Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised that he would not use his foreign trip to attack President Barack Obama, or to deliver major new foreign policy announcements. He kept his word--yet used his speech in Warsaw today to deliver a hard-hitting attack on big government. Praising Poland for choosing the path of economic liberty over big government, protectionism, and heavy spending, Romney's message reinforced the central economic messages of his campaign against President Obama back home.
Romney began by praising Poland as a NATO ally, placing his visit to Warsaw in the context of his trip to Britain and Israel, two other staunch American allies. He celebrated the Polish struggle against communism, likening it to the civil rights struggle in the United States, and drew special attention to Pope John Paul the Second, the Pole who became not only a religious leader but a symbol of the struggle of conscience against tyranny.
The punch, as it were, came in the conclusion of the speech, where Romney drew lessons from Poland's recent past for America's present and future, focusing on the economic lessons of Poland's remarkable growth:
...this nation's steady rise is a shining example of the prosperity that economic opportunity can bring. Your nation has moved from a state monopoly over the economy, price controls, and severe trade restrictions to a culture of entrepreneurship, greater fiscal responsibility, and international trade. As a result, your economy has experienced positive growth in each of the last twenty years. In that time, you have doubled the size of your economy. The private sector has gone from a mere 15 percent of the economy to 65 percent. And while other nations fell into recession in recent years, you weathered the storm and continued to flourish.
When economists speak of Poland today, it is not to lament chronic problems, but to describe how this nation empowered the individual, lifted the heavy hand of government, and became the fastest-growing economy in all of Europe.
Yesterday, one of your leaders shared with me an economic truth that has been lost in much of the world: "It is simple. You don't borrow what you cannot pay back."
The world should pay close attention to the transformation of Poland's economy. A march toward economic liberty and smaller government has meant a march toward higher living standards, a strong military that defends liberty at home and abroad, and an important and growing role on the international stage.
Rather than heeding the false promise of a government-dominated economy, Poland sought to stimulate innovation, attract investment, expand trade, and live within its means. Your success today is a reminder that the principles of free enterprise can propel an economy and transform a society.
At a time of such difficulty and doubt throughout Europe, Poland's economic transformation over these past 20 years is a fitting turn in the story of your country. In the 1980s, when other nations doubted that political tyranny could ever be faced down or overcome, the answer was, "Look to Poland." And today, as some wonder about the way forward out of economic recession and fiscal crisis, the answer once again is "Look to Poland".
It is not surprising that a people who waited so long, and endured so much, for the sake of liberty, are today enjoying liberty to the fullest.
As with Romney's statement on Sunday that he considers Jerusalem to be Israel's capital, Romney did not reveal anything new in these remarks on economic policy--and yet the implied contrast with President Obama could not have been greater.