Mitt Romney’s calls for confronting China as a currency manipulator, intellectual property thief and trade cheat are what distinguishes his economic vision from Republican orthodoxy, his top policy adviser said.
Lanhee Chen, policy director for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said while Romney’s plan for “robust” action to confront China on trade issues may be at odds with some in his party and Democrats, it is at the core of his strategy for improving the economy.
“Here’s a place where Governor Romney is really calling for a different approach, for example, confronting China on their currency manipulation, on their intellectual property stealing, on the barriers they put up really to competition from foreign firms,” Chen said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing this weekend.
“This is really a path forward that will be quite different from” policies under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Chen said.
Romney, 65, “has been in touch” with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a China specialist who disagrees with Romney’s aggressive stance, Chen said, adding: “But look, the bottom line is, Governor Romney is going to do what it takes to get our economy going, including confronting China, and there will be some in both parties that will disagree with him.”
No Homeowner Relief
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, doesn’t intend to offer targeted relief for the 11.5 million American homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, Chen said, suggesting that such actions are temporary fixes insufficient to stabilize the housing market.
“Governor Romney has indicated that there are some steps we ought to take to ensure that we’re growing our economy,” Chen said. “But on the housing market specifically, I do think we have to resist the temptation for short-term approaches.”
Romney, a former private-equity executive who founded the Boston-based firm Bain Capital LLC, wants to replace the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law enacted in 2010 with more limited and “reasonable” rules, including governing derivatives and “some kind of consumer protections,” Chen said.
“The mistake here is to say that somehow because we repealed Dodd-Frank and we get rid of the really burdensome set of regulations that Dodd-Frank put in place, that somehow we’re going back to a dog-eat-dog kind of situation where there’s absolutely no regulation,” Chen said.
Still, he said the so-called Volcker rule to ban proprietary trading by banks “has a lot of problems,” and would be “one of the problematic elements that, quite frankly, Governor Romney would seek to replace.”
While Romney has spoken extensively of a broad tax overhaul plan that would eliminate certain deductions and exemptions and lower rates, he is unlikely to specify during the presidential campaign which ones he would seek to undo, Chen said.
“There are a number of specific ways to get there,” he said. Romney “is going to get in there as president and work with the Congress to figure out how we can achieve a broader base of taxation and lower rates across the board.”
He defended Romney’s proposal to lower taxes by an average of $231,971 for the top 1 percent of taxpayers compared with current law, saying Romney “believes in a progressive tax system,” and arguing that the existing system “penalizes economic growth.”
Extolling Romney’s business background as his chief credential for the presidency, Chen said the presidents over the last century with the most business experience -- George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover -- wouldn’t be models for a President Romney.
“I don’t know that it’s fair to compare him to those that have preceded him,” Chen said. “He would be a unique commander-in-chief in the White House, and I just think it’s probably not a fair comparison to look at other folks that may have had elements of their background that are similar.”
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