2012 GOP Field: Who’s Got the Best Jobs Plan?

March 14th, 2011 at 10:38 pm | 32 Comments |

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The next Republican nominee for president will have to face the question: what is your plan to create jobs in America. How ready are the emerging candidates to answer? A FrumForum survey finds: not very.

Last week, FrumForum put the question directly to the campaign organizations of Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Huckabee. Here’s what we were told:


Newt Gingrich

Team Gingrich gets the highest marks of all the candidates contacted. They offered a relevant answer that showed thought had been invested in the problem. Via email, they said:

To compete with India and China, the United States has to dramatically reduce the burden the government has over the economy.  There should be reform in five areas:  litigation, regulation, taxation, education and innovation (promotion of science and technology) as well as pursuing a balanced budget amendment.  To start, we could match the Chinese capital gains rate of zero and instantly turn the United States into a magnet of new private sector job investment.

Gingrich’s website goes into further detail on the jobs issue:

America has the second highest business taxes in the industrialized world. We should cut the corporate tax rate to 12.5% to match Ireland and match China on investment by eliminating the capital gains tax completely.  We should also cut payroll taxes by 50% for both the employer and employee and provide a 100% tax write-off for new equipment.  Eliminating the death tax would be both morally correct and a boon to economic growth. So too would an “all of the above” energy policy that took advantage of America’s vast energy reserves as well as invested in new forms of energy.  We must also fight efforts to impose an energy tax (cap and trade) on America and work to repeal the high tax, big bureaucracy health bill that is punishing businesses.

Gingrich’s team also followed up with a phone interview to describe Gingrich’s plan for reforming unemployment insurance: instead of allowing people to be on unemployment insurance indefinitely, the unemployed would continue to receive benefits if they could demonstrate they were learning a new skill, perhaps at a community college.

Another Gingrich team idea: a national electronic job-matching system. Individuals could fill out an online profile of their work preference and skills, and employers could then search their databases to find a match for open spots. The proposal would also reportedly give trade associations a leading role in designing and running these systems to keep most of the work in the private sector.


Mitt Romney

The CEO candidate’s performance on the jobs question was much weaker than Team Gingrich’s.

Romney’s staff responded to the request by pointing us to a pair of op-eds written last year.

Unfortunately the op-eds were either boilerplate or only tenuously related to unemployment. One piece, “Obama must slay the job-killing beast,” focused entirely on federal spending. The recommendations in this piece come down to setting a hard cap on government spending and reforming entitlements. Both are worthy goals, but neither deals with immediate employment issues

The other op-ed, “Grow Jobs and Shrink Government,” dedicated only half a paragraph near the end to focus on employment issues:

To give an immediate boost to jobs and investment, permit businesses to write off in 2010 and 2011 the capital investments made in those years rather than over time. Aggressively negotiate and sign trade agreements with other nations to promote American exports. Adopt an energy policy that will actually eliminate our dependence on OPEC and hostile states. Preserve our balanced labor-management rules and regulators. Rather than raising the tax on investment dividends, eliminate it and the tax on capital gains and interest for all households earning less than $250,000 a year.

At CPAC Romney spoke about the unemployment issue and said “Liberals should be ashamed that their policies have failed these good and decent Americans.”

While Romney’s own answer is hazy, he at least shows awareness of the question.


Mike Huckabee

Huckabee’s camp was unable to provide their candidate’s response to this issue due to the book tour, but they did recommend that FrumForum check out his new book.

Huckabee’s new book, A Simple Government, actually has some positive ideas and positions to offer the GOP. Huckabee speaks about his own struggle with weight loss to make the case that America’s obesity problem must be tackled. He also speaks approvingly about environmental conservation. It is therefore discouraging that job creation takes up only a small sub-section of the book.

The sub-section “We Need Jobs” is part of a larger chapter which focuses primarily on government spending levels. Huckabee identifies that jobs are needed for economic recovery, and seems to be most drawn to the problem of small businesses being able to expand:

job creation requires funds for new businesses to start up and existing businesses to expand. Even though small businesses create about 70 percent of our new jobs, they have more trouble getting credit than medium-sized and big businesses… it’s harder for small start-up businesses to get financing than it is for established companies; moreover, because of the greater risk of failure, they have to pay high interest rates just to get off the ground.

Notice that Huckabee is speaking to the needs and problems that face the employer not the employee or job seeker. This oversight is even more striking given that Huckabee is often referred to in the media as the conservative “populist” candidate.

Huckabee avoids providing a solution to this problem beyond generalities: “As long as the government continues nutty policies that hinder or hurt small businesses, the existing factors do not bode well for job creation.”

Jobs and employment are largely absent from the rest of the book, with the exception of a later section where Huckabee quotes two studies which argue that eliminating the estate tax will either create between 170,000 and 250,000 jobs (according to economist William W. Beach) or possibly even 1.5 million jobs (according to Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Cameron Smith.)

Even if the more optimistic study is true, it’s hard to imagine Huckabee, or any GOP nominee, making the case to unemployed or underemployed voters that what they need to get hired is a permanent repeal of the estate tax.

Huckabee touts his book’s simplicity (“I’m not trying to win a Pulitzer Prize or impress the folks at Harvard, Yale or Stanford” he writes in his introduction) but he also touts his book’s accessibility and ability to explain complex problems to a general audience. It is therefore a shame that when presented with this opportunity that Huckabee couldn’t write more forthrightly or at greater length about job creation. He gives the issue only a short acknowledgment and one gets the impression that the issue might not captivate him as much as others.


Tim Pawlenty

Pawlenty’s camp has yet to provide any response.


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32 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    It does not matter what they say, It’s lies anyway.

    Remember the GOP BS in the 2010 election. Quote.

    When elected we will be targeted like a laser on jobs,jobs,jobs.

    What has happened since January? Zero on jobs and a whole load of social crap. Forced birth, birth control for horses, gay bashing and on and on.

    Jobs are at the bottom of the pile.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    Ohhh man, this will be a blast! Ok, am gonna guess, then modify my comment after I’ve read them. I’m pretty sure I know the GOP talking points. Allllllllllllllll three of ‘em.

    Cut spending (mostly by cutting duplicative bureaucracies), end wasteful and confusing regulations, cut the capital gains tax and corporate taxes… and… um… ok, that’s enough. I think that I can be the GOP nominee now. Let’s check it out.

    ADDED: Dammit, forgot those pesky trial lawyers, messin’ with the free market by disincentivizing defective products. Not bad, though. I’m better than Romney.

    As to the “substance” of these responses, it’s great that Newt Gingrich is looking to models of capitalism like Ireland and China. That’s like seeking family values advice from Newt Gingrich.

    And of course the right-wing talking point about how high our corporate taxes are is a lie. Yes, we have high nominal rates, which no one pays. In reality, our corporate tax take is near historic lows (see: http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2011/03/the-us-corporate-income-tax-the-food-is-bad-and-the-portions-are-too-small/ ), and low relative to the rest of the OECD (see: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=784 ).

    Also, as the Conservatives are showing us in the UK, cutting spending in this circumstance, with super low interest rates, businesses holding onto cash, and an astronomical unemployment rate, is like recommending that we fix the economy by bleeding it with leeches.

    But hey, it’s a GOP primary, so facts aren’t really relevant. It’s just a matter of who can spout the most 1980-vintage slogans without pissing off the Wall Street wing of the party or being Mormon. I guess that means it’s Tim Pawlenty’s nomination to lose.

  • valkayec

    The GOP is not now nor will ever be focused on creating jobs. Their focus, as politicians, is on corporate donations. They don’t give a crap about middle to low income families who’ve seen their jobs disappear, the savings lost to Wall St., their homes gone to Wall St., and their lives destroyed.

    I’m pissed because I don’t think the GOP cares a whit about the majority of people in this country.

    But then why should a “Millionaire Congress” care about the rest of us?

  • Watusie

    Given that it was the last Republican administration that caused the jobs crisis, why on earth should anyone listen to what any of the Republican candidates have to say on the subject unless they first acknowledge how badly Republican policies have performed in the very recent past, and explain why we should believe it will be different next time around?

  • bananana

    The GOP only cares about the wealthy, because we live in an oligarchy and not a “representative democracy.”

    Think of it this way: the rationale for separation of powers was that the US Founding Fathers didn’t trust power concentrated in too few hands. Yet, there is no corresponding check upon the power of concentrated wealth.

    In the 1950′s, it used to be that extremely high tax rates on the wealthy(around 90% on income over the equivalent of 2 million) aligned the interests of the wealthy and the rest of the country.

    See Malcolm Gladwell: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/festival/2010/10/video-malcolm-gladwell.html

    http://www.truthandpolitics.org/top-rates.php

    However, this outcome seems unlikely given that the mainstream media is controlled by both the wealthy and the stupid (non-mutually exclusive).

    So, if the wealthy will see to it that they won’t be taxed even at Clintonian levels, the legal system prevents accountability for wealthy bankers who can afford the best lawyers, and Obama cannot take on Big Money by himself (while he does take poor people’s guns to preserve stability and the status quo), what is the check upon the power/greed/oligarchy of the wealthy?

    Or, think of it this way — money is a vote. Money is a direct, legally backed claim upon the allocation of scarce social resources. That’s what a vote is. Voting is merely an indirect claim upon scarce social resources, and voting fails due to both a principal-agent tension and the speed/relative strength of money.

    This is why we live in oligarchies and not democracies – the rich simply have more say as to the allocation of scarce social resources, and the poor have almost no say. A positive feedback loop makes the rich richer, and because the poor cannot financially compensate those who help them, altruism toward the poor is punished in our society…yet, each of us WANTS to be altruistic. That is human nature.

    Therefore, Money is a Law, because it governs how we must live. We have created a society in which capital = fitness, and thus we are socially selecting at the upper echelons of power psychopaths who will do anything for money. There is no cost to their fitness if they exploit people or pollute or waste money or hoard money, and so their insane behavior continues.

    The legal system (1) protects the wealthy, who can afford the best attorneys, buy politicians, and manipulate the tax code, and (2) takes violence off the table so the poor can’t retaliate, when the rich commit daily acts of violence against the poor. Yet, game theory suggests that both punishment and reward are necessary for cooperation to exist.

    So, as an example, can we redesign money to create “digital financial karma” to capture the “externalities” of people’s behavior? Could we each digitally destroy money, at the same rate (we could have the option to pay $1 per day to destroy $2 of someone’s ill-gotten money, depending on how much deflation we want.)?

    Could we decentralize the Federal Reserve’s creation of money (votes) so that it is no longer created for central banks and lent back to the public? Could we digitally give everyone, say, $3 (votes) per day to buy FOOD so they can have healthy brains? Why not?

    • Elvis Elvisberg

      In the 1950’s, it used to be that extremely high tax rates on the wealthy(around 90% on income over the equivalent of 2 million) aligned the interests of the wealthy and the rest of the country.

      Well, but you know that we can’t trust anything the government was doing in the 1950s. Do you know who was president? That’s right: DWIGHT EISENHOWER.

      Look at what he said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children….This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from an iron cross.”

      Even worse: General Dwight Eisenhower, supreme commander of American forces in Europe, told Secretary of War Stimson “that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.” In July 1945 Eisenhower met with Truman and advised him not to use the bomb.

      Worser still: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

      It must have been all that time in France that turned him into a socialist.

  • abrady

    The GOP strategy has been successful– 400 Americans make more $$$$ than one-half of all Americans combined. Michael Moore made this claim and it seems to be verified by Politifact.

    So, let’s give them the tax break that will increase the deficit dramatically.

    But, let’s cut all of the safety net and educational programs to make a .5% reduction in the deficit.

  • Rabiner

    So Noah, the best plan is reducing capital gains taxes to zero? So the rich pay nothing in taxes and the poor pay everything because they aren’t the investor class? Makes perfect sense….

    “Eliminating the death tax would be both morally correct and a boon to economic growth.”

    How is eliminated the estate tax morally correct? In a meritocracy how is being born into wealth and being able to pass that wealth to the next generation (basically establishing a nobility class) a good thing? If we have to tax anything, may as well tax this.

    • think4yourself

      I’m not a Gingrich fan and I’m for bringing back Clinton era tax rates. US companies may have a higher tax rate, but lots of loopholes so effective tax is quite low.

      I will add regarding the inheiritance tax (death tax) that as it relates to various small business owners it can be a drag on the economy. If I own a company worth 5 million dollars, but most of that is tied up on plant, equipment, etc. or is an intangible like goodwill, in the event of my death, my children may have to close the business and sell the assets to pay the taxes, or borrow huge sums of money and leverage themselves (and become less competitive). This hurts the employees by causing job losses at that company along with it’s suppliers, customers, etc. So I am in favor of a low level of inheiritance tax as it relates to businesses, farms, etc. I guess I’m mixed about a low tax if all my assets are in securities, cash, etc. While it may only benefit my heirs the fact is I created that money, I’ve already paid taxes on it when I earned it, why should I be taxed again?

  • SFTor1

    Could someone please tell me it is not too late to turn this country back from becoming Brazil? Are there any Republicans here that see that a meritocracy does not have to degenerate into a plutocracy?

    The rich tax society through their use of infrastructure to create wealth. They owe more.

    And could anyone provide any substantiation for the claim that lower taxes lead to increased wealth for common people? It has not been the case in this country for the last forty years as far as I can tell.

    • Houndentenor

      I’m sorry to tell you this, but I think it’s already too late. No one is going to do anything to upset the top 1% too much because they own the media and they own the politicians (99% of them anyway…and in both parties). Maybe at some point Americans will wake up and realize what has happened. I hope it’s soon but given the number of deluded people who believe that Glenn Beck is “right about everything” (quote from my sister), I don’t see much hope until we hit rock bottom. Even then almost half the country will blame all of it on the liberals.

  • larry

    The job plans of the three statesmen are obvious enough, and do not need explication. Fortunately, they will not be realized. But it is enlightening to review their own job histories. Huckabee apparently flourished as a pious divine, admonishing his flock to forgo their sinful ways, practicing magic at the baptismal font, and softly reminding his followers of the stern need to tithe. Gringrich is another story. He has only recently got the old-time religion. He made mistakes, confusing patriotism, overwork, and fornication. That’s natural. His tax returns, quite properly, are not public, but one imagines that he has made productive contributions to the economy by his incessant, and, presumably, lucrative addresses to credulous audiences. That adds value. Enough for the theologian and the philosopher. Romney? That’s more obscure. Did he improve the efficient allocation of capital? I doubt it. That’ pretty much the spectrum of the GOP job plan. Palin and Bachman look pretty good.

  • rbottoms

    There is no spoon.

  • ottovbvs

    Ever heard of the Magic Asterisk Noah? The phrase was coined by Reagan’s budget director David Stockman I think to describe assertions of what should happen. Not how it was going to happen. IOW it’s classic motherhood and apple pie. We’re all in favor of it. Gingrich’s response which impressed you so much is a classic of the genre.

  • gobsmacked

    Did you forget Sarah Palin? ‘Cause she’s gonna get in there with those ‘common sense’ solutions, cut taxes on those job creators (rich people), roll up her sleeves and get in there, do what the founders (all of ‘em) would do, and work with all those patriotic Americans to get the budget in order just like she does as a simple hockey mom housewife.

  • Houndentenor

    The GOP hasn’t even proposed enough spending cuts to balance the budget at the current tax rates. Now they want further tax cuts? If so, they aren’t serious about the deficit.

    At least Huckabee seems to have a grasp on one of the problems: the difficulty of getting credit to start a new business or expand a small business, which is where most job creation happens, and that tax laws and regulations are aimed at large businesses, not small ones. That would be a good issue for the GOP to tackle and would have positive results for the country. Actually, I recommend democrats steal this issue from Huckabee since I don’t think the GOP is going to move on this in the least.

  • Infidel753

    If tax cuts were the key to job creation, the country would have been awash in jobs at the end of the Bush Presidency. Corporate tax revenues as a percentage of GDP are already near historic lows (http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/03/what-about-corporate-tax-reform.html).

    Gingrich gets points for recognizing the importance of technological innovation. Does that mean he’s prepared to abandon restriction on embryonic stem-cell research, which drove work in a critical area of biotechnology overseas during Bush’s term?

    Republicans do have something to contribute in the area of getting rid of onerous regulations (when they aren’t genuinely needed to prevent abuses), but as TerryF98 points out, the track record since the 2010 election is just more of the same old anti-abortion and anti-gay obsessions, with union-busting thrown in.

    Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

  • sinz54

    Watusie asks: :Given that it was the last Republican administration that caused the jobs crisis, why on earth should anyone listen to what any of the Republican candidates have to say”

    Because we have a two-party system.

    And those of us who are dissatisfied with the Obama Administration’s track record have only one other alternative to choose from.

    Not all of us swoon at Obama’s feet like you do.

    • ottovbvs

      What is persisting in destructive behavior in spite of all empirical evidence to the contrary called? Cognitive Dissonance? Agnatology? Nihilism?

    • Watusie

      “And those of us who are dissatisfied with the Obama Administration’s track record …”

      …are going to vote for something that is going to be even worse?

      Where is the sense in that?

      • ottovbvs

        Where is the sense in that?

        It’s not about sense is it? It’s about satisfying tribal urges.

  • Smargalicious

    When the Democrats leave power then the jobs floodgate will open.

    Corporations down to small businesses are just waiting for a free market-friendly administration in D.C.

    Right now, with the wealth redistribution and reparations agenda ascendant, the capitalists are laying low.

    • UncleLew

      Wow, Smargy. You really are pushing the nonsense that the rich are suffering. Every second of every day the wealthy are being given more and more often American economy, with the middle class in decline and the number of poor soaring. The rich depend on dumb people not believing anything beyond Fox News. The wealthy are apparently correct in their assessment.

  • PracticalGirl

    “Last week, FrumForum put the question directly to the campaign organizations of Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Huckabee…”

    Why? Except for Romney, have any of these “leaders” expressed a real interest in actual government or actually running for President?

  • sinz54

    Infidel753 asks: ‘Does that mean he’s prepared to abandon restriction on embryonic stem-cell research, which drove work in a critical area of biotechnology overseas during Bush’s term?”

    Embryonic stem-cell research has yet to produce any medical treatments of any value.

    A major problem with embryonic stem-cells is that they can cause their own malignant tumors in the patient–something that got ignored in all the hype from liberals and their pals in the media. Experiments with rats showed that the rats developed tumors. It’s for that reason that the FDA delayed clinical trials of embryonic stem-cell therapy until just this past year.

    Another problem is that until recently, the embryonic stem-cell lines had their own antigens which obviously differ from those of any adult patient they’re going to be infused into. That would require the patient to be on immunosuppressants for the rest of his life to prevent rejection of this foreign tissue. And that has its own risks, like infection or cancer. Now some embryonic stem-cell lines have been created which don’t have such antigens on their genomes.

    In the 10 years since President Bush formulated his own policy on the use of embryonic stem cell lines, no other nation has come close to using this therapy for any real cures of any real diseases in any real adult patients. That should tell you something.

  • PracticalGirl

    Smarg says;

    “When the Democrats leave power then the jobs floodgate will open. Corporations down to small businesses are just waiting for a free market-friendly administration in D.C.”

    Your argument ignores a basic fact and makes an unintended (I think) accusation.

    1. “Free-market friendly” Republican administrations of the past 30 plus years have resulted in skyrocketing deficits and record job loss. Use of an unlimited credit limit and free reign with the taxpayers check book combined with being free of any responsibility for paying any of it back hasn’t led to job stability or growth yet, and it never will.

    2. A capitalist of any sort who can only succeed when the government provides him with the perfect cushy climate isn’t exactly the kind of business we need in America. And those who are sitting around waiting for said climate before they”ll create jobs- do they love their country or their money more?

    • Elvis Elvisberg

      • Watusie

        Thank you, Elvis.

        Of all the millions of jobs we have lost since the peak at the end of 2007, 60% of them disappeared while George Bush was in office. And yet the Republicans pretend that they’ve got the solutions for the future while refusing to talk about the past.

  • armstp

    The biggest problem with Republican economics (if there even is such a thing) is that it contiually guts the middle class.

    You cannot have a strong economy without a strong middle class, as at minimum you need a strong middle class in which to sell your goods and services.

    Free trade and outsourcing has largely gutted the middle class. And studies have shown that free trade often favors the wealthy over everyone else. The owners of capital do very well with free trade, but the worker classes often get destroyed. And I am for free trade.

    Putting the entire tax burden on the middle class (instead of also including corporations and the wealthy), as the Republican have done through their tax cuts and tax code, again just pounds down the middle class.

    Gutting unions and workers rights has killed the middle class.

    Cutting investment in education and the infrastructure of government is also killing the middle class.

    Supporting a private healthcare system that does nothing but rip-off the middle class is a travesty.

    No regulation, resulting in say the largest financial crisis ever, is completely counter productive and the middle class is taking it on the chin.

    etc. etc. etc.

    Republican economics are destroying this country.

  • Rabiner

    Think4Yourself:

    “I’ve already paid taxes on it when I earned it, why should I be taxed again?”

    Actually you aren’t being taxed again, your heirs are. You saying your heirs are worse off after receiving their inheritance even after taxes than beforehand when taking into account net wealth? Also there are ways around paying the estate tax by slowly transferring titles of property to your heirs before death.

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