After his acceptance speech in Tampa, Fla., Mitt Romney repeated his pledge to slash the deficit and balance the budget, vowing to lead where Republicans have failed in the past.
“We’re going to finally have to do something that Republicans have spoken about for a long time, and for a while we didn’t do it,” he told a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio on Saturday. “When we had the lead we let people down. We need to make sure we don’t lead them down this time — I will cut the deficit and get us on track to a balanced budget.”
The remark received a roaring applause. But it’s difficult to square with many of Romney’s other promises, which involve raising federal spending or reducing revenues, that are core to his case against President Obama.
For instance, Romney has vowed to restore the $716 billion in cuts to Medicare provider reimbursements under Obama. His plan to make Medicare solvent by converting it into a voucher system would not take effect for a decade, and without Obama’s cuts the program is projected to go bankrupt by 2016.
The Republican nominee has also pledged to roll back the president’s $489 billion in 10-year military cuts as well as the half a trillion dollars in 10-year automatic Pentagon cuts, known as sequestration, established in last year’s debt limit law.
In addition to that, Romney’s plan to cut taxes across the board would diminish revenues by $5 trillion, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That doesn’t include the hit to the treasury if the Bush tax cuts on high incomes are extended. He maintains that he’ll recover the revenues by closing tax loopholes, but he and his campaign have steadfastly refused to identify a credit or deduction he’d unwind.
The candidate has also steered clear of offering a plan to shore up Social Security, which is projected to exhaust its trust fund in 2033.
The cuts Romney says he’ll make during his presidency come largely from non-military, non-entitlement spending, which accounts for about one-fifth of the federal budget. Those savings would come from slashing Medicaid and other programs for low-income people, although the campaign has been light on details.
Parsing his domestic cuts with his deficit-raising policies on health care, taxes and the military — all of which are central to his case against a second term for Obama — it’s unclear that Romney would be able to make strides toward a balanced budget during his presidency. If the Republican nominee enacts the budget policies he has specified, the federal deficit is likely to surge, not diminish, while he’s in office.
A Romney spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” why the campaign hasn’t been more detailed in its platform, top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said, “Well we’ve put out a lot of policy over the last 18 months.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.