As election nears, a look at where Obama and Romney stand on business issues

October 28, 2012

For the past six months, Capital Business has been tracking the presidential race for issues that affect businesses. There has been no shortage of talk by both candidates about tax credits for hiring workers, job creation proposals and lowering corporate tax rates. Here’s a look back at the road each candidate took as Election Day approaches.

May

Obama outlined tax incentives for businesses as part of a proposal that will become the centerpiece of his job creation plan. It centers around a 20 percent tax credit for companies that move operations from overseas back to the United States, and a 10 percent tax credit for businesses that create jobs or increase wages.

Both candidates began in earnest to court support from business groups. Obama hosted a business roundtable at Taylor Gourmet (left) in the District. Both candidates spoke at the annual economic summit of the Latino Coalition, a business group, in D.C. Romney held a rally at Somers Furniture, a small business in Las Vegas.

Romney took aim at Obama’s résuméin politics and public policy, and suggested that three years of experience in business should be a prerequisite to being president. He branded the Affordable Care Act, often dubbed Obamacare, as a “job killer.”

June

The idea that the president should be an “employer-in-chief” emerged as each candidate grew increasingly critical of the other’s business acumen, particularly when speaking before business associations. Romney attended the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable, an association of corporate executives, where he said the government should be a friend to business.

The Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act put health care reform in the spotlight. Romney vowed to repeal the law if he is elected, saying it is a regulatory burden for businesses.

July

The Labor Department’s jobs reports became a monthly occasion for sparring, giving both candidates a chance to repeat claims that they would ease unemployment if elected. Obama focused on his plans to give tax incentives for businesses, while Romney had yet to come out with a comprehensive jobs plan.

Outsourcing jobs became a central issue. A Washington Post report scrutinized Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, during which the private equity firm invested in companies that pioneered the practice of moving U.S. jobs to other countries. Meanwhile, manufacturing groups called on Obama to declare China a “currency manipulator,” which would allow the United States to put tariffs in place to protect American industries.

The now-infamous “you didn’t build that” remark gained traction after Romney cites an excerpt from a speech Obama gave in July, which he said showed the president’s disdain for entrepreneurs. Obama said the statement was taken out of context. His complete comment alluded to the fact that successful people have benefited from the help of others, including teachers and government investment in roads and bridges.

August

Energy jobs became a talker. Obama supported extending a federal tax credit for companies that produce wind and other alternative energy;Romney’s campaign has said it would allow the credit to expire. Two weeks later, Romney began promoting an energy plan of his own that seeks to make North America energy independent by 2020, create 3 million new jobs — including 1 million in manufacturing — and open up new areas for drilling off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas.

Romney tapped Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, propelling Ryan’s budget into the national spotlight. Ryan’s plan seeks to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent and close some tax exemptions — though it doesn’t specify which ones. This plan would garner much attention going forward, in part because Ryan said he wouldn’t disclose which loopholes he’s referring to until after the election, if he and Romney are elected.

September

Romney played up his role at Bain Capital, saying in his speech accepting the Republican nomination that Bain “was in the business of helping other businesses,” and that Obama has struggled to right the economy because he doesn’t have the same background in private enterprise. A week later at the Democrats’ national convention, Obama touted his administration’s tax cuts for small businesses that hire and retain employees, and reiterated his proposal for tax breaks to companies that hire U.S. workers.

Both candidates talked immigration reform, framing the issue as an important driver of entre­pre­neur­ship and job creation. Obama and Romney appeared separately in a forum hosted by Spanish language network Univision. Romney, who has opposed the DREAM Act, said he will push for solutions for immigration reform. One would be to support allowing immigrants who served in the military or who attended college in the United States to become permanent residents. He said his administration would not round up undocumented immigrants and deport them, though during the Republican primary, he supported “self-deportation.”

Obama, who in June announced his administration would stop deporting some illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, blamed Republicans in Congress for blocking efforts to pass the comprehensive immigration reform he promised while running in 2008.

October

The debates (left). Much of the debates focused on lowering corporate tax rates. Obama said he would cut the tax rate for manufacturers to 25 percent (part of a tax proposal he introduced in February that would reduce corporate tax rates from 35 to 28 percent) and reiterated his desire to close tax loopholes that reward U.S. companies that move jobs overseas. Romney said he will cut income tax rates by 20 percent for all income brackets without adding to the deficit, but neither he nor Ryan, when pressed by moderators, specified which loopholes would be closed to pay for the tax cut.

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for the Capital Business section of The Washington Post. She previously worked at the LA Daily Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Wichita Eagle and the San Mateo County Times.
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