Romney unveils economic plan

Zachary Roth

President Obama isn't the only candidate for the White House who's set to give a major speech on the economy this week. One of his main rivals, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, will lay out his own job creation plans this afternoon. And in an op-ed in USA Today, Romney offered a sneak peek at some of what he'll say:

• As an overriding principle, Romney writes, his plan will rest on "the conservative premise that government itself cannot create jobs" -- something that might come as news to the millions of Americans, including members of the military, who work for federal, state, and local governments.

• Romney wants to eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains, but only for "middle-income taxpayers." In today's Republican party, that counts as a relatively moderate stance: Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who's reputed to be the most moderate candidate in the GOP field, said last week he would scrap those taxes across the board.

• Like many of his rivals, Romney wants a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. The idea has been a favorite of conservative activists, but would likely require huge cuts in popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and stands almost no chance of being enacted.

• Obama's decision to open up more areas for off-shore oil drilling was hammered by environmentalists. But Romney contends that Obama hasn't been friendly enough to energy exploration. "We are an energy-rich country that, thanks to environmental extremism, has chosen to live like an energy-poor country," he writes. "That has to end."

• As he has before, Romney calls for the elimination of Obama's health-care law, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). Of course, Romney has been criticized by other Republicans for championing a Massachusetts law that's very similar to ACA. He has argued in response that the law was right for his state, but not for the entire country.

• Romney calls for an overhaul of the "overly complex and inefficient" tax system, and suggests that he'd lower the corporate tax rate, which he says "leaves U.S. firms at a competitive disadvantage." Obama and many of Romeny's fellow GOPers have backed a similar overhaul.

• Romney puts himself firmly in the pro-international-trade wing of his party. He wants to create the "Reagan Economic Zone," which he describes as "a partnership among countries committed to free enterprise and free trade."

• Taking a swipe at Obama, Romney says the president has "raised or threatened to raise taxes on both individuals and businesses." The phrasing is too clever by half: In fact, Obama has mostly lowered taxes. Some analysts have argued nonetheless that simply by raising the possibility that taxes could go up in the future--for instance, by calling for an end to the Bush tax cuts on high-earners--Obama has depressed business confidence, leading to low job growth. Romney appears to be endorsing that argument, which is debatable at best.