Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney previewed his economic plan in a Tuesday op-ed in USA Today, seeking to draw a stark contrast between his own plans and President Obama's.

"Our country has arrived at a fork in the road," Romney writes. "In one direction lies the heavy hand of the state, indebtedness and decline. In the other direction lies limited government, free enterprise and economic growth. I know which direction is the American way. And I know in which direction lie the millions of jobs we need."


Romney will lay out more of his economic plan in a Tuesday speech.

His plan, which will be released in full on Tuesday afternoon, calls for cutting taxes and scaling back government regulations, repealing President Obama's health insurance reform law and expanding oil, coal and gas production. He also calls for a more centralized, streamlined job retraining program and for a balanced-budget amendment and promises to place "an ironclad cap on spending."

The one-time front-runner has slipped behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) in a series of nationwide polls conducted last week, and has been more aggressive with his campaign rhetoric in the last few days.

Democrats criticized Romney's plan. "The fact is, if Mitt Romney has expressed a single original idea on the economy in the entire time he has been running for president — for the second time — you could auction it off on eBay in the rare stamp collection area," said Democratic National Committee communications director Brad Woodhouse. "By adopting the extreme policy prescriptions of the Tea Party, we know Mitt Romney's vision is of an America that has to lower its sights, can't realize its full potential and has to put the narrow interests of the priviledged few ahead of everyone else."

Romney also calls for more free trade agreements while attacking China's trade policies, suggesting a "Reagan Economic Zone" of economic allies to "serve as a powerful engine for opening markets to our goods and services, and also a mechanism for confronting nations like China that violate trade rules while free-riding on the international system."

"I will not stand by while China pursues an economic development policy that relies on the unfair treatment of U.S. companies and the theft of their intellectual property," he writes. "I have no interest in starting a trade war with China, but I cannot accept our current trade surrender."

Romney's op-ed comes ahead of a busy political week that includes the first GOP presidential debate with Perry on Wednesday night and Obama's address to Congress on jobs on Thursday.

Congress returns on Tuesday, and the "supercommittee" tasked with finding major deficit reductions meets for the first time on Wednesday.