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TRAVELING WITH THE ROMNEY CAMPAIGN – In a major policy address, Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney presented his vision for achieving genuine economic growth in the next four years, while charging Barack Obama with a record of failure in his stewardship of the economy.

The speech in Ames, Iowa, today not only gave Romney the chance to fill out details of the five-point plan he referenced during the presidential debates, it also applied additional pressure to Obama, whose campaign produced the first statement of a second-term economic plan in a glossy campaign brochure printed after the debates ended.

A legacy of failed policies

“President Obama promised to bring us together, but at every turn, he has sought to divide and demonize,” Romney said to the 1,500 supporters who braved the chilly autumn weather.

“President Obama promised to cut the deficit in half, but he doubled it. And his budget? It failed to win a single vote, Republican or Democrat, in either the House or the Senate. He said he would reform Medicare and Social Security and save them from pending insolvency, but he shrank from proposing any solution at all.”

Romney hit Obama hard on the theme of jobs.

“The president’s campaign has a slogan: It is ‘Forward,’” Romney noted. “But to the 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job, these last four years feel a lot more like ‘backward.’ We cannot afford four more years like the last four years.”

He charged Obama made the economic problems he inherited worse by the policies he adopted, ticking off the following list of failed initiatives:

  • “In just four short years, the president borrowed nearly $6 trillion, adding almost as much debt held by the public as all prior American presidents in history.”
  • “He forced through Obamacare, frightening small business from hiring new employees and adding thousands of dollars to every family’s healthcare bill.”
  • “He launched an onslaught of new regulations, often to the delight of the biggest banks and corporations but to the detriment of the small, growing businesses that create two-thirds of our jobs.”

As a consequence, Romney argued, new business starts are at a 30-year low because entrepreneurs and investors are sitting on the sidelines, “weary from the president’s staggering new regulations and proposed massive tax increases.”

He charged that Obama’s decision to invest taxpayer money in green companies fostered crony capitalism and bankruptcy in companies such as Solyndra, Tesla, Fisker and Ener 1.

Romney said energy prices were up in part because energy production on federal lands is down, because Obama rejected the Keystone Pipeline from Canada and administration cut in half drilling permits and leases, even as gasoline prices soared to new highs.

“No, the problem with the Obama economy is not what he inherited; it is with the misguided policies that slowed the recovery and caused millions of Americans to endure lengthy unemployment and poverty,” Romney concluded in his indictment of Obama’s four years in office.

“That is why 15 million more of our fellow citizens are on food stamps than when President Obama was sworn into office. That is why 3 million more women are now living in poverty. That is why nearly 1 in 6 Americans today is poor. That is why the economy is stagnant.”

Mitt Romney speaking in Ames, Iowa, today

‘Pursuing their dreams’

Romney began outlining his plan with an emphasis on free enterprise.

“If Paul Ryan and I are elected as your president and vice president, we will endeavor with all our hearts and energy to restore America,” he said. “Instead of more spending, more borrowing from China and higher taxes from Washington, we’ll renew our faith in the power of free people pursuing their dreams.”

Romney explained to the Ames rally his plan consists of the following five elements:

  • “One, we will act to put America on track to a balanced budget by eliminating unnecessary programs, by sending programs back to states where they can be managed with less abuse and less cost, and by shrinking the bureaucracy of Washington.”
  • “Two, we’ll produce more of the energy we need to heat our homes, fill our cars, and make our economy grow. We will stop the Obama war on coal, the disdain for oil, and the effort to crimp natural gas by federal regulation of the very technology that produces it.”
  • “Three, we will make trade work for America. We’ll open more markets to American agriculture, products and services. And we will finally hold accountable any nation that doesn’t play by the rules. I will stand up for the rights and interests of American workers and employers.”
  • “Four, we will grow jobs by making America the best possible place for job creators, for entrepreneurs, for small business, for innovators, for manufacturers. This we will do by updating and reshaping regulations to encourage growth, by lowering tax rates while lowering deductions and closing loopholes, and by making it clear from day one that unlike the current administration, we actually like business and the jobs business creates.”
  • :Finally, as we create more opportunity, we also will make sure that our citizens have the skills to succeed. Training programs will be shaped by the states where people live, and schools will put the interests of our kids, their parents and their teachers above the interests of the teachers’ unions.”

Romney promised that by taking these steps, the economy would come “roaring back” to create 12 million new jobs over the next four years.

He also pledged to “save and secure” Medicare and Social Security for present as well as future generations, and to restore the $716 Obama took from Medicare to fund Obamacare.

He promised to take a bi-partisan approach as president, avoiding the politics of division and demonization he accused Obama of pursuing.

“I was elected as a Republican governor in a state with a legislature that was 85-percent Democrat. We were looking at a multi-billion dollar budget gap. But instead of fighting with one another, we came together to solve our problems,” he stressed. “We actually cut spending – reduced it. We lowered taxes 19 times. We defended school choice. And we worked to make our state business friendly.”

He concluded by urging voters “to rise to the occasion,” noting he would resolve to make the century ahead “an American Century.”

Media reaction

Establishment media panned Romney’s plan.

“If you want to see how Romney’s economic policies would work out, take a look at Europe,” wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. “And weep.”

Kristof argued that Republicans have praised Germany and Britain, in particular, for implementing “precisely the policies that Romney favors,” with the result that “those economies seem, to use a German technical term, kaput.”

Kristof asserted that any deviation from Obama’s current policy of deficit spending meant austerity, discounting Romney’s contention the economy can be stimulated by the type of supply-side economics that Ronald Reagan used to bring the U.S. economy out of the doldrums after Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

At the Atlantic, staff writer Molly Ball characterized Romney’s speech as “substance-free promises to make things better, punctuated by Romney’s new mantra of ‘big change.’”

CNN dismissed the speech as a repeat of attacks Romney had given on the stump at rallies in Ohio a day earlier, charging it was long on promises and short on specifics.

If the election does go to Romney as the polls currently suggest, will the pro-Obama pundits admit the president was tone-deaf to the concerns of independent voters as he promised only more of the same, while Romney took the initiative by arguing continued trillion-dollar deficits were not the way out of the nation’s economic difficulties.

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