Romney’s economic plan panned

The reactions on Mitt Romney’s economic proposals are in and they’re mixed for the most part. As noted yesterday, the proposal are most a rehash of what he put out during his last presidential four years ago. The Wall Street Journal isn’t impressed:

Mitt Romney rolled out a major chunk of his economic agenda yesterday, and we’ll say this for it: His ideas are better than President Obama’s. Yet the 160 pages and 59 proposals also strike us as surprisingly timid and tactical considering our economic predicament. They’re a technocrat’s guide more than a reform manifesto.

The Club for Growth, which has been critical of Romney on healthcare and his consistency on economic issues, notes that there are parts of the proposal that sound good, but it’s counterproductive when it comes to China:

“Governor Romney deserves praise for his specific plan to put America on a path to economic prosperity.” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “Eliminating taxes on savings and investment, pushing for a flatter tax system, and cutting the corporate tax are positive steps. Governor Romney has correctly identified that a lower regulatory burden would create a positive climate for economic growth and has laid out pro-growth specifics on how to accomplish this goal. Unlike President Obama, who has given nothing but empty rhetoric promising more of the same failed policies, Governor Romney has offered specific solutions that demonstrate his potential as President. Every top-tier Presidential candidate should issue a comparable blueprint for Americans to review.”

“We are somewhat concerned by the protectionist language used by Governor Romney in his plan regarding trade with China. A President Romney would be wise to avoid starting a trade war with China and punitive duties like the ones proposed by Romney are the first step in that direction,” added Chocola.

And at Reason, Peter Suderman isn’t at all impressed with the tax policy proposals and plans for entitlements laid out by Romney’s campaign:

Romney’s “plan” offers two full pages of discussion about why the United States needs to transition to a “territorial” tax system, and scatters tasteful graphs across its bullet-pointed pages. If you make it through the entire document, you’ll even run across a handful of real, if mostly underdeveloped, policy proposals: establishing a hard cap for regulatory costs, lowering the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, eliminating the estate tax, repeal ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation bill, In the course of 150 pages, it’s hard for even a master consultant like Romney to avoid proposing anything at all.

But even the proposals Romney does offer tend to be carefully couched in the language of possibility. “A robust investment tax credit, extending the write-off for capital expenditures for an additional year, and a lower payroll tax could each have a positive effect if properly structured.” Could! Perhaps! Isn’t that interesting?

On Medicare reform, the plan nods toward the premium support plan put forth by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, “makes important strides in the right direction by keeping the system solvent and introducing market-based dynamics.” Does Romney support Ryan’s plan, or its basic framework? Not…exactly. “As president, Romney’s own plan”—wasn’t this supposed to be Romney’s plan?—“will differ, but it will share those objectives.” The same. But different.

Indeed, Romney’s report appears designed to give the impression of prescriptive policy detail while providing as little of it possible—focusing more on describing what America’s situation is—or at least what Romney thinks Republican voters think America’s situation is—than on what it should be, and how he proposes to fix its problems.

So it’s sufficiently thorough in its background analysis, yet aspirationally vague when it comes to proposing action items.

Meanwhile, it fully avoids telling Republicans anything they don’t want to hear. The word Medicare, for example, appears just three times: Once in the context of his non-support for Rep. Ryan’s overhaul, once to note that ObamaCare “slashed $500 billion from Medicare,” and one more time to declare that “we must keep the promises made to our current retirees: their Social Security and Medicare benefits should not be affected.”

Like Medicare? Hate Medicare? Want to see it reformed, propped up, or cut back? Irked by ObamaCare’s cuts to the program? Romney’s plan recognizes all possible Republican viewpoints, and commits to none of them.

Like I said yesterday, I wasn’t really impressed with it either. Jon Huntsman, who hasn’t been taken seriously as a candidate by most Republicans, put out something far more significant and it has barely received attention. Romney is essentially running on hand-me-downs from a past campaign, but he’s a a top-tier candidate. There are no new ideas. No substance. He’s just playing it as safe as possible.

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