Thursday, March 18, 2010

Praise for "No Apology"

A few years ago, Mitt Romney gave a speech at a Department of Homeland Security conference that I attended in Boston. His latest book "No Apology, The Case for American Greatness" reminded me of the content of his speech from 5 years ago.

This book discusses the various problems America is now faced with. Romney touches on foreign threats, as well as our lagging defense spending and failure to produce scientists and engineers. In addition, Romney offers free-market solutions to our economic, health care, energy and educational struggles. Throughout the book, Romney shares his vision on how to move our country forward while staying true to our nation's lofty ideals.

On the potential eve of a new entitlement program, Romney's book is very timely. One chapter of "No Apology" is devoted to the existing entitlement programs promised by our government. Social security, medicare and medicaid are bleeding us dry. The numbers quoted in this book were staggering. In 1965, President Johnson estimated social security would cost $500 million a year. Now in 2010, the annual expenditure is $500 billion, 1000 times higher than anticipated. To understand just how large the entitlement burden is on our economy, Romney states that "the total cost of US entitlement programs accounts for more than half of all federal spending...and is 11 percent of our GDP." For comparison, Romney points out that the entire defense budget is only 4% of the GDP, and that is while we are in two major wars.

Seeing these data is enough to give any rational person pause pertaining to the proposed Obama-care legislation. This controversial health care bill will account for 6% of our GDP. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced today that this bill is conservatively estimated to cost $940 billion for 6 years of government spending (I am excluding the four years we are suppose to pay into the system without receiving benefits). How can any responsible citizen not stop and ask will this entitlement program balloon by a factor of 1000 in forty years just like social security?

At times, Romney's position may be viewed as controversial. Particularly, in his call to decrease pregnancies out of wedlock. However, the statistics about the percentage of pregnancies out of wedlock were shocking. Back in 1960, only 7% of births were to people out of wedlock. Now, some 40% of all pregnancies are out of wedlock. Romney goes on to connect this pregnancy epidemic with our nations economy. He points out that many pregnancies that don't result in marriage often stunt the economic potential of the parent, child and consequently the US economy as a whole.

With regard to education, Romney is pro-choice. Romney supports the right to choose to send children to better performing schools, whether public or private. In addition, Romney offers insight into how to improve our public schools, something essential to our future national prosperity. At the same time, the book's education chapter publishes data showing how smaller class size and more money don't necessarily translate into improved student success. In reality, the only way to improve the educational system is to improve the quality of the teachers. One staggering fact outlined in Romney's book states that "In Finland, they (teachers) are recruited from the top 10 percent; in South Korea from the top 5 percent. But in the United States...our teachers are generally drawn from the bottom third of graduates." This fact was appalling.

Finally, this book leaves the reader with the sentiment that our country has been and still is a great country. Sure we make mistakes and have had flawed policies at times, but overall our country and military is there when it matters for people around the world. Romney offers a refreshingly frank opinion of how ludicrous it is to empathize with the enemies that hate our country and ideals.

I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a simple synopsis of contemporary geopolitical and social challenges coupled with practical small-government solutions. In the wake of all the political shape-shifting in Washington, it is nice to hear a principled and coherent policy agenda that concurrently cultivates the American work ethic, individual freedom and personal responsibility.

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