Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011 | 2 a.m.
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Highlights of Romney's plan
• A call for no taxes on savings or dividends for middle-class Americans, whom he and Obama agree are individuals earning less than $200,000 a year. The corporate tax rate would be cut to 25 percent.
• Limiting new government regulations by eliminating an old regulation when a new one is introduced. He did not say where he would scale back government oversight.
• His most unusual proposal: creation of a "Reagan Economic Zone," a partnership among countries committed to free enterprise and free trade. The proposal is aimed at China, which he said steals our technology and intellectual property
• Loosening restrictions on fossil fuel extraction. "We’re an energy-rich nation, but we’re living like an energy-poor nation," he said. At the same time he attacked renewable energy, calling it in written materials the “unhealthy green-jobs obsession." To the crowd, he said, "Where are all those green jobs?"
• Not allowing union dues to be used for political purposes.
• Creating personal re-employment accounts, which would, in effect, privatize federal job retraining.
• A balanced-budget amendment, capping federal spending at 20 percent of GDP.
Romney vowed to introduce five bills on his first day in office to: reduce the corporate income tax 25 percent; implement a free-trade agreement with Colombia, Panama and South Korea; allow energy drilling in areas approved for exploration; consolidate federal job retraining programs and give money and responsibility to the states; cutting nonsecurity discretionary spending by 5 percent, or $20 billion.
Also on the first day in office he would issue five executive orders, including a universal waiver for the new health care law; to halt all Obama administration regulations; to examine trade sanctions against China; to prohibit unions from using dues for elections.
Four local reactions
Cliff Vellinga controller, Silver Dollar Recycling
I’m for reducing government regulations. The other thing I liked about Romney’s speech is reducing corporate income taxes. They should be zero. The taxes should be paid by individual shareholders, not the corporations. If that happened, our company would be inclined to hire more people.
Norm Schilling, owner, Schilling Horticulture Group
This is the wrong time to lower taxes because it would starve the government. We need more investment from the federal government to help with jobs and the economy. Eliminating capital gains wouldn’t help either. Capital gains are paid by people who make money investing, not working.
Joe Machin, owner, RO Truck & Equipment
I don’t see where getting rid of capital gains would create more jobs. I would like to see less government red tape. A free-trade zone with other countries would be good because we’re always buying everyone else’s stuff but we’re never able to sell any to them because there’s so much red tape.
Aaron Hawley, owner, Rakeman Plumbing
Anything that lowers my taxes helps my business. But will it create jobs? Probably not. I need work. Let’s work on the banking industry getting us loans. I’m all for eliminating the health insurance law. My health insurance will skyrocket.
He says he can create jobs.
He says he’s focused on the middle class.
He says he’s got a plan to help the economy grow.
He is both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
In this recession-framed election, there’s one top-line message that matters on the campaign trail: jobs, and a plan to create them for the middle class.
It’s a potent issue, especially in Nevada, where the statewide unemployment rate remains at a nation-leading 12.9 percent — a factor that played no small role in Romney’s decision to come to North Las Vegas on Tuesday to unveil his national economic plan.
Although Democratic and Republican presidential candidates may have settled on a common diagnosis about what’s ailing the economy, they have different prescriptions for how to return it to better health — so different, in fact, that the choice could simply come down to whom voters believe.
Although Obama’s “Believe 2012” campaign has focused on strategic government investments in infrastructure as a way to kick-start the economy, Romney’s “Believe in America” campaign focuses on telling government to make way for the private sector.
“Growth is the answer, not government,” he told a small crowd of supporters gathered at McCandless International Trucks of North Las Vegas.
Obama and Romney, the first GOP front-runner to articulate an economic agenda, both peg their vision on the experience of a particular slice of the past: the boom years of the 1950s and ’60s, when the middle class expanded and America’s dominance of the world economy was at its peak.
Obama’s attempts to replicate the economic growth of that era are clearly inspired by economic initiatives from the time, such as President Dwight Eisenhower’s unprecedented investment in the national highway infrastructure.
Romney, however, is eschewing the paths of the past, because, he says, they simply won’t work in the modern age.
“President Obama’s strategy is a pay phone strategy, and we’re in the smartphone world,” Romney said, calling Obama “a nice guy” who “just doesn’t have a clue what to do.”
As a point of campaign rhetoric, it’s a bold attempt by a politician who has at times, appeared stiffly out-of-step to try to wrest the mantle of freshness and youthful innovation from a president who as a candidate in 2008 personified it.
As a point of contention, it allows Romney to sidestep that taxes then were higher than they are now.
A call for lower taxes, both for individuals and corporations, is first and foremost in Romney’s economic plan because comparative tax rates matter in a globalized economy, he says.
He wants to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent and zero-out taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest rates for the middle class — which, like Obama, he defines as individuals making less than $200,000 a year.
Romney defines regulations in terms of tax policy, too. He noted an official government estimate that puts the total annual cost of regulations at about 150 percent of all the taxes the government collects.
Romney pledges to cap spending — balanced budget amendment style — at 20 percent of the gross domestic product, as part of keeping taxes low. But for Nevada, the plan leaves lingering questions.
Romney has said often that he thinks the experience that recommends him best for the presidency is his tenure as CEO of venture capital firm Bain Capital.
Although Romney sees a job-filled future in new initiatives and entrepreneurship, he’s silent on where, aside from the energy sector, those new enterprises might spring up — or how Nevada may be able to partake in recovery that seems to be passing it by.
Nevada doesn’t have the sort of export market that could easily benefit from free-trade agreements that open other countries to American goods.
And it’s clear Romney does not share the Democrats’ boosterism about green jobs being a ticket out of the recession: He appears ready to pull the plug on government assistance programs that could benefit Nevada’s fledgling green-jobs sector.
Even before Romney delivered his remarks, local Democrats had prepared a response that seemed to press on that. State Sen. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, said Romney “has made a living killing middle-class jobs to increase profits for big corporations and CEOs,” and charged that his policies would leave Nevadans as casualties.
Neither Romney nor Obama brings a bit of an outsider’s solution to the Nevada problem. Neither is a member of the middle class, and neither has ever owned a small business.
Local small-business owners who came out to hear and support Romney were mixed, however, about how much they trust he can fix local problems.
Joe Wyson, who owns three businesses in Nevada, says a consultant’s point of view is just what the local economy needs. “I paid $65,000 for a consultant to come and set me up, and I made a fortune in the next 10 years,” he said of his construction business, which grew to 165 employees at its peak. “They got raises, they got commissions. We went crazy in this town.”
Darwin Rockantansky, whose consulting business fell apart in 2009 “because our insurance carrier doubled our rates ... when ‘Obamacare’ was announced as a possibility,” wasn’t convinced that Romney’s got the answers.
“He moved up a smidgen,” Rockantansky said of Romney, whom he voted for in the 2008 caucuses, after he spoke.