White House watch
WASHINGTON — OK, folks, here we go! The general election campaign has begun.
President Barack Obama has given up the subterfuge that he doesn't know who his opponent in November will be, and Mitt Romney has left Rick Santorum in the dust and casts Obama as the source of the country's woes. So what are each man's best arguments?
Romney contends the economy is troubled and the president is responsible. He recalls that Obama's team promised unemployment would decline much faster than it has. As a businessman, he argues he knows how the economy works and will speed up the recovery by less taxation, less regulation and a smaller federal government.
Obama argues he inherited a terrible economy that is now recovering and that when Romney was governor, Massachusetts ranked 47 out of 50 in job creation.
Romney says the key to recovery is giving businesses reliability in regulations and tax cuts. Obama responds he has handed small businesses 17 tax cuts and credits. Romney argues they were small, unpredictable and too difficult to take advantage of to spur job creation.
Romney argues economic growth is encouraged by unfettered private enterprise, meaning less federal regulation. Obama counters America's big problem is a weakened middle class. Without strong government action, he says, the elite take advantage of the weak, meaning the middle class will lose more ground.
Romney accuses Obama of apologizing for America and weakening the U.S. hand in foreign policy. Obama disputes both arguments, insisting America is held in better repute now than in 2008. Although Romney said Russia is America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe." Obama says that terrorism is far worse, that America must work with Russia and that the death of Osama bin Laden and the end of the war in Iraq show his policies are working.
Romney says Obama should not have set a timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan. Obama says that the surge of troops he ordered has worked, that the war has lasted long enough and it is time to return control of Afghanistan to the Afghan government.
Romney argues the nation's $15.6 trillion debt is destroying America's competitiveness. He wants spending cut dramatically and said it would be "marvelous" if the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would pass. Obama said such cuts would be "social Darwinism," harming the poorest women and children, students and the elderly. He said the Ryan budget would damage such programs as weather forecasting, medical research, Head Start and air traffic control without spurring economic growth.
If the Supreme Court does not rule Obama's 2010 health-care overhaul act unconstitutional, Romney says his first priority would be repealing it. While Romney championed similar reforms in Massachusetts, he argues health insurance is a states' rights issue. Obama notes his law doesn't go into full effect until 2014, that it has given millions of young adults under 26 coverage under their parents' policies and people with pre-existing conditions no longer may lose coverage or be subject to lifetime caps. He insists insuring 47 million Americans without coverage means everybody must buy insurance.
Romney advocates more domestic oil and gas development despite environmental concerns and opposes ending federal subsidies to the oil industry. Obama says he has approved many new drilling permits and that with the oil industry making huge profits, it's time to end billions in subsidies. He also favors developing more alternative energy sources.
In essence, Romney wants large cuts in federal spending, less regulation, changes in Medicare and Social Security, substantial reduction in the size of the federal government, more powerful states and less taxation.
In essence, Obama is willing to make further spending cuts if revenue is raised through higher taxes on the rich. He says that Romney's non-defense cuts in federal programs would increase inequality in America and throw a monkey wrench into the recovering economy.
Serious times. Serious issues. The fun-filled primaries seem so long ago.