He needs to ditch his woke advisers and make growth the overriding priority.
by Mitt Romney, April 19, 2022
Three factors combined during the past two years to create the perfect economic storm. Covid-19 scrambled the U.S. economy’s supply lines. The Federal Reserve kept its foot on the accelerator way too long. And the Biden administration did pretty much everything wrong, injecting $1.9 trillion into a supply-constrained economy, sending out stay-at-home checks, letting tenants live rent-free, squeezing oil and gas production, launching an avalanche of growth-killing regulations, lining up behind unions, and pushing yet another deficit-financed budget.
Most Americans are having a hard time making ends meet. It’s past time for the Fed to restore its singular focus on monetary stability and leave social policies to the branches of government that are elected by the people. And the Biden administration must stop nominating doves to the Fed. The central bank needs hard-nosed economists.
In any crisis situation, the first three rules are focus, focus and focus. President Biden’s domestic focus must be on inflation. At 8.5% nationally and 10.4% in Utah, inflation is truly hurting people. And it’s the people with little or no money to spare who are hardest hit by the exponential rise in prices. The last thing the economy needs is more near-term deficit spending, so President Biden should shelve Build Back Better permanently.
To remain internationally competitive and reduce dependency on foreign products like rare-earth metals, critical minerals and pharmaceuticals, the U.S. needs to pare down regulations throughout the economy. Excess regulations impede businesses from producing and delay workers from entering the labor force. We should focus on accelerating the domestic supply of critical industrial and agricultural inputs, including minerals for batteries and integrated circuits. The administration can open federal lands and put mining and processing facilities on a fast track for permitting. Today, it can take 10 years to get permits to open a mine.
Additionally, the U.S. must increase the domestic supply of oil and gas. Stop the blather about oil companies having more than sufficient leases for drilling—they can’t drill if they can’t get government permits. Building new pipelines to transport oil and gas throughout the country also remains critical.
To straighten the supply chain, the administration must eliminate bottlenecks at existing ports and build new inland ports.
It is also critical for Congress to pass a budget that actually reduces the deficit. Politicians are inclined to believe accomplishments are tied to starting new spending programs. But the last thing we need is more spending. Reducing spending, rather, would be quite the accomplishment.
Congress should establish bipartisan, bicameral commissions to rescue our federal entitlement programs from impending collapse. Some combination of changes in revenue, benefits, cost management and financial arbitrage will be needed to restore their solvency.
President Biden also has to find a way to stop the flood of illegal immigration while accelerating legal immigration. New Americans who can immediately join the workforce should get priority over those who need services that require further government spending. Without more immigration visas for agriculture, hospitality and other labor-constrained sectors, crops will go unharvested and goods and services will be unnecessarily curtailed. National visa quotas could be derived from requests by the states, which know their own local labor markets better than the federal government does.
We must also create incentives for labor participation and eliminate incentives for dropping out of the workforce. Safety-net programs should be available only to those who truly need them. Finally, we need to reduce or eliminate tariffs except as key elements of foreign-policy objectives.
A new set of priorities requires a new set of principals: President Biden needs to ditch his woke advisers and surround himself with people who want to get the economy working again. As for the upcoming midterm elections, remember Bill Clinton’s 1992 mantra: It’s the economy. The American people need the strong economic leadership that only a president can provide.
Mr. Romney, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Utah.