RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Of course, foreign policy has not been a central issue in this campaign. That's been jobs and growth. Mitt Romney thinks the best way to boost employment is through a reduction in tax rates. President Obama thinks investing in infrastructure can help the private sector grow and produce more jobs. We took a close look at President Obama's plan on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED yesterday in the NPR series Solve This.
This morning, NPR economics correspondent John Ydstie examines Romney's approach.
JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Mitt Romney says he's got a plan with 59 bullet points detailing how to boost growth and job creation. He gives a short list in one of his most recent ads.
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YDSTIE: That's 12 million new jobs in his first term in office. As Mr. Romney says, more than half of those jobs, seven million, would be generated by his tax plan. One of the people behind that tax proposal is Kevin Hassett, a Romney economic adviser and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
KEVIN HASSETT: Governor Romney's tax plan is modeled after the successful tax plans of the past, and it would generate growth because it would increase the incentive to do things that are good for America's economy and America's workers.
YDSTIE: Mr. Romney's tax plan would cut tax rates by 20 percent for all taxpayers. That would cost the Treasury almost $5 trillion in lost tax revenue over 10 years. But Romney says it won't cost $5 trillion, because he will offset the losses from lower rates by ending deductions and closing loopholes - however, he has not said which ones. Joel Prakken, who's chairman of the firm Macroeconomic Advisers, says it would be very difficult for Romney's plan to work without ending some very popular deductions.
JOEL PRAKKEN: Mortgage interest, health care benefits and the like. And so there's some concern out there about whether it actually will be possible to engineer this kind of tax reform with such sharp cuts in marginal rates.
YDSTIE: Mr. Romney has recently suggested he might just cap taxpayers' deductions to $17,000. But some analysts say it's doubtful that would fully pay for the cost of Romney's tax cut, either. Joel Prakken says the elimination of deductions and loopholes could lead to faster job creation in the long run, but, he says, in the short run, it could eliminate jobs in industries like housing, which are already struggling.
PRAKKEN: Until we see precisely how the lower rates are going to be paid for, in terms of broadening the tax base, it's very difficult - it's just impossible, in fact - to make an unqualified statement about just how much growth we're going to get from this kind of tax initiative.
YDSTIE: As for the 12 million jobs Governor Romney says his policies will produce in four years, Prakken says it's not a very high bar.
PRAKKEN: In our long-term forecast, in which we assume the continuation of current policies and an economy that's recovering toward full employment, anyway, we were able to create roughly 12 million new jobs without recourse to these policies.
YDSTIE: But Romney economic advisor Kevin Hassett disagrees that 12 million jobs could be created under current policies.
HASSETT: Now we've got massive deficits. We've got a corporate tax that's just out of whack with the rest of the world. We've got an enormous amount of new regulation coming in, and I think that all those things are very, very negative for growth and for job creation.
YDSTIE: What about Romney's claim he'll create three million new jobs in energy? Prakken says there will be significant job growth in that sector over the next 10 years, but not because of presidential policies. Rather, Prakken says, it's because the energy sector is in the midst of a boom due to the development of hydraulic fracturing, which is releasing huge quantities of U.S. gas and oil. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington.
MONTAGNE: And you're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.
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