With the 2012 presidential election looming over us, the hot topic for our candidates has been unemployment and economic growth. After all, no president since World War II has met re-election with an unemployment rate more than 8 percent.
For many voters, this highly debated topic has solidified their vote for or against a candidate. However, it can be difficult to sort through all of the political analysis and mudslinging we are inundated with daily.
So, how do our presidential candidates say they are planning to tackle unemployment if they win the election? Mitt Romney claims that, if elected, by the end of his first term he would lower the unemployment rate to 6 percent. Barack Obama outlined a blueprint for the economy in his State of the Union address in January, highlighting American manufacturing, tax codes, and trade enforcement. But what does all of this mean exactly for the American people?
1. Adjust policies on retraining workers and reevaluating the unemployment resources (Obama and Romney). Romney plans to consolidate current federal retraining programs and give these programs to the states under a block grant. Obama similarly plans to consolidate current federal programs in the hopes of providing a single program for individuals to seek out. Unlike Romney's proposal, Obama wants to create partnerships directly between businesses and community colleges to provide community career centers.
2. Create Personal Reemployment Accounts and linked programs for unemployed individuals (Romney). According to Romney's campaign, these accounts would contain funds to be put toward retraining for eligible individuals. These accounts, which were piloted during George W. Bush's administration, would also place individuals directly into companies that provide on-the-job training. Romney's thought is to put a more individualized twist on retraining via government funds as opposed to giving limited options to individuals seeking to better their job placement opportunities.
3. Reevaluate tax codes for businesses outsourcing jobs (Obama). Obama's proposed tax reform would create a basic minimum tax for multinational businesses that outsource jobs and profits, while giving local businesses a tax cut. In the end, this would ideally free more funding and resources for local businesses to take on more employees. In contrast, Romney plans to cut the corporate income tax rate and transition to a territorial corporate tax system, which would encourage multinational companies to bring their profit back to the U.S. by putting their taxes on foreign products at zero.
4. Adjust regulations and create tax cuts for startups and entrepreneurs (Obama). Obama plans to create a bill that would adjust current regulations and extend tax relief to new businesses that are raising wages and creating jobs. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), business owners in the U.S. spend approximately $1.1 trillion annually to comply with current federal regulations including zoning regulations, complex tax code systems, and countless industry-specific regulations. In fact, SBA's top official, Karen Mills, acknowledged Obama's efforts to keep small businesses in mind while implementing policy in a Wednesday speech. According to the Washington Post, the SBA -- via the Obama administration -- has distributed a record number of government-backed loans.
5. Adjust immigration and citizenship policy in favor of individuals with advanced degrees in math, science, and engineering (Romney). This policy change would allow current visa holders to obtain citizenship if they have a current job offer from U.S. companies. It would also make it easier for exchange students seeking a similar degree at U.S. universities to obtain a green card after graduation. According to Romney, this would "fill high-skill job openings for which there is currently an acute shortage of labor."
6. Revise immigration policies to increase border control but provide more opportunities for workers and students to obtain citizenship (Obama). Similar to Romney's plan, Obama proposes a policy change that would allow students and workers to obtain citizenship instead of being deported. Although both Romney and Obama have a focus on foreign students in the U.S., Obama's policies extend to students with no criminal history who came to the U.S. illegally as children.
7. Reduce the federal workforce (Romney). As part of Romney's fiscal policy, he plans to cut the overall size of the federal workforce by 10 percent. Romney posits that, although the private sector has been steadily losing jobs, the federal workforce has grown by 6.9 percent. The thought is to put federal resources where they should be most effectively used. Does this mean widespread federal layoffs? Romney's plan does not highlight the details. To contrast, Obama plans to add nearly 15,000 jobs to the federal workforce if elected.
Although our candidates are proposing other policies and bills that may impact the employment landscape, it's not certain what will be the golden ticket to change. The results of any of these changes aren't set in stone. And all of them will require time, and therefore, our continued patience.
But one thing is true for both candidates: Americans need more jobs and stability. I think we can all agree on that.