Romney: Obama should have put focus on turning economy

Mitt Romney said Monday that a poll by The Hill which showed a plurality of voters blame President Obama for the bad economy was evidence the president should have focused on the economy when he entered office. 

Romney argued Obama didn't focus his energies on the economy after his election, and instead turned his attention to passing a healthcare law and other priorities that made the climate for business worse. 

"I think the president made an error coming into office and deciding that the economy would take care of itself and he focused his energy on a series of liberal plans that he and his friends have been working on for years; take over the health care industry, a massive regulation of financial services in this country, trying to impose unions where employees don't want them, a new energy policy, slowing down the leasing of federal lands for the production of oil and gas," Romney said Monday during an interview with CNBC. 

"All of these things, not coincidentally, had the impact of slowing job creation and making them less likely for entrepreneurs to either open their doors or to expand hiring. And that's come home to roost at a time we should've focused on getting the economy going and only passed measures which encouraged job creation."

A poll releasd by The Hill on Monday found that two-thirds of Americans believe the slow economic recovery is the result of bad policy. And the poll was among the first to find more voters blaming Obama for the continued struggles than former President George W. Bush.

Romney went on in the interview to condemn President Obama's tax plan, which calls for the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts on all income below $250,000 a year. The Republican presidential hopeful suggested that Obama's plan, paired with a mandatory sequester of $500 billion from the Pentagon budget, could cause "real distress for the economy."

"I can tell you that you don't raise taxes on people in the middle of a downturn like this, particularly one that's gone on for three and a half years. Circumstances in this country suggest people are still having hard times, jobs are not plentiful," Romney said. "What the president should do is say look, we're going to extend for at least a year the—well, I'd like to see it permanent, but at least a year—the current tax environment. This sequestration related to defense spending, in particular, has to be put off."

Romney also continued to harp on President Obama over his "you didn't build that" comment earlier this month during a discussion of the role government played in building up infrastructure for business. Romney dismissed the Obama team's insistence that the quote had been taken out of context, arguing "the context is worse than the quote."

"In enterprises, they're the ones paying for government. So his whole philosophy is an upside-down philosophy that does not comport with the American experience," Romney said. "And if we want to get people working again--and that's my priority--if we want to get people working again, we have to celebrate success and achievement and not demonize it and denigrate the people who have worked hard, who are smart, who have made the kinds of investments to build a brighter future."

Romney also accused Obama of attempting to distract from his economic record in frequently attacking Romney's tenure at Bain Capital.

"I understand the president will do everything in his power to try and get people to talk about shiny objects which distract from the fact that he has been unsuccessful in getting this economy going and we're even having a conversation today where you bring up the recession word as you look forward," Romney said.