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Believe in America: My Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth

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Date:
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Things are happening in America today that break my heart. Joblessness is one of them. Back in the beginning of 2009 we were told by the incoming Obama administration that a massive federal spending package would keep the unemployment rate from rising above 8 percent. Eight percent is itself a shocking number, far above what was then the post-war average of 5.6 percent. If only President Obama had been right, for he proceeded to borrow nearly a trillion dollars for his "stimulus." And yet the unemployment rate blew right past 8 percent until it hit the high-water mark of 10.1 percent.

At the moment that I am writing--three years into the President's four-year term--joblessness remains above 9 percent. Close to 14 million Americans are unemployed. Another 8.4 million are considered "underemployed," holding one or more part-time jobs because they can't find full-time work. An additional 2.8 million are regarded by Washington as "marginally attached to the labor force"--in plain words, they are no longer even counted among the unemployed because they simply have given up seeking work.

These numbers are not mere abstractions. They represent suffering and hardship on a grand scale. Over the past year, I've crisscrossed the country and met so many bright and capable people whose lives have been upended by the continuing economic crisis. I've encountered stoicism and hard work and American ingenuity in the face of adversity. But I've also encountered anguish and tragedy. With rising gasoline and grocery prices compounding the strains of a barren job market, a great many Americans are struggling just to pay their bills. Almost 46 million Americans--that's 34 percent more than two years ago--are living on food stamps, the highest number since that program was created. Millions of homes have been lost to foreclosure. I've seen far too much hopelessness and too many dreams shattered. I've met Americans who lost everything that they had saved a lifetime to build. I've also seen fierce anger at Washington, D.C., and the politics and politicians who led us into our travails and who now seem unable to find an exit.

The anger is justified. Things don't have to be this way. I believe America can do better. That's why I am running for president.

In 1947, the year I was born, unemployment was 3.9 percent. In 1968, when I turned 21, it was 3.6 percent. Let's not forget all the periods in our recent history when our economy was humming along at high speed, creating the opportunities that made our country the most successful and powerful in the history of the world. We've done things right in the past. We can do things right once again. We have recovered from recessions before. Indeed, the American economy has repeatedly proved to be extraordinarily resilient. After we hit bad patches, as in the early years of Ronald Reagan's presidency, the economy came roaring back.

But we've just gone through 30 consecutive months with the unemployment rate above 8 percent. That's the longest such spell since the Great Depression, and the end is not in sight. A 21-year-old today fresh out of college is facing very different conditions from those in place when I graduated. Jobs for recent graduates are simply not there. With things so difficult this time around, it is worth inquiring why.

No small part of the answer has to do with the wrenches the Obama administration has thrown into the economy. Badly misguided policies have acted as a severe drag on growth. We can count here the binge of borrowing and spending that set off worldwide alarms about the creditworthiness of the United States and led to Standard & Poor's unprecedented downgrade of our nation's sovereign credit rating. We can also count the vast expansion of costly and cumbersome regulation of sectors of the economy, ranging from energy to finance to health care. When the price of doing business in America rises, it does not come as a surprise that entrepreneurs and enterprises cut back, let employees go, and delay hiring.

In addition to the administration's errors are its missed opportunities--paths not taken that should have been taken. We have just been through a period of extraordinary economic turbulence. Restoring clarity and predictability are essential for igniting hiring and investment. Yet in so many areas, from tax rates to energy policy to labor regulation to trade, the Obama administration has only added to the lack of clarity and the uncertainty. The most dramatic illustration came midsummer, when the absence of presidential leadership brought the country to the precipice of default. Uncertainty is the enemy of growth, investment, and hiring. Unfortunately, uncertainty has been the hallmark of the Obama administration.

As we move forward, a fundamental question before us is the proper role of the federal government in our economic life. The President appears to believe that government can do a better job managing the economy than can a free people and free enterprise. I disagree. Washington has become an impediment to economic growth. Extracting the overreaching hand of government will not be easy. Entrenched interests and their allies in government will fight every step of the way. But it is not a battle from which we can shrink. We must restore the principles that have enabled the American economic engine to outperform the world. The federal government has become bloated to the point of dysfunctionality. It needs to be pared back and redirected. Instead of threatening and stifling enterprise, it must encourage investment in growth and people.

Obama is not working. Obamanomics is a failure. With little private-sector experience, President Obama turned to the only thing he really knew: government. His distrust and antipathy for the private sector led to policies that burdened and constrained business at the very time we needed it to advance, to invest, and to hire.

My experience could not be more different from his. I spent 25 years in business. I led an international consulting firm through difficult times to growth and success, led a financial services business from start-up to global prominence, and led the turnaround of a Winter Olympics to world acclaim. I know what it means to meet a payroll. I know why businesses hire people, and why they become forced to lay them off. I know what it means to compete in this country and abroad. My entire life experience convinces me that with a leader who fundamentally understands the economy, with a government that encourages investment and hiring, and with the faith and hard work of the American people, we will right the economy, create good jobs, and restore the promise of the future.

I believe in America. We have always been a land of discovery and pioneers. We flew the first plane across the ocean, we planted the first flag on the moon, we connected the people of the world with the telegraph, the telephone, the television, and the Internet. It is not an accident of history that America is the home of Facebook, eBay, Apple, Microsoft, and Google. These companies reflect our singular capacity for innovation. Nor is it an accident that the productivity of the American worker is unparalleled. The dynamism of our society is renowned around the world. We should build upon our strengths, not burden them with bureaucracy, excessive regulation, and intrusive government.

There's much that needs to be done and done quickly to put America back on the right path. I have formulated a comprehensive and integrated plan that focuses on seven areas where reform is urgently needed: taxes, regulation, trade, energy, labor, human capital, and fiscal policy. Change in any one of these seven areas would be important and helpful by itself. Taken together, they hold the potential to revitalize our economy and to reignite the job-creating engine of the United States.

So much is at stake: nothing less than the future of our great country.

-Mitt Romney


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