I’ve dinged Mitt Romney for his less-than-stellar record on healthcare, his weakness on Social Security reform, and his reprehensible support for ethanol subsidies, but I haven’t bothered to address his budget plan – in part because it seemed rather underwhelming.
Sounds like I haven’t missed much. Jacob Sullum has done the tedious work of reading through Romney’s plan, and he is unimpressed.
Mitt Romney said he wants to “eliminate every government program that is not absolutely essential.” That sounds good until you realize that Romney’s goal of cutting $500 billion from projected federal outlays in 2016 would, at best, leave the budget about 8 percent higher than it is now and only 11 percent lower than it would be without any attempt to restrain spending. The implication: Mitt Romney thinks 89 percent of what the federal government does is “absolutely essential.” And that’s what he says when he is trying to appeal to the fiscally conservative Republicans whose votes he will need to win his party’s presidential nomination. Who knows what he really thinks, assuming he has any firm convictions at all on this crucial question. …By contrast, the plan outlined by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), one of Romney’s rivals in the race for the Republican nomination, would balance the budget by 2015. Clearly, Paul’s idea of “absolutely essential” government programs is a bit narrower than Romney’s. But whose isn’t?
Jacob’s analysis is on the mark, and he doesn’t let Romney get away with the business-as-usual Washington scam of claiming that a reduction in the projected growth of spending is actually a spending cut. Using honest math rather than DC math, Romney’s budget plan (assuming he is serious) would increase spending by 8 percent over the next four years.
To be fair, a budget that allows federal spending to jump by 8 percent over the next four years would satisfy Mitchell’s Golden Rule. Barring an unexpected downturn, the private sector would be growing faster than the government.
The problem is that even good politicians usually fail to fulfill their campaign promises. So if a politician today is saying that he will let spending climb by about 2 percent each year, that probably means it will increase 5 percent each year.
And if he isn’t proposing to eliminate a single cabinet-level department, that doesn’t suggest a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility.
It also means Mitt Romney thinks the Department of Housing and Urban Development is “absolutely essential.”