The U.S. remains a manufacturing powerhouse, and expanding that is a goal of both parties. But a revival of 20th century blue-collar America, flush with steady jobs from hard work, limited skills and numbing assembly-line repetition, is improbable — and for the most part undesirable — in the minds of economists on the left and right. They see Santorum, and to some extent Obama, tapping a nostalgic vein with their visions of manufacturing renewal.
In 2008, John McCain got in hot water on his way to the GOP presidential nomination — from primary rival Romney, actually — for speaking what most economists believe is the harder truth, that the manufacturing jobs of old are gone forever.
GINGRICH: "The duty of the president is to find a way to manage the federal government so the primary pain is on changing the bureaucracy. On theft alone, we could save $100 billion a year in Medicaid and Medicare if the federal government were competent. That's a trillion dollars over 10 years. And the only people in pain would be crooks."
THE FACTS: A sober look at the books shows leaders from both parties that painful choices must be made in entitlements. Medicare and Medicaid are running into trouble mainly because of an aging population, the cost of high-tech medicine and budget woes. The number-crunchers say solving health care fraud alone is not enough. Health care fraud investigations are already a big source of recovered money, surpassing fines and penalties collected for defense contracting fraud.
OBAMA: "After three decades of inaction, we're gradually putting in place the toughest fuel economy standards in history for our cars and pickups. That means the cars you build will average nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade — almost double what they get today. That means folks, every time they fill up, they're going to be saving money. They'll have to fill up every two weeks instead of every week. That saves the typical family more than $8,000 at the pump over time. That means we'll cut our oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day."
THE FACTS: Raising mileage standards is not pain-free, and Obama spoke about the benefits while excluding the costs. Compliance will add thousands of dollars to the cost of a car.
The standards are going up in two stages. The second and most ambitious stage is expected to cost the auto industry more than $150 billion, raise the cost of the average new vehicle by $2,000, then save drivers up to $4,400 in gas over the life of the vehicle. Obama's estimate of $8,000 in savings refers to the substantial break in fuel purchases from both increases in mileage standards, but excludes the higher costs of buying the vehicle in the first place.
SANTORUM: "We can drive down prices, decrease our dependency on foreign oil. We can do it all, but we have a president who says no. We have a president who, when the opportunity to open up federal lands for mining and oil and gas drilling, says no. We have a president who's — we have an opportunity to open up offshore, he says no. Deepwater, he says no. Alaska, he says no. Build a pipeline, he says no."
GINGRICH: "It comes down to a simple idea: What if we had a program that enabled the American people to develop so much new energy that we were, in fact, no longer reliant on Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran?" in a campaign ad on energy.
ROMNEY: "He's going to talk about how he's responsible for the increasing production of oil in this country, oil and gas in this country. Is he responsible for the increase? No, I didn't think so." — About Obama.
THE FACTS: The reams of statistics on energy development are at odds with Republican depictions of Obama as the "President No" of energy.
The U.S. produced more oil in 2010 than it has since 2003. More gas has been produced in each of Obama's three years in office than at any time since 1936. Coal mining is on the rebound. The radioactive ore that fuels nuclear power plants has come out of the ground faster every year in his presidency. Production from renewables, such as hydroelectric power, solar, wind and biofuels, is higher than ever before. Active U.S. oil rigs increased 22.5 percent last year and the oil and gas extraction industry added 25,000 jobs, up 12 percent.