Home/On the American System, Mitt Romney Would Rather Be Right (Wing) Than President

On the American System, Mitt Romney Would Rather Be Right (Wing) Than President

It’s my day for saying “second!” James Pinkerton, on how Obama was right in defending “this unbelievable American system”:

[T]he Romney campaign, overall, would be on much stronger ground today if it were saying, for example:

Of course infrastructure is important.  And that’s one more reason to vote against Obama, because he doesn’t understand how to build the infrastructure that American business needs to bring goods to market. In fact, the President is so naive that he squandered $800 billion on a non-stimulating stimulus plan in 2009. Only in 2010 did he finally figure out that, thanks to his no-growth green friends and all their red tape, “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.” Well, there would be lots of shovel-ready projects, private as well as public, under a Romney administration!

If Romney were describing a 21st-century updating of the American System–putting business first, and seeking to use the government to aid business in creating jobs and, yes, profits–he would be in a stronger position. But Romney and his allies can’t campaign on the American System if they don’t seem to know what it was, what it did, and what it could be–in the right hands.

Second! This is another – better – version of the argument I’ve been making for some time about Romney and Bain: he needs to be arguing that his Bain experience shows he knows how to turn around businesses, not how to “create jobs,” and that he’ll turn around government in the same way – and that a government that manages to build bridges and roads and high-speed railroads for less money will be able to build more of them, and faster, and that will create jobs.

The United States has among the highest infrastructure construction costs in the world. Higher than Japan, than Germany, than Switzerland – other developed countries with high wages and concern for both environmental quality and property rights. I’m increasingly convinced that America’s big problem here is political. The right is primarily focused on promoting the interests of developers, while the left is primarily focused on promoting the interests of public-sector unions. It’s crony capitalism versus “socialism in one contract,” and the one thing all sides can agree on is continually escalating costs. Which, in turn, increases public distrust in the process, and results in budgetary and other rules intended to bind the government, which, in turn, result in inefficient planning and financing that raise costs further.

I don’t know what changes that dynamic, but I’m pretty sure the Romney campaign ain’t it.

about the author

Noah Millman, senior editor, is an opinion journalist, critic, screenwriter, and filmmaker who joined The American Conservative in 2012. Prior to joining TAC, he was a regular blogger at The American Scene. Millman’s work has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Week, Politico, First Things, Commentary, and on The Economist’s online blogs. He lives in Brooklyn.

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