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:
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.
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.
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.
Pawlenty’s camp has yet to provide any response.