The presidential debates have clearly established what Americans may expect from an Obama second term or a Romney Administration.
Mr. Obama would double down on the policies pursued since the financial crisis gripped—growing America from the government out.
In 2007, with two wars ragging and the Bush tax cuts and prescription drug benefits for seniors in place, the federal deficit was $161 billion—it has exceeded $1 trillion the past four years.
That stimulus has delivered weak growth, and the unemployment rate has fallen only because so many Americans have quit looking for jobs. Paradoxically, more seniors are working but millions of Americans below the age of 65, frustrated, have given up.
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When Mr. Obama took office, unemployment was 7.8 percent, but if the adult labor-force participation rate were the same today as when he took office, the jobless rate would be 10.7 percent—wages adjusted for inflation are falling, too many young people live with parents, and household wealth is melting away.
Mr. Obama promises more spending on roads, bridges and schools—a badly needed initiative—but he also wants more government investments in futuristic energy projects like Solyndria and electric car battery A123 maker that reward his political pals and end up in bankruptcy.
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Mr. Obama would raise taxes on families earning more than $250, 000 and many small businesses, and whoever wins, Congress is expected to let the temporary reduction in payroll taxes lapse in January. Overall federal taxes would jump more than $300 billion and largely cancel the jobs-creating effects of any new spending initiatives.
Permitting young folks to borrow even more to pay tuition bloated by managerial inefficiency and depressed faculty productivity at colleges and universities won't create a single new job for the nearly half of all college graduates facing counter work at Starbucks.
Doubling exports, through new trade agreements, will only double imports, and not positively affect employment in manufacturing or anyplace else.
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The treasure trove for creating a million more manufacturing jobs, and supporting jobs in services, lies in standing up to China and developing domestic energy, which would require mountains of building materials and machinery.
Since the recovery began, annual exports to China are up $37 billion but imports are up $160 billion, because a few complaints in the WTO notwithstanding, President Obama has failed to stand up to Beijing's currency manipulation, theft of intellectual property, and import barriers to competitive American-made products.
With each passing day, Beijing's mercantilism becomes more brazen, because they sense American weakness—consumers who would rather throw millions into unemployment rather than give up subsidized, cheap clothing and electronics at Wal-Mart, and a President reluctant to even admit China manipulates its currency .
(Read More: Steinbock: China's On the Way to Recovery )The oil deficit is up $77 billion, because President Obama has slowed development of onshore resources in places like South Dakota with law suits, and drilling remains outlawed on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, and severely constrained in much of the Gulf and Alaska.
Governor Romney's policies could boost oil production by more than 50 percent and cut imports in half, without increasing environmental risks.—or shifting those to developing countries where those are managed less effectively.
Of all the things Mr. Romney promises—standing up to China and developing U.S. oil, instead of sending petro dollars to Middle East nations who finance terrorism, would deliver the 12 million new jobs he promises.
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By the end of President Obama's first term, his economic recovery will have delivered about five million new private sector jobs. A Romney first term could easily deliver twice that number. That's the choice Americans face.
Peter Morici is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.