While visiting a V.A. hospital, a politician looked through the hospital ledger. Impressed with the hospital’s financial responsibility, he asked what they might lack in supplies or equipment. “Milk,” they reported. The politician, uncomfortable with the heavy press coverage of his visit, jokingly responded in his own awkward way that they should teach the patients how to milk cows. About a week later, the milkman arrived at the hospital with 7,000 pints of milk, the exact amount the hospital needed. This delivery continued weekly for two years funded by an anonymous donor. Only when the milkman retired did the identity of the donor become public: Mitt Romney.
Conservatives were looking for a bold, Reaganesque leader to spark an awakening of sorts that would return America to its founding principles: a free-market society where personal responsibility and good morals reign. Unfortunately, it has taken Romney much time to convince the public that he is that man. It was only after his selection of Ryan for running mate and the first presidential debate that the public was able to clearly identify his stances and philosophy.
To his credit, Romney was immensely successful in the private sector. He was an extremely competent businessman which allowed him to accumulate much wealth. This activity is not to be frowned upon. In a free society, the accumulation of wealth is the result of improving other people’s lives; the only way to make money is to provide beneficial services to others. Applying this definition, Romney was able to improve many people’s lives through his work in the private sector.
In addition, his 2011 tax return shows that he gave nearly 30% of his income to charities. Romney’s philanthropic actions stem from his be- lief that the service of good souls is more effective than the bureaucracy of the state. As his charitable giving and business career indicate, Romney is a good-natured man and—if it is not an oxymoron—a good-natured politician.
But there are red flags in Romney’s political past that may overshadow his executive experience and benevolent nature. His Massachusetts healthcare legislation, “Romneycare,” became the blueprint for the Affordable Care Act. Romney has promised to repeal Obamacare, an action conservatives across America have supported since the bill passed.
While it is heartening to hear Romney promise to repeal Obamacare, he added the word “replace” to this campaign promise. Rather than replacing Obamacare with legislation based on the same premise, Romney should promote the idea of free market control in an insurance sector free from governmental intervention. Meddling from Washington has been one of the primary causes of rising healthcare costs.
Romney’s selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate excited many conservatives and helped convince voters that Romney might be the leader for whom they had hoped. Ryan’s biggest struggle has been his youthful experiments with Randian Objectivism, which liberals criticize as a heartless and immoral philosophy.
In an interview with Brit Hume of FOX News, Ryan pointed to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” as his reason for interest in economics. He has, however, repeatedly said he disagrees with “objectivism” due to its inherent atheism, but he does agree with Rand’s emphasis on how free enterprise and liberty trump other socioeconomic systems.
Ryan makes a compelling argument for his partial acceptance of Rand’s philosophy: “We’re coming close to a tipping point in America where we might have a net majority of takers versus makers in society, and that could become very dangerous if it sets in as a permanent condition. Because what we will end up doing is we will convert our safety net system — which is neces- sary I believe to help people who can’t help themselves, to help people who are down on their luck get back onto their feet — into a hammock that ends up lulling people into lives of dependency and complacency which drains them of their incentive and the will to make the most of their lives.”
While Ryan is clearly encouraging personal responsibility, he is not promoting isolation of man from society. A safety net exists, but we expect our fellow man not to abuse it. Society expects him to try to provide for himself, but if he absolutely cannot, society will help get him back on his feet. Discussions of the four major economic issues in the upcoming election – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare – should focus on these principles.
During the first presidential debate, Romney took a strong stance on the extent of government: “The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of [The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution].”
He systematically evaluated the line from the Declaration of Independence – that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” – emphasizing that it is our Creator, not government, who grants these Rights and who has allowed us to flourish in the freedom to which we have grown accustomed.
Americans need to remember that this is a country of opportunity, not guarantees. While all men are created equal, equality before law does not require the imposition of uniform economic outcomes. To ensure our country’s success, Romney and Ryan must champion the principles of personal responsibility, drive, and hard work.
Kelsey Drapkin is a sophomore studying Political Economy and Journalism