Exchequer

Romney, Day 1

Mitt Romney has some big plans for Day 1. But where are the spending cuts? TBD, apparently.

Mr. Romney has promised a 5 percent cut in non-defense discretionary spending, which is to say: approximately squat. Non-defense discretionary spending runs around 15-17 percent of the budget. A 5 percent cut in that amounts to very little in terms of the big Fiscal Armageddon picture. We could cut non-defense discretionary spending to $0.00 and we’d still be running a big deficit. Not good enough.

We cannot turn around the fiscal picture (and consequently our long-term economic prospects) without cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and defense. We do not have to cut them all in the same way or by the same amount, obviously, but to take any 20-percent slice of federal spending and declare it sacrosanct is the mark of fiscal unseriousness — and putting four such slices off limits (I’m including “other mandatory” and interest, which really is mandatory, as the fourth slice) is unseriousness times four.

Sure, that’s going to be hard to run on. But if there is such a thing as a Romney administration, there is still going to be a Congress. Maybe it will be a strongly Republican Congress. Maybe not. But it is not as though any of this gets easier after the election. I am increasingly of the opinion that if you won’t run on it you won’t do it.

Spending cuts on Day 1: Somebody put that on Mr. Romney’s Outlook calendar. 

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