A look at a dozen promises apiece from President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, with some handicapping:
WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney has a ton of promises to keep if he becomes president, and that’s on his first day alone, never mind the other 1,460 days. Barack Obama was similarly full of will-do’s by the hundreds, big and small.
The election is about economic revival on both sides, so there are promises of training programs here, a Department of Business there, tax cuts galore, a powered-up armed forces, energy initiatives at every turn and more, paired up with pledges from both men to tackle the national debt.
Almost everything they promise hinges on the makeup of Congress after the election, their skill at twisting arms and postelection judgments about whether some things are really worth the fight. A glimpse at a dozen promises from each candidate, with some handicapping:
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Roll back Bush-era tax cuts for upper-income people. He compromised with the GOP and went along with renewing the expiring across-the-board tax cuts begun by his Republican predecessor, even though he wanted to revert to higher rates for couples making over $250,000 and individuals making over $200,000. Obama is still promising to raise those rates and more — and pretty much needs to, because much of his agenda depends on getting more tax revenue from wealthier people.
Put government on a path to cutting deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years. His first-term promise to cut deficits by half was followed by trillion-dollar deficits for four straight years due largely to the recession he inherited, a halting comeback and big spending to spur the recovery.
Cut imports of foreign oil by half by 2020. For generations, presidents have fruitlessly held out the dream of making the U.S. self-sufficient in energy. But the boom in domestic production may at last be nudging the nation toward that goal.
End subsidies to the oil industry. A leftover promise.
Prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The U.S. has imposed painful oil and financial penalties on Iran to persuade it to cease uranium enrichment, without apparent success. Obama has left open the possibility of military action to stop Iranian nuclear development.
“Take away tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas” as part of a plan to invigorate domestic manufacturing. U.S. corporations don’t pay U.S. taxes on overseas profits unless they bring that cash back to the United States. Obama says this encourages outsourcing. Republicans say taxing such profits would make U.S. companies move overseas, not just production.
“I want … comprehensive immigration reform that gives young people who’ve been raised here a chance to live out their own American dream.” This failed before. Obama would try again, and counts it as the first thing he would do next year after a deficit-cutting deal. Without needing congressional action, he decided on a temporary measure in June letting up to 1.7 million young illegal immigrants stay and work for up to two years.
Make higher education affordable for everyone, in part by halving the growth in college tuition over 10 years. Ensure by the end of the decade that the U.S. has more people with college degrees than any other country, recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in 10 years, help 2 million workers attend community college.
“… Reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet,” Obama said in his convention speech. Obama has come at the issue in other ways, treating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the law and steering billions of dollars into cleaner energy.
Strengthen Medicare by reducing the cost of health care. Steps already taken under the health-care law improve benefits while cutting payments to hospitals and other providers by more than $700 billion over a decade — cuts used to help working-age Americans get insurance.
“We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports. … ” In October, manufacturers added 13,000 jobs after shedding 27,000 the previous two months.
Consolidate federal agencies dealing with business issues into one new department led by a secretary of business.
Create 12 million jobs in four years. Economists think about that many jobs or more will be created regardless of the outcome Tuesday. To add 12 million, the workforce would have to grow by an average of 250,000 a month, a reasonable prospect when there is no recession. Since July, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month.
“I’m not going to raise taxes on anyone,” a pledge also rendered as, “I will not raise taxes on the middle class.” Romney promises not only to keep the Bush tax cuts for all but to bring down rates a further 20 percent. He’d also eliminate the capital-gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut the corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. He’s talked about reducing some deductions and exemptions in the tax code but won’t say which.
Repeal Obama’s health-care law. Pledged to issue waivers from the law to all 50 states on the first day of his presidency. Many states don’t want out of the law, and it can’t be dismantled with the mere stroke of his pen anyway.
Balance the budget by 2020. Vital specifics are lacking from this pledge, such as which big federal programs he’d cut and how else he would save money when he also wants to cut taxes, increase military spending and restore more than $700 billion in Medicare cuts over 10 years.
“… North American energy independence by 2020.” By that, he means the U.S. would have its energy needs completely met by its own resources and those of Canada and Mexico. As with Obama’s pledge to cut oil imports by half, Romney’s promise has become conceivable thanks to technology and market forces that have brought vast reserves of natural gas, along with other energy sources, within reach.
Quickly approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, delayed by Obama because of environmental concerns, as part of the push for more energy supply.
Label China a currency manipulator. Central to Romney’s pledge to get tougher with unfair trade practices. The move would set the stage for broad trade penalties and could lead to a trade war between the two huge economies.
Overhaul immigration laws. Romney favors a strengthened system of tracking illegal immigrants through their U.S. employers, supports completion of the U.S.-Mexico border fence and opposes any broad-based move to establish a path to citizenship except for those in the armed forces. He promises to achieve this overhaul before the two-year work permits granted by Obama expire, and he would honor those in the meantime. Promises those who study legally in the U.S. that “if you get an advanced degree here … we will staple a green card to your diploma.”
Protect Medicare for those in or near retirement, change it for future retirees. Starting in 2022, retirees could choose to buy their own health insurance, with voucherlike payments from the government, or stay with traditional Medicare. Questions persist about whether the payments would be sufficient and whether traditional Medicare would remain as comprehensive as now.
Turn Medicaid over to the states with block grants, a huge change to a major program.
Seek freer trade with Latin America and other parts of the world.
Day One alone: “Start the process of repealing Obamacare”, cut off federal money for Planned Parenthood and the U.N. Population Fund, reinstate the policy banning federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information, designate China a currency manipulator, “reverse every single Obama regulation that attacks our religious liberty and threatens innocent life.”