• An opening statement
    October 03,2012
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    Ladies and gentlemen, Iíd like to use the opening minutes of this debate a little differently. Iíd like to say that I wish everybody could have known my father, George Romney. He was a great public servant, and Iíve always tried to live up to his example. The problem is that you get caught up in the competitiveness of a campaign and all the consultants want to make you something youíre not.

    Iíve allowed that to happen to me. Iím a non-ideological guy running in an ideological age, and Iíve been pretending to be more of an ideologue than I really am. Iím a sophisticated guy running in a populist moment. Iíve ended up dumbing myself down.

    It hasnít even worked. Iím behind. So Iíve decided to run the last month of this campaign as myself.

    The next president is going to face some wicked problems. The first is the ďfiscal cliff.Ē The next president is going to have to forge a grand compromise on the budget. President Obama has tried and failed to do this over the past four years. Thereís no reason to think heíd do any better over the next four.

    Heís failed, first, because heís just not a very good negotiator. You donít have to believe me. Read Bob Woodwardís book, ďThe Price of Politics.Ē Obama spent the last campaign promising to be post-partisan and then in his first weeks in office, in the fullness of his victory, he shut down all cooperation with Republicans and killed any hope of bipartisan cooperation.

    Furthermore, heís too insular. As Woodward reports, heís constantly leaving people in the dark ó his negotiating partners and people in his own party. Theyíre perpetually being blindsided and confused by his amorphous positions. Thereís no trust. If I were in business, thereís no way I would do a deal with this guy.

    The second reason thereís been no budget compromise is that Republicans have been too rigid, refusing to put revenue on the table. Iíve been part of the problem. But, globally, the nations that successfully trim debt have raised $1 in new revenue for every $3 in spending cuts. I will bring Republicans around to that position. Thereís no way President Obama can do that.

    The second wicked problem the next president will face is sluggish growth. I assume you know that everything President Obama and I have been saying on this subject has been total garbage. Presidents and governors donít ďcreate jobs.Ē We donít have the ability to ďgrow the economy.Ē Thereís no magic lever.

    Instead, an administration makes a thousand small decisions, each of which subtly adds to or detracts from a positive growth environment. The Obama administration, which is either hostile to or aloof from business, has made a thousand tax, regulatory and spending decisions that are biased away from growth and biased toward other priorities. American competitiveness has fallen in each of the past four years, according to the World Economic Forum. Medical device makers, for example, are being chased overseas. The economy in 2012 is worse than the economy in 2011. Thatís inexcusable.

    My administration will be a little more biased toward growth. Itíll treat businesses with more respect. There will be no magic recovery, but gradually the animal spirits will revive.

    The third big problem is Medicare and rising health care costs, which are bankrupting this country. Let me tell you the brutal truth. Nobody knows how to reduce health care inflation. There are two basic approaches, and we probably have to try both simultaneously.

    The first, included in Obamacare, is to have an Independent Payment Advisory Board find efficiencies and impose price controls. The problem is that that leaves the painful cost-cutting decisions in Washington, where Congress rules. Congress wrote provisions in the health care law that have already gutted the power of the advisory board. The current law allows Congress to make ďcutsĒ on paper and then undo them with subsequent legislation. Thatís what Congress always does.

    The second approach, favored by me, is to scrap the perverse fee-for-service incentives and use a more market-based approach. I think thereís ample evidence that this could work, but, to be honest, some serious health economists disagree.

    Iím willing to pursue any experiment, from any political direction, that lowers costs and saves Medicare. Democrats are campaigning as the party that will fight to the death to preserve the Medicare status quo. If they win, the lesson will be: Never Touch Medicare. No Democrat or Republican will dare reform the system, and we will go bankrupt.

    At last, Iíve tried to be on the level with you. This president was audacious in 2008, but, as you can see from his negligible agenda, heís now exhausted. Iím not an inspiring conviction politician, but Iíll try anything to help us succeed. You make the choice.

    David Brooks is a columnist for The New York Times.
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