President Obama and Mitt Romney have participated in three debates, held hundreds of campaign events and fundraisers and aired dozens of political ads, and through all of that, they have spoken thousands upon thousands of words over the course of the campaign. Sifting through attacks, platitudes and snappy slogans completely unrelated to their policy proposals turns up indications of what each has promised if elected on Nov. 6.
Below, we've pulled together, in their own words, their plans on six major issues facing the nation.
In a new "blueprint" released by the Obama campaign Tuesday, which is a compilation of the president's policies he has either said on the campaign trail or during the debates, he promised continued investment in education by hiring "100,000 math and science teachers." He prioritized investment in energy (explained below) and manufacturing, an industry where he promises to create 1 million jobs by creating "a new network of 15 to 20 manufacturing innovation institutes...to ensure the next generation of products are invented and manufactured here."
In addition, he promised "two million workers for good jobs that actually exist through partnerships between businesses and community colleges" and an increase in jobs by "taking on China's unfair trade practices through a new trade enforcement unit to level the playing field."
Finally, direct job creation would come from funds saved from ending the war in Afghanistan, which the Congressional Research Service estimated in 2011 would cost another $500 billion through 2021. He said he would put "Americans back to work rebuilding roads, bridges, runways and schools here in the United States."
Instead of federal job training programs, Romney would give federal funds to states to "fashion the programs to meet the needs of their own workers." Another element of his job training plan, as mentioned during a campaign speech in Bedford Heights, Ohio, on Sept. 26, is to create "re-employment accounts, where a person has an account they can use to get the training they feel they need for the job of their future."
Romney has repeatedly said he would create 12 million jobs over the next four years. Up to 4 million would be in the energy sector, according to his plan detailed in an Abingdon, Va., speech on Oct. 5. "It's been calculated that if we're really serious about energy, really take advantage of the energy resources we have, that you're going to create some 3.5 to 4 million jobs."
Romney offered a series of jobs-related executive orders he would implement "on day one" to spur job creation. One is to direct the Treasury Department to "list China as a currency manipulator." He also said in Wisconsin on March 31 that he would direct "all agencies to immediately initiate the elimination of Obama-era regulations...and then cap annual increase in regulations at zero dollars."
Taxes have been at the center of the debate as Mr. Obama charges Romney with wanting to raise taxes on the middle class and Romney charging the president with being interested only in raising taxes.
The president's position on taxes has been consistent. "I have said that for incomes over $250,000 a year, that we should go back to the rates that we had when Bill Clinton was president," Mr. Obama said during the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 in Denver. Tax rates during the Clinton administration tapped out for high-income earners at 39.6 percent, which was lowered to 35 percent with the Bush-era tax cuts passed in 2001 and extended in 2011. The president reiterated in his "Blueprint for America" that he would extend the middle-class tax cuts.
As a job creation measure to boost the manufacturing sector, Mr. Obama said he would cut "tax rates on domestic manufacturers" and end "tax deductions for companies shipping jobs overseas."
Romney has advocated tax reform that includes lowering rates across the board by 20 percent. In an Oct. 9 interview on CNN, Romney said he would make up for lost revenue of lowering rates "with additional growth and with putting a limit on deductions and exemptions, particularly for people at the high end."
Until broad tax reform makes it way through Congress, Romney told Radio Iowa on July 10 that the current tax code should be extended "over a sufficiently long period for us to put in place a restructuring of our entire tax code." He was referring to an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts that are one component of the looming fiscal cliff economists warn about.
As for corporate taxes, the candidates' positions differ little. "Governor Romney and I both agree that our corporate tax rate is too high, so I want to lower it, particularly for manufacturing, taking it down to 25 percent," Mr. Obama said during the Oct. 3 debate in Denver. Romney did not object to that statement.
President Obama says he will cut spending by $4 trillion over the next four years. In that plan, he included $1 trillion Congress already agreed to. Additional deficit reduction would come from "cutting $2.50 in spending for every $1 in additional revenue from the wealthiest families and closing corporate loopholes," according to his "Blueprint." He has been specific about closing one corporate loophole he'd end: "The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare," the president said at the first debate.
In addition, the president said he would "commit half of the money saved from responsibly ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to reducing the deficit."
Romney, however, says he would reduce spending from 24 percent GDP to 20 percent GDP, which he estimated would cut an average of $500 billion per year from the federal budget. His spending cuts include, "eliminating...Obamacare," end the "subsidy to PBS" and other programs he says are not worth borrowing money from China. Finally, he would "take programs that are currently good programs but I think could be run more efficiently at the state level and send them to the state," he said at the first debate.
"[W]e are finally going to get America to cap our spending, to cut our spending and get us on track to a balanced budget," he said referring to another component of his plan, which he highlighted at the Conservative Political Action Committee on Oct. 4.
President Obama said during the last debate on Oct. 22 that he would "develop clean energy technologies that will allow us to cut our exports in half by 2020." To do that, he would continue "tax credits that support clean energy manufacturing," open up "millions of acres for exploration and development, including undiscovered oil and gas resources in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic," and double "fuel economy of cars and light trucks to 54.5 mpg by 2025." According to his "Blueprint," the president would also set a standard for utility companies to generate 80 percent of electricity from "clean sources" by 2035. Included in his plan is an expansion of natural gas production, which, he said, would "support more than 600,000 jobs."
Romney promises "North American energy independence by 2020." It's a promise that has been made by every president - including President Obama during his 2008 campaign - and most presidential candidates since Richard Nixon in 1972. To fulfill that pledge, he would take "full advantage of oil, coal, gas, nuclear and our renewables," according to his statement during the final presidential debate Monday.
In addition, he would achieve his goal by moving forward with the Keystone XL pipeline on "day one," he said in New Hampshire on June 18. Also on "day one" he would "direct the Department of the Interior to implement a process for rapid issuance of drilling permits to developers," according to a Romney campaign memo.
Entitlements: Social Security and Medicare
President Obama promised to maintain the structure of the current programs that offer retirement income and health care for seniors. He said in his "Blueprint" that he would "extend the life of Medicare and Social Security without ending guaranteed benefits or slashing benefits." Specifically regarding Medicare, he said he would partner with hospitals "to reduce inpatient infections and needless readmissions." The plan, he claimed in his "Blueprint," would save 60,000 lives and $10 billion.
On Medicare, Romney promises to immediately replace $716 billion in cuts to Medicare providers. As for the long term health of the program, Romney told the Columbus Post Dispatch editorial board on Oct. 11 that he would "means test Medicare for future generations, meaning we're going to bigger Medicare benefits for those with a small income, and smaller benefits for people with a high income." In addition, he supported his running mate's plan to "allow people to either choose a private plan or a government Medicare plan."
His plan for Social Security is similar. "I means test Social Security benefits, again, for future retirees, and that means the people of higher incomes will not see the rate of growth in their benefits as will lower income beneficiaries. And I also link, again, for future retirees, the retirement age with life expectancy," he told the Columbus Post Dispatch editorial board.
After passing the Affordable Care Act, President Obama doesn't have much of a health care plan other than to continue implementing the program. In his "Blueprint," he promised to expand the "health reform tax credit to cover 50% of small businesses' health care costs in 2014 and providing access to group rates, so small businesses won't continue to pay up to 18% more than large firms for health insurance."
Romney said he would work toward repeal of the Affordable Care Act on the first day of his presidency through "an executive order on 'day one' that grants a waiver to all 50 states."
"And the best course for health care is to do what we did in my state: craft a plan at the state level that fits the needs of the state," he said during the first presidential debate. As for what he would replace the health care law with, he has offered few details, noting that his plan is "lengthy." But he said "preexisting conditions are covered" and that "young people are able to stay on their family plan" as well.