“In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney. … He cut education deeper than anywhere else in America. Roads and bridges were crumbling.”
These were words Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) used to describe his predecessor at the Democratic National Convention. Considering the appearances of some other DNC speakers, such as Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, it seemed like the major theme for the week was that Mitt Romney ruined Massachusetts. “Trust us — we were there,” they appeared to be saying.
Patrick’s claims quoted above — and many others I haven’t quoted — were false.
After his incredible performance organizing the 2002 Winter Olympics, Romney made his way to Massachusetts as the state’s first “CEO governor,” forgoing salary and appointing his cabinet based on managerial experience rather than party affiliation. He came in during a severe recession as the state was shedding jobs (sound familiar?). Unemployment peaked at 6 percent, but by the end of his term, it had fallen to 4.6 percent. Although employment improved at a slower rate than in other states, Romney created more net jobs than both his successor and predecessor. In fact, he oversaw the creation of more net jobs in one state than President Obama has for the entire country.
Similarly, Romney inherited a budget crisis. The recession was threatening state revenue, and the wasteful Big Dig megaproject was costing the state more than previously thought; estimated to be completed by 1998 for about $3 billion, it wasn’t finished until 2007 at a cost of over $14 billion.
After receiving emergency budgetary powers from the legislature, Romney attempted to personally overhaul the state’s expenses. He produced a balanced budget by cutting spending, closing tax loopholes and raising fees — not ideal for raising revenue, but better than the tax hikes demanded by Democrats.
Romney approached health care with a similar tenacity. Although some consider his adamant criticism of Obamacare to be his greatest flip-flop, there are key differences between Obamacare and what Romney did in Massachusetts. Romney applied his plan within one state, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all system on 50 states. If Obama can’t grasp the difference, he lacks an understanding of federalism that would be necessary to pass a basic high school civics class. Romney crafted his plan hoping it would be a more moderate alternative to past Democratic proposals. Neighboring Vermont plans to implement socialized medicine by 2014. It seems we got off easy in Massachusetts.
Overall, Romney managed to tackle an unhealthy economy, a bloated budget and health care — all while working with a legislature that overturned 87 percent of his vetoes.
Indeed, the defining characteristic of Romney’s governorship was learning to work with a legislature made up of 85 percent Democrats, despite his best efforts to rebuild the state party. Although Republicans had occupied the governor’s office since 1990, only certain types of Republicans can win in Massachusetts — ones with varying shades of liberalism. We Massachusetts Republicans have learned to appreciate what few victories we have. In a state where gay marriage was legalized by court order and a giant anti-NRA sign hangs prominently on the Mass Pike next to Fenway Park, governors like Mitt Romney provide opportunities for conservatives to celebrate.
This is the source of Republican doubts about Romney. He has been on both sides of some social issues but consistent on others. However, he has not wavered on his faith in the private sector, nor has he forgotten the importance of eliminating deficits by cutting spending instead of raising taxes. Even if conservatives are wary about him today, they should remember that he made clear promises as governor and delivered. Today he is offering bigger promises and will have plenty of Republicans in Congress to support him and, if necessary, hold him to those promises.
The man has a resume of substance, and if history is any indication, we need a man with credentials in the White House now more than ever.
Joe Albanese is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.