Last week, as Mitt Romney tried to defend himself against attacks on his record at Bain Capital, Republicans complained the Obama campaign is guilty of distracting Americans from the central issues of the 2012 presidential race — jobs and the economy.
In fact, fixing the economy is the entire basis of Romney’s campaign. So what plans does the GOP candidate have to rev up the economy?
His best-known idea is cutting taxes. But there is no way to specify how many jobs that will create. After-tax profits for corporations are already high.
His most concrete idea for creating jobs is to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The idea has political potency because President Obama, citing environmental concerns, denied a permit for TransCanada Corp. to construct the 1,700-mile pipeline.
However, the number of jobs that would be created by Keystone could generously be described as modest.
TransCanada initially estimated the project would create 20,000 jobs — 13,000 for the actual construction and 7,000 for manufacturing steel and other equipment.
In subsequent interviews the firm’s executives and economists who consulted on the study clarified that each of those “jobs” actually represents one “job year” — that is a job that lasts for one year. This means that for a single worker who works on the pipeline for the two years the project requires his tenure is counted as two “jobs.” That reduces the maximum number of jobs created by Keystone to between 10,000 and 15,000.
But a September 2011 study from Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute determined that even that number is “not substantiated.” They estimated about 1,400 jobs at most.
Even blindly optimistic estimates for the Keystone project top out at 20,000 new jobs that last for only two years.
Yet Romney has complained that the U.S. jobs report for June 2012, which showed that the U.S. economy created 80,000 jobs in one month, is evidence of the failure of President Obama’s job creation policies.
A recent Fox News poll found only 27 percent of Americans think Romney has a plan to revive the American economy. By comparison, 41 percent of registered voters think Obama has a clear plan. That is a 14-point gap.
It is interesting to note only 49 percent of Republican voters in the same poll said Romney has a plan to improve the economy. By contrast, 72 percent of Democratic voters said Obama does.
The same Fox poll also asked voters, “Who do you think will do a better job looking out for you and your family during tough economic times?” Forty-seven percent said Obama and 36 percent said Mitt Romney.
What is true in poker is true in politics. You can’t beat something with nothing.
And right now, voters are coming to the conclusion that when it comes to credible plans to fix the economy, Republicans have nothing.
This perception will be a huge drag on Romney’s presidential campaign but it is also a problem for GOP congressional candidates running with Romney.
Can they claim to be creating jobs or simply blocking Obama’s job creation efforts?
With less than 15 days remaining for scheduled legislative business before the election, House Republicans will have to go back home to their districts and run on their record as it stands now.
When their constituents ask them what they have done to improve this economy during the summer recess, will Republican incumbents have more to say than Romney?
The House GOP Conference’s website highlights 27 “jobs” bills that have passed the Republican House and await action by the Democratic majority in the Senate. Most of the GOP bills aim to undo government regulations on big business. But it is not clear how removing consumer protections and Dodd-Frank policing of Wall Street will lead to more jobs. Yet it is taken as an article of faith among Republicans that rolling back regulations will always lead to job creation.
And Republicans are not promising their 27 bills will create jobs. These bills — which include the “Southeast Arizona Land and Conservation Act” and the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act” — do not appear to generate a lot of jobs.
What is becoming clear, contrary to their rhetoric, is that House Republicans have not focused on job creation.
The first two bills voted on by the current House GOP majority were empty, symbolic bills. One repealed the president’s healthcare reform law even though the repeal had no chance of passing the Senate. The second was a ban on taxpayer funding for abortions, even though such a ban has been in place since 1976 under the Hyde amendment.
In fact, Republicans have introduced several dozen bills appealing to social conservatives. None has anything to do with putting Americans back to work.
During the 2010 campaign, Republicans running for Congress would taunt Obama by asking: “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”
It is time to ask Republicans the same question.
Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.