This article is one of 12 that examine where President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stand on some of the issues that are important to voters.
Obama says he would improve the economy by putting more Americans to work through investments in education, research and technology. He has set a goal of doubling American exports and creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016. He argues the bailout of the automotive industry saved more than 1 million jobs. He also claims the U.S. economy has added 459,000 private sector manufacturing jobs since January 2010.
Obama would eliminate tax breaks for businesses that send jobs overseas and provide tax incentives for companies that create more jobs in America. He plans to use half of the money saved by ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to build roads, bridges, schools and other public projects, creating more jobs. He also would use war savings to help pay down the national debt.
Mitt Romney touts a five-part proposal to get more Americans back to work. He has stated that his goal is to put 12 million unemployed Americans to work in the next four years.
In the first part of his plan, Romney says he would help make North America energy independent, creating more jobs because money spent on foreign oil would stay in the U.S.
The second part focuses on creating a level playing field for trade and opening new markets to export American products.
Part three is to create more jobs by improving the education sector. He would focus job training programs on skills that match unemployed workers with job opportunities.
Part four is to cut the deficit and get the national debt under control. He proposes capping federal spending below 20 percent of GDP and reducing the size of government by consolidating agencies. He also says he would immediately reduce nonsecurity discretionary spending by 5 percent.
Part five is to champion small business by seeking tax reforms that lowers tax rates for all Americans and by stopping the increase in federal regulations on businesses.
September's job report, released by the U.S. Department of Labor in early October, showed that the national unemployment rate improved to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent. It was the first time since Obama took office that the unemployment rate dipped below 8 percent. The unemployment rate was at about 5 percent in December 2007, before the recession kicked in.
John Hudak, a fellow for the Brookings Institution, an independent public policy organization, said Romney’s five-point economic plan is a very broad discussion of goals. At its heart are ideas that can help the economy, but the actual path to getting there remains unclear. He said Romney’s plan lacks specifics, so it’s impossible to tell whether it holds water. The basic argument is that reducing taxes would give businesses more money to hire more workers and expand and that if people have more income in their pockets, there would be an increase in consumer demand. Hudak, however, said there’s no guarantee that any of that would happen.
Obama’s plan is a little more detailed but still incomplete, Hudak said. The president is focused more on investment. He wants to invest in specific areas such as education and infrastructure.
Increased investment in infrastructure definitely would create jobs, Hudak said. Whether they will be lasting jobs is unclear. Improving infrastructure also would help commerce, he said, explaining that if our roads and airports were in better shape, for example, it would cost less to transport goods.
Hudak said that the ideas put forward by Obama would be expensive, which might concern voters worried about adding to the deficit.
Obama would pay for some of his proposals by raising taxes on higher income people. The idea of using the money the U.S. saves by ending the wars, however, doesn’t pan out mathematically because those conflicts added significantly to the national debt. “It’s not necessarily free money. It’s just less money that we’re borrowing.”