WASHINGTON — Facing unforeseen challenges the likes of which the United States has never confronted will require a resurgence of American journalism and an informed electorate.
That’s according to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who delivered his remarks Monday at the Syracuse University Toner Prize dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The Toner prizes are awarded for political reporting. The award is named after Robin Toner, the late New York Times political correspondent.
“I don't recall a period during my life when there are so many black swans flying around,” the Republican party’s 2012 presidential nominee said.
“Now, the resurgence of journalism, and with a more knowledgeable and informed electorate, wouldn't be so critical if this weren't such a critical time.”
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Of particular concern to Romney are China’s emergence as a military superpower, entitlements, climate change and the potential of artificial intelligence to cause catastrophic harm.
“China is on track to pass us economically geopolitically, even militarily. And yet we cannot hide from that fact, and lull ourselves into complacency.
“The actual figure is a little frightening,” Romney said, noting that even though the United States vastly outspends the rest of the world on its military, only 15 percent of that money goes to equipment procurement, with the vast majority going to veterans’ salaries, housing and benefits.
“China is growing their navy, it’s going to be substantially larger than ours. So it's a much greater challenge than I think the immediacy has sunk into us.
He said interest payments alone on America’s exploding national debt will be $650 billion this year.
“Our total military budget is $750 billion,” Romney said.
“When you're spending almost as much on interest as you spend on national defense. You’ve got a problem," he continued. "Neither party is willing to discuss an approach to solving this problem with us by the way as you know, it all stems from the fact that our entitlements which are two-thirds of spending are going faster than our economy. But neither political party wants [to] even talk about doing anything about entitlements.”
Romney expressed concern that both parties are dropping the ball on climate change, too, noting many of his Republican colleagues are unserious about global warming.
As for the left?
“I'm afraid the Democratic Party on the other hand has proposed, if you will, virtue signaling baby steps that would have the combined effect of being expensive and ineffective," Romney said.
Romney also expressed concern about the potential impacts of artificial intelligence.
He pointed to a report that said “of the people who are developing AI on average, they believe there's a 10 percent chance the AI being developed will eliminate humanity.”
“You would think with something of that scale as a threat that Washington would be working to find ways to work with others around the world to make sure that something of that nature doesn't occur," Romney said.
That’s where journalists come in.
“So, if democracy dies in darkness, we're counting on you and those that are being honored tonight who have have shown us the way, to help shed the light of truth on our public electorate.”
Listen to audio of some of Romney's remarks below or at this link.