On July 15, 2010, President Obama appeared at a groundbreaking ceremony in Holland, Mich. to tout a $151 million stimulus grant his administration made to build the LG Chem electric car battery factory.
"[W]hat this plant will prove is that we're headed in the right direction," he said. "This is a symbol of where Michigan is going. This is a symbol of where Holland is going. This is a symbol of where America is going." Two years later, this factory has yet to ship a single battery. WOOD TV8, a western Michigan television station, found that the workers at the LG Chem plant "have so little work to do that they spend hours playing cards and board games, reading magazines or watching movies."
Obama was right -- for the last four years, this is where America has been going. Under his administration, Cabinet secretaries from academic and political backgrounds, who with few exceptions know nothing of the struggles of running a business, have been making crucial economic decisions and creating industrial policy without understanding the effects. A full three years after the Great Recession ended, the results of this folly are evident: Entrepreneurs, paralyzed by uncertainty, keep capital on the sidelines, and as a result 23 million American workers remain unemployed or underemployed, or have given up on finding work. Many of them and their families are now forced to rely on government assistance.
The American economy is treading water in the short term and threatened by a crushing debt burden in the long term. To fix this mess, and to bring back what most Americans consider economic normalcy, we urge our readers to vote for Mitt Romney on Nov. 6.
With his successful business career, Romney understands how government policies, however well-intentioned, can harm business growth and exacerbate unemployment. He will restore pragmatism, balance and fairness to a business climate that has been chilled by Obama's ideological approach to regulation. He will end Obama's appeasement of influential and moneyed constituencies -- especially organized labor, environmentalists and trial lawyers -- that has harmed entrepreneurs and, ultimately, the workers they wish they could hire.
Obama came into office at a difficult time in the nation's history. We don't think it fair to judge him against some fairy-tale notion of what a president can do. But it is perfectly fair, after four years, to judge him by the standards he set for himself.
In 2009, Obama pushed his stimulus package through Congress with the argument that it would reduce the unemployment rate more quickly. This added $833 billion in government debt, without positive effect. The current 7.8 percent unemployment rate exceeds even the dire scenario his economic team predicted in the event the stimulus did not pass.
But Obama did not just promise the stimulus would create jobs. He also promised that his economic stimulus package would create the foundations for future growth. His statement that "companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future" reflects his philosophy that government intervention can jump-start the industries of tomorrow. With Solyndra and 33 other Obama-subsidized green energy companies declaring bankruptcy or finding themselves on the cusp of it, voters should question this vision and ask themselves why Obama never does.
In February 2009, Obama convened a "fiscal responsibility summit" at the White House and pledged "to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office." He acknowledged that "this will not be easy. ... But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay, and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control."
Had Obama followed through on this promise, the 2012 deficit would have been $600 billion. Instead, it was $1.1 trillion. The national debt is $16.2 trillion, more than $5 trillion higher than when Obama took office.
Despite his vow to make tough choices, Obama has presented no plan to put the nation's entitlement programs on a sustainable fiscal path. He discarded the recommendations of the fiscal commission he created to address the problem. His treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, dismissed Republicans' attempts to fix the problem with this striking statement: "[W]e're not coming before you today to say 'we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem.' What we do know is, we don't like yours."
In the partisan process of ramming his national health care law through Congress without a single Republican vote, Obama left behind a junkyard full of broken promises. When pitching the law, he said that Americans who liked their current insurance plans could keep them. The Congressional Budget Office has since estimated that 3 million to 5 million would likely be forced out of employer-based coverage as a result of the law, and that that number could be as high as 20 million.
In September 2009, when Obama was selling the law to the American people before a joint session of Congress, he said, "The plan that I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years." Currently, the CBO pegs the law's 10-year cost at $1.7 trillion.
Obama promised that his plan would reduce health insurance premiums, yet the CBO projects that premiums for family plans will rise by more than $2,000. Under the law, individuals will be forced to purchase government-approved insurance policies or pay a tax penalty. This tax will fall on 6 million uninsured Americans, most of whom are in the middle class, breaking Obama's pledge that "no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase" during his administration.
In fact, Obamacare's massive costs are offset by $1 trillion in tax hikes, many of which will be paid by middle-class Americans, directly or indirectly -- taxes on medical device manufactures, capital gains and tanning salons, among others. Obama promised not to cut Medicare benefits, but he has effectively done so by carving $716 billion out of the program's reimbursements to medical providers.
In contrast with Obama, Mitt Romney spent most of his career in the private sector. He helped found Bain Capital, one of the nation's top private equity firms. While at Bain, he invested in hundreds of companies, helping to build such familiar name brands as Staples, Domino's Pizza, Bright Starts and Sports Authority -- all of which employ many thousands of Americans.
In 1999, Romney applied his impressive management skills to the difficult task of saving the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. The event had fallen deeply into debt, and corruption scandals had scared off corporate sponsors. Romney trimmed budgets, secured new sponsorships, restored the integrity of the Games and ultimately ran a $100 million surplus.
With his business background, Romney understands that Obama's planned tax increase would not just affect the wealthy. In reality, it would also hit 940,000 small-business owners who file as individuals. Romney illustrated the point with the story of a St. Louis electronics store owner with four employees. The businessman already pays more than half of his income in combined state, federal and local taxes, and under Obama's plan he would be squeezed even harder. Romney also explained how Obama's financial regulatory law had the unintended consequence of protecting large banks as "too big to fail" at the expense of smaller community banks.
Romney has pledged to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a market-based alternative. He's proposed simplifying the tax code by reducing rates and eliminating loopholes and deductions -- an act that would instantly make America more competitive and improve the risk-reward ratio for entrepreneurial risk-taking. Romney has embraced the idea of giving states more control over Medicaid, which is crippling their budgets. He promised to transform Medicare into a system in which today's young people, as seniors, will choose among plans that compete for their business.
Romney is not perfect. We strongly opposed his approach to health care in Massachusetts. Having witnessed during the Bush era how easily Republicans cast aside principle to help a president of their own party, we are wary of that happening again.
But whatever their doubts about Romney, Americans know exactly what four more years of an Obama presidency would bring. Obama has proposed an additional $450 billion in economic stimulus spending, even though the first round was a dismal failure. He has promised to shield the unsustainable welfare state from necessary reforms and to fund the status quo by raising taxes only on the top 2 percent of taxpayers. But the math in his plan does not add up, and so either debt will continue to pile up or he will also raise taxes on the middle class.
If he wins this election, Obama will have "flexibility" to become even more aggressive in bypassing Congress and enacting new regulations. But even if he does nothing, his re-election would mean that his burdensome health care law would automatically go into effect, imposing crushing new mandates on businesses and interfering in individuals' health decisions. Whatever doubts exist about Romney's ability to repeal Obamacare, it goes without saying that chances of repeal are nil if Obama is re-elected.
Honest people will disagree about how much of his agenda Romney can realistically implement. But at least his election would provide America with a fighting chance in both economic and fiscal terms. What Americans need now is not a savior or a messiah, but someone who knows how to take a troubled situation and turn it around. Romney is the man for the job.