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The second presidential debate was, not surprisingly, spirited and contentious. What was surprising, however, was the general agreement between the candidates over such issues as immigration, lower taxes for most Americans and corporations, and the importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, proposed tax cuts to “create incentives to start growing jobs again in this country.”
I understand how hard it is to start a small business. That’s why everything I’ll do is designed to help small businesses grow and add jobs. I want to keep their taxes down on small business.
President Obama, the Democratic candidate, referred to his promise, four years ago, to “cut taxes for small businesses, who are the drivers and engines of growth.” He added, “And we’ve cut them 18 times.” To encourage high-skilled immigrants and foreign investment, Romney said, “I want to make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for small business, for big business, to invest and grow in America.” The president also emphasized the importance of immigrants who “start new businesses. They'll make things happen to create jobs here in the United States.” He included among his achievements a streamlined immigration process that makes it easier for immigrants to “come here and contribute to our country, and that’s good for our economic growth.” Despite these broad areas of agreement, the two candidates differed sharply on how to achieve stronger economic growth. “I want regulators to see their job as encouraging small enterprise, not crushing it,” Romney said. “My path is designed in getting small businesses to grow and hire people. How about the growth of the economy? It's growing more slowly this year than last year, and more slowly last year than the year before.” He argued that the current administration’s tax and regulatory policies, as well as specific acts such as Dodd-Frank and health-care reform, “have not let this economy take off and grow like it could have.” The president expressed his vision of growth in broader social terms: “I think what grows the economy is when we make sure small businesses are getting a tax credit for hiring veterans who fought for our country. That grows our economy.” He added, “of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same fair deal as men are.”
I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that's how our economy's grown. That's how we built the world's greatest middle class.
Since the third and final debate is supposed to focus on foreign policy, the candidates will probably not have another face-off on economic growth and what helps it (equality and fairness, according to the president) or hinders it (regulation, corporate taxes, Dodd-Frank, and health-care reform, according to Romney). Though it succeeded as political theater, the second debate disappointed viewers seeking a straight-up confrontation over the two widely differing views of growth — as part of a larger enterprise of social justice that requires more government intervention or as an economic good in itself that enables more opportunity and a “bright and prosperous future for America.”
Robert Asahina has been a newspaper and magazine editor and writer, a book publishing executive and editor, and a data management consultant. He was editor in chief and deputy publisher of Broadway Books, president and publisher of the adult publishing group of Golden Books, and vice president and senior editor of Simon and Schuster; deputy managing editor of The New York Sun and an editor at The New York Times Book Review, Harper's, George, and The Public Interest; and a consultant at Freddie Mac. He is the author of "Just Americans" and of numerous articles and reviews for The Wall Street Journal, Harper's, The New York Times Book Review, and elsewhere.