CHICAGO, Ill. — In a speech on economic freedom at the University of Chicago, Mitt Romney focused his sights on President Barack Obama's administration for relinquishing the economy to "cronies and bureaucrats."
Speaking to students, faculty, and supporters, Romney said Obama's regulators are holding the country back from progress, saying they would have tried to ban some of America's greatest inventions.
"A regulator would have shut down the Wright Brothers for their “dust pollution,” he said. "And the government would have banned Thomas Edison’s light bulb. Oh yeah, they just did."
Romney waxed nostalgic over two expensive 20th-century public works projects as an example of the failures of regulation.
"We once built the interstate highway system and the Hoover Dam," Romney said. "Today, we can’t even build a pipeline. We once led the world in manufacturing, exports, and infrastructure investment. Today, we lead the world in lawsuits."
Romney's appeal to sentiment — that things aren't as good as they used to be — is an attempt to carve out a space to attack Obama on the economy, despite the improving economy. Romney left out his usual stump speech lines about the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans, which he has brought out to attack Obama on the data.
Instead, he played to voters' emotions.
"If we continue along this path, our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars," Romney warned.
The proof of Obama's war on free enterprise, Romney said, is in the slow recovery.
"This administration thinks our economy is struggling because the stimulus was too small," he said. "The truth is we’re struggling because our government is too big."
From Romney's address:
For centuries, the American Dream has meant the opportunity to build something new. Some of America’s greatest success stories are of people who started out with nothing but a good idea and a corner in their garage. Too often today, Americans look at what it takes to start a business and they don’t see promise and opportunity. They see government standing in their way.
The real cost isn’t just the taxes paid and money spent complying with the rules. It’s the businesses that are never started, the ideas that are never pursued, the dreams that are deferred.
We once built the interstate highway system and the Hoover Dam. Today, we can’t even build a pipeline.
We once led the world in manufacturing, exports, and infrastructure investment. Today, we lead the world in lawsuits.
Labor unions once served as a symbol of worker rights, fair treatment, and a growing middle class. Today, they too often represent the worst of special interests and crony capitalism.
But, now, after spending three years attacking business, President Obama hopes to erase his record with a speech. In a recent address, he said that, “We are inventors. We are builders. We are makers of things. We are Thomas Edison. We are the Wright Brothers. We are Bill Gates. We are Steve Jobs.”
The reality is that, under President Obama’s administration, these pioneers would have found it much more difficult, if not impossible, to innovate, invent, and create.
Under Dodd-Frank, they would have struggled to get loans from their community banks.
A regulator would have shut down the Wright Brothers for their “dust pollution.”
And the government would have banned Thomas Edison’s light bulb. Oh yeah, Obama’s regulators actually did just that.
Every great innovation, every world-changing business breakthrough begins with a dream. And nothing is more fragile than a dream. It is essential to the genius of America that we have developed a culture that nurtures these dreams and dreamers, that honors them and, yes, rewards them.
There has always been something uniquely brilliant about America. I don't believe this President understands this fundamental secret of America. And day by day, job-killing regulation by regulation, bureaucrat by bureaucrat, he is crushing the dream and the dreamers.
If we continue along this path, our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. That path erodes freedom. It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit.
Freedom is becoming the victim of unbounded government appetite – and so is economic growth, job growth, and wage growth. As government takes more and more, there is less and less incentive to take risk, to invest, to innovate, and to hire.