Unlike other candidates, Mitt Romney brings an extensive business background to the race for the White House. In fact, Romney says he is the only candidate-Republican or Democrat-who has the chops to lead the economy.
As such, his positions reflect the traditional private-sector view of government: Stay out of business affairs unless the litigation helps the enterprise. If rules, regulations and laws are deemed necessary, Romney wants businesspeople to write them.
"I recognize we're going to have to have people who understand how the business world works, how the economy works, and [will] make sure that the playing field really is level by having people that understand the economy and the business world being part of that effort," Romney said during an October Republican debate in Michigan.
In other words, under a Romney administration, it would be business as usual for the White House. President Bush has pushed a similar agenda in his seven years in office.
Like Bush, Romney, the founder of the venture capital firm Bain Capital and the former president and CEO of the Salt Lake Olympics Organizing Committee before entering political life as the governor of Massachusetts, believes in free trade and cutting taxes and regulations.
"I want to open more markets to our goods and I will negotiate with other nations to do so. At the same time, I want to make sure that our trading with other nations is done on a fair basis," Romney said in the Michigan debate. "So we're going to have to fight to make sure that our products are protected and our technology is protected, but also to not close down foreign markets. Open them up. We can compete around the world."
Romney claims his business background will help ensure tougher trade agreements with China and other countries.
"The people who negotiate these agreements, the people who sit down with the Chinese and sit down with the Mexicans and others, are people, by and large, who've spent their life in politics, and the politicians come together and try and understand how the economy works," he said. "I think I'm probably the only guy on the stage who's spent most of his career in the business world. I understand how the economy works."
Taking on the Pacific Rim countries in the global market, Romney said, is the only route to the future.
"To remain the economic and military superpower, America must address competing with Asia," he said. "China and Asia are on the move economically and technologically. They are a family-oriented, educated, hard-working and mercantile people. We must be ready and able to compete."
Back home, Romney favors a permanent ban on Internet connection taxes and increasing the number of H-1B visas for foreign workers with advanced technology and science degrees.
"I think it makes more sense to make it permanent. I think the Democrats recognized that if they do it every seven years, then they can go out and get contributions from companies that care and then vote for it every seven years," Romney told Silicon Valley blogger and entrepreneur Michael Arrington in an interview. "It's an old political ploy, which is bring it back for a vote regularly and go back and hit people up for contributions."
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Romney overlooks that when his own party controlled Congress, Republicans twice had an opportunity to make the connections tax ban permanent but chose to only temporarily extend the moratorium.
Like all presidential candidates, Romney wants to invest more money in technology. And like all presidential candidates, Romney does not say how he would lower taxes while increasing spending.
"In technology, we as a country already invest an enormous amount-for instance, in defense technology, space technology, health-but we also need to invest in some of the emerging technologies that are important at a basic science level, such as fuel cell technology, power generation, materials science, automotive technology," Romney said in a 2006 television interview with Kudlow and Company. "We do enough taxing in this country and let's not add more taxes. I'd rather see the tax for innovation reduced rather than expanded."
As for H-1B visas, Romney told Arrington that the only way "our nation stays ahead forever" is for the "best and brightest in the world coming here. I would like to see us increase the number of people who receive an H-1B visa and can provide skills and experience that we may not have."
He said he would condition increases in H-1B visas on the state of the economy, demands from employers and the U.S. labor pool's capacity to fill the jobs.
"You'd have to do an assessment of that on a regular basis, but my overall view is we need more H-1B visas, not less," Romney said.