How might America might look right now? The Economist speculates on the answer to that question, using the plans the Romney team had made for the first months in office had he been elected.
Michael Leavitt, the former Utah governor who chaired Mr Romney’s transition team, describes plans to deliver a “jolt of confidence” by showing seriousness in a few big areas. He would simplify America’s spaghetti-spill of a tax code. He would grapple with the deficit; expand domestic energy production; and reduce the role of government in health care by hollowing out “Obamacare” reforms. Success was to be measured by bosses releasing cash they were hoarding when Mr Obama was president, and rushing to join a Romney-led American revival.
Romney aides wince at the comparison, but their 200-day plans sound like a Bain turn-around for America’s economy: a co-ordinated series of shocks aimed at impressing investors, but likely to startle and anger many ordinary folk. Democrats would have scorned it as a wish-list for bosses and billionaires. But Mr Romney believed his reforms would work, and work fast. Benefits would follow swiftly, in the form of private investment and job creation: persuading the wider public to trust in President Romney’s competence, if not to love him.
Team Romney’s 200-day plans included immediate, 5% cuts to public spending excluding security and social payments (though more money for defence), a weakening of the rules that Republicans say favour trade unions, a squeeze on public-sector jobs and pay, and a global push for free trade. Mr Romney would also have proposed lower income- and corporate-tax rates, offset by closing loopholes. Abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency, a conservative dream, was not on the cards. But “personnel is policy”, notes Glenn Hubbard, Mr Romney’s chief economic adviser. Those chosen to regulate energy and tackle climate change would have weighed costs against benefits minutely. A long-term squeeze on welfare and health spending was a priority: wholesale immigration reform was not.
Would businesses have rushed to invest in a Romney recovery? That is tricky. Granted, many bosses distrust Mr Obama. But firms have been hoarding cash for years now, in many different countries: the link between political leadership and investment is not straightforward.The lack of unpopular immigration reform, simplify the tax code, cut spending and the effort to gut Obamacare alone would have been worth his election in my book. Lowering unemployment and reigning in the deficit would be icing on the cake.
However, since Romney isn't President, we see headlines like these from Drudge: