Political Animal


January 17, 2012 3:10 PM Nothing ‘moderate’ about this plan

By Steve Benen

We’ve gotten a fairly good look at the kind of policy agenda Mitt Romney will pursue if elected. It’s not terribly ambitious — certainly nothing on par with “saving the soul of America” — and it’s even less creative.

The basic pitch is straightforward: more tax cuts for the wealthy, free rein for Wall Street, and with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, taking health coverage away from millions.

But there’s more to it once we factor in the brutal cuts to public spending Romney is promising voters he’d implement. Jonathan Cohn took a closer look at one of my favorite subjects: spending caps. Cohn makes the case that they make Romney’s plan even more offensive that Paul Ryan’s budget plan.

Romney has vowed that, by 2016, he would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product while maintaining defense spending at 4 percent of GDP. That means he would limit all non-defense spending to 16 percent of GDP.

The latest Congressional Budget Office projection suggests that GDP in 2016 will be $19.1 trillion. Sixteen percent of that is about $3.1 trillion. But, based on CBO figures, non-defense spending will be about $3.6 trillion in 2016. So to meet his goals, Romney would have to cut non-defense federal spending in 2016 by roughly $500 billion. […]

Taking half a trillion dollars out of $3.6 trillion works out to a 14 percent reduction. (To be precise, it would be 14.1 percent.) Applied equally to all non-defense spending, that would mean approximately $130 billion less for Social Security and about $90 billion less for Medicare, just in 2016 alone.

If Romney exempts Medicare and Social Security from his budget hatchet — and he might — that would mean at least 25% cuts for literally everything else outside the Pentagon budget. What would that include? You name it — law enforcement, infrastructure, medical research, environmental protections, food stamps, student loans, etc.

And as Jonathan noted, these brutal cuts would be “in addition to the automatic cuts already set to take effect in January, 2013, now that the deficit super-committee has failed to reach a consensus.”

There’s a word to describe budget plans like this: “radical.”

This isn’t a Bush-like agenda; it’s much more right-wing. And for those “banking on the re-flip,” it’s worth remembering, as Jonathan Bernstein explained in the Monthly’s new print edition, presidential candidates tend to pursue the agendas they present to voters during the campaign. If Romney wins, he’ll think he has a mandate to push these crushing cuts to public investments and the safety net.

As recently as a few days ago, the former governor was assuring voters, “I’m concerned about the poor in this country. We have to make sure the safety net is strong and able to help those who can’t help themselves.” What he neglected to mention was his plan to tear that safety net to shreds.

Much of the political establishment still considers Romney one of the “moderates” of the Republican presidential field. By general temperament, that might make some degree of sense. But temperament is irrelevant when compared to platforms — and one look at Romney’s budget plan makes clear there’s nothing moderate about this guy’s agenda.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • jjm on January 17, 2012 3:33 PM:

    This man is a monster. But he gives us an idea about what the rulers of our global economy want from the world's people: to squeeze them until they hurt so badly they can no longer protest, let alone revolt. I read in the NYT business pages yesterday that workers must be made MORE productive, cutting their vacation times, etc.

    Just what kind of future are Romney and his cohorts imagining for us?

    What are they looking forward to in days, years and decades to come?

    It looks like they picture themselves astride the world, with billions laboring to yield profits for them alone.

    There is a genuine impoverishment of all peoples in their gunsights, a la Greece today, and it is clearly intolerable.

  • T2 on January 17, 2012 3:42 PM:

    "he’ll think he has a mandate" Nah....that's not how GOPers roll. If they win a national election by one vote, they'll call that a Mandate. Actually, even if they don't win a national election and get appointed by the Supreme Court, they call it a Mandate.

  • Josef K on January 17, 2012 3:42 PM:

    But temperament is irrelevant when compared to platforms — and one look at Romney’s budget plan makes clear there’s nothing moderate about this guy’s agenda.

    He'd do it too, wouldn't he. He'd actually pursue this insanity.

    Apparently he's forgotten what happened the last time Americans got the screws turned on them by a distant and unresponsive aristocricy. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't clean and it changed everything the world thought it knew.

    This time it might mean something much worse, given all the WMDs sitting around and nutcases calling for an apocalypse.

    Sorry if that sounds melodramatic, but we're living in very interesting times.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on January 17, 2012 3:46 PM:

    Therein lies the problem. The ultra rich like Romney.
    they are in effect a separate country.

    They don't worry about safety nets.
    They have their own.

    They don't worry about police or security
    They have their own

    They don't worry about health insurance
    They can afford the best doctors.

    They don't worry about shopping , the price of fuel when they gas up or anything else.
    Their people do those menial tasks

    They don't worry about crime
    They live in gated communities

    Their shit don't stink - dontcha know.

  • Danp on January 17, 2012 3:50 PM:

    If there is anything history has taught us, it is that Republicans talk about deficits and cutting spending ONLY when they are not in charge of the White House. He may lower the amounts spent on safety nets and white collar law enforcement, but you can take that $10,000 bet that verall spending will rise.

  • Bob S on January 17, 2012 3:56 PM:

    “What’s the effective rate I’ve been paying? It’s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything”

    So Mitt pays taxes at same rate as someone with an AGI between $17,000 and $69,000.

    Knowing Romney's penchant for prevarication, and the likelihood of some very smart tax accounting, it's likely the 15% is a ceiling rather than a floor. Who is up for starting a pool on Romney's actual tax rate?

    I'm guessing it's closer to 10% than 15%.

  • rusty chainsaw on January 17, 2012 4:13 PM:

    Of course he's concerned about the poor. Why do you think he's reinforcing the doors and putting razor wire along the top of the walls?

  • Mitch on January 17, 2012 4:17 PM:

    @Bob S

    I'd guess it's around 10%. You know his people exploit every loophole they can find.

  • tec619 on January 19, 2012 12:29 AM:

    What I especially admire about Romney is how he allowed others to take the easy path fighting to defend his right to increase and preserve his wealth from the commies in the former French Indochina. Instead, he journeyed into the heart of the imperial, socialist monster (i.e., France) without benefit of the DoD's soft 12 month combat tour of duty rule per enlistment. Romney subjected himself to years of suffering France's bad food, cramped apartments, cold showers, ugly women and speaking it's terrible language. The poor guy also spent 6 months residing in a mansion(sacre bleu!!) in the chic 16th arrondissement of Paris. What unspeakable torture he suffered there he may never reveal, but surely it was worse than anything John McCain suffered. (Snark)