Cheat Sheet: Where Barack Obama and Mitt Romney Stand on the Economy

With economic issues tops for most voters this election cycle, we've compiled a summary of the candidates' positions and proposals

With jobs and the economy the central priority for most voters going into the presidential election, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are working overtime to explain why their policies will best serve the country for the next four years. Here’s a basic summary of those positions:

Barack Obama

In one of the most discussed policy issues in the news, the president wants wealthy Americans to pay more taxes. He supports the idea of the “Buffett Rule” (it failed in the senate in April) that would require people making $1 million or more annually to pay at least 30 percent in taxes.

Overall, Obama’s economic philosophy focuses largely on boosting the middle class, and during his first term, he cut taxes for American workers and provided 18 tax cuts for small businesses during the recession. He signed into law Wall Street reform after the financial crises, part of an overall emphasis on protecting middle-class families.

Vowing to reduce waste and save money, Obama’s Campaign to Cut Waste is meant to find and eliminate badly spent tax dollars in all federal government agencies and departments. The administration says it has already identified $3 billion in information technology cost reductions. In the 2012 budget, the president proposed 211 terminations, reductions and savings measures he says would save more than $33 billion in 2012 and $400 billion over the next decade.

If elected, the president says his plan of spending cuts and revenue increases would reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade, including $1 trillion in spending cuts he signed into law last summer as part of a deal with Republicans in congress.

Obama intends to invest in manufacturing, a commitment demonstrated in his first term through the rescue of the auto industry, and has created half a million manufacturing jobs over the past 30 months. His stated goal is to create a million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and to double American exports over the next five years by promoting U.S. goods and removing trade barriers, expanding access to credit and promoting growth.

Mitt Romney

Romney is well known as a businessman, primarily for executing turnarounds in the private sector. He aligns with the “trickle-down” theory of economics, supporting favorable economic conditions for wealthy Americans and corporations, what Romney refers to as “job creators.”

Romney’s stated goal is to bring federal spending below 20 percent of GDP by the end of his first term, from close to 25 percent last year. He’d require spending cuts of approximately $500 billion per year in 2016, assuming a strong economic recovery. He says he’d send a bill to congress on “day one” that cuts non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent across the board.

He says, to repair the nation’s tax code, he would make a permanent, across-the-board 20-percent cut in marginal rates; he’d maintain current tax rates on interest, dividends and capital gains; he’d eliminate taxes for taxpayers with income below $200,000 on interest, dividends and capital gains; and eliminate the death tax. In terms of corporate taxes, he’d cut the rate to 25 percent and strengthen and make permanent the R&D tax credit.

Romney says he would establish firm limits for regulatory costs and ensure economic growth remains the top priority when regulatory decisions are made.

Romney has vowed to repeal “Obamacare,” as well as Dodd-Frank (the Wall Street reform and Consumer Protection Act). He says he’d like to privatize Amtrak for a proposed savings of $1.6 billion, and reduce subsidies for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Legal Services Corporation for a savings of $600 million. He’d eliminate Title X Family Planning Funding (think Planned Parenthood) and reduce foreign aid. And he’d reform environmental laws in consideration of their costs, and provide long lead times before companies must comply with new environmental regulations.

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and iVillage’s Chief Election News Blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.

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