Obama is expected to return fire on Thursday in what the White House is calling a major speech that will characterize Romney’s economic philosophy as a return to the flawed policies of the George W. Bush years.
The intense exchange represents more than just campaign rhetoric; it lays out in stark terms the divergent approaches the two men propose to take toward mending the economy. And while the proposals are familiar, the implications of the debate suddenly seem more urgent.
“I think this election is a watershed election, which will determine the relationship between citizen and enterprise and government,” Romney said Wednesday.
Some of the political frenzy is driven by economic forecasts that continue to lower expectations for economic growth amid a lull in hiring, weak domestic economic data, and new threats from Europe and emerging markets.
Romney has argued against emergency steps by the government to bolster short-term growth, such as increasing federal spending. He has instead called for policies that he believes would improve the economy structurally over the long term, even if they did little to accelerate recovery in coming months.
In broad terms, those policies include keeping tax rates low for all Americans, eliminating Obama’s health-care overhaul and scaling back other regulations, and reducing federal spending.
Romney’s theory is that keeping tax rates low would spur investment in new businesses, thereby increasing economic growth and perhaps tax revenue itself. He believes that rolling back regulations would reduce the cost of doing business and make the United States more competitive.
“The president’s team indicated that if we passed their stimulus of $787 billion, borrowed, that they’d hold unemployment below 8 percent. We’ve gone 40 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent,” Romney said Wednesday at the Business Roundtable, a trade group in Washington.
He added: “If you look at his record over the last 31
2 years, you will conclude, as I have, that it is the most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs series of policies in modern American history.”
Obama has a different policy prescription.
In the short term, he wants to do more of what he did at the beginning of his tenure: use taxpayer money to hire people to build roads and bridges and give money to states and localities to hire more teachers, among other measures.
“Mitt Romney’s plan for the economy is great — if you’re a millionaire like Mitt Romney. He wants to turn back the clock and return to trickle-down economics, which lost private-sector jobs, hurt working families, and got us into this mess in the first place,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), an Obama surrogate, said Wednesday. “Moving backward will do nothing to put Americans back to work or boost our recovery.”