By Mitt Romney
Energy policy is now at the red-hot center of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. And with good reason.
The United States is an energy-rich country living like an energy-poor country. We purchase hundreds of billions of dollars of energy from overseas while keeping many of our own energy resources locked up in the ground. Reversing this backward dynamic is a critical pathway to creating economic growth and jobs.
In Pennsylvania and neighboring states, we are seeing the tremendous benefits that domestic energy development can confer. Tapping the Marcellus shale deposits promises not only to supply clean and inexpensive energy to our country for the next century but also to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
We could usher in similar benefits across the nation with an aggressive plan to develop all our resources.
My jobs plan, released last month, would do just that.
It surveys all of our existing resources so that we can make intelligent decisions about where to focus production. It dramatically streamlines regulation so that government facilitates production instead of interfering. It opens up vast new swaths of territory, on- and off-shore, for development. It pursues partnerships with our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, to ensure that American workers can participate in their development efforts and reap the benefits.
Yet even if we take these steps, we should not be under any illusions. Energy policy alone is not going to extricate the United States from our current economic straits. Yes, it is a vitally important sector, but as Pennsylvania's own experience attests, energy production alone will not turn around our economy. We must approach energy as part of a more fundamental reconfiguration of our economy if we are to generate economic growth and the jobs America needs.
Our tax system is widely recognized to be a mind-bendingly complex accumulation of special favors wrapped into law. It needs to be made lower, flatter and fairer. Our corporate rates must be brought into line with the rest of the world if we don't want to continue hemorrhaging jobs to countries with more competitive tax structures.
The federal regulatory apparatus has grown into a business-strangling monstrosity. The federal government's own estimates place the cost of federal regulation at a staggering $1.75 trillion. We need to pare this back radically, keep only those regulations whose benefits outweigh the costs and cap the imposition of new ones.
Our trade policies have to be rethought. Contrary to what many people think, international trade is a job creator. But if trade is mismanaged, as it has been, it can be a job killer. We have to open foreign markets to our goods, just as our economy is itself open.
Our labor laws need to be reformed. Unions can play a constructive role in a market economy but they can also make entire industries uncompetitive. We can't afford the policies favored by the Obama administration that do away with basic democratic procedures like the secret ballot while protecting undemocratic ones like coerced campaign contributions, tipping the balance in favor of union organizers at the expense of the very workers they purport to represent.
We have to invest in "human capital." America's workforce is our country's greatest renewable natural resource. If we are to create jobs, we need to narrow the mismatch between the skill set of our workers and the requirements of the employment market. The federal government currently spends $18 billion on training. But this is through 47 separate programs administered by nine different agencies. Most of them are completely ineffective. I would turn this function over to the private sector and to the states.
Federal spending has to be brought under control. Under Barack Obama it has increased by 28 percent -- from nearly $3 trillion to almost $4 trillion. The federal government is sucking away the capital that businesses could be using to invest in new plants and to hire people. Federal spending needs to be cut; it then needs to be capped at 20 percent of GDP, and we need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to ensure that we never head down this disastrous path again.
Accomplishing all this change is not going to be easy. But all of it is vitally important. The path we're on is a dead end. The time to turn around is now. The economic future of our country is at stake.
Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is seeking the Republican nomination for president.