Later today Mitt Romney will offer a sneak peak of his forthcoming spending proposals while speaking in New Hampshire. With many panning his jobs and economic plan as overly “technocratic” and insufficiently bold we can likely expect to see his campaign try to compensate by supporting some sort of spending reforms. As is always the case with Mitt Romney before one accepts what he says today look what he said and did yesterday.
With his record of increasing the size and scope of government while Governor and advocating for bailouts and huge federal giveaways as a Presidential candidate there is much for a limited government conservative to be wary of.
During his four year tenure as Governor of Massachusetts spending increased significantly, from $26.27 billion to $34.69 billion, an astounding 32% increase. This spending binge did not mirror increases in state economic activity either- in fact it out paced it. During Romney’s term state spending increased as a percentage of GDP from 8.84% to 9.81%.
The large spending increases accounted for do not count for a large portion of Gov. Romney’s effects in increasing the size of Massachusetts state government. RomneyCare was slated to cost taxpayers roughly $1.8 billion a year but due to huge cost overruns of at least $2 billion over 10 years the state is now running huge budget deficits.
Disappointing new information on RomneyCare recently surfaced too. The L.A. Times reported that, “The Massachusetts healthcare law that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed in 2006 includes a program known as the Health Safety Net, which allows undocumented immigrants to get needed medical care along with others who lack insurance.” The report goes on to say that as Governor Romney knowingly signed and supported this measure to provide free health care to illegal immigrants in his state.
If conservatives were hoping for Governor Romney’s spending record to improve once on the national stage they would be disappointed.
In his book No Apology Romney wrote, “The ‘all-Democrat’ stimulus that was passed in early 2009 will accelerate the timing of the start of the recovery, but not as much as it could have had it included genuine tax- and job-generating incentives.” This led the conservative Club for Growth to conclude that “Such a comment suggests that Romney, on some level, supports discredited Keynesian economics.”
Romney has also supported numerous big government solutions such as the Wall Street bailout; “I believe that it was necessary to prevent a cascade of bank collapses” as well as some sort of government involvement in the auto bailouts, as he said that it was “not wrong” for the automakers “to ask for government help.”
Romney’s big government mentality also extends to the energy sector. Rather than eliminating subsidies for all energy producers and getting the government out of the business of picking winners and losers Romney says as President he would actually call for greater federal involvement. Romney supports continuing what many have called the “stupidest” and “worst” subsidy the $5 billion provided to blend ethanol with gasoline. Romney has also advocated for a “dramatic” increase in “federal spending on research, development, and demonstration projects that hold promise for diversifying our energy supply and increasing our energy efficiency,” according to the Club for Growth.
No matter what promises Mitt Romney makes on the campaign trail those concerned with federal debt and deficits as well as the size and scope of government should examine his words and record closely. Both parties in Washington have been a part of the massive increases in federal spending, something that President Obama has taken to all time new levels. We need someone with a consistent record of accomplishment on advocating for and implementing limited government solutions to our nation’s problems.
Wendy Warcholik is a Research Fellow at several free-market think tanks. She received her Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University.