Mitt Romney spouts pseudo-business nonsense

Over at Slate, Eliot Spitzer points out a couple of disturbing notions that Mitt Romney has trotted out in recent interviews.  At one time, Romney was a very competent businessman.  If this is what he truly believes nowadays, though, he would be a spectacularly bad President.

Point 1:  Romney says he’s going to “treat his Cabinet like a Board of Directors

As Spitzer points out, Cabinet secretaries have radically different roles than directors.  The Board of Directors of a large corporation is generally made up primarily of outsiders — people who don’t work in the day-to-day operations of the firm.  Instead, on a part-time basis, they provide oversight to the CEO and senior managers.  They review the strategic direction of the company, approve executive compensation, and if the company is underperforming, they have the power to remove the CEO and hire a replacement.  Cabinet secretaries, on the other hand, are the day-to-day managers of the operations of the executive branch.  They take their marching orders from the President, and they are responsible for the details.

Point 2:  Romney would spend at least 4% of GDP on defense

By all measures, defense spending has been substantially increased since 9/11.  The 2013 defense budget is 35% larger it was in 2001.  Romney’s promise would grow defense spending by 87% over the next decade, despite the fact that we have pulled out of Iraq and are slowly winding down operations in Afghanistan.

But even more than that, one has to wonder what the substantive linkage between GDP and defense spending is?  Shouldn’t our level of defense spending be based on an assessment of what our defense needs are?  Arbitrarily tying military spending to the economy — particularly at the levels proposed by Romney — is a recipe for waste and grift.  Is there anyone out there who really thinks we need to nearly double our defense expenditures?

So why is Romney making these sorts of proposals — that defy any rational look at the issue?  One can only wonder, but unfortunately, such efforts to cloak dubious policies in the language of business by people who are better than talking about business than actually engaging in it are not uncommon from today’s GOP.

There’s ways that make sense to bring the principles of business into the workings of government — tenets of program and project management, for instance.  Applying rigorous measurements and scoring to determine the effectiveness of programs is another way.  But when politicians cloak half-baked policy ideas in business-speak, it degrades the very real expertise and knowledge that business leaders can bring to the political process.  If I tried to run these sorts of nonsensical ideas past my boss, I’d get shut down in a hurry and told not to come back until things had been completely reworked.  We should tell Romney and the GOP the very same thing.


36 Responses to “Mitt Romney spouts pseudo-business nonsense”

  1. Um, according to wikipedia current military spending is 4.7% of GDP. How is this a growth of 87% to set the floor at 4%?

    • Current spending includes costs of war operations in Afghanistan. If you exclude those, spending is at about 3.5% of GDP. As Afghanistan is wrapping up, using that as your baseline seems appropriate. (Romney hasn’t communicated that he intends on keeping troops there longer than Obama would.)

      • Yeah, maybe we’ll get lucky and terrorism will go away, and we can have some savings. I’ll hold my breath after you pass out from holding yours.

        • Do you really believe that tying the defense budget to GDP makes any logical sense? Did our defense needs decline during the last recession? Do our defense needs go up in good times?

          • It’s a benchmark. I wish more spending was tied to GDP. When times are tough, and we need to tighten our belts, there are places wher we can cut defense spending. We can also work on improvements when we are doing better.

            • It just doesn’t make sense, though. Our defense needs are independent of the state of our economy. We shouldn’t just spend more just because the economy is doing better — we should spend more only if we have unmet needs. That’s not how good CEOs run their businesses, and it’s not how we should run our country.

              • Or defense are dynamic, and some spending, beleive it or not, even in defense, is not always required. Look at the Soviet Union. They devoted far too much to defense, and it crushed them. When times are good, you can afford to go after newer technology, just like in business. I get work from people, because I can offer them something new, when they can afford it. Defense can be run like a business in that sense. You can pare it back during lean times, and ramp it up in a good economy, improving and maitaining new tech to maintain the edge. This is such a simple concept, I have to wonder what the problem is?

                • We should only be spending the money that is required — in defense and in other areas of the budget. If there’s new technology out there, you treat it like a business and decide if that new technology is worth the investment — does it make us appreciably safer, does it save us money, does it have other benefits? You don’t just spend more money because times are good.

                  • Duh! But you prioritize, and decide what you can live without during lean times. I’m starting to think you’ve never run a business, or managed a budget.

                    • I manage a budget every day.

                      Managing national defense isn’t the same thing as a household or business budget. When it comes to defense, the government has a role to perform and the budget should reflect what it needs to fulfill that responsibility. Doesn’t matter if we’re in an economic boom or a recession. If you can live without it, it’s not needed, regardless of the economy.

                    • You’re statement below is extremely naive. There are defense programs that ARE extras, that should be tabled during lean times. Not all defense can be run like a business, but surely some portion has flexibility. Do you scale back on missile defense, to use an example, when perhaps a missle attack is not a high current threat, and the economy is bad? Maybe. And then you ramp up production for when things are good, or things are getting dicey. You see, we can afford to do more to protect our allies when we are rolling in the dough with more military assistance, if necessary. If we can’t afford to build enough to protect ourselves, than maybe we put some of this aside for later. You’re either being naive or obtuse on this.

                    • None of the things you listed strike me as “extras”. Take R&D, for instance. Like everything else in the Pentagon budget, such projects should get prioritized based on need and the “return” we could get from them. That may mean the portfolio of R&D projects can (and will) change over time, but we should always be applying money to those efforts.

  2. I beleive he said he did the same as MA governor and he was very successful at that as well. Given his record on education as governor, and your oft concern for the issue, I’d think you’d be behind the man.

    • What record of education as governor? Mass. schools fared well in national rankings before, during, and after Romney’s term. Many of the initiatives he tried to implement failed — particularly his efforts to close the achievement gap.

      It should also be noted that Mass. schools spend about $3,000 more per pupil than schools here in Minnesota.

      • There you assuming money equals better education, as usual. Why doesn’t that work in Mpls? Or St. Paul? And I’ll never believe a governor or a President can lower the achievement gap in schools. Teachers can. But politicians can’t.

        • So then, what’s this Romney education record you’re referring to?

          • His state led the nation in education under his tenure. There’s always going to be an acheivement gap. We are all different with different skills and abilities. But whne the whole group together is number one, that’s a measure you can be certain is good for all. To acheive the best average, even the worst scores have to be either fewer of higher than other areas. That’s a solid measure. It shows anyone can acheive when the desire exists to do so, and the tools are in place to make it happen, if you want it.

            To make that sort of difference, to make a kid learn can’t happen from the top. That’s where personal involvement has to be in play. Personal contact is required. A child doesn’t care what a politician says or does. But they do care about what their teachers and parents say and do. And that’s where acheivement gaps are formed or removed. They are removed by involvement with the child, and instilling personal responsibility in that child. A politician can provide the resources, but they cannot force the child to learn.

            Are you tracking now?

            • As I noted above, Massachusetts has been a high-performing state in public education for a long time. They were up there before Romney was governor, and are still up there today. What credit shall we give Romney for that? Do you give Mark Dayton credit for Minnesota’s strong performance in similar rankings?

              I agree with your second paragraph on achievement gaps. Parent involvement is critical. Resources are critical to make sure that we’re providing the best possible environment and highly qualified professionals to help that process along.

              • I don’t know about Mark Dayton’s education initatives. So far his record on leading in education involves accounting shifts away from education, and refusal to pay it back. Romney worked with Democrats to improve education. We need a guy like that. Someone who can work with other to get things done.

                • Can you provide some examples of successful Romney initiatives? Because based on what I’ve read, most of his reforms produced underwhelming results.

                  • He raised standards for graduation. Gave principles more authority to turn around failing schools, Supported and expanded charter schools, Started the Early Education and Care division of the DOE in MA, which was the first program of it’s kind in the nation.

  3. One thing is clear about Mitt Romney. He suceeds at nearly everything he attempts. He and his pals built Bain up from nothing. He saved or started many successful ventures through Bain. He went on to be an excellent Governor. And he saved th Olypmics from certain disaster.

    Did he do things on his own. Of course not. But a leader sets goals for people to get things done. He did this at Bain. He did this at the Olympics. He did this as governor. He’ll do this as President. As many have said, I wish Obama would have persued greatness for this country. A leader would have acheived this. This is the worst recovery from any recession, and at some point, someone is held accountable. And that someone is Barak Obama, despite his refusal to take on any responsibility for our current situation.

    Rather than blame anyone else, I’d rather he took Reagan’s path. Develop bi-partisan relationships and make a difference. Heck even the devil incarnate of the left, G.W. Bush acheived great bi-partisan results. Why can’t this guy work with others? Remember when he said, “Get over it, You lost, we won!”. That’s real bi-partisanship there. I was pretty young, and a Democrat at the time, but I certainly don’t recall reagan blaming Carter for the mess he inherited. And neither did Bush, (because I do remember the recession in the summer of 2000, where I couldn’t move ahead during the end of the Clinton era.) Lot’s of folks blamed Clinton for letting Bin Laden go, but did G.W.? While he may have joked once, about blowing up a camel in a tent, instead actually going after terrorists, he certainly didn’t blame everything on his predecessor.

    I’d would ahve preferred barak say in 2008, that the problems were too big. They were far too vast for him to handle, and that he no longer wanted the job. Rather than sell us all on hope and change, and tell the world he would solve the problems, only to later blame everything that went wrong on his predecessor, I’d rather he’d have said, ” I can’t do this”. It certainly would have been more accurate. I know many moderates who voted for this guys nonsense. He spoke well, and even though he had skeletons (big liberal skeletons) in his closet, he might offer something new.

    He didn’t. He offered the same old socialist policies that have failed every society since the beginning of time, only this time expecting different results. But people bought it. Maybe this time it will work. 4 years later it hasn’t. And this clown is still blaming G. W. Bush. Why did he take the job, if he wasn’t up to the challenge? He could have pulled out and gave Hillary a shot. maybe she would have made some sort accomplishment this side of Marx.

    Don’t you think it’s high time for him to own this economy? He had two years of both houses of congress. the people saw where this was going and there was a landslide of GOP office winners from dog catcher to senator. this was a direct response to this man’s policies, and yet, still he refused to budge from his socialist policies, and where are we since? No where! No leadership. Just blame, blame , blame. I’d be embarassed of myself if I had to make this many excuses for failure. Not this guy. Why do you want someone who is so incapable of assuming responsiblity to be your leader?

    No thanks. I’ll choose a proven leader. While you disagree with his business appraoch it has worked. Conservatism works, everytime it’s tried. A conservative congress solved Bill Clinton’s early messes. A conservative President saved us from Jimmy Carter. Even JFK, the last Democrat to understand the economy knew how to jump start from a recession. Sadly, his economic policies passed us by like the bullets that ran through him. The Democratic party died along with a man who understood socialism was evil, and it makes one wonder if it wasn’t his own party who had him whacked given his economic principles. there was the lip service Clinton proved when he declared the era of big government is over, after having passed the largest tax increase in history, (before the GOP took over Congress).

    Your party has had it’s chance, and again has failed us miserably, just as it usually does. If by the grace of God, some day, the Democrats ever become anywhere close to fiscally responsible, with out raping it’s citizens of every dime they make, they become credible again. Until then, they had better re-tool like a failed Chevy plant, because we are sick of their empty promises.

    • Reagan never blamed Carter? I suggest you fire up the Google and rethink that one, John. The rest of your post is reheated partisan tripe.

      If you want to ever have a serious discussion about policy, let me know.

      • I can’t when you called it tripe. Where did I go wrong? Shouldn’t Obama have said he’s not up for the challenge? I mean if hope and change meant whine and blame, anyone can do that. We could have hired AL Gore or some doofus like that. This guy sat in front his styrofoam columns and claimed this time things would be different. Well, they aren’t much different than Jimmy Carter. He’s going to go, and i bet it’s even close in MN. The fiscal conservatives rules the day now. Socialism has failed yet again, and we’ll see that in November.

        • Things are a lot different than under Jimmy Carter, John. Retire the talking points and we can get somewhere. For instance, inflation under Obama has been 1.6% versus 9.4% under Carter. In the Carter administration, economic performance degraded over his four years. Under Obama, it has improved every year. The stock market has performed much better under Obama. Would you like me to continue?

          So, no, the Obama record isn’t at all like Jimmy Carter. When you mislead on the facts, that’s what prompts me to label your argument as “tripe”. (And say what you will about the Obama economy, but it’s also a fact that the economy has created more private sector jobs in 2012 alone than it did in eight years under G.W. Bush.)

          The argument isn’t whether the economy is getting better, because we know that it is. The question is, why isn’t the economy growing faster? And what do we do about it? And which candidate is most likely to make that happen?

          • Well, I watched the Sunday shows while sipping coffee at the lake, and the Democrats didn’t seem as optmistic as you are about the Obama record. Axelrod and Ploffe, co-campaign chairs for Obama, right?, they could not say yes to the simple question, are we better off now than we were 4 years ago. George Stephanoplous even finally said to Plouffe, “Why don’t you just say yes?” But the talking point is that Romeny will just make things worse, with no evidence of that other than to distract from this dismal failure.

            Gas prices are higher, unemployment is higher, food prices are way up, more people on food stamps, insane deficit and debt. Worst recovery since the depression.

            All we get from this guy is blame? I wonder why he took the job? Seems to me he can’t win, because he’d have only himself to blame for the next four years.

            He had his shot and he blew it. Time for another change. Time for a guy who takes on tough challenges, and far more often than not, succeeds in facing those challenges.

            And your right, Jimmy Carter was a much worse President. But Obama is clearly number two in my lifetime on the worst meter. Bill Clinton famously claimed, the era of big government is over. Under Obama it came roaring back bigger than ever. It’s simply unsustainable, and there is no way to tax our way out of this mess. There’s just no money to do this.

            • For my money, the worst President of my lifetime is the only one who left office with fewer private sector jobs than the day he came in.

              • Jimmy Carter?

                • In my lifetime, here’s the Presidents and how many private-sector jobs were created during their terms (in chronological order):

                  Nixon: 7.1 million
                  Ford: 1.4 million
                  Carter: 9.1 million
                  Reagan: 14.7 million
                  GHW Bush: 1.4 million
                  Clinton: 20.8 million
                  GW Bush: -0.6 million
                  Obama: 0.3 million (as of July 2012)

                  All data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, seasonally adjusted series (

                  • Did you actually find one tiny slice of economic data that makes G W Bush worse than both Barak & Jimmy. Wow, that had to take some serious digging. I mean of all the factors you can look at to measure up a presidency, you found a specific sliver that loks bad for GW, and ran with it. Bravo.

                    • Private-sector job creation is a “tiny slice” of economic data? Really?

                    • Your pulling Obama’s same basic stunt, that lays the housing bubble crash at the feet of GW Bush, claiming his policies caused a crash that had nothing what so ever to do with him. You number is a convenient one, because he left office shortly after the deepest portion of the largest recession since the great depression. It was merely timing. the first 7 years saw positive job growth, and unfortunately, the last year the bubble burst, and his time was up. So yeah, not only is it one small measure of the economy, you slice out one convenient period to make it look worse than it is.

                    • What do you mean the housing crash had nothing to do with Bush? You’re saying that everything that happened after January 20, 2009 is purely Obama’s responsibility. I’m only applying the same standard to Bush. Certainly, if President Obama is supposed to be responsible for the economic conditions in the fourth year of his administration, then President Bush is responsible for what happens in the seventh and eighth years of his.

                      (And, BTW, Bush’s pre-housing crash job growth was nothing to crow about.)

                    • maybe you haven’t been reading the democratic talking points. The crash was caused by Bush’s tax policies, not the housing bubble, in their minds. It was caused by big business republicans, who suddenly wanted to engineer an economic collapse. It so completely illogical and yet people gobble it up, that if we tax rates where they are, that somehow, we’re turning back to the mess that got us here. It’s pretty stupid. You would have to be economic mental patient to come to the conclusion that you stimualte the economy by raising taxes. It’s nuts.

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