BOSTON -- Setting aside the occasional lurch into foreign policy, Mitt Romney’s campaign has refocused itself in recent days on the issue that, polls show, Americans care about this year far more than anything else: jobs and the economy.
Romney’s campaign speeches now center on his five-point economic plan that, he says, will create 12 million jobs over the next four years. (The current plan boils down Romney’s 59-point primary season proposal on jobs and the economy).
It’s surprisingly difficult to find substantive, independent analysis of the plan, which the GOP presidential nominee detailed in his speech to the Republican National Convention. The bottom line seems to be that few people are certain that the plan would work because aspects of it remain vague. Still, it includes some of the most specific policies that Romney has described for how he proposes to jump-start the economy. And its importance has only been underscored in recent days by polls showing that President Obama has drawn even with Romney on the question of who is better equipped to manage the economy.
Here are Romney’s five points, with quotations from his speeches in the last week:
- Achieve North American energy independence by increasing access to domestic fossil fuels, streamlining regulations and the permitting process, drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and approving the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada. "No. 1, we’re going to take advantage of our energy, and that’s going to create millions of jobs.”
- Improve education and job training, in part by increasing school choice and changing the way teachers are hired and evaluated. "We’ve got fix our schools.... It’s time for us to put the kids and the parents and the teachers first, and the teachers union behind.”
- Curtail unfair trade practices, especially those of China. “I will call China a currency manipulator and stop them in their tracks from killing American jobs.”
- Cut the federal deficit by reducing federal spending below 20% of GDP. “You’re not going to get entrepreneurs to go out and start an enterprise ... unless they realize we’re not headed to Greece.”
- Champion small business by cutting taxes and regulations, and by overturning Obamacare. “We need small business to grow. ... Small businesses have been crushed these past four years."
“If we do those five things I’m talking about, we’re going to create about 12 million jobs in the next four years,” he says.
That may be true, the Wall Street Journal said recently, in part because the addition of 12 million jobs is “not far off from where the labor market already is headed."
Forbes, on the other hand, found the plan “not tangible,” saying the U.S. economy was simply not poised to add 250,000 jobs a month for the next four years.
The site policymic.com came up with a handy summary of the pros and cons of each of the five points, without coming to any overall conclusion.
The plan was reportedly drawn up in consultation with several leading conservative economic thinkers, including Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia University Business School and a former chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors. Hubbard has summarized the Romney plan for creating 12 million jobs, although he does it in four main points, which don’t entirely overlap Romney’s five. For instance, he includes entitlement reform, including lower Social Security and Medicare benefits for affluent seniors (done by reducing future benefit increases, not by cutting existing rates). Romney advocates the same reforms, but has not made it a major talking point.
Democrats and individual interest groups (teachers, for instance, or environmentalists) can find plenty to hate in Romney’s plan. Conservatives can find plenty to like. For some wonks, the main problem with it isn’t what it says but what it doesn’t say. Writing in the Washington Post, Matt Miller said the five-point plan “only shows how little you need to offer at the presidential level to qualify as having a ‘plan.’”
Romney insists that all will be revealed. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos this week, he said: “I think in the debates ... we’ll get asked questions of some substance. And I’ll be able to describe in the kind of complete way that I think people would hope to hear.”