Image: Mitt Romney
Chris Keane  /  REUTERS
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during the American Principles Project Palmetto Freedom Forum in Columbia, South Carolina September 5, 2011.
updated 9/6/2011 4:48:58 PM ET 2011-09-06T20:48:58

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, in a wide-ranging bid to create jobs, proposed Tuesday to reduce regulations and taxes on companies, sanction China over its currency practices and weaken the clout of labor unions.

Trying to hold off surging rival Rick Perry, Romney traveled to economically suffering Nevada to deliver his multi-point plan that was designed to position him as the GOP contender with the most comprehensive approach to job growth. It calls for reducing or eliminating several taxes, extracting more U.S. oil, coal and natural gas, expanding trade pacts and slashing federal spending.

Democrats called Romney's plan wrong-headed and doomed to fail. Taxes already are near historic lows, they noted, and many employers say weak consumer demand is more troubling than taxes or regulation.

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Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, portrayed his plan as a bold vision to lower the nation's unemployment rate, now at 9.1 percent.

"America should be a job machine: jobs being created all the time, people looking for employees to join their enterprises," he said.

Many of Romney's proposals are not new, although they could cause fierce debates in Congress if pursued. He would seek a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, cut non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent, eliminate the estate tax and undo the 2010 health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama.

The jobs plan is Romney's first major policy statement since he announced his candidacy in June. It came two days ahead of Obama's scheduled speech on jobs before a joint session of Congress.

Romney's campaign predicted that his overall plan would lead to 4 percent annual growth in the U.S. economy, and create 11.5 million new jobs over four years. The campaign did not provide details of how it reached those projections, which are certain to be challenged by Democrats, independent groups and perhaps his GOP rivals.

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Winning congressional approval for such proposals could prove difficult even if Republicans keep their House majority in the 2012 elections and take over the Senate. Senate Democrats would likely retain filibuster powers.

First, of course, Romney must win the Republican nomination, which eluded him in 2008. Many party insiders saw him as this year's early front-runner until Perry, the Texas governor, jumped in and shot to the top of polls.

Texas has gained many thousands of jobs during Perry's decade as governor, pressuring Romney and the other contenders to convince GOP voters they can do a better job of attacking unemployment.

Romney called for lowering the corporate income tax to 25 percent, from the current 35 percent. That rate is high compared to other advanced economies, but a host of tax breaks allow many U.S. companies to pay little or no corporate tax. Romney said a lower rate would encourage companies to keep more operations within the United States.

He would eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for people making less than $200,000 a year. A campaign spokeswoman declined to offer estimates of the proposal's budget impact "because they are still being refined and finalized."

Most capital gains taxes are paid by the richest Americans, and Democrats said Romney's plan would have scant effect.

Romney said he would keep the Bush-era income tax cuts unchanged. Obama wants the cuts, which were set to expire this year, to disappear for the wealthiest taxpayers.

Romney did not go as far as GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who has called for lower tax rates for all Americans and the elimination of most tax breaks and loopholes.

Video: TDR Panel: Romney v. Perry (on this page)

Romney said he would consider wider changes to the tax code over time. He also said a number of foreign and domestic proposals would lead to job growth, the issue dominating the presidential election.

Saying Obama has greatly expanded federal regulations, he proposed steps to ensure that new regulations won't cost employers more money. If a new set of federal rules raises costs for businesses, his plan would require other regulations to be eliminated as an offset.

He said he would sanction China for deliberately keeping its currency low, which makes Chinese-made products easier to sell abroad. The Obama administration has complained about China's currency policy but has not made it a priority in the two nations' relations.

Romney also accused China of stealing intellectual property, a common complaint among U.S. creators of technology, entertainment media and other products. He proposed a "Reagan Economic Zone," which would be a coalition of nations that respect intellectual property rights and seek expanded trade with each other. And he vowed to push stalled trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Focusing on labor unions, which overwhelmingly back Democrats in elections, Romney said he would seek rules making it easier to defeat unionization drives and to prevent mandatory withholding of union dues from workers.

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Video: Ahead of GOP debate, Romney unveils jobs plan

  1. Closed captioning of: Ahead of GOP debate, Romney unveils jobs plan

    >> the republicans who want to replace the president are, indeed, getting ready to debate tomorrow nieflt here in southern california as we mentioned. and in advance of that faceoff, mitt romney today, unveiled his plan to boost the economy and jobs and try to get out ahead of the president on this. nbc's kelly o'donnell watching it all from capitol hill tonight. kelly , good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian . one more stat from the poll for you that's very telling. more than half of the public says that they think every member of congress should be replaced. so congress is back tonight feeling some pressure to get some things done. the republicans are trying to jump ahead of the president. you've got house speaker , john boehner , saying he's reaching out on things like infrastructure spending and reducing regulations. but senate republicans are saying that they are opposed to many of the president's ideas, not because of politics, but because those ideas don't work. and then over on the campaign trail, today we had mitt romney unveiling his plan and he compared the president's government-based approach on the economy to an old pay phone in a smartphone worlds.

    >> what he's doing is taking quarters and stuffing them into the pay phone . and thinking, can't figure out why it's not working. it's not connected anymore, mr. president. your pay phone strategy does not work in a smartphone world.

    >> reporter: the romney plan runs about 160 pages, brian and including reducing corporate taxes and boosting energy production , things like that. and rhine, we've learned tonight governor rick perry is likely to leave the texas fires to participate in the debate tomorrow night. aides say it's still fluid but he plans to attend, brian ?

    >> all right, kelly o'donnell wrapping things up from washington. and a reminder, you'll be able to see the debate tomorrow night. i'm moderating along with jon harris of the website politico at the ronald reagan 'presidential library here in california. that's tomorrow night, 8:00 eastern, 5:00 on the west coast . live on msnbc.


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