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Obama vs. Romney: The Bottom Line

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While national presidential polls show a dead heat between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, roughly five percent of likely voters remain undecided.  Their perception of which candidate can best address America's problems will decide the election.

The latest Gallup Poll indicates the economy and unemployment remains the number one concern of most Americans.  While both Obama and Romney have promised to create millions of jobs if they are elected President, there are stark differences between their proposals.

In the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney promised, "If I'm president I will create" 12 million new jobs."  A Romney campaign policy paper, "The Romney Plan for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs," contains no specific proposals for job creation but instead four assertions: (1) "Stop runaway federal spending and debt," (2)"Reform the nation's tax code to increase growth and job creation" Reduce individual marginal income tax rates across-the-board by 20 percent, while keeping current low tax rates on dividends and capital gains." (3)"Reform entitlement programs to ensure their viability."  (4) "Make growth and cost-benefit analysis important features of regulation" Remove regulation impediments to energy production" Repeal and replace the Dodd-Frank Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."  This isn't a plan.

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention Barack Obama highlighted his plan to create more jobs: "a million new manufacturing jobs... [and because of his green energy policy] more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.  Reporting for NPR, John Ydstie observed that Obama's plan is based upon "The American Jobs Act" that the President proposed to Congress September 8, 2011.  Obama actually has a plan to create millions of jobs.

Nonetheless, the Washington Post "Factchecker" observed, "In recent months, the economy has averaged about 150,000 jobs a month" Moody's analytics, in an August forecast, predicts 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, no matter who is president."

Gallup found Americans' second concern is the Federal budget deficit.  In the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney promised, "My number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit."  He went on to outline his approach: cut non-critical Federal programs (he gave the examples of Obamacare and support for PBS); send some programs back to the states; and "make government more efficient and to cut back the number of employees, combine some agencies and departments." 

Obama responded, "Governor Romney's central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut -- on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts -- that's another trillion dollars -- and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn't asked for. That's $8 trillion. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit, and make the investments that we need to make, without dumping those costs onto middle-class Americans, I think is one of the central questions of this campaign."  Obama continued "We've got to [reduce the deficit] in a responsible way by cutting out spending we don't need, but also asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more." 

Most independent observers agree that Romney's plan doesn't add up.  Economist Robert Reich observed, "Romney says he'll close loopholes and eliminate deductions used by the rich so that their share of total taxes remains the same as it is now, although he refuses to specify what loopholes or deductions. But even if we take him at his word, under no circumstances would he increase the amount of taxes they pay". Just about everyone who's looked at how to reduce [the budget deficit] -- the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles Commission, and almost all independent economists and analysts -- have come up with some combination of spending cuts and tax increases that raise revenue."

Voters' number three concern is dissatisfaction with government.  The Gallup pollsters framed this is as "Dissatisfaction with government/Congress/politicians; Poor leadership/Corruption/Abuse of power."  Ultimately, undecided voters will vote for the candidate they trust the most.

Voters know President Obama, but coming into this election they did not know Mitt Romney.  The Republican has usurped the President's 2008 "change" slogan and cast himself as someone from outside Washington, "who can reach across the aisle and fashion important legislation with the input from both parties." 

Romney has campaigned for five months since securing the Republican nomination for President.    This process revealed him to be a craven politician, the ultimate partisan insider; someone who will say and do anything to win.   Politifact reported two-thirds of Romney's statements range from "half-true" to blatant lies.  Think Progress stated that most of what Romney said in the first presidential debate was a distortion or lie.  This week The Republican was caught running an extremely deceptive ad in Ohio.

Romney's bottom line is grim.  He doesn't have a real plan to improve the economy or reduce the deficit.  And worst of all, he's proven he cannot be trusted.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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