As a top (or the top) clean tech site in the US and the world, and given the great importance government policy has in the energy sector, we here at CleanTechnica believe it’s our duty to chime in on US and global politics and policy fairly regularly.
As I’m sure regular readers have noticed, many of our writers have written posts or made comments about the 2012 US presidential election. Still, though, I haven’t chimed in with full opinion pieces focused on what I think of each of the top candidates.
So, to start with, here’s my piece on what I think of Romney, especially in a cleantech context.
Romney, As Any Other Dude
Simply looking at Romney as a person, I think he is a decent man. He cares about his family. I think he cares about being a good person and living in an honorable way.
Of course, many don’t think this is the case, but I think such perspectives have more to do with a misguided intermixing of their views of specific policy or ideological matters and their evaluation of Romney as a person.
But Romney Isn’t Any Other DudeThe fact of the matter, though, is that Romney is aiming to be president of the United States of America (arguably, the most powerful person in the world). So, simply looking at him as “any other dude” and evaluating him on very basic character issues is inappropriate. One must also evaluate him on his socio-political ideologies and his policy goals.
Governmentally, we don’t have a ton to go on in order to evaluate Romney. While he was the governor of Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in the US, he surely had to bend towards the left to a great degree while in power there. But he apparently didn’t do so nearly as much as he claims. Professor of psychology Marsha Mrikin writes:
“In his first two years of office, he vetoed legislation at more than twice the rate of Republican predecessor Governor Weld. Governor Romney had a record 800 vetoes (most of which were overturned, sometimes unanimously). One example is when the legislature provided a budget amendment to stop contracting with companies that outsource state work to other countries. Governor Romney vetoed the provision. This meant that he supported outsourcing jobs at the expense of U.S. workers. He also started a huge campaign to unseat Democratic legislators, but failed and ended up with even fewer Republican seats than before he took office.”
And he didn’t exactly leave with a ton of support from his constituency. His approval rating was a super low 34% just before he left office at the end of his first term.
In business, we do see that Romney outsourced a ton of jobs to China and other countries (perhaps the reasoning for his outsourcing support above). And we do see that he succeeded well in what is known as “vulture capitalism,” investing in a failing firm and “triggering the takeover clauses, resulting in forfeiture of some or all the assets of the company, with an eye towards selling off the constituent parts, hence showing a profit while destroying or hobbling the company.”
Those are hardly things the American public looks for in a president — in fact, they are very much things that a huge proportion of the country’s populous despises.
But, this still doesn’t take us very far on what we could expect from a Romney presidency.
While Romney had an approval rating of just 34% in November 2006, his approval rating when taking office as the governor of Massachusetts in February 2003 was 56%. If there is one thing Romney is known for more than anything else, it’s flip-flopping. And while he ran on a left-leaning or moderate platform in Massachusetts, he certainly didn’t act as one once in power.
Dr. Mirkin again writes:
“Mr. Romney won the governorship by presenting himself in one way, as a social and fiscal moderate (some saw him as a social progressive), and by the end of his single term, he had acted in an entirely different way. He said during his campaign that he favored stem cell research and then vetoed a bill to fund it. He argued for a lower minimum wage than the state legislature ended up passing (over his veto). He vetoed a bill funding hate crimes prevention, and took back money approved by a former Republican governor for a bullying prevention program. He denied all requests for commutations and pardons, including one from a soldier serving in Iraq whose was convicted at age 13 for a BB gun incident. He vetoed emergency contraception. He raised many fees in my state — even quadrupling the gasoline delivery fees.”
Interestingly, we even saw a reverse flip in the debates. Romney noted that Massachusetts rose to #1 in education while he was governor, but he didn’t mention that he wasn’t the reason for that and that he was trying to change education policy in the other direction — “it was based on former Governor Weld’s education reform plan. Governor Romney moved in the opposite direction — he vetoed bills that would have strengthened preschool education.”
In the end, it’s rather obvious that Romney is a clear flip-flopper, and not in a good way. “We elected a governor expecting him to be one thing and then he did something totally different and got on the national stage,” Dr. Mirkin adds. “Regardless of your political beliefs, this constant turning into something we didn’t vote for is no way to run a state, never mind a country.”
Now, beyond the flip-flopping, one of the things to really consider here is what Romney’s guiding ideologies really are. One very critical (and ironic) guiding ideology seems to be that we should all succeed on our own, via our own hard work and ingenuity, without support from others.
You don’t have to follow politics very closely to know that this is very close to the heart of Mitt Romney. But if you aren’t sold on this, have a read of this great article about Tagg Romney and what it’s like to be Mitt’s son (of course, it’s not a complete or 100% accurate view, but it seems about as good as it gets when it comes to political journalism): Growing Up Romney: Mitt, Tagg, and the Romney family’s myth of self-reliance.
Of course, this “earn everything you get” ideology is a rather absurd ideology for Mitt Romney (or Tagg Romney) to stick to so dogmatically, since their family wealth and connections have given them a great deal of what they have achieved in their lives. To say or think otherwise is simply absurd.
It’s also an absurd ideology for someone looking to run the country to focus on and base one’s policies on. Quite simply, if you want to live in a country that doesn’t provide a lot of basic support to its citizens (educational support, healthcare support, and quality of life support), you should educate yourself in how much the countries with the highest quality of life (e.g. many Northern and Western European countries) support their citizenry. You should also look at what it’s like in countries where Romney’s ideology governs (e.g. Somalia).
It also, very simply, doesn’t actually line up with Romney’s favored policies, at least not all of them… and not in a good way. He uses the ideology with some industries, but not with others. Unfortunately, the ones he doesn’t use it with are largely industries that harm society.
Actual Policies Romney Supports
The government has a clear role to play in the marketplace. It is needed in order to correct for market imperfections and in order to protect citizens from societally harmful market manipulations.
A “free market” as idealized by some people is only a fantasy. You will learn that very well in Economics 101. The question is how to best get the market to act like something similar to an idealized free market — and that actually requires strong government intervention.
In the realm of finance, which affects all of society (as we’ve seen in recent years), Romney is strongly in favor of deregulation, even coming out of a ridiculously harmful economic catastrophe that was caused by excessive deregulation of finance and housing markets (combined with the very immoral manipulation of those markets by those given the trust to regulate themselves more).
In the realm of energy, Romney is also in favor of deregulation of fossil fuel industries — the same sort of thing that led to the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill and numerous other oil spills, that leads to $500 billion a year in US health costs directly due to the use of coal as an electricity source, that leads to a similarly large healthcare bill for health costs directly related to the burning of oil and natural gas, and that leads to numerous other societal problems that I won’t list at length here.
Meanwhile, Romney supports policies that allow oil, gas, and coal companies to pay lower taxes than you and me, much lower.
None of this is really any surprise at all, given that oil, gas, and coal companies dump over 80% of their political spending into the Republican party.
As shown in a recent NRDC news release, Romney (according to his own statements and proposals) does not support numerous cleantech policies (policies which would help make the market work more ideally, more similar to an idealized free market… that is, a market without externalities, with all parties having access to and knowledge of 100% correct and comprehensive information). Here’s a look at a few of the key things Romney is opposed to:
- Government support for wind or solar power (which the huge majority of Americans support, as numerous polls have shown).
- Keeping CO2’s lawful designation as a pollutant regulated under the Clean Air Act (despite Supreme Court evaluation and vindication of that designation, as well as the near-consensus support of climate scientists).
- Federal support for clean, zero emissions electric vehicles.
- Auto mileage standards that are projected to save U.S. consumers $1.7 trillion.
Meanwhile, he has stated:
- “I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas.”
- “I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet.”
Quite simply, such ideologically-driven policies as Romney seems (by pretty much all indication) to support, would result in:
- A slowdown of cleantech growth in the US (a key economic market in the 21st and probably 22nd centuries).
- Much fewer jobs for the US than we would have under a “business as usual” (e.g. business under Obama) approach.
- Much more put on the American public in health costs and human suffering.
As such, it would be completely ignoble of us to support Romney (who, again, I think is actually a decent guy… as a normal human being). And it would even be ignoble of us to not speak out in opposition to his campaign.
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