Romney and the 6 Percent Solution

By Carl M. Cannon - May 29, 2012

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When asked how he’d do this, Romney indicated that he believes the mere prospect of a Republican in the White House would reassure the start-up businesses and investors who are usually the engine of new employment.

“You’d see a very dramatic change in the perspective of small businesses, entrepreneurs, middle-size businesses, and perhaps even some large multinationals,” Romney prophesied. “They’d say, ‘You know what: America looks like a good place to invest again, a good place to take risk, a good place to hire again.’

“This is all about creating good jobs for middle-income Americans, and it’s a place where the president, frankly, has failed,” he continued. Apparently alluding to the Democrats’ sweeping health insurance mandate, Romney added: “His effort to put in place a series of liberal proposals he thought were historic kept his eye off the ball of getting the economy going again.”

When asked about specific measures they would take, he and his aides refer to a 59-point plan first proposed last year. In the Age of Twitter, a 59-point plan is counterintuitive in every way. The era of 140 characters? His plan, “Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth,” has 160 pages. In this sense, it’s a throwback to another era -- 1992, to be exact, when Bill Clinton’s “Putting People First” was a blueprint of his economic plans for the country.

Romney’s plan is not easy to summarize quickly, which is why the candidate and his communications office refer reporters to the campaign website. But there is a consistent thread of economic conservatism running through it that contemplates lower tax rates, less federal regulations, lower government spending, and fewer protections for labor unions.

The document is avowedly pro-trade, but it’s not uncritically for “free trade.” It calls for the implementation of already-negotiated trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, while advocating severely toughening Washington’s stance against the supposed predatory practices of China.

Here at home, its tilt against organized labor is not subtle. Romney would guarantee secret ballots in union elections, support right-to-work laws in the states, and prohibit mandatory union dues that are automatically deducted from workers’ paychecks to be used to fund political activities. He’d also amend the National Labor Relations Act so that business owners can allocate money for new plants “where they see fit” -- a response to a specific Obama-era NLRB ruling barring Boeing from relocating a manufacturing plant in South Carolina.

The president’s surrogates can needle the Republican challenger with the plausible accusation that “Romneycare” was the inspiration for “Obamacare,” but Romney vows to work to repeal the latter as soon as he gets to the Oval Office.

He also seeks to “streamline” the Dodd-Frank law governing financial institutions and exempt midsize companies from the “onerous requirements” of Sarbanes-Oxley, the law passed in the wake of numerous accounting scandals.

Romney’s plan also contemplates vacating all Obama-era executive orders and other executive branch decisions “that unduly burden the economy,” requiring congressional approval for all such future regulations, and enacting federal tort reform designed to prevent “spurious” litigation. He would also require the EPA and other federal agencies tasked with safeguarding the environment to factor the cost in American jobs while formulating policy.

Some of the 59 items are quite specific: (“Reduce the corporate income tax to 25 percent”). Others are vague: (“Initiate review and elimination of all Obama-era regulations that unduly burden the economy”).

Finally, Romney envisions aligning federal workers’ pay and benefits with the private sector, reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent via attrition, and capping federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, and pursuing a balanced budget amendment.

Most of these proposals are boilerplate 21st century Republicanism. Some are pie-in-the-sky, others are grounded in reality. Many of them will never come to pass, and some of the ones that might be enacted would diminish the rights of the workingman and further enrich the wealthy.

But would they also put millions more Americans back to work? They might, which is why the Romney-Obama polls are so close. 

Erin McPike contributed to this report.

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Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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