We're less than three weeks from Election Day, and the end of this hard-fought effort by Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama to get the next presidential term. We are to believe that there are profound differences between the two in all significant ways, that Obama is somewhere on the left side and Romney there on the right somewhere, and that we are choosing between vastly different outcomes, especially in an area as important as how to improve the 20.7 million jobs Americans could absorb right away. Yet in truth that is not the case.
During the campaign, neither candidate has voiced much of substance about how to create more jobs than recent levels, which have increased monthly but not enough to cover population increases. Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention proposed no significant action on jobs, and Romney has said little than expecting a stronger-economy-fueled gain of 12 million of them over four years.
What difference is there between Obama and Romney on jobs and related issues? On tax rates, the most significant differences between the candidates were on people with the highest incomes. On corporate rates, the sitting president supports a 28% top rate, with a challenger who wants 25%. We can bring in someone who thinks capital-gains taxes for those with the highest incomes should be 15%, or retain one who prefers 20%. We can choose as president one of two who advocate similar welfare payments, similar Social Security benefits, and more free trade. We can have a candidate who has “energy independence” listed first among his five-point plan for American jobs, or a president who publicly wished, in the fourth paragraph of his 2012 State of the Union Address, for “a future where we’re in control of our own energy,” and later on, said he was ordering his “administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.” We can either pick a self-avowed conservative, or re-elect someone who said earlier in the year that he believed, as did Republican Abraham Lincoln, “that government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”
Many people have questioned Romney’s conservatism, but how liberal is Obama, actually, on jobs? Consider the following statements he has made this year:
- “We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it.”
- “We can give more tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here, in the United States of America.”
- “I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products.”
- “Michelle [Obama] and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families.”
- “I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense. We’ve already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years.”
- “Right now, our immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile. People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year.”
Those are the sorts of things as likely to come to pass under a President Romney as under a second Obama term. They will help - but will they be enough? The drop in official unemployment may have fooled some into thinking the jobs crisis is ending, but it is not. If times are relatively good, we will likely postpone the time of reckoning on Work’s New Age, but before the next election most will know we have something more here than a slow recession recovery. We need help. Perhaps in 2016 the jobs crisis will be drawing specific, maybe hard, solutions from the presidential challengers. For now, though, we’re looking at four more years of same old-same old – no matter who wins.