Election choices 2012: competing visions.

Author:Barlas, Stephen
Position:Cover story

It's being touted across the airwaves as the most important election in our lifetimes as United States citizens prepare to elect a new president.

How important it is may depend on which side of thefence you are sitting. For businesses, the focus hereoptimism in the U.S. economy has taken a deep dive.More than two-thirds of chief financial officersresponding to the Financial Executives International CFOQuarterly Global Outlook Survey for the 2nd quarter 2012don't expect a U.S. economic recovery until sometime in2013 (29 percent) or even 2014 or beyond (38 percent).In comparison, one year ago the majority felt the recoveryhad already begun or would begin by the second half of 2012; thisquarter, just 23 percent of the respondents now believe the U.S. is inthe midst of a recovery.At this juncture--with the election of a U.S. president and con?gressional candidates just one month away--which candidates andpolicies will bring certainty, lift the nation out of its doldrums, help create jobs and inspire an overall economic revival? Is it a second term for President Barack Obama/Vice President Joe Biden? Or will Mitt Romney--former governor of Massachusetts, founder of private equity firm Bain Capital and rescuer of the 2002 Olympics--and his running mate, theRepresentative from Wisconsin since 1999 Paul Ryan, win the election? The nasty rhetoric drowning out serious discussion during the 2012 presidential campaign has frustrated many in the business community, not to mention the electorate. "Both sides need to focus on real issues, instead of using scare tactics," says Steve Wojcik, vice president, National Business Group on Health, whose members are mostly large corporations concerned about burgeoning health care costs.

Important issues beg for serious discussion this election season, not only in the presidential race, but congressional races, too. The outcome of the 33 Senate elections may dictate, more than anything else, what happens in Washington in 2013. That is because the Democrats, now with a 51-47 edge (plus two senators who are registered as Independents hut caucus with the Democrats), could lose that majority, with 23 up for re-election, as opposed to 10 Republicans.

Handicappers like Stuart Rothenberg, political analyst and author of the self-proclaimed nonpartisan The Rothenberg Report, argue that only five of the 33 seats are really in play, with four of those held by Democrats. A sixth seat, held by Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, was thought to be endangered until comments on abortion made by her opponent, Rep. Todd Akin, in August, improved Mc-Caskill's odds considerably. Should the GOP gain control of the Senate and keep control of the House--which is expected--President Obama, if reelected, would have a much harder time pursuing his agenda.

The Candidates' Tax Agendas The agendas of Obama and Romney are very different. Obama wants to spend more to stimulate the economy and increase taxes on individual and family incomes over dollar 200,000 and dollar 250,000, respectively. Romney wants to slash federal spending and cut taxes. By press time, both camps have provided somewhat skeletal specifics, and though the president's objectives are clearer--having been in office and talking about them since 2009--as the challenger, Romney still has the opportunity to make his plans known to the electorate in more detail.

Romney's website (www.mittromney.com) is more detailed than Obama's (www.barackobama.com) on specifics, such as taxes. On the other hand, the president has submitted four years of federal budget plans that provide considerable detail on how he would approach various national challenges.

There are those, however, who say neither of the candidates plans add up. Clyde Prestowitz Jr., president of the Economic Strategy Institute, says an exclusive focus on macro-economic elements and policies--taxes and spending--as the major drivers of growth and employment is a fallacy. "The truth is high-tax, big government countries like Sweden, Germany and China are doing well economically and so are small government, low-tax economies like Singapore, I-long Kong and Switzerland," he says.

Prestowitz further says the candidates should be emphasizing...

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