As an unsuccessful candidate for Senator in 1994 and then when elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2002 Romney ran and then governed as a liberal. Upon entering the race for the Republican nomination for president, however, Romney reversed his position on virtually every major issue. In Massachusetts Romney was pro-choice, pro-gun control, against tax pledges, believed in climate change, was uncommitted on the Bush tax cuts and the Reagan legacy and in favor of healthcare mandates. Over the past two years Governor Romney in repositioning himself not just as a conservative, but to use his own words as a “severe conservative,” disavowed each and every one of these positions to please the Republican base.
Now that we are in the final stretch of the campaign the “etch a sketch” prediction of Romney campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom has come true. Or as conservative columnist David Brooks has written, in the final four weeks “Moderate Mitt Returns!” In the first debate President Obama was clearly caught off guard by Romney espousing positions at complete odds with what he has been saying in the campaign for the past two years. After running on a platform of tax cuts, cuts in regulation and cuts in all spending but for defense, the Romney of the first debate was suddenly pro-regulation, against tax cuts for the upper income brackets and no cuts on government programs. Romney, who was for universal healthcare achieved by a mandate before he was against it, showed up to the debate in favor of all of the popular aspects of the Obama program except for those aspects that actually pay for and enable those features. Governor Romney did a masterful job of dancing to try to differentiate RomneyCare from ObamaCare even through MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, who was an advisor to both Romney and Obama when implementing programs in Massachusetts and then later national has said that “…it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff but he’s lying.”
The bottom line is clear. In spite of what Governor Romney said in the first debate, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has said that the Romney economic program will either increase the already high deficits by $ 5 trillion or be accomplished by a combination of tax increases on middle and lower income citizens and cuts in government programs that will affect low and middle income voters. Although Governor Romney says that his tax cuts will be revenue neutral he refuses to cite a single loophole he would close and the history of Republican tax cuts over the past three decades have clearly demonstrated that they are never revenue neutral. As Jonathan Chait summed it up: “So Romney is a candidate of a 20 percent cut in tax rates, a new plan to cover people with preexisting conditions, and higher defense spending and he will accomplish it all by eliminating funding for PBS.”
Wise is a writer on public and foreign policy issues and a graduate of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.