The big message for the week from the Romney campaign is the debt and deficit. This morning they pointed out in an e-mail:
On Friday, the Obama administration officially confirmed the FY2012 deficit exceeded $1 trillion for the fourth year in a row:
Trillion-Dollar Deficits On President Obama’s Watch. “The Treasury Department said Friday the deficit for the 2012 budget year totaled $1.1 trillion. . . . Barack Obama’s presidency has now coincided with four straight $1 trillion-plus annual budget deficits — the first in history and an issue in an election campaign that ends in Nov. 6.” (Martin Crutsinger, “US Deficit Tops $1 Trillion For Fourth Year,” The Associated Press, 10/12/12)
“The String Of $1 Trillion-Plus Deficits Has Driven The National Debt Above $16 Trillion.” “The string of $1 trillion-plus deficits has driven the national debt above $16 trillion. The magnitude of that figure has intensified debate in Congress over spending and taxes but little movement toward compromise.” (Martin Crutsinger, “US Deficit Tops $1 Trillion For Fourth Year,” The Associated Press, 10/12/12)
“The Government Borrowed About 31 Cents Of Every Dollar It Spent In 2012.” (Martin Crutsinger, “US Deficit Tops $1 Trillion For Fourth Year,” The Associated Press, 10/12/12)
NBC’s Tom Brokaw, On President Obama’s Deficit Record: “That Deficit Is $1.1 Trillion And It Happened On His Watch. He Is Going To Have To Answer For That.” BROKAW: “I looked at that debate we talked about a moment ago, it was playing last night on C-SPAN, and, now President Obama was saying, ‘Look, we’ve got a deficit of half a trillion dollars. I’m going to get that under control.’ Well, this week, that deficit is $1.1 trillion and it happened on his watch. He is going to have to answer for that.” (NBC’s “Meet The Press,” 10/14/12)
You can see some recent polls from various different pollsters on how highly the deficit and debt ranks on their list of priorities. For better or worse — mostly worse — it’s pretty far down the list of top priorities: 7 percent say it’s the “most important issue” in the NBC News/Washington Post poll, 14 percent in Bloomberg, 4 percent in the CBS News/New York Times poll.
While the economy remains preeminent, a campaign has to talk about more than one issue, and I suspect that to a lot of voters, four straight years of trillion-dollar deficits strike them as a cause of our economic doldrums as much as a result. Every dollar borrowed and spent by government is a dollar not used otherwise by other entities, and it points to an American economy increasingly dependent upon government spending. Depending upon who you ask, corporations are sitting on $1.7 trillion to $5 trillion in cash. Something is preventing those companies from hiring workers, investing in research and development or new facilities, developing new products, etc. At this point, these large corporations don’t see any profitable path for that money.
The argument from the left will be that “greed” spurs these corporations to sit on their cash, when in fact the corporations are being the opposite of reckless; they’re being cautious (some would argue too cautious). Romney has a much easier case to make, that the current policies from the Obama administration contribute to corporations’ skittishness about investment.