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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A more realistic view

The national press corps salivation over Mitt Romney has hit a dry spot -- a promising first step -- but much more skepticism is needed.

The Washington Post profiles our soon-to-be-former governor and decides he leaves office with a "mixed" record. National political reporter David Broder, long the exemplar of what this type of reporting should be, lists Romney's successes as budget balancing, resistance to tax increases, health care reform and taking control of Big Dig management.

The first two are hard to claim. State budgets, as opposed to federal ones, must be balanced by law. There are only two ways to do that: raise taxes and cut spending. Holding the line on spending is a decision that carries consequences and in this state that includes significant reductions in public health and public safety and increases in local aid as the balloon was squeezed and water ran elsewhere.

"Holding the line" on tax increases is also not a solitary task, especially when the Legislature was led by House Speaker Tom Finneran for the first two years of Romney's tenure. And the fact that lawmakers have refused to follow through on what Romney would no doubt tout as his greatest accomplishment -- and income tax rate rollback -- is a sign that others had greater understanding of state budget that Romney.

And Broder completely ignores Romney's recent round of budget cuts -- and the claim they are necessary to balance a budget. This episode will be seen as the ultimate proof of the emptiness of the Romney term, yet no mention at all.

Hoopla over his handling the Big Dig crisis needs to die down after looking at the Romney transportation "record" before the dumping of former GOP state Sen. Matt Amorello. That includes questions about performance of his hand-picked successor John Cogliano and whether the Commonwealth misrepresented its own role in tunnel inspections when filing a bond prospectus.

The final word is also not in on health care reform. Yes, the law includes Romney's call for mandatory purchases by citizens. But the work of state agencies -- particularly Romney's insurance and health care financing officials -- leaves gaping questions about its future.

To date, the people who can afford to pay -- businesses that don't provide coverage -- are being asked to chip in far less proportionally than those who can't afford it, namely the people who need it. Unless that tension is resolved, the admirable effort is doomed to fail.

Broder does look at "Team Reform" and its abysmal failure in 2004. But he fails to delves into the ultimate sham of the Romney 2002 claim to be a moderate, his decision to renounce positions on choice and gay rights. In other words, he was for them before he was against them.

And if Broder had done what he often has said is the most important thing a political reporter should do -- talk to the voters, not the loyal functionaries -- he would have discovered that virtually no one saw Romney's repeated absences as merely Republican Governors Association duties.

Massachusetts was seduced by Mitt Romney, the socially tolerant moderate, then abandoned by the ''pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly"doppleganger hungry to feed his own ambitions.


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