Halperin: So if you’re elected to the office in eight months, there’s the so-called fiscal cliff coming. Has a lot of things that I’m pretty sure you’re opposed to. Major defense cuts, you’d actually like to see a decrease in defense spending. The kind of sharp drop in spending, in other areas and automatic cuts, as well as tax increases in a lot of ways that would be a real drag on the economy. Everybody agrees that, CBO said yesterday would send the country into recession. So again in the real world people understand what President Romney would be like. Election comes in November, you win. Would you like to see the incumbent President and Congress deal with these issues during the lame-duck session?
Romney: Of course not.
Halperin: You’d like them to defer to you.
Romney: Absolutely. I would like to be able to deal with these issues on a structural basis, on a permanent basis as opposed to a stopgap effort that would require unraveling and reevaluation. My hope is to be able to come into office with people on both sides of the aisle who are cognizant of the critical nature of what America faces fiscally, what the people of America are facing employment wise, the failure in our economy that’s hurting so many people and that we’ll see Republicans and Democrats say OK well what kind of tax proposals will encourage economic growth? What kind of regulatory reform will encourage economic growth? Energy polices, educations policies and the like. I think we can do that, but my preference would be to have the opportunity to do that after the election as opposed to have the President in a lame-duck session try and create a solution that may not be in keeping with the new administration.
Halperin: So a lot of these changes though, the tax and spending changes, kick in January 1. You wouldn’t take office until January 20. Does that worry you about what that might do to the economy in terms of confidence, in terms of perception?
Romney: Well actually if I’m lucky enough to be elected the consumers and the small-business people in this country will realize that they have a friend in the White House who is actively going to encourage economic growth, and there will be a resurgence in confidence in this country and a willingness to take risks, to invest, to add employees. I think it will be very positive news to the American economy. Will I be able to get done between January 1 and January 20 the things that I’d like to do? Of course not, I’m not in office. But I believe that we will be able to have a grace period, which allows us to tackle these issues one by one and put in place a structure, which is very much designed to get America working again.
Halperin: Now you said one by one. Some people, including Speaker Boehner, have talked about a grand bargain, where that they only way to address all of these issues—and again, that fiscal cliff has scores of changes—that that limit needs to be raised, the spending cuts that come in, all the tax changes that would raise people’s taxes and business taxes. Do you think that you’d most effectively deal with that in a big deal, maybe including tax reform, all at once? Or do you think you’d have time to do it piecemeal?
Romney: Well I think we’ll wait and see what the process is down the road. Depends in part upon the makeup of the House and the Senate, the agendas of the various people who are in leadership in both of those branches. If you will, reform can occur in a grand bargain or can occur piece by piece, but there will be, without question, a recognition that we can do better. This President has failed the American people with policies that have not put America back to work, and I think the America people recognize not only is he responsible for a tepid recovery, he is responsible for putting America on a track, which does not lead to a stronger, more robust economy long-term either. And they want to take a different course. And I intend to take that different course. But I can’t tell you whether it’s going to be done in day 10 or day 20 or day 50, but I can say a lot of things are going to happen on day 1, and then over the coming weeks, working together with good Democrats and good Republicans, we’ll get the country going again.
Halperin: So even though it’s a fiscal cliff, you think you’ll have time because just your election will allow people to sort of take a breath and wait and see these things dealt with potentially over time rather than right away?
Romney: Well, there are different options, as you understand. One is to wait and deal with these one by one or deal with them in a grand bargain. The other is to have some kind of continuing resolution to say let’s leave things as they are as opposed to the cliff, leave it for 30 days or 90 days as we work out these other programs. It’s something that the Congress and I, if I’m fortunate enough to be President, would work out and hopefully reach a measure that had no disruptive effect on the economy.