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Would Romney really cut spending on 'Day One'?

May 25, 2012|By Mitchell Landsberg
  • Mitt Romney participates in a roundtable discussion at a school in Philadelphia.
Mitt Romney participates in a roundtable discussion at a school in Philadelphia. (Mary Altaffer / Associated…)

Mitt Romney has a new ad out, touting what he'll do on his first day as president. "Day One," the narrator intones, "President Romney announces deficit reductions, ending the Obama era of big government."

That’s pretty much what Romney has been saying all along. As president, he'll cut spending and end an era of what he views as dangerous government growth.

But on Day One? Apparently not.

In an interview with Time magazine's Mark Halperin, Romney talks about why he wouldn't actually cut spending right away. It's a quote that liberal bloggers are seizing on to show that Romney, like President Obama, believes in Keynesian economics, with its allowance for running sizable government deficits.

Here's what Romney said when Halperin asked him why his plans for cuts are gradual, and why he wouldn't hit the ground running with his budget shears:

"Well because, if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5%. That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I’m not going to do that, of course. What you do is you make adjustments on a basis that show, in the first year, actions that over time get you to a balanced budget."

So, for instance, he said, "I’m going to take action immediately by eliminating programs like Obamacare, which become more and more expensive down the road – by eliminating them, we get to a balanced budget. And I’d do it in a way that does not have a huge reduction in the first year, but instead has an increasing reduction as time goes on, and given the growth of the economy, you don’t have a reduction in the overall scale of the GDP. I don’t want to have us go into a recession in order to balance the budget."

And he continues: "I’d like to have us have high rates of growth at the same time we bring down federal spending, on, if you will, a ramp that’s affordable, but that does not cause us to enter into a economic decline."

That brought a predictable response from the blogosphere. "Keynesianism! Keynesianism!" shouted the Washington Monthly's Political Animal. "Call Jim DeMint!"

Romney's remarks might also sound a bit like those of another fellow running for president this year – that being the president himself. In a speech at George Washington University in April, Obama said it was important to "use a scalpel and not a machete" to cut spending as a way to nurse an economy that is still recovering. But, he said. "doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option. Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order."

Of course, it's important to note that Obama calls for reducing the deficit with tax increases on the affluent to go along with spending cuts. The president argues the additional revenue is needed to avoid a jolt to the economy that cuts alone would bring. Romney, not so much.

Mitchell.landsberg@latimes.com


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