Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney rolled out a detailed economic recovery plan on Tuesday in a bid to regain some of the political ground he lost after Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race last month. The plan includes a deep cut in corporate taxes and far-ranging reductions in government red tape. During a speech at a Las Vegas truck dealership, the former Massachusetts governor and business executive unveiled his plan, “Believe in America,” which contains 59 recommendations. Romney would slash the corporate tax rate from a maximum of 35 percent to 25 percent, rewrite or eliminate government regulations, including President Obama’s health care reforms, which he says discourages job creation, and promote free trade and domestic oil and gas drilling.
Romney vowed to keep marginal income tax rates as well as tax rates on savings and investments low, while eliminating taxes on interest dividends and capital gains for middle-income taxpayers. He boasted that his approach would lead to 4 percent-a-year growth in the overall economy and the creation of 11.5 million new jobs over four years. “The right answer for America is not to grow government or to believe that government can create jobs,” he said. “It is instead to create the conditions that allow the private sectors and entrepreneurs to create jobs and to grow our economy. Growth is the answer, not government.”
Romney has focused almost exclusively on jobs and the economy since launching his second bid for the GOP presidential nomination, and he timed the release of his detailed proposal a day before the third major Republican candidates’ debate of the season and two days before President Obama is scheduled to describe his formula for jumpstarting the economy and reducing the 9.1 percent unemployment rate. Romney, the one-time frontrunner, is now trailing Perry by at least 15 percentage points in the polls.
Shift in Strategy – to Stand Out in a Crowded Field
Romney’s speech was his first major policy statement since he declared his bid for the GOP nomination in June, and marked a shift in strategy from the early months of his campaign, when he nursed his lead in the polls with a series of low-key campaign appearances.
The 2012 Republican presidential campaign has reached a critical phase in which Perry and Romney constitute the top tier of candidates in a crowded field that also includes Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas. Romney, the scion of a prominent Michigan political family and the CEO and founder of a major Boston investment and venture capital firm, is offering himself to voters as the only candidate with the private sector knowledge necessary to spark growth in the U.S. job market.
“I have spent most of my career … starting new businesses and turning around ailing ones,” Romney wrote in a USA Today op-ed this morning, previewing the plan. “Unlike career politicians who’ve never met a payroll, I know why jobs come and go.” His comments seemed a clear dig at Perry, who has worked in politics since he was elected to the Texas statehouse in 1985.
Perry, a late entrant in the race, is leading the GOP primary field with 38 percent of Republican primary voters’ support, to 23 percent for Romney, followed by Paul with 9 percent and Bachmann with 8 percent, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
Perry has captured the fancy of the Tea Party and other conservatives ever since he formally entered the race, and many were looking forward to his first real test in Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate. But Perry said Tuesday that he is reconsidering whether to participate in the debate in California because of wildfires raging in his state. “I don’t know,” Perry said when asked if he would take part. “That’s a fluid situation at the moment, so again I go back to we’re going to be taking care of the folks here.”
Romney has generated little interest among Tea Party adherents, in part because of the health care reforms he pushed through as Massachusetts governor that became a template for Obama’s much-derided health care reforms. Among other economic and budget proposals he detailed today, Romney would restrain federal spending by passing a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution and immediately cut non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent, to reduce the budget by $20 billion.
He would require that any new regulations that increase the cost of doing business be offset by eliminating another series of regulations simultaneously. His plan would also create what he’s calling a “Reagan Economic Zone”—a free trade and enterprise alliance with other countries, to open markets for U.S. goods and services.
He also proposed merging 47 separate worker retraining programs operated by nine federal agencies into one “rational system.”
While revealing his proposals for reviving the economy on Tuesday, Romney also announced his appointment of two economic heavyweights as his chief economic advisers. Glenn Hubbard, the Columbia University Business School dean and chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Greg Mankiw, another former CEA chairman, joined Romney’s campaign team.
Perry and Bachmann have informally outlined similar job creation proposals. Both have shunned the idea of more fiscal stimulus, and instead called to cut taxes for individuals and corporations, roll back “job killing” regulations, repeal the health law, and decrease the country’s reliance on foreign oil through increased domestic exploration.
Perry’s strategy has been to tout Texas’ robust job growth, which he claims, is due to his push to keep taxes low, regulations “reasonable,” and a government grant program he launched in 2003 to lure businesses to the state. Bachmann, for her part, has called for a tax holiday for U.S. companies on profits made abroad. “American companies have sitting in the bank over a trillion dollars. If we had a zero rate of repatriation, by that afternoon that trillion dollars would be back in the United States. Do you know how many jobs would be created?” she said in a Florida speech late last month.
Democrats and liberal groups were dismissive of Romney’s plan. The Democratic National Committee termed it a “laundry list of economic proposals” that panders to the Tea Party and “puts the narrow interests of the privileged few ahead of everyone else.”