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Obama unveils economic plan: 5 ways it differs from Romney's (+video)

The little blue 'new economic patriotism' booklet is President Obama's answer to Mitt Romney's 5-point plan – and to voters who want to know what he would do with a second term.

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In practice, it might prove hard for either candidate to take too hard a line against China. Romney might follow through on his pledge to step up pressure, but a keynote of US policy predating Obama has been the goal of drawing China closer into the fold of advanced economies. Too much confrontation might risk progress on that front.

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"Energy made in America"

Obama says he'll offer what Romney doesn't: Progress toward the goal of energy independence while also minding environmental concerns. He calls his plan an “all-of-the-above” strategy.

It includes "opening up millions of acres for exploration and development," including in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic. But it also includes continued investment in renewable sources and in energy efficiency. Obama notes his already-announced plan to double the fuel economy of cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. He also wants to extend tax credits that support clean-energy manufacturing.

Romney's version of an all-of-the-above plan puts more emphasis on fossil fuels, less on the risk of global warming. (Obama's booklet contains a reference to "steps to protect our climate," Romney has an 88-page document that uses the word "climate" in the context of jobs, not ecosystems.) Conservatives say Obama is a faux friend of domestic energy production that could lower US energy bills and, in Romney's vision, help North America become "energy independent" within eight years.

Romney's plan would streamline permitting for domestic energy production. He would "eliminate regulations destroying the coal industry." And unlike Obama, his plan includes a pledges to approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline for Canadian tar-sand oil to get to US refineries. 

"Growing small businesses"

If candidates like to kiss babies, a second rule of thumb is they like to extend verbal hugs to small business. Obama says he'll cut taxes for firms that hire new workers or increase wages. He wants to extend a tax break that lets businesses immediately write off the costs of new plants and equipment.

He notes that small businesses pay up to 18 percent more than large firms do for health insurance. His solution: Expand a the health-reform tax credit to cover half of small businesses’ health care costs in 2014, and offer access to group rates.

Romney says America's employers are with him in calling for tax and regulatory reforms that promote job creation. Where Obama says his tax policy would extend Bush-era tax rates for 97 percent of small businesses, Romney says he'd keep taxes low for 100 percent – including those who pay in the top individual income-tax brackets.

He says he'd "repeal and replace" Obama's health-care reforms, saying employers view the rules as a disincentive to hire. He also would seek legislation to "protect workers and businesses from strong-arm labor union tactics."

Education

Obama wants to recruit 100,000 math and science teachers, saying "we can out-compete China and Germany by out-educating them." He wants to cut the pace of tuition growth in half, in part through education tax credits and incentives for colleges to restrain their costs.

In public schools, he calls for spending to prevent teacher layoffs (a goal of his American Jobs Act, which has languished in Congress). He would expand the Race to the Top incentives for school reform and exempt reform-oriented states "from the worst mandates of No Child Left Behind, like incentives to teach to the test, so they can craft local solutions."

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