If you want to know Mitt Romney’s real plans for a hypothetical Presidency, you either have to give him lots of money, or be lucky enough to stand on the street near the backyard where he talks to people who give him lots of money. The incompetence of allowing the press to listen in on Romney’s speech is a bit more newsworthy than the content itself, which is more standard-issue modern Republican fodder.
Romney went into a level of detail not usually seen by the public in the speech, which was overheard by reporters on a sidewalk below. One possibility floated by Romney included the elimination of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Cabinet-level agency once led by Romney’s father, George.
“I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go,” Romney said. “Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states.”
Asked about the fate of the Department of Education in a potential Romney administration, the former governor suggested it would also face a dramatic restructuring.
“The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I’m not going to get rid of it entirely,” Romney said, explaining that part of his reasoning behind preserving the agency was to maintain a federal role in pushing back against teachers’ unions.
Yes, because federal agencies should be hollow shells weaponized to disable unions.
Much of the focus here will be on Ann Romney calling the criticism from Hillary Rosen an “early birthday present.” But looking at the substance, given HUD’s performance in housing policy since the collapse of the bubble, I would probably rather it remain as an appendage than a standalone agency. A couple of Romney’s other agenda items are actually pretty good. In talking about tax policy, he actually listed some of the loophole closures he would support to help pay for his signature policy, a 20% across-the-board cut to individual rates. The one that jumped out at me was this: “I’m going to probably eliminate for high income people the second home mortgage deduction.” This is such a no-brainer policy that it will never get done. If you’re rich enough to own a second home, then you’re clearly rich enough not to need a second deduction of mortgage interest. An intelligent Democratic Party would sidestep their Buffett rule vote today and put that on the Senate floor immediately. You have the leader of the opposition party’s endorsement, after all.
Romney also promised a “Republican DREAM Act,” presumably something similar to what Marco Rubio has been promoting, bestowing legal status on undocumented students who were brought to America as children, but denying them a path to citizenship.
I suppose it’s possible that Romney’s campaign wanted him to be heard in this speech, but it’s unlikely that you’d want to give away your strategy. Then again, for someone confident enough in April of the election year to already sell access to the inauguration, anything’s possible.
UPDATE: It goes without saying that these proposed tax deductions are pretty meager and would in no way match a 20% decrease in rates.