Republicans talk big on spending cuts
Much like the 2010 mid-terms, the budget deficit will be an issue that we’ll hear a lot about leading into the fall. In a speech yesterday in Iowa, Mitt Romney gave us a taste of what to expect as he slammed President Barack Obama for his spending spree:
Mitt Romney today said he would lead Americans out of President Obama’s “debt and spending inferno,” warning a crowd that the country faces a financial crisis that “threatens what it means to be an American.”
Romney spoke today in the very room where he stood on the night of the Iowa caucuses in January, the candidate’s first trip to the state since then, this time no longer focused on the close results at the polls but instead solely on President Obama, whom he accused of “feeding” rather than “putting out” what he dubbed the “spending fire.”
“A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and across the nation and every day that we fail to act that fire gets closer to the homes and the children we love,” said Romney. “Now you know also that this is not solely a Democrat or Republican problem. The issue isn’t who deserves the most blame. The issue is who is going to do what it takes to put out the fire. Now the people of Iowa and America have watched President Obama nearly four years now. Much of that time, with Congress controlled by his own party. And rather than putting out that spending fire, he’s been feeding it.”
“He has spent more and borrowed more. The time has come for a president, a leader, who will lead. I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno. We will stop borrowing unfathomable sums of money we can’t even imagine from foreign countries we’re never even going to visit,” said Romney. “I will work with you to make sure we put out this spending and borrowing fire.”
Romney said that if elected, he will stop the government from expanded by moving federal programs to the state-level, where states can decide which of the often-repetitive programs to keep, and which to dismantle. He repeated his plans for entitlement reforms to program such as Social Security and Medicare.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also made the national debt an issue yesterday, saying that any increase in the debt ceiling, which is currently at $16.394 trillion and expected to be reached by the end of the year, would have to be matched with dollar-for-dollar spending cuts:
House Speaker John Boehner warned Tuesday that he won’t permit another increase in the debt ceiling without a larger amount of spending cuts and reforms approved in tandem.
“When the time comes, I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase. This is the only avenue I see … to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance,” Boehner said at a fiscal summit sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, according to prepared remarks.
Boehner said Tuesday “we shouldn’t dread the debt limit” because it’s an “action-forcing event.”
“Yes, allowing America to default would be irresponsible,” he said. “But it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process.”
This is not unlike last the debt ceiling fight last year where House Republicans ultimately forced the Obama Administration to agree to $2.1 trillion in across the board spending cuts over the next 10 years after the so-called “Super Committee” was unable to agree on spending cuts and tax reform. Of course, given the makeup of the committee, that really wasn’t all that surprising.
Unfortunately, what seems like principled stands by Romney and Boehner is all talk. While Romney says he wants to reduce the national debt and stop borrowing so much money, he wants to spend even more on defense; despite the fact that spending levels in that area of the budget are the highest they’ve been since World War II.
And House Republicans recently tried to gut the defense sequestration cuts that came as a result of last year’s debt ceiling deal. In other words, they’re not really serious about cutting spending because they don’t want to tackle one of the largest areas of the budget. When it comes to spending cuts, they instead focus on non-defense discretionary spending, which is a relatively small portion of the budget, around 15% of total spending. Even Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan, the Path to Prosperity, while better than current spending levels, doesn’t cut nearly enough to bring the United States back on stable fiscal path.
It’s election year talk, and if Republicans overplay their hand like they did last year, they could windup hurting themselves this year, especially if they aren’t willing to compromise on defense spending cuts.