Mitt Romney, during a San Diego campaign stop, accused the Obama administration of crushing dreams through taxes and regulation, especially those imposed by the president’s health care overhaul.
Romney’s visit to NuVasive Inc. (Nasdaq: NUVA), a Sorrento Valley-based medical device developer, was timed to coincide with the Supreme Court’s hearing this week on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."
“I just don’t think the president and his people understand that if they burden enterprise with taxation and regulation, they hurt all of us,” Romney said. “This isn’t just about the business itself being attacked, bad as that is; it’s not just the employees that work there being attacked, bad as that is; it’s the entire economy. All of America slows down, and the proof is what you’re seeing in the current recovery.”
He specifically targeted the medical device tax, a 2.3 percent excise tax on the sales of medical devices that was part of the law and is projected to raise $20 billion in revenue over 10 years, as a misguided policy that would thwart innovation and job creation.
NuVasive Chairman and CEO Alexis Lukianov said the tax would result in his company creating 200 fewer jobs in 2013 than if there were no tax.
“Over the last couple years, our ability to innovate has curtailed,” he said.
The tax is against a company’s sales rather than its profit. For that reason, Romney said the burden would suffocate upstart companies that aren’t yet profitable and discourage venture capital investment.
Two-thirds of venture capital funding for health care currently goes to U.S.-based companies, Romney said, but this tax would drive those investments to foreign startups.
“What’s happening today in Washington is an attack on free enterprise, an attack on economic freedom unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” Romney said.
Outside the health care law, Romney said Obama has added 140,000 government workers since taking office, many of whom are regulators responsible for restricting market dynamics.
The Food and Drug Administration keeps American-made products from reaching consumers even after they’ve been in regular use in Europe after clearing their regulatory hurdles, Romney said.
Lukianov said regulations caused NuVasive to create 150 fewer jobs last year than it otherwise would have, he said.
Standing in front of a banner featuring the Republican slogan “Repeal and Replace Obamacare,” Romney said the law would cost the government more than projected, increase the cost of insurance and lead to employers dropping their employees’ coverage.
Critiquing the health care law has become difficult terrain for Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts signed a bill that similarly mandated citizens attain insurance coverage and set up an insurance exchange for individuals and small businesses to find suitable plans. The federal law requires states to set up exchanges by 2014.
Romney's top competitor for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Rick Santorum, says he’s the most credible candidate on health care because of Romney’s record as governor. At a Monday campaign event in front of the Supreme Court, Santorum called the Massachusetts law a disaster and said health care is the most important issue in the 2012 election.
During his speech, Romney twice incorrectly referred to NuVasive as “invasive.”
He also criticized the president over comments picked up by an open microphone Monday in which Obama told Russia’s outgoing leader he’d have more flexibility on missile defense following November’s election.
Romney called the comments “an alarming and troubling development.”
“This is no time for the president to be pulling his punches with the American people, and not telling us what he’s intending to do, with regard to our missile defense system, with regard to our military might, and with regard to our commitment to Israel, and with regard to our absolute conviction that Iran must (not) have a nuclear weapon,” he said. “I will make it very clear that the relationship we have around the world is one where America will be strong, that America’s strength and commitment to our friends and allies will be unmistakable and unwavering.”
Earlier Monday, Obama was discussing missile defense with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea, when he said incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needed to give him space.
Russian officials, including Putin, have opposed U.S. plans for a Europe-based missile defense system that would guard against a hypothetical Iranian missile attack.
“This is my last election,” Obama said. “After my election I have more flexibility.”
Medvedev said he would relay the information to Putin.
“This weekend, the president happened to be somewhere where the microphone was left open,” Romney said of the intended-to-be-private conversation. “You may have heard that. It can be revealing — in this case, it was.”
Before discussing the president’s remarks, Romney said his presidency would increase American shipbuilding from nine to 17 vessels a year, increase aircraft purchases, add 100,000 active-duty military personnel and “build a robust missile defense system to stand up to Iran.”
The president’s deficit reduction plan calls for $400 billion in future cuts to the projected rate of growth on military spending.
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