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Romney unveils his jobs plan with a dig at Obama

By Tom Cohen, CNN
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Romney: I'll create 11 million jobs
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Romney says Obama "doesn't have a clue" about what to do for the economy
  • Romney says his plan will create more than 11 million jobs
  • He names his economic team
  • President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on Thursday

Washington (CNN) -- Standing under a banner that read "Day One, Job One," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney unveiled his jobs plan Tuesday with a pledge to take steps on his first day as president to undo what he called failed economic policies of the Obama administration.

In a speech at an international truck company in North Las Vegas, Nevada, the Republican presidential candidate spoke from notes -- rather than a prepared speech or using a teleprompter -- in describing a 59-point plan that he said would increase U.S. economic growth by 4% a year and create more than 11 million jobs in his first four years in office if he is elected in 2012.

He promised to bring the corporate tax rate down from the current level of 35% to 25%, in line with much of the rest of the world, saying, "I will do that on day one." He also pledged to immediately halt any regulations and policies implemented by President Barack Obama that stall job growth, and to cut government spending -- except for the military and entitlement programs -- by 5%.

Obama is "not a bad guy -- he just doesn't have a clue what to do" about the economy, Romney said in contrasting the president's lack of business experience with his own background as a businessman and manager who invested in the successful Staples chain of office supply centers and oversaw the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Outlining his vision for the country, Romney said America should be a "job-creating machine" that never questions whether the future will be brighter than the past.

"The right course for America is to believe in growth," Romney said. "Growing our economy is the way to get people to work and to balance our budget."

In another dig at Obama, he described the president's policies as failed efforts rooted in outdated thinking.

"President Obama's strategy is a pay-phone strategy, and we're in a smart-phone world," Romney said. "What he's doing is taking quarters and stuffing them into the pay phone and he can't figure out why it isn't working. It's not connected anymore, Mr. President."

A spokesman for Obama's re-election campaign said Romney's economic plan would "tip the scales against hard-working Americans."

"Gov. Romney repackaged the same old policies that helped create the economic crisis: boosting oil company profits and allowing Wall Street to write its own rules, more tax breaks for large corporations and more tax cuts for the wealthiest while working Americans are forced to carry a greater burden," said the statement by the spokesman, Ben LaBolt.

Earlier, Romney announced his economic team for the election campaign, including two former top advisers to President George W. Bush -- R. Glenn Hubbard and Gregory Mankiw -- as well as former Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri and former Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota.

Hubbard is dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, and Mankiw is an economics professor at Harvard.

Romney is the latest among Republican presidential hopefuls to come out with proposals to grow the economy and boost employment. Obama, the man they are hoping to unseat, will unveil his job creation plan in an address Thursday to a joint session of Congress.

The Romney plan includes additional steps he pledged to take on his first day of office, including an executive order to waive the health care reform law implemented by Obama and Democrats last year "so we can stop that in its tracks," as well as efforts to boost domestic energy production and sanction China for unfair trade practices.

He also described legislation he would propose right away to cut the corporate tax rate, bring free trade agreements to open markets for U.S. products and consolidate federal retraining programs into one package that gets handed to states to run.

Romney also proposed the creation of the "Reagan Economic Zone," which he described as a partnership among countries committed to free enterprise and free trade that don't cheat their partners. The World Trade Organization serves a similar role, and Romney did not elaborate on how his proposal would be different.

In response to the Romney plan, the campaign of his leading rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said in a statement that Romney "failed to create a pro-jobs environment and failed to institute many of the reforms he now claims to support" when he was governor of Massachusetts. Perry has forged ahead of Romney in national polls since entering the Republican race last month.

The timing of Romney's and Obama's plans makes sense: Congress returns from its recess this week, and the special congressional committee tasked with proposing $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction measures meets for the first time Thursday.

In addition, a fresh series of Republican debates begins Wednesday, the first of three in September and seven by the end of the year for a race turned upside down by the recent addition of Perry.

All this comes after the latest employment report showed no new jobs created in August, a result that set Republicans howling for immediate action on their agenda rather than what they called Obama's failed policies.

The Republican packages so far, while differing in scope and some details, generally call for major reforms of the tax and regulatory systems that proponents say will ease the burden on businesses, allowing them to increase investment and hire more people.

They share one common trait: getting rid of the health care reforms enacted last year.

Obama took a step in the GOP direction last week by striking a clean-air regulation targeted by the energy industry and Republicans as oppressive, but sought by environmental and health groups as important for reducing smog.

In his address to Congress, the president is expected to offer longstanding proposals, including extending unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut, boosting infrastructure projects such as repairing the nation's roads and bridges, and completing free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

House Democratic leaders offered their own ideas for job creation Tuesday, telling a news conference that economic growth is the most effective way to bring about needed deficit and debt reduction. They called for investing in American technology and innovation, boosting infrastructure development, and creating a civilian conservation corps to help rebuild storm-damaged communities.

They also urged Obama to propose a strong package of steps in his upcoming speech.

"Be bold. Hit it out of the park," said Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, one of the three House Democrats on the special debt committee. "The American public is waiting for that leadership that tells us once again that we're ready to lead not just the United States of America, but the entire world back from this abyss."

On Saturday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin used a speech in Iowa to outline a five-point recovery plan, extending the speculation that she might formally join the GOP race in the fall.

Calling it a "pro-working man's plan," Palin included the now-familiar staples of Republican economic policy: deregulation, increased domestic energy production, tax reform and repealing the health care bill.

Palin, who raised taxes on the oil industry while Alaska's governor, proposed eliminating all corporate income taxes and making up the lost revenue by closing corporate loopholes in the federal tax code.

"This is how we break the back of crony capitalism," she said, sounding a new campaign theme that evoked memories of her Alaska days when she took on an entrenched and sometimes corrupt Republican political class that was in cahoots with the oil and gas industry.

Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman, who is lagging badly in national polls, got an immediate endorsement from The Wall Street Journal for his plan announced last week that would scale back the scope of the federal government and simplify the tax code.

The plan would eliminate tax deductions and credits, including the popular home mortgage deduction, in favor of a simplified three-bracket tax system with rates of 8%, 14% or 23%. The corporate tax rate would drop from 35% to 25%, and Huntsman also would eliminate the alternative minimum tax as well as taxes on capital gains and dividends.

On the regulatory front, the former Utah governor and former U.S. ambassador to China would repeal the health care reform measure and the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform act, as well as the Sarbanes-Oxley financial reform measure passed during the Bush administration in response to the Enron accounting scandal.

In addition, Huntsman would streamline the approval processes at the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, including for the controversial hydraulic fracturing method of extracting natural gas.

Another candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, offered some of her ideas at a Republican forum Monday, calling for steps to "repatriate" money that American corporations are making overseas by eliminating any tax on it through the end of the year.

Bachmann also proposed reducing the corporate tax rate to 20%, removing regulations that she said stifled economic growth and repealing the health care reform law.

CNN's Peter Hamby and Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.

 
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