Romney’s plan: slick package, tired policies

At a campaign stop in Florida the other day, Mitt Romney boasted his economic plan would be “bold, sweeping, and specific.” With the former governor presenting this agenda yesterday, did it match the hype? It’s a mixed bag — Romney’s plan is relatively specific, but not terribly sweeping, and not even close to being bold.

The first thing one notices when reading the presidential candidate’s plan is how impressive it looks. I don’t mean it looks impressive in terms of its economic impact; I mean it literally, physically looks impressive — it’s a lengthy document filled with data and actual text. As a rule, when Republicans present plans, they fudge the margins and font size like a high-school sophomore struggling to meet a minimum-page requirement. Romney’s staff at least deserves credit for taking the time to put together a document that appears weighty.

So, what’s the problem? When it comes to the substance of Romney’s plan — you know, the stuff that matters — there’s no there there.

The far-reaching economic plan that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney put forward on Tuesday relies heavily on the premise that reviving the economy depends on getting the government out of the way of corporations.

Romney’s prescription for the country’s ailing economy includes overhauling federal tax, regulatory, trade and energy policies. His is a collection of business-friendly ideas that fit neatly within the mainstream of the Republican Party, with a few innovative proposals sprinkled throughout, namely tougher stances on China and labor unions.

Romney’s “bold, sweeping” agenda, upon further reflection, is little more than Republican boilerplate. It’s less of an economic plan and more of a spirited wish list of measures the GOP mainstream has wanted for years. Romney would have voters believe his background as an underwhelming one-term governor and job-killing private-equity mogul makes him a uniquely credible on the economy, but what we learned yesterday is that his staff can copy and paste effectively from years of Republican to-do lists.

The Washington Post report tries to give Romney bonus points for “innovative” measures on China and labor, but I’m afraid the paper is being far too generous. On China, the GOP candidate’s ideas aren’t quite so innovative after all, and on unions, Romney is somehow under the impression that cracking down on workers will somehow lead to more and better jobs. Put it this way: if Romney can explain why preventing union from deducting from workers’ paychecks will create jobs, I’m all ears.

The rest of the agenda probably could have been guessed before its release: Romney wants to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy; he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the new Wall Street safeguards; and he loves deregulation. Romney also slipped into self-parody, vowing to create “Reagan Economic Zones,” which has something to do with trade.

What are we left with? Republican orthodoxy in a fancy package, which could have been offered by any GOP presidential candidate. No one should be fooled.