Romney promises to unleash free enterprise -- and put the leash on government
To Mitt Romney, free enterprise isn’t just the best business system in the world. It’s also “a moral and just economic system the likes of which the world had never seen.”
And it’s under attack, he asserted Thursday in an address to several hundred enthusiastic listeners gathered in a north St. Louis warehouse owned by Production Products. The Hispanic-owned firm in north St. Louis County specializes in the production of protective equipment and apparel.
“America is on the cusp of having a government-run economy,” Romney declared. “President (Barack) Obama is transforming America into something very different than the land of the free and the land of opportunity. “
The crowd applauded as Romney contended that overregulation and governmental overreach – coupled with “this inexperienced president” -- are to be blame for the increased federal debt and the nation’s slow recovery from the 2008 recession.
“We know where that transformation leads,” he said. “There are other nations that have chosen that path. It leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt and stagnant wages.
“I don’t want to transform America; I want to restore the values of economic freedom,” Romney continued amid cheers. “As your president, starting on Day One, I will do everything in my power to end these days of drift and disappointment.”
But arguably Romney’s most persuasive argument came not from his lips, but from Barry Corona, founder of Production Products, which provides protective gear to the U.S. military. Corona told the crowd that when he and other relatives created the business in 1978, “there was a lot less government oversight’’ and it was “easier to get working capital.”
Now, he said, new regulations seem to emerge “one every week.”
Focuses on broader themes, Obamacare
Romney’s St. Louis stop was his second so far this year, and – like the March event in Kirkwood – coupled a public campaign event with a private fundraiser. Many of the region’s top Republican donors and public officials are expected to join Romney for the money-raising event at the Ritz-Carlton.
Leaders of both major parties privately give Romney the edge, when it comes to carrying the state in November. So far, neither he nor Obama have run any non-cable TV ad spots in the state.
Romney’s 20-minute speech generally avoided specifics, focusing instead on broader themes of fewer federal regulations, lower taxes and the need for a vision. The chief exception was his continued attacks on the federal health-care law, dubbed “Obamacare,” that now is before the U.S. Supreme Court.
If elected, Romney said that one of his first acts would be to grant waivers to all 50 states to “start the process of repealing Obamacare on Day One.”
Romney pledged to counter what he called a presidency “of deception and doubt.”
“An America that does not believe that tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow will be better is not the America we know,” he said.
Grant Kniffen, an art teacher from O’Fallon, Mo., said that he liked everything he heard. “I thought he made a lot of sense,’’ Kniffen said.
Rivals challenge record
Outside, a handful of protesters carried signs that attacked Romney’s record as a wealthy businessman and former governor of Massachusetts.
Later, in downtown St. Louis’ Kiener Plaza, city Democratic Party chairman Brian Wahby joined area labor leaders in attacking Romney as well.
The critics point to Massachusetts’ status, during Romney’s tenure, as 47th out of 50 in job creation, “and manufacturing jobs were lost at twice the national average, the third-worst record in the country," the local critics said.
Said Wahby: “President Obama is focused on providing jobs and opportunities for the middle-class, for the biggest group of people. It’s not about creating wealth for the very few, it’s about creating opportunity for many."
Romney has blamed his predecessor as governor for the state’s economic woes, and has pointed to Massachusetts’ improved standing by the time he left office.
Some Romney allies appeared at the Kiener Plaza event to take issue with the assertions of Wahby and other Obama allies.
They included Matt Sebenoler, who said he is involved in the financial industry. Sebenoler shouted repeatedly at Wahby's group. Sebenoler said his point was, “Our country needs a positive job environment, you can’t rescue the economy by taxing people or suppressing entrepreneurs."
Josie Butler, Beacon intern, contributed information for this article.