At this point, it appears that Mitt Romney delivers a "major" speech on the economy about once a month, apparently working under the assumption that, eventually, someone will take one of these speeches seriously. The last such effort, delivered to an empty football stadium in Detroit, didn't go well, so the former governor gave it yet another try yesterday at the University of Chicago.
The event was largely overlooked -- apparently, once-a-month economic speeches read from teleprompters on a weekday afternoon have started to bore political reporters -- but the remarks were actually worth paying attention to. Jamelle Bouie described the speech as "a remarkable work of staggering dishonesty," which struck me as more than fair.
I believe speechwriters tend to call remarks like Romney's yesterday as "big picture speeches." The former governor presented no specifics and offered no details about any aspect of his economic vision, but he used the word "freedom" 29 times, and the word "free" an additional 10 times -- all while standing in front of six American flags -- all of which apparently was supposed to distract the audience from the fact that Romney's vision lacked all meaningful substance.
But there was something to be learned from the speech anyway. For one thing, Romney presented an economic vision that's very conservative.
"[O]ne feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out: freedom. The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality. [...]
"Today, however, our status and our standing are in peril because the source of our economic strength is threatened. Over the last several decades, and particularly over the last three years, Washington has increasingly encroached upon our freedom.... If we don't change course now, this assault on freedom could damage our economy and the well-being of American families for decades to come.
"We see this attack on our freedom in every corner of the economy."
Just get the government out of the way and wait for "freedom" to solve all of our problems. Once we get pesky safeguards and regulations out of the way, we'll be free to breathe dirty air and drink dirty water; we'll be free of the burdens of affordable medical care; we'll be free to watch Wall Street excesses rob the country blind; we'll be free to slip into poverty into an inadequate safety net full of holes; we'll be free of the homework assigned to college students; and we'll be free to remain dependent on oil indefinitely.
It's the kind of freedom that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will find inspiring, and working families will find crushing.
What's more, yesterday offered a reminder as to just how dishonest Romney is prepared to be to advance his ambitions. To listen to this speech, you'd think that President Obama raised taxes instead of having cut them repeatedly. You'd think the stock market has been crushed by "restricted freedom," instead of having soared under Obama's watch. You'd think oil production has been sharply reduced, instead of having gone up each of the past three years.
And you'd think Obama vastly increased government spending and hired legions of new bureaucrats, none of which happened in reality.
"The reality is that, under President Obama's administration, these pioneers would have found it much more difficult, if not impossible, to innovate, invent, and create.
"Under Dodd-Frank, they would have struggled to get loans from their community banks.
"A regulator would have shut down the Wright Brothers for their "dust pollution."
"And the government would have banned Thomas Edison's light bulb. Oh yeah, Obama's regulators actually did just that."
When Mitt Romney says "the reality is," you can probably assume you're not going to hear anything about reality. In this case, Romney is completely wrong about Wall Street reform; the Wright Brothers line doesn't make sense; and the light bulb line refers to a Bush-era, bipartisan energy measure that doesn't ban light bulbs at all.
"A remarkable work of staggering dishonesty," indeed.