Mitt Romney returned home Friday to give Michigan voters a glimpse of his plans to get the nation’s fiscal house in order and to strengthen the economy, as he worked to court voters in one of the states’ that was hit hardest by the economic recession.
Speaking to the Detroit Economic Club, the former Massachusetts governor pledged to support a mix of tax cuts for individuals and corporations, as well as changes to the Social Security and Medicare and the elimination of the so-called “death tax.”
“I want to restore America’s promise. That means more jobs, less debt, smaller government,” Mr. Romney said. “In the coming campaign, I am offering more than just a change in policy. I am offering a dramatic change in perspective and philosophy.”
He told the crowd he represented the Republican Party’s only chance of defeating President Obama in the 2012 election, arguing that “I will have the credibility on the economy” that his rivals in the GOP presidential race lack.
The address was another opportunity for Mr. Romney to woo voters ahead of the primary on Tuesday, where he hopes to fend off a stronger-than-expected challenge from former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who has emerged has his biggest foe in the nomination contest.
“Detroit shouldn’t just be the Motor City of America, it’s got to be the Motor City of the entire world,” Mr. Romney said, though he steered clear of repeating his opposition to the 2008-2009 auto bailouts, which might not hurt him in the GOP primary, but could give him a headache in a general election.
Steven Rattner, President Obama’s former “car czar,” wrote an op-ed for the New York Times Friday criticizing Mr. Romney for suggesting the industry could have been saved through a managed bankruptcy without tens of billions of dollars in federal aid.
“Without government financing — initiated by President George W. Bush in December 2008 — the two companies would not have been able to pursue Chapter 11 reorganization,” Mr. Rattner wrote. “They would have been forced to cease production, close their doors and lay off virtually all workers once their coffers ran dry. Those shutdowns would have reverberated through the entire auto sector, causing innumerable suppliers almost immediately to stop operating, too.”
Those polls, though, don’t reflect the GOP presidential debate in Mesa, Ariz. on Wednesday, where Mr. Romney was thought to have gotten the better of Mr. Santorum in a number of exchanges over issues. He knocked Mr. Santorum for supporting pork-barrel projects while in Congress and for backing then-Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 election over a conservative Republican primary challenger in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Romney first released his “Restore America’s Promise” tax plan on Wednesday.
In it, he calls for an across-the-board tax cut that would, among other things, reduce the top individual tax rate from 35 to 28 percent and the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. He put out the tax plan the same day that President Obama’s rolled out a business tax plan of his own that would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent and eliminate many tax loopholes and credits with a net increase in federal revenue.
Mr. Romney vows to end the repatriation tax on American companies who do business overseas, to abolish the estate tax and eliminate capital gains and dividends taxes entirely for those with an annual income below $200,000.
“These changes will not add to the deficit. Stronger economic growth, spending cuts and base-broadening will offset the reductions,” he said on Friday.
He also assured the audience that middle-income Americans will continue to enjoy the mortgage interest and charitable givings tax deductions. And to deal with the $62 trillion in “unfunded promises in our entitlement programs,” he would push to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and slow the growth in benefits for higher-income retirees.