Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C.
— Forced to ignore his own record of failure on the economy, President Barack Obama has been lashing out at Mitt Romney’s record of success.
First, Obama tried demonizing Romney’s Bain Capital, which pension funds and inventors have entrusted with $60 billion in assets. That move boomeranged when a procession of top Democrats praised Bain and its free-market approach.
Now Obama and his campaign team are trying to portray Romney as a failure as Massachusetts governor. The truth is quite the opposite.
As noted in my story "Olympics Spotlights Mitt Romney’s Turnaround Skill
," Romney erased the 2002 Winter Olympics’ deficit and wound up with a surplus. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney did the same thing.
When Romney took office in 2003, Massachusetts had a $3 billion deficit. By 2005, the state had a $1 billion surplus, plus a so-called rainy day fund of another $2 billion. When Romney left office on January 4, 2006, the Bay State had a balanced budget plus the rainy day fund — all without ever raising taxes.
“It struck me that there were three courses to take — two easy, one hard,” Romney has said.
“Those courses included simply raising taxes or alternatively, borrowing money. I rejected both of those as being too hard on working families and too punitive to future generations. Instead, I chose the third, more difficult course, which was finding ways to reduce spending, cutting back government, and using every vehicle imaginable to restore fiscal discipline, allowing us in the future to invest in education, healthcare, and the environment and job creation,” he added.
Even though it was dominated by Democrats, the Massachusetts legislature gave Romney extraordinary powers to cut spending.
“What I think stands out about his relationship with the legislature is he made it a point not to demonize his political opposition,” Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s senior adviser, tells me.
“Instead of giving speeches that were critical of the Democratic leadership, he invited them into his office every week for a meeting to discuss their shared agenda for the state. And sometimes there was business to discuss, and when there wasn't, the meeting still took place. They would end up talking about the last movie they saw,” Fehrnstrom said.
Having grown up five blocks from where Romney and his wife Ann lived in Belmont, Mass., and having been a Boston Herald reporter, I know firsthand the problems Romney faced. Massachusetts is heavily unionized. Whether because of union work rules or pure laziness, typically two workers watched, leaning on their shovels, as three other workers dug holes for utility projects. That was accepted practice, and no one thought it strange.
Thus, Romney was not able to accomplish all that he hoped to achieve as governor. Romney found collecting tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike cost 30 cents for every dollar collected. That was in part because the toll collectors’ union contract gave them an average $56,300 a year in wages plus $9,880 in benefits.
In 2004 and 2005, Romney proposed abolishing the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and folding its operations into the Highway Department, freeing up $200 million the authority keeps in an escrow account as required by the terms of the bonds it sold. The idea was to stop collecting tolls on most or all of the highway, where tie-ups at toll booths could snake for miles. The legislature — 87 percent controlled by Democrats — refused to go along.
Lately, Obama’s campaign has been running ads claiming that Massachusetts was 47th in the country in job creation under Romney. As FactCheck.org recently pointed out, that is a distortion.
“Massachusetts’ state ranking for job growth went from 50th the year before he [Romney] took office to 28th in his final year,” FactCheck, run by the respected former Wall Street Journal reporter Brooks Jackson, states. “It was 47th for the whole of his four-year tenure, but it was improving, not declining, when he left.”
Indeed, while Romney was in office, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts fell from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent. In contrast, the national unemployment rate under Obama has increased from 7.8 percent to 8.2 percent. In contrast to Romney’s record of surpluses, the federal debt under Obama has increased by $5 trillion.
Because of a hostile press, we rarely get the real facts. As noted in my story "Media Play Games With Bain’s Success
," the press has put free enterprise on trial by attacking Romney’s record at Bain Capital with fallacious statistics.
At a National Review Online anniversary party, Romney began a short speech by telling the guests, “I come from a city where there are two factions in the media: the Hillary-loving Kennedy apologists on the one side, and the liberals on the other.”
The same could be said for the national press.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is the New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.
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