Mitt Romney and America’s Four Deficits

BERKELEY – The United States is beset by four deficits: a fiscal deficit, a jobs deficit, a deficit in public investment, and an opportunity deficit. The budget proposals put forward by presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, could reduce the fiscal deficit, but would exacerbate the other three.

To be sure, Romney and Ryan have failed to provide specifics about how they would reduce the fiscal deficit, relying on “trust me” assertions. But the overarching direction of their proposals is clear: more tax cuts, disproportionately benefiting those at the top, coupled with significantly lower non-defense discretionary spending, disproportionately hurting everybody else – and weakening the economy’s growth prospects.

Despite 30 months of private-sector job growth, the US still confronts a large jobs deficit. The unemployment rate remains more than two percentage points above the “normal” rate (when the economy is operating near capacity). Moreover, the labor-force participation rate remains near historic lows.

More than 11 million additional jobs are needed to return the US to its pre-recession employment level. At the current pace of recovery, that is more than eight years away. In the meantime, persistent high unemployment reduces the economy’s growth potential by robbing today’s workers of skills and experience.