Mitt’s Latest “Big Speech:” Big Lie #1

Mitt Romney gave another much-ballyhooed “big speech” today in Michigan, aimed at clarifying the differences between his approach to the economy and the president’s.

Well, mission accomplished, but not exactly in the way he intended.

There were two “big lies” are the heart of the speech. I’ll discuss them in separate posts.

Here’s number one:

President Obama chose to apply liberal ideas of the past to a 21st century America. Liberal policies didn’t work then, they haven’t worked over the last four years, and they won’t work in the future. New Democrats had abandoned those policies, but President Obama resurrected them, with predictable results.

President Clinton said the era of big government was over. President Obama brought it back with a vengeance. Government at all levels now constitutes 38% of the economy, and if Obamacare is installed, it will reach almost 50%.

President Clinton made efforts to reform welfare as we knew it. President Obama is trying tirelessly to expand the welfare state to all Americans, with promises of more programs, more benefits, and more spending.

Old-school liberals saw a problem and thought a government-run program was the answer. Obamacare is the fulfillment of their dreams. Federal bureaucrats will tell all Americans what they have to have in their health insurance policies. And an unelected board will tell seniors what treatments Medicare will cover….

The liberals of the past raised taxes, often with little thought of how they would hurt small business, and the economy. Like them, President Obama proposes to raise the tax on small business. He wants to increase the marginal tax rate paid by the most successful small businesses from 35% to 40%. It’s a throwback to discredited policies, and it will kill jobs.

So the claim here is that Obama turned his back on the Clintonian “New Democrat” heritage and went back to the bad old liberal ways of the distant past.

Who do you think is the most reliable interpreter of the Clinton legacy? Bill Clinton, or perhaps his wife? Or Mitt Romney? And who do you think is the better judge of whether Obama is going back to the “tired old liberalism” Clinton sometimes derided? This time I’ll give your three options: (a) Again, Clinton; (b) the liberals who disagreed with Clinton’s course for the party, and who disagree with Obama’s just as vociferously, or (c) Mitt Romney?

I take this a bit personally, having been a “New Democrat” myself back in the day, but there are really only two ways to deal with this passage of Romney’s speech: either he (or his speechwriter) hasn’t the slightest clue what he’s talking about, or he’s lying. It’s not real hard to figure out which is the case.

It’s particularly outrageous for Romney to claim that the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010 was some sort of betrayal of the New Democrat legacy. “New Democrats” (for example, the Progressive Policy Institute, the preeminent New Democratic think-tank) relentlessly agitated for something very like the ACA going back to the early 1990s. Indeed, they differed from the defining New Democrat, Bill Clinton, only in preferring the “managed competition” model to the somewhat more rigid approach embraced by the Clinton administration itself. During the 2008 presidential primaries, the only significant differences between the health care proposals of Barack Obama and of Hillary Clinton (notice the last name again!) was that she insisted on the individual mandate that Mitt Romney had implemented in Massachusetts and that Mitt Romney’s party now denounces as slavery.

These are not obscure facts of ancient history. Nor is the fact that on taxes, another area where Romney is claiming that Obama is repudiating Clinton’s legacy to go back to some ancient hard-core liberalism, the endless and repetitive and redundant Obama proposal is to take income tax rates for the wealthy back to the levels they were when Bill Clinton was president, and, BTW, when America was producing more millionaries than anyone had ever thought possible and the first mass upper-middle-class in human history. Obama’s trying to expand “welfare?” How? By temporarily expanding, in the middle of a Republican-engineered recession, the Earned Income Tax Credit, which Clinton considered the essential tool for making welfare reform succeed, and which Ronald Reagan hailed as “the best the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress”?

Sorry for the rant, but I am beside myself on this one, in part because I fear that a lot of reporters will blandly report on Romney’s speech and not bother to point out that Mitt is making a laughable mischaracterization of political history so recent that even someone right out of journalism school would know it.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.