WASHINGTON - Late yesterday afternoon, in advance of today's scheduled speech on the economy by the President, lawmakers and leading economists called a press conference here at which they rebutted GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's economic address to a group of businessmen earlier in the day.
In his speech Romney essentially called upon workers, already reeling from high unemployment and losses of net worth approaching 40 percent, to make more sacrifices by accepting cuts in Medicare benefits, and Pell Grants and by accepting fewer firefighters, cops and teachers in their communities. In the same speech he advocated more tax breaks for millionaires like himself and for corporations already hated for shipping U.S. jobs overseas.
"It is clear that Mitt Romney has entered and remains in a fact free zone and has put forward a package based on lies, distortion and deception," declared Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee.
"How can he ask Americans who have lost so much of their wealth to sacrifice more while in the same breath call for more tax breaks for the few who are doing fine already in this economy?," Van Hollen demanded to know. "For him to say President Obama doesn't have a clue when it is the President, over Republican opposition, who put through a $700 billion stimulus program and rescued the auto industry, creating or saving millions of jobs, is beyond me. In addition, although it's far from enough, we've had 27 months of private sector job growth. Under the last president, whose policies Romney is advocating that we return to, we were losing almost 800,000 jobs a month."
Van Hollen, a Democrat, said his Republican colleagues knew well that the only problem with the stimulus program was that, because of GOP resistance, it wasn't actually big enough.
"The Republican colleagues of mine on the House Budget Committee have heard, upfront, the reports form the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office," Van Hollen declared, "and in each of those reports they had laid out for them, in black and white, the details of how the stimulus created millions of jobs.
"In addition, the President has laid out a jobs program to create millions of new jobs. It has been sitting, stalled in the Republican-controlled House, since September, by Republicans who would rather see the American people suffer than see the President succeed."
Noted economist Dean Baler, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research, accused Romney of lying and distortion when the Republican candidate claims Obama had promised the American people that his stimulus bill would keep unemployment from going above 8 percent. "No one knew at first that the jobless rate would soar into the double digits," Baker declared. "The only claim made for the stimulus was that it would save or create three million jobs and it did that. Without it things would be far worse.
"Romney is also practicing deception when he talks over and over again about how the National Health Care Act is killing jobs and how regulations kill jobs," said Baker. "First off, most of the health care bill is not in effect yet and second, regulations have benefits. New environmental regulations in 1990, EPA studies show, yielded 2.3 trillion in benefits to the economy, not just through job creation but by allowing millions of people to remain healthy and productive. "Doesn't Romney realize that when regulations protect people's health effectively we save billions in the costs entailed with people dying, children getting sick or having to be treated in hospitals.
Josh Bevens of the Economic Policy Institute's Policy Center took on Romney for his use of the President's recent remark, taken out of context, about the private sector doing "fine."
"If you look at corporate profits," Bivens said, they are doing fine, their rate of profit is higher than it has ever been since the 1960's and they are sitting on trillions of dollars of cash profits - more than they have ever had. They are not using it to create enough jobs."
Bivens also blasted Romney for his repeated claim that businesses don't create jobs now because they fear regulations that might come down the pipe if the President is re-elected.
"That is one of his most absurd claims," Bivens said. ""If there really was this fear about future regulations than it would make sense to ramp up production now and do a lot of business and profit making quickly before those regulations kick in. But they aren't doing that because the problem is not regulation, the problem is that the demand isn't there because the American people can't afford to buy what they would produce."
Photo: White House photo