In this diary, I will present a walking tour through “Believe in American – Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth.” I hope it’s relatively painless. If you’ve been thinking you should have read the Romney plan by now and wondering what’s really in it given the sometimes conflicting claims, but just haven’t had the time or stomach to do it, this is for you.
Actually, tackling his document on your own is somewhat easier than you may have thought. Although you’ve probably heard it described as 159 pages, Adobe counts the pdf version at 87 pages, owing mainly to the smaller than 8.5 x 11” format of the original. So, for those who do have the time and inclination, or those like me who simply have to see it to believe it, here’s the link to the Romney plan (pdf).
Before I start, I need to note a couple of general things about budgets:
1. Almost invariably, budgets have numbers, you know, estimated amounts of revenue and expense. Romney’s document does not. Hence, rather than a budget, Romney’s document is more like a rambling philosophical treatise. At most, it’s a set of some of the policies he advocates. (In contrast, Paul Ryan seems to have turned over his own philosophical treatise and policy recommendations to the Congressional Budget Office for conversion to into a very short approximation of what an actual budget might look like if his proposals were all accepted by both houses of Congress, but Ryan’s plan is not the topic of this diary.)
2. The hardest part of “balancing” a budget for an entity like a government is estimating the correct amount of revenue that will be collected. Expenses can be more-or-less calculated based on quotes provided by suppliers and decisions that can be made about how much money to spend and how to spend it. Revenue, on the other hand, depends on variable factors such as the number of people who will be working and paying taxes at a given rate, i.e., unknowns. In such cases, a useful budget should include not only the dollar amounts estimated for the future period, but also a side-by-side comparison to the actual amounts recorded in the most recent previous period. Deviations should be explained. Without this, virtually any budget can be made to “balance” merely by adjusting the revenue projections. Mitt Romney has promised to create 12 million new jobs. I hope someone will pin him down with questions about how much estimated tax revenue is associated with all these hypothetical new workers and what will happen to the expense side of his budget if these jobs fail to appear.
And, a couple of general things about the document:
1. The copyright notice
Copyright © 2011 Romney for President, Inc. All rights reserved. Brief excerpts or quotations from this publication accompanied by proper acknowledgement may be used in blog posts, news reports, articles, or reviews. Permission to reprint or post longer sections or entire chapters must be obtained in writing from Romney for President, Inc.I will respect that restriction, in accordance with my understanding of fair use, so as not to cause any financial damage to Mr. Romney or his publisher, to the extent that such damage is possible in that document that is available for free online.
No attempt was made to disguise the fact that almost none of Mitt Romney’s plan was written by Mitt Romney which might explain why he sounds so vague when asked about it. Note that the title itself is expressed in the third person as is almost all the text . The author of the majority of the text is, at least to me, unknown.
In fact, the tiny amount (nine paragraphs) of writing by Mr. Romney included in his plan (beyond the almost 4-page “Introduction/ letter” in which Mr. Romney recaps his own “success” and President Obama’s “failure”), is actually excerpted from his book published last year, No Apology, The Case for American Greatness, still available at Amazon, list price $15.99, now discounted to $6.40 or free for Kindle.
On the other hand, the various segments of the plan include sidebars contributed by other conservatives who are identified. Generally, their contributions are a little bit campaign speech, a little bit sermonette. These contributors include: Scott McNealy, founder and former CEO of Sun Microsystems; Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., which operates the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurant brands; Dave Heineman, governor of Nebraska; Jim Talent, former U.S. Senator from Missouri; Peter Schaumber, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board; Jim Risch, U.S. Senator from Idaho; and, of course, Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, and in 2010, the Republican nominee for governor of California. Even if you decide to read the document for yourself, I’d say you could comfortably skip those.
Finally, take a look at the tour map while you’re slipping into your walking shoes:
The Table of ContentsYou may feel you already know what Mitt Romney (or his surrogate on his behalf) would say about each of the segments named in the TOC. If you want to know a little more about what has been committed to writing in Mitt’s name regarding how he would save our country, head down below the fold for more including some quotes and some comments.
02 Introduction: Letter from Mitt Romney
06 Day One, Job One
09 Part I: America in Economic Crisis
21 Part II: President Obama’s Failure
31 Part III: Mitt Romney’s Plan
37 Tax Policy
53 Regulatory Policy
69 Trade Policy
85 Energy Policy
101 Labor Policy
119 Human Capital Policy
135 Fiscal Policy
The Foreword and Introduction
The foreword was written by R. Glenn Hubbard, the Dean and Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia Business School in New York. It’s unlikely that he also wrote the text.
Mr. Romney did write an introduction in the form of a letter, almost 4 pages long. You surely have heard before all they contain: the now familiar charge that President Obama is a failure, blah, blah, blah, debt, blah, blah, blah, unemployment, blah, blah, blah, entitlement programs going bankrupt, blah, blah, blah, and how super qualified Mitt himself is to step into President Obama’s job, blah, blah, blah. Move along folks, nothing new to see here.
Day One, Job One
This is short, important, and I believe within the limits of fair use, so here is the complete list:
FIVE BILLS FOR DAY ONEPart I: America in Economic Crisis, contains nothing worth opening the pdf to read. Here’s a snip:
The American Competitiveness Act
• Reduces the corporate income tax rate to 25 percent
The Open Markets Act
• Implements the Colombia, Panama, and South Korea Free Trade Agreements
The Domestic Energy Act
• Directs the Department of the Interior to undertake a comprehensive survey of American energy reserves in partnership with exploration companies and initiates leasing in all areas currently approved for exploration
The Retraining Reform Act
• Consolidates the sprawl of federal retraining programs and returns funding and responsibility for these programs to the states
The Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act
• Immediately cuts non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent, reducing the annual federal budget by $20 billion
FIVE EXECUTIVE ORDERS FOR DAY ONE
An Order to Pave the Way to End Obamacare
• Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal officials to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health care solutions that work best for them
An Order to Cut Red Tape
• Directs all agencies to immediately initiate the elimination of Obama-era regulations that unduly burden the economy or job creation, and then caps annual increases in regulatory costs at zero dollars
An Order to Boost Domestic Energy Production
• Directs the Department of the Interior to implement a process for rapid issuance of drilling permits to developers with established safety records seeking to use pre-approved techniques in pre-approved areas
An Order to Sanction China for Unfair Trade Practices
• Directs the Department of the Treasury to list China as a currency manipulator in its biannual report and directs the Department of Commerce to assess countervailing duties on Chinese imports if China does not quickly move to float its currency
An Order to Empower American Businesses and Workers
• Reverses the executive orders issued by President Obama that tilt the playing field in favor of organized labor, including the one encouraging the use of union labor on major government construction projects
The Recovery That Never WasHow’s that for jumping right over George W. Bush? You can jump right over Part I.
Job creation and full employment require economic growth. From 1997 to 2000, with GDP growth averaging 4.5 percent annually, the average annual unemployment rate was 4.4 percent. In contrast, from 2009 to 2011, with quarterly GDP growth averaging only 1.2 percent, the average monthly unemployment rate was 9.4 percent. During this period, GDP growth peaked at 3.9 percent for a single quarter before rapidly falling back down to an anemic 0.4 percent and then 1.0 percent in the first and second quarters of 2011, respectively. [emphasis mine]
Part II: President Obama’s Failure. Again, there’s nothing new in this part. Just skip it
Part III: Mitt Romney’s Plan. Here we go. After 3 pages lauding Mitt Romney’s past successes which the author claims uniquely qualify him to be the leader of the free world, we might be getting to some specifics, right? Wrong. Next comes a few more pages on what the author calls Obama’s “Eat Our Peas” approach. In this segment, Romney blames Obama for a $500 billion tax increase (assuming he allows the Bush tax cuts to expire for people making over $250K.) Then, at last, comes the claim that after day one, Mitt would:
Promote Savings and Investment [a euphemism for “Mitts tax plan”]
For individuals: Mitt would “Maintain Low Marginal Rates [the Bush tax cuts at all income levels], Further Reduce Taxes on Savings and … [establish a] Middle-Class Tax Savings Plan that would enable most Americans to save more for retirement … seek to eliminate taxation on capital gains, dividends, and interest for any taxpayer with an adjusted gross income of under $200,000 … [and] Eliminate the Death Tax … [and] Pursue a Fairer, Flatter, Simpler Tax Structure,” elsewhere, but not here, specified as 20% across the board cut, and elsewhere, but not here, he’s also said he would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax.
For corporations: Mitt would “Lower the Corporate Tax Rate [because] “corporations are people.” [Yes, it’s really stated in his plan] … “High corporate tax rates do not even accomplish what they are intended to accomplish. Studies of the American tax system have demonstrated that higher corporate rates do not necessarily lead to higher revenues. In fact, high corporate taxes can discourage business activity and encourage practices aimed at avoiding tax liability. It is for this reason, perhaps, that corporate tax revenue in the United States is consistently lower than that in other OECD countries, despite our high tax rates.”
And, in this section, here’s something newish you may not have seen before that warrants a longer look:
Transition to a “Territorial” Tax SystemEmphasis mine. I thought everyone knew that the Simpson Bowles Commission, being unable to reach the required supermajority, did NOT issue any committee recommendations. Committee member Paul Ryan, for example, voted against the policies that won a majority vote. This is why the sequestration mandates were triggered. Any recommendations coming from Simpson and/or Bowles are their personal recommendations, not the committees. BTW, The Tax Policy Center (Urban Institute and Brookings Institution) has said that 95% of Americans will pay higher taxes under Romney’s plan so 5% can pay less.
“As president, Mitt Romney will also act immediately to alter those of our tax laws that encourage American multinational companies to park their profits permanently overseas. The United States currently operates under what is known as a “worldwide” tax system, meaning that business income is taxed at the U.S. rate regardless of whether the income is earned within American borders or overseas. Under this collection method, American companies pay the corporate tax in the host country, and when profits are repatriated back to the United States, the company pays the difference between what was paid to the host country and what would have been owed under the U.S. rate. Given our higher rates, the effect of this is to penalize those U.S. corporations that bring their foreign profits home to invest in the United States. It is a deeply irrational system that benefits the rest of the world at our expense. It needs to be changed.
Romney supports the recommendation of the Bowles-Simpson Commission to make the switch to a territorial system. This would enhance the ability of our corporations to compete around the world and would end the perverse incentives that keep companies from repatriating profits to the United States. Domestic companies that can compete vigorously abroad are in a better position to grow and create jobs at home. Complex technical issues will arise during the transition: amendments to the tax code need to be crafted in a way that does not encourage corporations to game the system and export jobs or to move their U.S. headquarters abroad. With proper draftsmanship, these potential hazards can be overcome. A territorial system must be designed to encourage the creation of jobs in the United States, not to outsource them. A Romney administration will begin work on the transition to a territorial system on day one. As much as $1 trillion, that could be invested in the United States, is at stake. It is past time to eliminate tax laws that place American firms at a competitive disadvantage, decrease revenue, and diminish corporate investment in America.
Notwithstanding President Obama’s counterproductive meddling in the tax code, there are some short-term measures that—far from increasing uncertainty and discouraging job creators—can serve as powerful incentives for investment and hiring. These short-term measures are very much the subject of current discussion and debate in Washington. Some of them may even be proposed by President Obama in the coming days.”
Part III continued: Regulatory Policy Poor, poor corporate America. President Obama is so mean. Mitt would exempt corporations from regulations designed to protect Americans from corporate thievery (The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009 and net neutrality) and poisonous operations so they can make stellar profits. Romney promises to repeal and replace Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, review and eliminate Obama-era regulations including unspecified “excessive environmental regulations,” cap new regulatory costs at zero dollars, require Congress to approve all major regulations, and reform legal liability system.”
Part III continued: Trade Policy. In two words: bash China. Here’s an excerpt:
Insist on Reciprocal Government ProcurementPart III continued: Energy Policy. After the blame Obama for making us dependent on foreign oil, nearly bankrupting the coal industry, and sacrificing jobs for breathable air, Romney promises to get over “An ‘unhealthy’ green jobs obsession.” He would do this through policies that would provide “a rational and streamlined approach to regulation” to maximize the production of oil and gas. Specifically, he would “Streamline and Fast-Track Permitting Processes,” partner with Canada and Mexico on projects such as the Keystone XL, frack, frack, frack, and – hold your breath – amend the Clean Air Act to exclude regulation of carbon. According to the author, good places for exploration and production include “the Gulf of Mexico, both the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves, Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and off the Alaska coast.” And it includes not only conventional reserves, but more recently discovered shale oil deposits as well. “When the drilling is done off-shore, the adjacent states should be entitled to a reasonable share of the revenue, just as they are now from on-shore production.”
China is not a member of the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). However, it has declared its intent to join. The GPA forbids member nations from discriminating against one another’s products and services in the course of government procurement. The Chinese government, by itself one of the world’s largest consumers, has failed to make good on its commitment to accede to the GPA, and continues to strongly favor domestic Chinese providers. There is no reason for the United States to tolerate this state of affairs. Until China joins and abides by the GPA, a Romney administration will respond in kind by ending U.S. government procurement of Chinese goods and services.
Part III continued: Labor Policy. Labor policy, to Romney, means labor union policy. He would “appoint experienced and even-handed arbiters to the NLRB,”… “guarantee businesses the right to allocate capital as they choose,”… “protect right of workers to choose whether to unionize,” … and “end funding of union political campaigns through paycheck deductions.” Romney would defend the free enterprise system, free speech, and the rule of law. Your interpretation may vary.
Part III continued: [hang in there, we’re almost done with this stretch] Human capital policy. Of course, the author cites “the mismatch between the skill set of the American workforce and the requirements of the employment market ,” a blame-the-worker notion very effectively debunked a few days ago by Laura Clawson
Mitt would get rid of what the author refers to as President Obama’s “ineffective government for all.” To do this, Romney would “consolidate the unwieldy sprawl of federal programs for worker retraining, return authority, responsibility, and funds to states for retraining programs, and support private-sector participation in the process.” And, he will “raise visa caps for highly skilled foreign workers and “give permanent residency to eligible advanced-degree recipients.”
Just a few pages left, and as this is ostensibly a budget, you knew that sooner or later we’d get to this:
Part III continued: Fiscal Policy.
Once again, this segment begins with accusations hurled at President Obama. Before, I have largely brushed them off. This time, however, the charge is so scurrilous, I’m quoting a part of it.
The Obama Approach: Deliberate DisasterAs if the fallout from the Bush presidency and his Republicans policies -- an international financial and economic meltdown -- could have been ignored and left to the invisible hand of the markets! What, exactly, would the savior of the SLC Olympic games (with only $342 million in direct federal funding and an additional $1.1 billion in indirect financing from Washington) do to save America? That is the question.
In the twentieth century, the United States increased spending dramatically in three instances: World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. We are now in the midst of another spending surge. Over the first three years of President Obama’s tenure in the White House, federal spending grew from $2.98 trillion to $3.82 trillion, an enormous 28 percent increase. Future spending is also expected to continue expanding unchecked. This sharp rise has been entirely a matter of choice. Even as federal spending remains wholly within our control, Washington is spending money in an out-of-control fashion. This is a binge of choice. By every metric used to gauge federal expenditures, the United States is careening down a dangerous path.
Part III Fiscal Policy continued.
What would Mitt do? Here are a few snips:
Cut and Cap the Budgetthis,
As president, Mitt Romney will immediately move to cut spending and cap it at 20 percent of GDP. As spending comes under control, he will pursue further cuts that would allow caps to be set even lower so as to guarantee future fiscal stability. While getting the federal debt under control will be a long and arduous task, the first step toward recovery is admitting we have a problem and refusing to allow any more irresponsible borrowing. The good news is that many Americans have awoken to the problem. The rise of the Tea Party is a classic instance of the self-correcting forces of American democracy in action. One way or another, Washington will get the message that we must live within our means, spend only what we take in, and pay down our debt. Romney will move immediately to cut non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent. But more will be required to bring the budget under control. The plan the House passed earlier this year to return non-security discretionary spending to below pre-Obama levels is a step in the right direction that could save hundreds of billions of dollars over the decade.
Enact Entitlement Reformthis,
Any serious attempt to rein in spending will have to include entitlement reform. This issue is among the most complex facing policymakers, but some basic principles guide Mitt Romney’s position. First, we must keep the promises made to our current retirees: their Social Security and Medicare benefits should not be affected. But second, we should ensure that the promises that we make to younger generations are promises we can keep.
With respect to Social Security, there are a number of options that can be pursued to keep the system solvent—from raising the eligibility age to changing the way benefits are indexed to inflation for high-income retirees. One option that should not be on the table is raising the payroll tax or expanding the base of income to which the tax is applied. 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.
Romney will also work to reform and restructure Medicaid. Currently, the federal government writes the states a blank check for the program....As president, Romney will push for the conversion of Medicaid to a block grant administered by the states. This approach could save the federal government over $200 billion each year by the end of the decade while also providing states with the flexibility to develop innovative and effective approaches best suited to their needs.
Reduce the Federal Workforcethis,
A complementary step would be to align the wages and benefits of federal workers with market rates and then work to reduce the overall size of the federal workforce by 10 percent.…
Undertake Fundamental Restructuringand this:
Reining in the federal government’s runaway spending promises to be an enormous undertaking... If given a shot, the private sector will certainly do a better job.
...Every government program and budget must be subjected to an intense top-down review to determine, first, whether tax dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently, and, second, whether there are more suitable alternatives to currently flawed approaches.
Pursue a Balanced Budget Amendment
We also must put controls in place to ensure that we never see a repeat of the explosive spending and borrowing of the past few years. A Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution is necessary to ensure that our nation embarks on a path of long-term fiscal discipline, and as president, Mitt Romney will introduce one in Congress and fight for its passage. A properly constructed amendment would guard against the use of net revenue increases to achieve balance by requiring a super-majority for the passage of any tax hike. And it would include only very limited exceptions, such as for war or national security emergencies.
Conclusion a final snip, you knew this was coming
There is no question that when President Obama took office he faced serious challenges....but actively made things worse.
I hope I’ve given you enough of the highlights that you feel sufficiently conversant with the Romney Plan so as to avoid having to read it yourself. If not, I hope I’ve given you a sufficient introduction that you can read it without fear of getting lost in the weeds. (There are no weeds.) If you know of significant points contained in the plan that I failed to include in this tour, please bring them up in the comments below. If you have questions on specific issues (like how he’ll pay for the enormous tax cuts to the rich), maybe someone can answer them, but I’ll most likely have to invoke the words of the very conservative Brookings Institution
“We do not score Governor Romney’s plan directly, as certain components of his plan are not specified in sufficient detail, nor do we make assumptions regarding what those components might be.”
Wait, what about jobs, jobs, jobs? He's promised 250,000 per month every single month. According to Mitt's plan, the proposals mentioned in the plan are job creators! Appended to the Romney plan is a list of 59 proposals culled from or implicit in his stated plan. I think I’ve pressed the fair use doctrine as far as I can, so as much as I’d like to include his 59-point list here, I’m referring you to the link at the top of this diary. Scroll almost to the end and you’ll find his list just ahead of the “endnotes.”