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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Romney: Government Isn't the Hero

Jae C. Hong/AP

Mitt Romney stepped up his attacks on President Obama as leader of the federal government Tuesday, calling Obama an "old-school liberal " who sees "government as the hero." Romney said his policies, by contrast, were aimed at creating a "simpler, smaller, smarter" government.

From Romney's remarks at an appearance in Des Moines, Iowa:

Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the Era of Big Government was over.

Even a former McGovern campaign worker like President Clinton was signaling to his own Party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem.

President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship. It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons ... but really it runs much deeper.

President Obama is an old school liberal whose first instinct is to see free enterprise as the villain and government as the hero. America counted on President Obama to rescue the economy, tame the deficit and help create jobs. Instead, he bailed out the public-sector, gave billions of dollars to the companies of his friends, and added almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined.

The consequence is that we are enduring the most tepid recovery in modern history.

Romney went on to characterize the federal government as the least efficient and responsive sector of the economy:

During my time in business and in state government, I came to see the economy as having three big players – the private sector, the states and localities, and the federal government.

Of these three, the private sector is by far the most efficient and cost effective. That's because scores of businesses and thousands of entrepreneurs are competing every day to find a way to deliver a product or a service that is better than anyone else's. Think about smart phones. Blackberry got things going. Then Apple introduced the iPhone. Now the Android platform leads the market. In the world of free enterprise, competition brings us better and better products at lower and lower cost. Innovate and change or you go out of business. And the customer--us--benefits.

Government doesn't begin to compare when it comes to change and improvements that provide better and less expensive services and products. But among governments, the states and localities are more responsive than the federal government, probably because there is a degree of competition between them.

The slowest, least responsive sector is the federal government. Nobody hears “Washington, D.C.” and thinks "efficiency."

Imagine if the federal government was the sole legal supplier of cell phones. First, they'd still be under review, with hearings in Congress. When finally approved, the contract to make them would go to an Obama donor. They'd be the size of a shoe, with a collapsible solar panel. And campaign donors would be competing to become the all-powerful App Czar.

My point is this: as President Obama and old-school liberals absorb more and more of our economy into government, they make what we do more expensive, less efficient, and less useful. They make America less competitive. They make government more expensive.

What President Obama is doing is not bold; it's old.

As president, I will make the federal government simpler, smaller, smarter – and, by the way, more in keeping with the vision of the Framers of our Constitution.

Finally, Romney declared that Obama's efforts to reduce waste and inefficiency in federal operations have been a failure:

The President has made little effort to rein in redundancy and waste.

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office found 34 areas where agencies, offices, or initiatives in the federal government had overlapping objectives or were providing similar services. The GAO estimated that fixing this redundancy could save over $100 billion. Yet, one year later, only three of these 34 areas had been fully addressed. Only one program was actually defunded.

In 2010, 17 federal government agencies gave $7.7 billion to more than 25 United Nations programs, billions of it voluntarily.

Another example: There are 94 federal programs in 11 agencies that encourage “green” building. A report found that the results of their initiatives and investments are, quote, “unknown.”

We see the same bureaucracy and overhead in our anti-poverty programs. Last year, the federal government spent more than $600 billion on more than 100 different programs that aim to help the poor.

My approach to federal programs and bureaucracy is entirely different. Move programs to states or to the private sector where they can be run more efficiently and where we can do a better job helping the people who need our help. Shut down programs that aren't working. And streamline everything that's left. It's time for the people of America to take back the government of America.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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