Mitt Romney's got a plan
The first few paragraphs of Mitt Romney's job-creation proposal read like the introduction to a particularly boring segment on the Hannity show ("Almost every action the president has taken has deepened and lengthened the downturn"). But get past them, and Romney does something that most Republicans have shied from lately: He's outlines an actual economic agenda.
Here it is:
To give an immediate boost to jobs and investment, permit businesses to write off in 2010 and 2011 the capital investments made in those years rather than over time. Aggressively negotiate and sign trade agreements with other nations to promote American exports. Adopt an energy policy that will actually eliminate our dependence on OPEC and hostile states. Preserve our balanced labor-management rules and regulators. Rather than raising the tax on investment dividends, eliminate it and the tax on capital gains and interest for all households earning less than $250,000 a year.
Reshape government programs to ultimately put spending in balance with revenues. Restructure entitlements to make them fiscally sustainable, honoring our commitments to seniors. Rather than opening the door to ever-increasing demands from states for bail-outs, take action to enable the states to solve their unfunded pension obligations. And tame the growth of government by limiting the political power of public employee unions.
You can separate this into a few buckets: mostly regressive tax cuts that might spur economic growth; massive legislation with huge implications but no details or obvious paths to passage (trade agreements, entitlement reform, energy bill); and cuts to public-sector jobs that will raise the unemployment rate. But you know what? Good for Romney. This is actually an agenda, which means we can actually talk about it.
And one thing I'd note is that this seems certain to hugely increase uncertainty. A new energy bill? Uncertainty, both during the legislative process and the regulatory definitions process. New tax proposals? Uncertainty during the long legislative process; you don't want to make capital gains decisions if you the capital gains tax rate might change pretty soon. Forcing deep budget reforms on the state level? Uncertainty, as businesses don't know what the cuts will mean for demand or infrastructure.
Now, that may all be acceptable: I'm not a big believer in the uncertainty argument, and if good policy requires a period of uncertainty, then fine. But since Romney says that the private sector is currently "paralyzed by the uncertainty," it's not clear to me how pushing a lot more uncertainty into the mix would help. All that said, I appreciate Romney's tentative specificity. Actually saying what you would like to do to help the American economy is, well, presidential.
August 18, 2010; 4:31 PM ET
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