Mitt Romney is beating the drums for what he calls his “restore America” jobs plan.
Romney (or simply “Mitt” as his website refers to him) vows to return us to an era when the America economy was booming, creating millions of well-paying jobs.
This all sounds pretty damn nifty … until you try to pin down the era Mitt is promising to restore.
For starters, it’s certainly not the George W. Bush years. After all, that’s when the country plunged into its deepest and darkest recession in 80 years. That collapse occurred in the aftermath of massive tax cuts – tax reductions that Mitt not only favored but even wants to significantly increase. Mitt, who claims his tax plan will help create millions of new jobs, should take note that the nation lost 653,000 private sector jobs during the Bush era.
It’s also highly unlikely that Mitt is clamoring for a return to the Bill Clinton years. I say that because Clinton, in his first year in office, did something Mitt finds outrageous: Clinton raised the income tax rate on the wealthiest Americans – from 31% to 39.6%. When Clinton did this, every member of Mitt’s Republican Party in both the House and Senate voted against this hike, many predicting it would quickly lead to fiscal ruin. The result, instead, was the creation of more than 20 million private sector jobs over the next seven years and the first budget surpluses in nearly three decades.
So, which economic era is Mitt hoping to restore? I’m going to go out on a limb here. I suggest that Mitt longs for the prosperous times when he was growing up, during the nearly two decades of explosive economic growth after World War Two.
In the 1950s and early 60s, millions of American families climbed out of poverty, found newly-created well-paying jobs, earned decent livings and joined the middle class. This surging middle class, in turn, resulted in unprecedented consumer demand and spending, and America was off and running.
It was also an era when television took the nation by storm, a new technology with as much impact on American life as the Internet has had today. Americans were virtually addicted to shows like “The $64,000 Question,” “I Love Lucy,” and “The Twilight Zone.” I believe the program that most symbolized the American dream was “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” the long-running sit-com about the Nelson family.
I can actually picture a somewhat irrepressible 10-year-old Mitt lounging in the den with his family, hooting at the antics of Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky.
We should note that Mitt and his family prospered mightily during what you could call the “Ozzie and Harriet era.” Mitt’s father became the CEO of the American Motors Corporation, one of the largest auto makers in the world. The Romneys moved to the affluent Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills where Mitt and his siblings attended prestigious schools and generally lived the good life.
So, the question is obvious. Is Mitt somehow planning to recreate the Ozzie and Harriet era? I don’t think so, and I’ll tell you why.
From Mitt’s point of view, the tax structure during that period was absolutely abhorrent, far worse than that of the Clinton era. The top rate paid by wealthy Americans in the 50s and mid-60s was 91%. Today it is 35%. But for Mitt, even 35% is too high. He regularly refers to today’s rate as “a job killer.” Mitt wants to drop the rate to 27%.
In short, if Mitt rejects the basic tax structure of the Ozzie and Harriet years, what era are we left with?
Since I’m somewhat of a cynic, the memory of “Mr. Ed,” a popular 60’s TV show about a talking horse, came to mind. As some of you might recall, its star was a horse named Mr. Ed who offered economic advice and words of dubious wisdom to his owner Wilbur. With little shame, I was going to suggest that a talking horse era just might work for Mitt.But on second thought, I realized I was being unfair to Mr. Ed. After all, that talkative stallion had the decency to express all his viewpoints though his mouth. By comparison, some of Mitt’s ideas are so incongruous I’d swear they’re coming from the other end of his alimentary canal.