THE PUBLIC EYE: Obama vs. Romney: Jobs

By Bob Burnett
Friday October 12, 2012 - 12:09:00 PM

Jobs and the economy remain Americans’ number one concern. While Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have promised to create millions of jobs if they are elected President, there are stark differences between their plans. 

In the first presidential debate, Romney promised , “If I’m president I will create… 12 million new jobs,” the equivalent of 250,000 jobs per month for 48 months. The Washington Post “Factchecker” observed, “In recent months, the economy has averaged about 150,000 jobs a month… Moody’s analytics, in an August forecast, predicts 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, no matter who is president.” 

A Romney campaign policy paper The Romney Plan for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs contains no specific proposals for job creation but instead four assertions: (1) “Stop runaway federal spending and debt,” which would obviate the need for tax increases. (2)”Reform the nation’s tax code to increase growth and job creation… Reduce individual marginal income tax rates across-the-board by 20 percent, while keeping current low tax rates on dividends and capital gains.” (3)”Reform entitlement programs to ensure their viability.” (4) “Make growth and cost-benefit analysis important features of regulation… Remove regulation impediments to energy production… Repeal and replace the Dodd-Frank Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” 

Romney provides more specifics in a recent ad: “First, my energy independence policy means more than 3 million new jobs, many of them in manufacturing. My tax reform plan to lower rates for the middle class and for small business creates 7 million more. And expanding trade, cracking down on China and improving job training takes us to over 12 million new jobs." 

Romney claims cutting tax rates would create 7 million jobs. But there’s a huge fiscal risk. Reporting for NPR, John Ydstie noted, “[Romney’s tax plan] would cost the Treasury almost $5 trillion in lost tax revenue over 10 years. But Romney says it won’t cost $5 trillion, because he will offset the losses from lower rates by ending deductions and closing loopholes; he has not said which ones.” 

Romney contends his energy policy would create 3 million jobs. Once again, he’s vague on the specifics but said during the debate, “If I’m president, I’ll double [oil and gas drilling on public land], and also get… the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring that pipeline in from Canada. And, by the way, I like coal.” In other words, Romney would advocate a “drill baby, drill” policy that ignores public safety and environmental concerns. 

Despite Romney’s assertions to the contrary, the private sector lost jobs under the Bush Administration and gained jobs under Obama. Given the positive job news released on October 5th, the Obama Administration is net positive for jobs since January 2009. Another way to look at this is that 7.8 million jobs were lost under Bush; Obama stopped the outflow and added 125,00 jobs. Nonetheless, it’s clear there are too many people out of work – 12.1 million. 

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention Obama highlighted his plan to create more jobs: “a million new manufacturing jobs... [and because of his green energy policy] more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.” But many of these jobs require Federal investment. 

Reporting for NPR, John Ydstie noted that Obama’s plan is based upon the American Jobs Act. that the President proposed to congress September 8, 2011. While Congress approved a one-year extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits, Republican filibustered the primary provisions of Obama’s plan: “More spending on infrastructure, a tax cut for firms that hire new workers, aid to state and local governments, and a program to rebuild schools.” It’s estimated the American Jobs Act would create millions of jobs if passed. 

To summarize, the Obama and Romney plans differ because of the underlying tax and environmental policies. Obama finances his initiative by repealing those portions of the Bush-era tax cuts that apply to millionaires, a step that would raise an estimated $40 Billion to $50 Billion a year. Obama would launch infrastructure and clean-energy initiatives to create million of jobs. He would maintain high public-safety and environmental standards. 

Romney proposes an across-the-board 20 percent tax cut that would cost the US treasury $5 Billion and hopes this will create 7 million jobs. In addition, Romney would ignore concerns about global climate change, set aside current regulations, and support drilling in all venues. Writing in the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, University of California professor Arthur Blaustein described the Romney plan as a reprise of the Bush-Cheney era, where: “America experienced the weakest post-recession job-creation cycle since the Great Depression, record household debt and a substantial increase in poverty. We went from the biggest national budget surplus in history to the largest budget deficit in history.” 

Obama wants the economy to move forward. Romney wants to shift into reverse. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at