I have long thought somebody should go through and annotate the 2012 Mitt Romney: Full Transcript of the 47% Secret Video. So I will now do it.
Part VIII: Asking for Advice/National Bankruptcy:
Here it is very clear: Mitt Romney has been listening to the wrong economists. It is not clear whether John Whitehead actually said any of the things Mitt Romney attributes to him. It is clear that--no matter who is theoretically signed up as Romney's economic advisors--nobody who actually understands what a liquidity trap is at all had been let in to brief him on the Federal Reserve, on why it was doing what it was doing, on the sources of demand for Treasury debt, or on the difference between the short-run fiscal situation (in which austerity was unhelpful) and the long-run (in which intertemporal budget balance is essential) in a time of secularly low interest rates.
The wall of the fact-free bubble was very thick indeed in the Republican Party in 2012. And it has only grown thicker since:
Romney: With that introduction, I'm going to turn to you for counsel, advice, or questions. Policy questions. Wanna talk about tax policy? Or political questions? How I win? Please.
Audience Member: One comment, Governor.
Audience Member: The debates are gonna be coming, and I hope at the right moment you can turn to President Obama, look at the American people, and say, "If you vote to reelect President Obama, you're voting to bankrupt the United States." I hope you keep that in your quiver because that's what gonna happen. And I think it's going to be very effective. Just wanted to give you that.
Romney: Yeah, it's interesting… the former head of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead, was also the former head of the New York Federal Reserve. And I met with him, and he said as soon as the Fed stops buying all the debt that we're issuing—which they've been doing, the Fed's buying like three-quarters of the debt that America issues. He said, once that's over, he said we're going to have a failed Treasury auction, interest rates are going to have to go up.
We're living in this borrowed fantasy world, where the government keeps on borrowing money. You know, we borrow this extra trillion a year, we wonder who's loaning us the trillion? The Chinese aren't loaning us anymore. The Russians aren't loaning it to us anymore. So who's giving us the trillion? And the answer is we're just making it up. The Federal Reserve is just taking it and saying, "Here, we're giving it.' It's just made up money, and this does not augur well for our economic future.
You know, some of these things are complex enough it's not easy for people to understand, but your point of saying, "bankruptcy", usually concentrates the mind.
Audience member, "George": Governor, to your point on complexity. How is—you've traveled around America and talked to people in larger groups and perhaps people with different backgrounds, and people in this room: To what extent do people really understand that we're hurtling toward a cliff, and to what extent do people understand the severity of the fiscal situation we're in. Do people get it?
Romney: They don't. By and large people don't get it. People in our party, and part of—it's our fault because we've been talking about deficits and debt for about 25 or 30 years as a party, and so they've heard us say it and say it and say it. The fact that Greece is going what it's going through, and they read about France and Italy and Spain, has finally made this issue topical for the American people.
And so when you do polls, and you ask people what is the biggest issue in the 2012 election, No. 1 is the economy and jobs by a wide margin. But No. 2 is the deficit. But debt, that doesn't calculate for folks, but the deficit does. They recognize you can't go on forever like this. Although the people who recognize that tend to be Republicans, and the people who don't recognize that tend to be Democrats. And what we have to get is that 5 or 10 percent in the middle who sometimes vote Republican, sometimes vote Democrat, and have them understand how important this is.
It's a challenge.
I did the calculation for folks today, and USA Today publishes this every year. It's a front-page story: the headline once a year, it somehow escapes people's attention, and that is, if you take the total national debt and the unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, the amount of debt plus unfunded liabilities per household in America is $520,000. Per household.
Audience Member: It's like 12 times their income, right?
Romney: At least. 10, 12 times their income. Even though we're not going to be writing the check for that amount per household, they're going to be paying the interest on that. You'll be paying the interest on that. [Audience laughs.] Because we—my generation will be long gone, and you'll be paying the interest. And so you'll be paying taxes, not only for the things you want in your generation, but for all the things we spent money on, which is just—it's extraordinary to think the tax rates, someone calculated what would happen.
If we don't change Medicare or Social Security, the tax rate—you know what the payroll tax is now, it's 15.3 percent—if we don't change those programs, that tax rate will have to ultimately rise to 44 percent. The payroll tax.
Then there's the income tax on top, which the president wants to take to 40 percent. Then there's state tax in most states. And sales tax. So you end up having to take 100 percent of people's income.
And yet the president, three and a half years in, won't talk about reforming Social Security or Medicare. And when the Republicans do, it's "Oh, you're throwing granny off the cliff." It's like you're killing the kids. The biggest surprise that I have is that young people will vote for Democrats. They look at this and say, "Holy cow! The only guys who are worried about the future of our country and our future are Republicans." But the Democrats, they talk about social issues, draw in the young people, and they vote on that issue. It's like, I mean, there won't be any houses like this if we stay on the road we're on...