Last Updated:November 27 @ 11:24 am

Kudlow: The Reagan in Romney

By Lawrence Kudlow

While some of my conservative colleagues are criticizing the Romney campaign for one thing or another, I want to make a distinct point that is largely being overlooked: Mitt Romney is the most fiscally conservative Republican standard-bearer since Ronald Reagan.

Looking back through his speeches, interviews and programmatic proposals, I see an emphasis on economic freedom, free enterprise, low tax rates, deep federal spending cuts, free trade, and a free-market approach to tough social problems, such as health care, education and poverty. Meaning no disrespect to George W. Bush, John McCain, Robert Dole and George H. W. Bush, not one of these former Republican leaders was the consistent and comprehensive free-market advocate that Romney is.

A few recent examples help illustrate my point.

Following his trip to Israel, Romney released an essay called "Culture Does Matter," which was printed on National Review Online. In it, he strongly defended his statement that culture plays a key role in creating prosperity.

Romney wrote that "one feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out above all others: freedom. The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality." He added that "economic freedom is the only force that has consistently succeeded in lifting people out of poverty ... the only principle that has ever created sustained prosperity."

Who was the last Republican leader to talk specifically in those terms? Ronald Reagan.

And when Romney walked into the NAACP lion's den in July, he told the crowd: "Free enterprise is still the greatest force for upward mobility, economic security, and the expansion of the middle class." He was booed at the beginning of that speech when he opposed Obamacare. But he received a standing ovation at the end, once people heard his overall philosophy.

I recently asked the former governor about Obama's now infamous "you didn't build that" statement. Romney blasted it by saying, "This is an ideology which says, 'Hey, we're all the same here, we oughta take from all and give to one another,' and that achievement, individual initiative, risk-taking and success are not to be rewarded as they have in the past." He called it an upside-down philosophy that does not comport with the American experience. The language is clearly Reagan-like.

Programmatically, Columbia Business School dean and top Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard recently laid out the specific Romney economic plan. (Undoubtedly, the Romney campaign crossed every "t" and dotted every "i.") The plan would lower the spending share of GDP to 20 percent from 24 percent by 2016, which is probably the largest proposed spending cut ever. The cumulative net savings of that cut could be a whopping $1.8 trillion, which not  only  would finance huge deficit reduction, but also would help pay for Romney's pro-growth tax reform: a supply-side, across-the-board 20 percent personal-tax-rate reduction, a limit or end to various tax deductions for upper-income payers, and a dramatically reduced corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 25 percent -- perhaps the most powerful growth stimulant of all. Rounding out the economic program is a regulatory rollback, entitlement, trade, education and energy reform, and a sound monetary policy -- replacing Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve.

The liberal Brookings Institute seized on the tax portion of this plan, arguing that revenue neutrality would force Romney to end deductions and raise taxes on the middle class. Nonsense. That analysis completely misses the massive spending reduction in the overall package, along with growth incentives for everyone and base-broadeners only for the upper brackets.

And according to Hubbard, team Romney believes this pro-growth economic plan would generate 4 percent annual growth and create 12 million new jobs in a first term.

So Romney has set specific policies and connected them to specific, positive economic results. He is arguing that a free-enterprise, supply-side program will rejuvenate jobs and economic growth. And he backs this up with an unmistakable philosophy of economic freedom. It's the backbone of his thinking, and it connects to policies that will restore American prosperity.

Now I'm willing to concede that Romney's message has not been refined enough for the public at large. In particular, I would prefer that he harp on the word "growth" far more than he does. And he will probably have to winnow his key points even more, though he  has  brought them down from 59 to 5.

So there's more work to do before the big convention speech. But to suggest that Mitt Romney is not an economic conservative makes no sense to me. Look at what he's saying. And look at what he's proposing. And then think of Reagan.

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5 Comments

  1. inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
    August 13, 2012 @ 8:30 am

    Milton Freidman followed by Ronal Reagan proved that a market economy with economic liberty drives individual Liberty and is the only way to bring the masses out of poverty. Liberals will have you believe that the collective power and force of their socialist collective of losers will collectively raise all boats in the collective behavior of their laziness, dishonesty and inactivity. The fact of the matter is that only the collective of the strong, honest and actively empowered have that ability to raise not only their own boats but the boats of the socially walking wounded who disempowered themselves from life in their cumulative inactivity and diminutive dependent approaches to life. It is the difference between self empowered men of action, who lead and succeed, and those collective diminutive men who fear to act and never achieve, but have to rely on the accomplishments of others to validate their worth and run their re-election campaigns upon. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the kind of men who seek to dare the impossible, and always overshadow the strong of mouth but meek of mind and spirit, who are way too timid to risk their own moral and economic capital but can only feast on the table of others.

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  2. inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
    August 13, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    Our trickle up poverty is unsustainable brought on by a Union dominated education system that does not understand the workings of a free market system, and our children citizens never learn it in school. This is the real cause of our failure. People who DO still get it are taking their capital and moving out of places like California and even fleeing overseas. Items like education, Healthcare and retirement are too important to be entrusted to a fallible government of greed and special interests to be allowed to continue to fumble the ball. Without economic liberty you cannot have individual liberty, When the government controls the economy and people lose their individual liberty and rights to private property, no private property is created and the cumulative effects of their socialist collective of lies and losing ideology prevents us from taking care of anyone or anything.

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    • bookworm_622Comment by bookworm_622
      August 13, 2012 @ 11:19 am

      I agree with what you are pointing out to people.

      Actually, “trickle up poverty” is very sustainable, meaning that we could be stuck with it as long as the politicians control so much of our economy. Politicians, as a group, prefer Communism, and our politicians have been dragging our country in that direction for a long time. Here’s why:

      Wealth must be created before it can be consumed. Politicians go to extraordinary measures to keep people from understanding and living out that simple truth.

      When I was in high school, I had memorized the Communist theory for economics: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” Sounds great! Very inspiring! The grim reality in Socialist and Communist countries is “From each according to whatever we politicians can squeeze out of them, to each according to their connection to the politicians in power.”

      I knew the economic “theory” for Communism. What was the equivalent for Capitalism? I asked around. I never got an answer. None of my teachers had a clue. I didn’t, either. It took me a long time to puzzle it out.

      Do you know? Here we are in what is supposed to be a Capitalist society, and we’ve never heard stated the Capitalist equivalent of “From each… to each…”!

      Why not? Because politicians don’t want us to know! In a Communist or Socialist society it is almost impossible to make economic progress without being connected to specific politicians. In a Capitalist society it happens all the time.

      The Capitalist economic theory is the same on the “From” aspect: “From each according to their ability…”. You wouldn’t want me to be your surgeon. I have no ability in that area.

      The HUGE difference is in the “To” segment: “To each according to the _value_ of what they _produce_!”

      See the difference?

      Individuals and groups can make economic progress in a capitalistic society, regardless of whether or not they are connected to the politicians in power. All they have to do is be efficient producers of valuable goods and services, and have the opportunity to exchange them for other goods and services in an open martketplace. This was the difference that made America into the economic powerhouse it was. We were a Capitalistic society. Individuals were rewarded during the exchange/selling of goods and services based on the _value_ of what they produced. Jobs that were more unpleasant, more demanding, or required skills that were expensive to acquire (like pilot) compensated by paying more. A higher pay scale was a verifiable reward for developing the skills and attitudes that were needed for these more difficult jobs. The owners of a business were entitled to more than people who just showed up and followed orders, because the owners had a lot more time and effort invested in the business than an employee.

      Politicians hate Capitalism, because they don’t have as much control. To politicians, it’s _all_ about control. Think about the difference between the federal government of 100 years ago, and the federal government now, and you will see a clear pattern of all three branches of our government legislating, interpreting, and enforcing laws in such a way as to move us away from Capitalism, through Socialism, with Communism (and its level of control) as their intended destination.

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    • nickster99Comment by nickster99
      August 13, 2012 @ 11:49 am

      I remember my 8th grade teacher Mr. Pawleki. This was a long time ago 1968 to be exact. One day I recall he was talking to us all about Communism and Capitalism and what the 2 meant. And the differences. I remember him saying that if we really pay attention we will see that our United States is slowly becoming more like the Soviet Union and they are slowly becoming more like our country. He said to beware that some day in the future we will be looking back and see that many of our liberties and rights have been taken away. He said we live in the greatest country ever created and we should cherish all our rights and do our best to protect them. He was one of my favorite teachers. There are no more like him and if there are they cannot openly speak what they truely want to say! Why did we let this happen to our country?

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  3. nickster99Comment by nickster99
    August 13, 2012 @ 11:23 am

    I heard obummer denouncing the Romney and Ryan ticket yesterday as soon as he could of course. He said that the trickle down policies of the Reagan era never worked and will never work and they want to try it all over again. He called them trickle down fairy dust or something.

    What planet is this loser from does he not know that with the election of Reagan and his policies, began the largest and greatest economic expansion in the history of the United States! It lifted more people out of poverty and put more people to work than any other time in our history. It put people of all races and ethnic backgrounds to work than ever before. And this twit says it will never work. His small mind is so jammed with his marxist ideology he cannot see the forest for the trees. He is sick with his losing beliefs!

    I am hoping to see a revival of that economic expansion starting November 6th of this year. Too bad we have to wait till January 20 to totally get rid of this pestilence!

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