Editor's note: Michigan Capitol Confidential offered the four Republican presidential candidates the opportunity to write a column in advance of the Tuesday primary. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were the only two who responded. Michigan Capitol Confidential is not endorsing any specific candidate. Santorum's column can be found here.
By Mitt Romney
Things are happening in America today that break my heart.
Joblessness is one of them. Back in the beginning of 2009 we were told by the incoming Obama administration that a massive federal spending package would keep the unemployment rate from rising above 8 percent.
Eight percent is itself a shocking number, far above what was then the post-war average of 5.6 percent. If only President Obama had been right, for he proceeded to borrow nearly $1 trillion for his “stimulus.” And yet the unemployment rate blew right past 8 percent until it hit the high-water mark of 10.1 percent.
Today, as we approach the end of the president’s four year term — joblessness remains above 8 percent. Close to 13 million Americans are unemployed. Another 8 million are considered “underemployed,” holding one or more part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work. An additional 3 million are regarded by Washington as “marginally attached to the labor force” — in plain words, they no longer are even counted among the unemployed because they simply have given up seeking work.
These numbers are not mere abstractions. They represent suffering and hardship on a grand scale, and Michigan has been hit particularly hard.
In 1947, the year I was born, unemployment was 3.9 percent. In 1968, when I turned 21, it was 3.6 percent. Let’s not forget all the periods in our recent history when our economy was humming along at high speed, creating the opportunities that made our country the most successful and powerful in the history of the world.
We’ve done things right in the past. We can do things right once again. We have recovered from recessions before. Indeed, the American economy has repeatedly proved to be extraordinarily resilient. After we hit bad patches, as in the early years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the economy came roaring back.
But we’ve just gone through 36 consecutive months with the unemployment rate above 8 percent. That’s the longest such spell since the Great Depression, and the end is not in sight.
With things so difficult this time around, it is worth inquiring why. No small part of the answer has to do with the wrenches the Obama administration has thrown into the economy. Badly misguided policies have acted as a severe drag on growth. We can count here the binge of borrowing and spending that set off worldwide alarms about the creditworthiness of the United States and led to Standard & Poor’s unprecedented downgrade of our nation’s sovereign credit rating. We can also count the vast expansion of costly and cumbersome regulation of sectors of the economy, ranging from energy to finance to health care. When the price of doing business in America rises, it does not come as a surprise that entrepreneurs and enterprises cut back, let employees go, and delay hiring.
The president appears to believe that government can do a better job managing the economy than can a free people and free enterprise. I disagree.
Washington has become an impediment to economic growth. His proposed tax increases will only further hurt the economy. Setting things right will not be easy. Entrenched interests and their allies in government will fight every step of the way. But it is not a battle from which we can shrink. We must restore the principles that have enabled the American economic engine to outperform the world. The federal government needs to be pared back and redirected.
I spent 25 years in business. I led an international consulting firm through difficult times to growth and success, led a financial services business from start-up to global prominence, and led the turnaround of a Winter Olympics to world acclaim.
I know what it means to meet a payroll. I know why businesses hire people, and why they become forced to lay them off. I know what it means to compete in this country and abroad.
My entire life experience convinces me that with a leader who fundamentally understands the economy, with a government that encourages investment and hiring, and with the faith and hard work of the American people, we will right the economy, create good jobs, and restore the promise of the future. We should build upon our strengths, not burden them with bureaucracy, excessive regulation and intrusive government.
That’s why I am running for president. I aim to revitalize our economy and to reignite the job-creating engine of the United States and I have a comprehensive plan to do just that.
Mitt Romney served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007.