The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Tracking the Issues: Different Visions of the Economy

by Newsteam Staff
April 9, 2012

Ironworkers on beams above the 93rd floor of One World Trade Center in New York City March 23, 2012 (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)/ Ironworkers on beams above the 93rd floor of One World Trade Center in New York City March 23, 2012 (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)/


Even with some economic indicators showing improvements, candidates and analysts to disagree on the state of the economy and its impact on the campaign.

The U.S. economy has been the premiere issue on the campaign trail and a recent jobs report added fuel to the partisan economic fire.  The Financial Times says the latest jobs numbers puts the Obama campaign in “the unenviable position of having to decipher whether the recent dip in hiring is the start of a worrying trend or just a temporary setback.”

Even before differing on Friday’s Labor Department report, President Barack Obama and GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, in dueling speeches to newspaper editors last week, highlighted their divergent economic messages (USN&WR).

Obama says that everyone “deserves a fair shot” at success and that higher taxes on the country’s wealthiest will preserve some government spending while allowing debt reduction, while Romney argues that higher taxes for higher earners is essentially punishing success.

“If we become one of those societies that attack success, one outcome is certain–there will be a lot less success,” Romeny said.

This represents a serious philosophical divide not just between the candidates but the parties as well. Democrats focus on fairness/inequality, while Republicans focus on lowering taxes or at least preventing tax hikes as MSNBC’s blog First Read notes.

Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich says when it comes to this issue, “Romney is the perfect foil for Obama (HuffPost).” Reich says Romeny’s earnings and tax rate is indicative of the gap between the very rich and everyone else, and the election could hinge on the country’s growing inequality.

For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on The Candidates and The Economy.

Suggested Other Reading:

Though claiming disappointment on Friday’s jobs report, economist Irwin M. Seltzer writes in The Weekly Standard that there are other reasons to be hopeful about the economic recovery, including “the re-shoring of jobs” that had been sent to China, U.S. companies’ success in competition with their European counterparts and gains in the U.S. retail, auto and housing sales sectors.

CFR’s Sebastian Mallaby leads a panel of experts in a discussion on the state of the global economy which discusses the economic realities of U.S. election year.

Unemployment will eventually return to pre-2008 levels as economists look for signs that the U.S. economy has hit a natural rate of unemployment, says Catherine Hollander in National Journal.

— Gayle S. Putrich, Contributing Editor

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