Romney Tells Executives Obama’s Eloquent Words ‘Are Cheap’

Mitt Romney dismissed an economic policy speech President Barack Obama has planned for today, urging business executives to ignore “soaring and eloquent” rhetoric and focus on joblessness during Obama’s term.

“My own view is that he will speak eloquently, but that words are cheap, and that the record of an individual is the basis upon which you determine whether they should continue to hold on to their job,” Romney told about 100 executives at the Business Roundtable quarterly meeting in Washington yesterday. “We have 23 million Americans that are out of work, or stopped looking for work or underemployed. That is a compelling and sad statistic. These are real people.”

In an address today at a community college in Cleveland, Obama plans to sketch out “Romney Economics” as a series of policies that would damage the economy and hurt the middle class, including handing tax cuts to the wealthy and wiping out rules for Wall Street.

About the same time at the other end of Ohio -- viewed by both campaigns as a crucial battleground for the November election -- Romney plans to speak at a manufacturing tool company in Cincinnati.

Definition Fight

The dueling speeches underscore the fight between the Democratic president and his presumptive Republican challenger to gain the upper hand on the economy, with each defining the other’s economic vision and record in a negative light. They are also competing to paint one another as out of touch with Americans facing hardships in a sluggish recovery.

Indicators give a mixed picture of the country’s economic health. Claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to 386,000 in the week ended June 9 from 380,000 the previous week, according to Labor Department figures released today in Washington. The jobless rate has risen to 8.2 percent.

The Standard & Poor’s 100 Index of the biggest U.S. companies rose 5.5 percent in 2012 through yesterday, beating a version of the S&P 500 that strips out weightings for market value by the most since 1999. Earnings for the 100-company measure are projected to reach a record high this year, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen 4.6 percent so far this year.

‘Tepid’ Recovery

Romney, 65, said yesterday that Obama’s agenda has been hostile to business, heaping burdensome and costly regulations on industry. That, he said, has led to “a tepid and unfortunate recovery” as Obama advocates tax increases that would further hurt company profits.

He also said Obama, 50, has failed to stem budget deficits or rein in Medicare and other federal entitlement programs, complicating businesses’ ability to plan for the future.

As his audience of executives sipped iced tea and dined on lunches of salmon, couscous, salad and fruit tarts, Romney reprised a June 8 comment by Obama that Republicans are using as a cudgel against the president to argue that he doesn’t understand the nation’s economic woes.

“He said, as you know, just a few days ago that the private sector is doing fine, but the incredulity that came screaming back from the American people has caused him, I think, to rethink that,” Romney said.

Obama in his speech today, Romney said, will change course and “acknowledge that it isn’t going so well, and he’ll be asking for four more years.”

The president has sought to limit the fallout from his remark, saying later on June 8 that it is “absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine.”

‘Dishonest Claim’

Obama’s campaign yesterday accused Romney of distorting the administration’s record.

Romney “made dishonest after dishonest claim about the president’s record and failed to offer any new ideas of his own,” Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement on the Republican’s speech yesterday.

Romney, a former private-equity executive who co-founded the Boston-based firm Bain Capital LLC, said his approach toward business would be a stark contrast with Obama’s. Aside from securing the nation, Romney said, the government’s main responsibility “as it relates to the economy is to make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs and innovators, investors, job creators.”

“Government has to be the partner, the friend, the ally, the supporter of enterprise, not the enemy,” he said. “Too often, you find yourself facing a government that looks at you like you’re the bad guys, and if you’re hiring people, and employing people and paying taxes, you’re the good guys. I want you to do well.”

2008 Meltdown

Vowing to repeal Obama’s health-care law as well as the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation measure the president pushed through Congress last year, Romney said lawmakers had taken advantage of the 2008 financial meltdown to enact their longstanding goals of placing more restrictions on banks and other businesses.

“The legislators, and particularly the staff, used the economic crisis to do all the things they’d always wanted to do, and to be able to overreach and try and put their reins on all sorts of enterprises,” he said.

As an example, Romney cited attempts to impose Dodd-Frank margin, or collateral, requirements on non-financial firms. The Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with commercial and manufacturing firms including MillerCoors LLC, have lobbied regulators and lawmakers to prevent those requirements from being placed on end-users of derivatives.

Rubio’s Comments

Even as Romney promised his agenda of spending and tax cuts, less regulation and more domestic energy exploration and production would mean an economic resurgence, comments by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida illustrated potential obstacles to a bipartisan deal on the nation’s fiscal challenges.

Rubio, a possible Romney vice presidential selection, said he wouldn’t accept revenue increases in a deficit deal that also cut spending to prevent a U.S. fiscal crisis. It’s a “different time” than when then-President George H.W. Bush embraced such an agreement in 1990, Rubio said.

“I don’t have a moral objection to tax increases; I think they have a negative impact on growth, which is what our No. 1 objective should be,” Rubio, 41, said yesterday at a Bloomberg Breakfast with reporters in Washington.

To reach a deal with Democrats who controlled the Senate and House in 1990, the first President Bush “had to accept those tax increases, and I think we live in a different time today,” Rubio added.

Rubio, a Cuban-American who some Republicans say could boost Romney’s standing among Hispanic voters as his vice presidential pick, declined to comment on the running-mate speculation. He said he wanted to be “respectful” of the process.

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