Showering business leaders Wednesday with promises of lower tax rates and a lighter regulatory environment, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney accused President Obama of trying to duck responsibility for embracing policies that have generated the nation’s “tepid” economic recovery and left millions of people out of work.
The former Massachusetts governor said he would foster a healthier economic climate by repealing Mr. Obama’s overhaul of the federal health care system, simplifying Wall Street regulations, and pushing policies that nurture more energy exploration.
Mr. Romney’s address to more than 100 of the nation’s top CEOs at the Business Rountable’s quarterly meeting in Washington served as a prebuttal of sorts to the high-profile economic speech that Mr. Obama is scheduled to deliver Thursday in Ohio, arguably the most important battleground state on the electoral map.
“We’ll hear what he has to say tomorrow as he describes the reason for four more years, but I happen to believe that if you look at his record over the last three and a half years, you will conclude, as I have, that it is the most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs series of polices in modern American history,” Mr. Romney told the well-heeled crowd, as it feasted on plates of salmon and sipped iced tea.
Democrats countered the attacks later in the day, arguing in a conference call that Mr. Romney is distorting the president’s record and ignoring that the economic mess he inherited from President George W. Bush
“It’s clear that this is no different than other Romney speeches which is like entering a fact-free zone,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the House Budget Committee. “It is part of a national campaign of disinformation, distortion and deception.”
Mr. Romney’s economic proposals, Mr. Van Hollen said, represent a “U-turn” back to the Bush-era policies that led to the recession. He also claimed that the moves made by the Obama administration — including the controversial $814 billion stimulus bill and auto bailout — have helped boost economic growth, which is evident in the 27 straight months of private-sector job growth and the return of 4.3 million jobs.
Mr. Obama appears to have a lot riding on his speech.
With five months to go before Election Day, polls shows the presidential race is basically a dead heat between the two candidates.
Mr. Obama, meanwhile, has struggled through a rough couple of weeks on the political front. A report released earlier this month from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent last month after the nation fell short of expectations by adding only 69,000 jobs. Days later, Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee announced that it had easily defeated Mr. Obama and national Democrats in fundraising in May.
To top it off, Mr. Obama has come under fire from Republicans after suggesting late last week that “the private sector is doing just fine.”
Mr. Romney and Republicans have pointed to the remark as proof that Mr. Obama is out of touch with how the economy works and the private sector. On Wednesday, he urged the crowd of business executives not to let the president off the hook.
“I think you’re going to see him change course when he speaks tomorrow, where he will acknowledge that it isn’t going so well, and he’ll be asking for four more years,” Mr. Romney said. “My own view is that he will speak eloquently but that words are cheap, and that the record of an individual is the basis upon which you determine whether they should continue to hold onto their job.”
In outlining his agenda, Mr. Romney also vowed to increase free trade around the world — singling out his desire to increase trade with Latin America. He said he wants to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent and the top individual tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, while eliminating a number of deductions in the current tax code. At the same time, he vowed to reduce the national deficit and reel in the escalating cost of the nation’s entitlement programs.