strong record of management expertise as a selling point in the 2002 gubernatorial election. He easily won the Republican primary and went on to defeat Democrat Shannon O’Brien by five points in the general election.

While governor, the state enacted a series of tax increases and rule changes, moving it from a $1.2 billion deficit to a $700 million surplus. During the same period, the Democratic state legislature moved state policy to the left, overturning innumerable vetoes. In the second year of his term, Governor Romney found his state at the center of major national controversy with the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Romney was on record as opposing both gay marriage and civil unions but was forced to take center stage on the contentious issue. Since then, the governor has identified himself as a strong opponent of gay marriage but an equally vocal proponent of other civil rights for lesbians and homosexuals.

In 2006, Governor Romney made national news by signing the Massachusetts health reform law, the first statewide law mandating health insurance for all citizens and subsidizing the premiums of low income residence. This move has become a major sticking point among conservatives and libertarians and is consistently pointed to as an inconsistency when Romney attacks Obamacare.

With a long record of public office and an established web presence, Romney’s stances are a matter of common public record. Here is a synopsis of his platform as gleaned from his official campaign web site.

The Role of Government and Economic Issues

  • Smaller Government – Calls for hard cap on federal spending and curtailment of the intrusive expansion of federal authority in order to provide businesses with the certainty and stability needed to make investments.
  • Economic Competitiveness – To improve America’s competitiveness in the world market we must lower taxes on businesses, slash bureaucratic red tape, and place a hard cap on the impact that federal regulations can have on the economy and limit the harmful influence of union bosses on productive businesses.
  • Free Trade On Fair Terms – Pushes for open markets on fair terms for our products and services around the world. Access to foreign markets is crucial to growing our economy.  America must reassert its leadership in international negotiations, follow through on commitments we have already made, and push aggressively for advantageous new agreements.
  • Energy Security and Independence – To meet the challenge of achieving a secure and affordable supply of fuels, we need to lower the amount of energy we use and increase the supply of domestic energy sources. Government must be a partner, not an obstacle, in this effort. This involves facilitating the exploration and development of conventional fossil fuels, removing regulatory hurdles that prevent the construction of nuclear power plants, and address market failures that prevent the adoption of new technologies.
  • Training and Preparing America’s Workers – Steps we must take to restart economic growth include expanding trade relationships, developing new sources of energy, eliminating ineffective government handouts, and providing workers the resources to develop valuable skills and make the transition to new types of work.
  • End Deficit Spending – The only way to curb a further economic decline is to stop borrowing unhealthy sums to pay for what we already cannot afford. Federal spending must be capped.
  • Entitlement Spending – Entitlement programs must be reformed to be kept solvent.

Health Care Reform

  • ObamaCare – Repeal and replace President Obama’s health care law.
  • State Leadership – Give states the responsibility, flexibility, and resources to act in their own interest in health care statutes. We should empower states to expand health care access to low-income Americans by block-granting funds for Medicaid and the uninsured. Empower states to help the chronically ill, to improve their access to care, and to improve the functioning of insurance markets for others.
  • Tax Reform – Empower individuals to purchase their own insurance and expand the tax deduction to also include those who buy their own health insurance.
  • Regulatory Reform – Focus federal regulation of health care on making markets work through limited federal regulation to correct common failures in insurance markets, while eliminating counterproductive federal rules. This includes allowing the purchase insurance across state lines, free from costly state benefit requirements. Individuals and small businesses should be allowed to form purchasing pools to lower insurance costs and improve choice.
  • Medical Malpractice Reform – Cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice litigation and provide innovation grants to states for additional medical liability reforms, such as alternative dispute resolution or health care courts.
  • Market Forces – Strengthen health savings accounts (HSAs), which help consumers save for health expenses and choose cost-effective insurance. Permit HSA funds to be used to pay for health insurance premiums.

Foreign Policy

  • National Defense – Restore defense capabilities to ensure security at home and peace abroad. Modernize air and naval forces, weapons systems, and equipment. Grow the number of troops and ensure that funds go to their needs and care. Establish robust missile defense and repair and update our nuclear arsenal. Oppose any cuts to our military budget.
  • Dynamic Diplomacy – Enhance America’s “soft power” to bolster our standing and influence by capitalizing on the appeal of liberty, free enterprise, and our historical generosity toward nations in need. This will attract allies—old and new—to the cause of liberty and peace.
  • Steadfast Alliances – Revitalize alliances to meet common challenges. America’s strength is amplified when it is combined with the strength of other nations. We must therefore be a resolute friend to our allies and honor our commitments to them. We should also fast-track NATO admission for our allies, bolster our support for Israel, establish a global military alliance of democracies dedicated to ensuring security and protecting freedom, and refrain from criticizing allies publicly and without consultation.

Conclusions

Romney has now made one major run for the Republican nomination and now is the definite front runner in the upcoming primaries. In spite of this, a number of questions still loom in the background of his presidential aspirations. Most of those questions center on belief (backed by some polls), suggesting that both evangelical Christians and the non-religious alike may find voting for a Mormon complicated.  There is also the widespread perception that Romney is really a moderate seeking to appeal to the conservative right to win the conservative-dominated GOP primary.

There is no doubt in these hard economic times that his track record as a businessman and budget-balancing governor are definitely in his favor. With his classical “presidential look,” winning smile, and spotless record as a family man, he makes a strong contrast with several of his competitors and remains the most traditional candidate running in a very traditional party.

However, there are some worrisome things about Mitt Romney. His platform is strong on rhetoric but sometimes perceived as weak on real substance. Many in the more conservative wing of the Republican Party see John McCain written all over his candidacy.  In a time when it seems people are looking for a reason to vote against President Obama, Romney may be just the ticket they are looking for. Or, too many may see him as more of the same and decide to go for a candidate who offers a clear contrast.

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