So, 432 days before the presidential election, Mitt Romney released a 160-page book about his plan for “jobs and economic growth” that included zero photos and a 69-point plan.
And now President Obama, 14 days before the election, has released a 20-page plan for his second term that includes huge photos.
Same dif, really.
Here are the key elements of President Obama’s plan – and why, unless you base your vote on which candidate has a more visually appealing plan book(let) – his policies aren’t as impressive as they appear on a first read.
Reviving American Manufacturing. President Obama’s policies have helped manufacturing rebound, creating nearly 500,000 jobs in the last 31 months. The President’s plan will build on that success, creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs by 2016.
It’s true that manufacturing has been on the rebound in recent years. But when Obama took office in January 2009, there were 12.6 million manufacturing jobs, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now there’s only 11.9 million, according to the preliminary September number. Manufacturing jobs are increasing, but at the current rate, there won’t be 12.6 million manufacturing jobs again for another three years.
Energy Made in America. Dependence on foreign oil hurts our economy and imperils national security, which is why President Obama has set a goal of cutting our net oil imports in half by 2020. President Obama’s policies have helped to cut net imports by nearly 30% in his first term already, and his plans to expand domestic energy production will support more than 600,000 jobs in the natural gas sector alone.
The booklet backs up the claim by noting that under Obama, “foreign oil imports” are at a “20-year low.” But as Mitt Romney pointed out in the last debate, oil drilling on federal lands actually decreased by 14 percent last year. One of Obama’s energy ideas is good – “Opening up millions of acres for exploration and development,” – but there’s no reason to believe from what he did in his first term that he intends to do this. As FactCheck.org noted after the last debate, “Obama was wrong when he denied Romney’s claim that the Obama administration cut in half the number of new permits and new leases for offshore oil and gas drilling. The decrease is actually more than half.” Another of Obama’s ideas is to force car manufactures to build cars with 54.5 mpg by 2025, while another is the same clean-energy advocacy he is always using: “Investing in domestic energy sources including wind, solar, clean coal, nuclear, and biofuels. All while increasing our energy efficiency.”
Growing Small Businesses. Small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in America. President Obama has invested in entrepreneurs and small business owners by cutting taxes, helping them expand into markets overseas and working to ensure they can get the capital they need to invest and grow.
Well, the numbers show that the Obama administration hasn’t been seen as a boon by most small business owners. A September survey by the National Association of Manufacturers and National Federation of Independent Business of found that “ 69 percent of small business owners and manufacturers say President Obama’s Executive Branch and regulatory policies have hurt American small businesses and manufacturers.” According to an October survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “76 percent of small businesses say the health care bill makes it harder to hire more employees” and “79 percent of small businesses surveyed feel that the Administration is not doing enough to keep energy prices low, and 76 percent say that higher energy prices threaten their business.”
Quality Education. A quality education is not a luxury. It is an economic imperative for good paying jobs, a strong middle class and a workforce that out-innovates the world. President Obama will strengthen our schools by recruiting 100,000 math and science teachers, training 2 million workers for real jobs at community colleges, and cutting tuition growth in half.
Well, as University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Ingersoll documents, the bigger issue with math and science teachers is retention (many leave for other jobs), not recruitment. And the best way to deal with that is to make changes on the local, not national, level: “[S]chools with fewer student behavioral problems, that allow teachers greater professional autonomy in their classrooms, and that provide better opportunities for teachers to learn and grow as professionals had significantly fewer departures of math or science teachers,” wrote Ingersoll.
And while it would be great to cut college tuition growth in half (or more), Obama touts in this booklet again his desire to increase government subsidies for college students, including middle-class college students. The government picking up a larger share of the college tab (or giving out tax credits for it) is not a solution (and may only increase the problem) to the college tuition growth rate.
Noticeably absent from this section is any willingness to embrace merit pay for teachers (think that smart math and science teachers might stick around longer if they were compensated according to results, not years worked?), give vouchers to low-income kids, or end the control unions have over schools.
Cutting The Deficit By More Than $4 Trillion. We must return to the principles that made America great, rewarding hard work and responsibility. By eliminating special loopholes and tax breaks that benefit big business and the wealthiest – as part of a balanced deficit reduction plan that also cuts spending we can’t afford – we can grow our economy without burdening our children and grandchildren with debt.
Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler argued that “the repeated claim that Obama’s budget reduces the deficit by $4 trillion is simply not accurate” in September, writing:
The $4 trillion figure, for instance, includes counting some $1 trillion in cuts reached a year ago in budget negotiations with Congress. So no matter who is the president, the savings are already in the bank.
Moreover, the administration is also counting $848 billion in phantom savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the administration had long made clear those wars would end.
In other words, by projecting war spending far in the future, the administration is able to claim credit for saving money it never intended to spend. (Imagine taking credit for saving money on buying a new car every year, even though you intended to keep your car for 10 years.)
Rather than good arithmetic, independent budget analysts called the maneuver “a major budget gimmick.”
The administration also counts $800 billion in savings in debt payments (from lower deficits) as a “spending cut,” which is a dubious claim. We didn’t realize that debt payments were now considered a government program.
So not only has the national debt increased by over $5 trillion since Obama took office, but he also has no credible plan for debt reduction in his second term.
Putting YOU in Charge of Your Health Care. Health care costs were skyrocketing and families were denied care. So President Obama passed a landmark law to expand access to affordable insurance, letting young adults stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, eliminating lifetime coverage limits, ending denials based on pre-existing conditions, and eliminating cost sharing and other out-of-pocket costs for recommended preventive care.
“Putting YOU in charge of your health care” is so not going to be the slogan that IPAB (the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the unelected board that is created as part of Obamacare to curb medical costs) uses on their materials (unless someone sarcastic writes their pamphlets). No, technically, IPAB isn’t allowed to ration – but it can decide payments to providers, which means that seniors may find themselves without access to critical treatments due to the low payments provided by Medicare.
And pushing aside the absurdity of making 26 the new 18 (and as someone who bought my own health insurance the year I was 22, I understand the annoyance of buying it), as of 2010, 37 states required insurance companies to keep some or all of a family’s 18 or older kids on health insurance if certain circumstances (such as the child being a student) applied. There’s no need for Obamacare to solve this issue if you want government intervention.
Protecting Retirement Security. We can choose a future where we cut our deficit without wrecking our middle class. President Obama has put forward a specific, balanced plan of spending cuts and revenue increases providing more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, without ending guaranteed benefits in Medicare or slashing Social Security.
As I’ve already mentioned, the $4 trillion deficit reduction claim is risible. And here are the “slashes” Romney would like to make to social security: raising the retirement age, and means-testing Social Security benefits so those fat cats Obama is always railing about don’t get them. As far as Medicare goes, Romney would do nothing to the program that would affect those 55 or older. For those younger, Romney wants to give seniors a choice: either staying in Medicare, or getting a check from the government and purchasing their own insurance.