Many of Romney’s policy specifics involved removing Washington-imposed burdens on the industry, such as the prospect of new regulations. You can think he exaggerated their impact—I do—but that’s not left-wing. Convening industry reps and government officials to gab about the industry’s problems doesn’t strike me as all that alarming, either: It’s what comes out of the meeting that matters, and Romney didn’t commit to anything statist. Romney’s plan to quintuple research spending was pretty bad, in my view—but plenty of free-market folks are okay with such subsidies. The reason Romney got a “slap on the wrist” is that it’s all he deserved.
Plenty of free-market folks may be okay with such subsidies, but then that makes the definition of “free-market folks” rather flexible. If you look at what Romney said, he made the subsidies an essential part of his proposal:
But taking off all these burdens is only half the solution [bold mine-DL]. If we are going to be the world’s greatest economic power, we must invest in our future. It’s time to be bold. First, I will make a five-fold increase – from $4 billion dollars to $20 billion dollars – in our national investment in energy research, fuel technology, materials science, and automotive technology. Research spins out new ideas for new products for both small and large businesses. That is exactly what has happened in health care, in defense, and in space. Look how industries in other states have thrived from the spin out of technologies from our investment in these areas. So if we can invest in health care, in defense, and in space, why not also invest in energy and fuel technology here in Michigan?
In other words, state capitalism is already the way we do things in other sectors, so why not link yet another industry to massive government spending in unhealthy and distorting ways?