Viewpoint: Romney less serious about deficit reduction than Obama

By Dev Merugumala

Both Republican challenger Mitt Romney and incumbent president Barack Obama agree the deficit needs to be addressed, but it is Romney and not Obama who has repeatedly failed to prove himself as someone who is serious about tackling the issue.

Some facets of Romney’s tax reformation plan include cutting taxes by 20 percent across the board, considerably reducing marginal tax rates, repealing the inheritance tax, and reaffirming the low tax rates on capital gains.

According to the Tax Policy Center, Romney’s plan would cost $4.8 trillion over ten years.

The TPC also found that, for the plan to not add to the debt, taxes on middle-class households would need to be raised by an average of $2,000.

In the same time frame, Romney augments the national defense budget by $2 trillion. This figure consists of spending that the Pentagon itself has not even requested. Romney needs to sort through $6.8 trillion before even beginning to shrink the national debt.

The most egregious aspect of this tax plan is that Romney provides few specifics of how to actually pay for it.

Romney claims his tax plan will be revenue-neutral by closing loopholes and deductions to offset lost revenue. However, his campaign consistently refuses to reveal a single one, instead promising he will work out the specifics with congress after elected president. Romney expects voters to just take his word that the various pieces of his plan can coexist.

It is groundless to assume Romney can honestly pay for his $6.8 trillion of revenue cuts and military spending while simultaneously keeping the tax burden off the middle class while still reducing the deficit. The reason Romney avoids specificity when discussing his plan is that it is mathematically impossible to meet all of his own stipulations.

One of Romney’s few specifics involves a talking point about ending funding for PBS, an outlay of $445 million or just 0.014 percent the federal budget.

Romney presents himself as a belt-tightening fiscal conservative but refrains from going after the true propagators of our debt. Romney is reluctant to address entitlement reform and actually doubles-down on our bloated military budget.

Obama’s proposed deficit reduction plan claims to reduce the debt by $4 trillion over a decade. The budget’s prominent reductions are $1 trillion from closing corporate loopholes and raising taxes on high-income earners, $2 trillion in spending cuts, $850 billion in savings from concluding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and $800 billion in savings from curbed interest payments on the national debt.

Critics contest the $4 trillion mark. One analyst called Obama’s factoring in of the war savings a “gimmick.” Others argue the spending cuts on which Obama compromised with congress should not be awarded to the plan because they were “already banked.”

Still, when compared to Romney’s, Obama’s plan looks like a panacea for all of our deficit woes. Obama’s plan makes sure America is still investing in salient programs without overburdening any one group. And, as expected from a president, it incorporates specifics.

In an attempt to paint the president as no longer qualified to reduce spending, opponents may cite his alleged spending binge. But, in reality, spending of such a magnitude never occurred under Obama.

The truth is Obama has increased federal spending by a relatively small percentage. His yearly percentages of spending increases are significantly smaller than those of President George W. Bush. According to the White House Office of Budget and Management, federal spending in 2010 spending actually decreased 1.8 percent; in 2011, spending increased 3.4 percent. In 2012, spending is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to increase only 0.7 percent.

In 2009, spending increased 17.9 percent. said this 17.9 percent spike “was mostly due to appropriations and policies that were already in place when Obama took office.” It calculated Obama is responsible for no more than $203 billion of the $3.52 trillion from that fiscal year. While Obama is often attributed with generating the entirety of the national debt over the last four years, his personal addition to the bulk of deficit spending is objectively minute.

The crux of Romney’s deficit reduction plan is frivolous spending and revenue cuts coupled with a lack of specifics or plausibility in paying for them. Obama’s plan is not perfect, but consists of a tangible outline that reduces the national debt over the long-term in a balanced way.

Romney has proven himself a starkly less serious candidate than Obama when it comes to addressing the deficit.

Dev Merugumala

Austin junior