Mitt Romney is putting meat on the bones of his contention that he will be the nation’s turnaround artist.
Romney announced his jobs plan — an array of specific steps packaged in a 160-page tome entitled “Believe in America” — in a speech in North Las Vegas, at McCandless International Trucks Inc. The end goal of his plan is a restoration of national prosperity by the completion of his first term.
“The entire jobs-and-economic-growth plan will achieve about 4 percent year-over-year GDP growth,” a Romney aide asserts, citing the campaign’s economic models. “This means the economy will create eleven and a half million new private-sector jobs over the course of the governor’s first term as president. We project the unemployment rate to be about 5.9 percent by the end of his first term in office. On the spending side, we spend about $1.6 trillion less than President Obama proposes over the first four years, and over eight years, about $4 trillion less than the president proposes.”
While Romney has plenty of long-term solutions on tap, the campaign is highlighting the ten steps he would take immediately. He would send five bills to Congress that would slash the corporate-income-tax rate to 25 percent; establish the much-talked-about free-trade agreements with Panama, South Korea, and Colombia; make job-retraining programs a state concern, not federal; ax non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent, leading to $20 billion in savings; and launch leasing of energy-rich areas approved for exploration to companies.
Romney would also issue five executive orders on the first day. The first would be an order “to pave the way to end Obamacare,” which would “return [to the states] the maximum possible authority” on health-care decisions. He would also order agencies to eliminate regulations installed during the Obama administration that harm job creation and the economy, and reverse Obama’s pro–Big Labor executive orders. Romney would issue an order to allow for quick issue of drilling permits to developers with solid safety records, and have the Department of Treasury classify China as a “currency manipulator” and the Department of Commerce look in to slapping duties on imports from China if the nation refuses to float its currency.
That last order, the campaign acknowledges, may prove controversial. “Many of our friends on the right may not like it. If we’re going to get serious about having a fair trade relationship with China, we’ve got to hold them accountable,” a Romney aide says. Also sure to be contentious is the reduction of the corporate-tax rate immediately, without any changes to help make up the lost revenue. The campaign says their models show that some of the revenue loss will be offset by economic growth, but acknowledges that it will ultimately take a broadening of the tax-paying base to recoup the rest. More thorough tax reform is slated for a later date in the Romney administration.
The campaign cites Romney’s seriousness about spending cuts as the key reason his plan differs from the one put out last week by Jon Huntsman. Included in Romney’s plan is a goal of capping spending at 20 percent of the national GDP, and advocating a balanced-budget amendment. (Huntsman also supports a balanced-budget amendment, although he did not specifically note it in his jobs plan.) Another significant difference is that the Romney campaign has not yet announced which tax deductions they want put on the table for elimination or reduction; Huntsman’s plan would eliminate all of them.
But while Romney touts his goal of capping spending at 20 percent of GDP, he is spare on the details about how that will be achieved. Changes to the current entitlement system nab only a page in the jobs plan. Romney devotes two sentences to Medicare reform: “Similarly, with respect to Medicare, the plan put forward by Congressman Paul Ryan makes important strides in the right direction by keeping the system solvent and introducing market-based dynamics. As president, Romney’s own plan will differ, but it will share those objectives.” Social Security and Medicaid also get short shrift when it comes to details.
In many ways, Romney’s plan sounds like the typical GOP platform: keeping taxes low or reducing rates further, slashing onerous regulation, promoting free trade, and easing the oil-drilling permit process are all ideas repeated ad nasueam by Republican candidates at every level of government. But his campaign also sees a few ways in which his plan differs from the pack. An aide points out Romney’s stance on China, his view that job retraining should be a states’ affair, his determination to ban unions from using automatic dues deductions to promote political candidates or positions, and his promotion of the “Reagan Economic Zone” as issues where he stands out. That last policy would involve creating a “multilateral alliance with countries that are willing to observe higher standards on intellectual property and other things that matter to the United States” for the sake of “preferred trading status,” according to an aide.
With 59 specific policy proposals, the Romney plan at the very least offers lots of grist for the GOP jobs debate, which is now in full swing.
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.