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 Romneyis 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, and 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 has been.
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.”
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.