From the mayor of Mesa, Ariz., to the president of the United States, lawmakers across the country are talking about one thing: jobs.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney became the third White House hopeful to unveil his jobs plan today with both an op-ed in USA Today and a speech in Las Vegas. Romney announced 59 "specific proposals" that he says will "turn around America's economy."
In the week leading up to Labor Day, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, about 80 percent of which are Democrats, announced separate plans to spur job growth, as did Republicanpresidential candidate Jon Huntsman. Fellow GOP candidate New Gingrich proposed his plan back in May.
President Obama, after working out a scheduling snafu, called a joint session of Congress to present his jobs agenda on Thursday.
Last week's dismal employment report showing that zero new jobs were created in August added renewed urgency and vigor to the call for economic policies targeted at spurring job creation. And while there is no shortage of ideas, there is little common ground between Republicans and Democrats about how to get America working again.
Here's a side-by-side look at how the various plans match up.
|The Common Ground|
While there are few areas of consensus when it comes to job creation, all sides agree on one thing: trade agreements. Free-trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea would eliminate tariffs on cross-border trade, increasing American exports by about $12 billion per year, the United States International Trade Commission estimates. The agreements are currently stuck in limbo between the president's desk and floor of Congress.
If elected, Romney said he would create a free trade conglomerate with multiple countries that he calls a "Reagan Economic Zone." The former Massachusetts governor said the group will put pressure on China and other countries that "violate trade rules while free-riding on the international system."
Another area of agreement is on tax relief for small business, although each plan goes about it differently. Cantor's plan offers the most sweeping tax breaks by allowing small businesses to deduct 20 percent of their income, meaning they would only pay taxes on 80 percent of their profits.
The president is also expected to propose tax breaks, but instead of across the board cuts, Obama will suggest tax incentives for companies that create jobs. The Conference of Mayors was even more specific about their proposed tax cuts, favoring incentives for businesses that hire veterans.
When it comes to taxes on families, there is general agreement that the current tax code is too complex, a fact that many Republican presidential candidates have been quick to condemn. Jon Huntsman plans to simplify the code by creating just three tax brackets and lower the rates to 8, 14 and 23 percent. The current system has six brackets that range from 10 percent to 35 percent.
Gingrich takes simplifying the tax code a step farther and said he would give families the option to pay a 15 percent flat tax instead of calculating their taxes based on the complex system of deductions, credits and multiple rates.
While the Conference of Mayors plan did not provide specifics, it notes that a "more equitable tax rate" should be established. The Mayors' plan also suggests that the 3 percent withholding tax that is set to go into effect in 2013 be abolished. The tax would require federal, state, and local governments to withhold 3 percent of all government payments made to contractors in excess of $100 million. Cantor also calls for this withholding tax to be scrapped.
|Consensus Within The GOP|
If it were only up to Republicans, multiple types of taxes would disappear, many government regulations would be repealed and several of Obama's initiatives would be rolled back. All four of the Republicans' plans favor repealing the president's health care law, although Cantor specifies that he plans to begin by expanding the grandfather clause so that more people can keep their current plans untouched by the Affordable Care Act.
And on the subject of hated Obama Administration initiatives, both Huntsman and Gingrich specifically singled out the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill for repeal. Huntsman called the Wall Street regulatory bill "a 1,600-page monstrosity that gives unelected bureaucrats unprecedented and unreviewable power over our financial system."
All four Republicans had a bone to pick with the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, seven of the 10 regulations Cantor targeted for repeal were from the EPA. Romney said "environmental extremism" has restricted America's energy-producing capacity and said he would reassess any regulations that limit energy production.
Gingrich said he wants to scrap the EPA and replace it with an "Environmental Solutions Agency" and Huntsman wants to repeal the EPA's "serious regulatory overreach." Both presidential candidates also favor sweeping reforms to the Food and Drug Administration.
The National Labor Relations Board is also unpopular, especially after a high-profile lawsuit with the Boeing Co. The NLRB accused the airline manufacturer of violating labor laws by building an assembly plant in South Carolina, a right to work state, for a plane that was already being manufactured by union workers in Washington. Cantor said the House will vote on a bill to prevent the labor board from closing the South Carolina plant. Every presidential candidate has spoke out against the NLRB.
On taxes, the three GOP presidential candidates each want to lower the corporate tax rate, which is currently the highest in the world at 35 percent. Gingrich proposed the most drastic reduction, favoring a 15 percent corporate tax rate. Huntsman and Romney both want to drop it to 25 percent.
Both Romney and Huntsman want to eliminate dividends and capitial gains taxes, but Romney specifies they should only be axed for the individuals making less than $200,000.
While the U.S. Conference of Mayors is a bipartisan coalition, about 80 percent of the mayors are Democrats and many of its job creation prescriptions are similar to those the president is expected to propose in his jobs speech Thursday.
Both President Obama and the U.S. Conference of Mayors support extending unemployment benefits. The president is expected to announce his support programs that would help those who have been out of work for more than six months. One such program is Georgia Works, where people receiving unemployment benefits in the state work for a local business to get job training at no cost to the business.
Perhaps the cornerstone of the mayors' plan to create jobs was through investments in infrastructure, starting with the reauthorization of the transportation bill. On Wednesday the president urged Congress to pass the Surface Transportation Bill, aka the "highway bill," which is set to expire at the end of September.
The president's jobs plan is expected to include a call for further investments in infrastructure such as a more efficient energy grid, high speed rails and bridge construction.