Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been carefully trying to put some distance between him and running mate Paul Ryan's radical budget proposal but he has a major problem – his plan would make even deeper cuts than the Ryan plan.
A careful analysis of Romney's plan by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) observed: "Governor Mitt Romney's proposals to cap total federal spending, boost defense spending, cut taxes, and balance the budget would require extraordinarily large cuts in other programs, both entitlements and discretionary programs.
"For the most part, Governor Romney has not outlined cuts in specific programs. But if policymakers exempted Social Security from the cuts, as Romney has suggested, and cut Medicare, Medicaid, and all other entitlement and discretionary programs by the same percentage – to meet Romney's spending cap, defense spending target, and balanced budget requirement – then non-defense programs other than Social Security would have to be cut 29 percent in 2016 and 59 percent in 2022."
That would shred the social net that Romney claims to support.
"Governor Romney's cuts would be substantially deeper than those required under the austere House-passed budget plan authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Over the 2014-2022 period, Romney would require cuts in programs other than Social Security and defense of $7 trillion to $10 trillion, compared with a little over $5 trillion under the Ryan budget," the analysis pointed out.
As I wrote in this space last week, another Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report stated, "Combined, the Bush and Ryan tax cuts would provide an annual windfall of nearly $400,000 apiece, on average, to people with incomes over $1 million. By combining large budget cuts (and tax increases) that disproportionately harm lower-income Americans with big tax cuts that disproportionately help those at the top of the income scale, the Ryan budget would significantly worsen inequality and increase poverty and hardship (and reduce opportunity as well, through deep cuts in programs such as Pell Grants to help low-income students afford college)."
And Romney's budget proposal is worse than that.
In an interview with CNN on February 1, Romney said: "I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich; they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."
A May 21 updated analysis by CBPP revealed, "The cuts that would be required under the Romney budget proposals in programs such as veterans' disability compensation, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for poor, elderly and disabled individuals, SNAP (formerly food stamps), and child nutrition programs would move millions of households below the poverty line or drive them deeper into poverty. "The cuts in Medicare and Medicaid would make health insurance unaffordable (or unavailable) to tens of millions of people. The cuts in non-defense discretionary programs – a spending category that covers a wide variety of public services such as elementary and secondary education, law enforcement, veterans' health care, environmental protection, and biomedical research – would come on top of the deep cuts in this part of the budget that are already in law due to the discretionary funding caps established in last year's Budget Control Act (BCA)."
During the campaign, Romney has listed four key proposals that would affect federal spending, taxes and the deficit:
- Reduce federal spending to 20 percent of GDP by the end of first term and cap it at that level.
- Increase "core defense spending" – roughly 93 percent of defense spending – at 4 percent of GDP.
- Extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts and other tax cuts set to expire, reduce income tax rates by another 20 percent, making the top tax rate 28 percent; eliminate the estate tax; reduce the corporate income tax and
- Balance the budget.
"Although Governor Romney has not proposed specific Medicare policies, it would be virtually impossible to achieve his budgetary objectives while sparing Medicare from substantial cuts. If Medicare as well as Social Security were protected, all other programs – including Medicaid, veterans' benefits, education, environmental protection, transportation, and SSI – would have to be cut by an average of 40 percent in 2016 and 57 percent in 2022, just to limit federal spending to 20 percent of GDP," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated. "If the budget also had to be balanced, all government programs other than defense, Social Security, and Medicare would have to be nearly eliminated: six out of every seven dollars going for them would disappear."
And you thought the Ryan budget plan was bad.
[George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.]