Mitt Romney lays out economic vision
"These are conservative, pro-growth policies that will not only jumpstart our economy, but they'll stop the dangerous slide into a society where values of entitlement are esteemed higher than the values of opportunity," the former Massachusetts governor told the Detroit Economic Club four days ahead of Tuesday's crucial Michigan primary.
Romney is calling for a 20 percent reduction in marginal, individual income tax rates across the board; a ten percent reduction in the corporate tax rate; the elimination of the "job killing repatriation tax" on income earned abroad and invested in the United States; the end of the Alternative Minimum Tax and estate (or "death") tax; the elimination of capital gains taxes for those earning less than $200,000; and to make permanent the tax research and development tax credit.
"These changes I will not allow to raise the deficit," Romney said, arguing that the loss in income will be offset in part by a reduction in unspecified deductions and exemptions for high income Americans. He said the tax cuts would substantially spur economic growth and thus tax receipts, a notion dismissed by most economists. Any tax hikes, Romney said, are "off the table."
According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Romney's proposals would increase budget deficits.
Romney is vowing significant spending cuts in order to reduce spending to 20 percent of the economy by 2016. Without cutting military spending, Romney said he would balance the budget by cutting "Obamacare," ending subsidies to Amtrak and Planned Parenthood, reducing the federal workforce and sending Medicaid and other programs - including food stamps, housing subsidies and job training - "back to the states." He would also make a number of as-yet-unspecified cuts to spending programs.
Over the long run, Romney would also raise the Social Security retirement age and the Medicare eligibility age, and offer Americans a choice between traditional Medicare and private sector plans. (Americans now at or approaching retirement age would not be affected by these changes.)
"By making bold cuts in spending and commonsense reforms, we're going to make our government simpler, smaller, and smarter," Romney said. "Through pro-growth policies, we will get our economy back on track - and get our citizens back to work. And taken together, the plan I'm offering represents the biggest fundamental change to the federal government in modern history."
Romney said Americans are "are suffering as a result of the Obama economy," arguing that the president has shown a failure to lead and is "trying to transform America into something we wouldn't recognize." He said he would be a leader who would be unafraid to call for sacrifice and who can "restore America's promise."
In response to the speech, Obama campaign Press Secretary Ben LaBolt said that "Romney has proposed a fiscally irresponsible plan that would increase the deficit by $5 trillion over the next decade, provide millionaires with tax breaks 800 percent larger than those for the middle class, hollow out retirement security and allow the wealthiest who earn their income off of investments to pay a lower tax rate than middle class Americans."
Polls show Romney in a fierce battle with Rick Santorum for victory in Tuesday's Michigan primary. A loss for Romney in the state where he was born - and where his father served as governor and was a prominent auto executive - would be a significant blow. Romney reached out to his Detroit audience on Friday in part by referencing his past ownership of U.S.-made automobiles.
"I love this country. I actually love this state. It just feels good, being back in Michigan," Romney said during a question and answer period after his remarks. "You know, the trees are the right height, the streets are just right, I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. [Wife] Ann [Romney] drives a couple of Cadillacs actually, and I used to have a Dodge truck, so I used to have all three covered."
Outside the stadium, 250 auto workers and Democrats demonstrated against Romney, spotlighting his onetime call to "let Detroit go bankrupt."
Romney's decision to make the speech to about 1,200 people at cavernous Ford Field, the Detroit Lions stadium which holds 65,000 people, made for some questionable optics. The stadium was mostly empty during the speech, prompting Romney to joke, "I want to thank Ford Field for making room for us."
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