New Report on GOP Primary Contenders Says Only Ron Paul Would Reduce the Federal Debt


For years, polls have shown that a majority of the country ranks rising federal debt and deficits amongst its top political concerns. Indeed, there's some indication that such concerns are on the rise: A Pew poll released in January of this year, for example, reported that 69 percent of the public considered the budget deficit a priority, up 16 percent from the previous year.

Over the course of this year's primary, all of the GOP candidates have paid lip service to the idea of tackling the debt. But according to a new report by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, only one candidate's overall combination of tax reforms and spending cuts would actually reduce the total federal debt over the next decade. That candidate is Ron Paul.

CRFB's estimates indicate that Ron Paul's policies would reduce the debt by about $2.2 trillion by 2021 under an intermediate-debt scenario, which interprets the candidate's policies in a way that assumes neither extremely aggressive nor particularly lax policy and implementation choices. Under the same scenario, Rick Santorum's proposed policies would lift total federal debt by $4.5 trillion. Newt Gingrich's plans, taken all together, would hike federal debt by about $7 trillion.

Mitt Romney's headline numbers are better than those posted by Gingrich and Santorum, but only in the sense that they are less bad: CRFB estimates that the former governor's policies would lift the debt by $250 billion by 2021 relative what it would otherwise be.

But Romney's proposals are missing the sort of detail necessary to really know how they might work. His campaign has suggested it will close a number tax loopholes in order to help fund tax reform, but hasn't said which ones. And although he's named targets for domestic and defense spending reductions, he hasn't said exactly what he'll cut in order to achieve those reductions. (As I've noted before, we have a better idea about how Mitt Romney will not cut federal spending than we do about how he would.)

How is it that Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich would end up increasing the federal debt? It's pretty simple, really: They would cut taxes, but wouldn't cut spending to match. Santorum's policies would reduce spending by a little more than $2 trillion, but would cut taxes by $6 trillion. Gingrich would cut slightly more in spending—about $2.7 trillion—but would cut taxes by $7 trillion and actually add $1.6 trillion in spending to overhaul Social Security, among other policy changes. Romney's vague plans score better, but wouldn't reduce the debt, and would probably push it slightly higher than it otherwise would have been.

Ron Paul, on the other hand, would cut taxes, but he'd cut spending even more. His tax cuts would reduce the tax burden by $5.2 trillion; meanwhile, he would reduce spending by $7.2 trillion.

(These numbers are produced under what the report's authors call a "realistic baseline," which includes policies that are not currently law but are expected to eventually pass, like the extension of the Bush tax cuts, are included.)

Overall, it's simple enough. Everyone likes tax cuts, but big tax cuts paired with far smaller spending cuts aren't likely to reduce the federal debt. Spend more than you take in during any given year (as we currently are, to the tune of a trillion bucks or so), and you have a deficit. Those deficits pile up over the years, and give us the federal debt. This shouldn't be too hard to grasp, but only Ron Paul seems to have figured it out.

The knock on the candidate comparison is that Ron Paul's plans aren't realistic. But letting the debt continue on its current unsustainable trajectory—or rise by trillions, as Santorum and Newt likely would—isn't realistic either. At a minimum, Paul's plans show the kind of policy changes that will be necessary in order to both cut taxes and take a big chunk out of the federal debt.

There are two major takeaways here: First, while candidates understandably like to talk about tax cuts, when it comes to the federal debt, it's the spending cuts that matter. Second, the remaining trio of conventional GOP presidential wannabes—Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich—aren't serious about cutting spending, or about truly improving the nation's long-term fiscal path. They're invested in the rhetoric of debt reduction, but not the policies that would make it happen. 

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  1. Only Ron Paul Would Reduce the Federal Debt

    What’s the old bit about proving the obvious by obscure means?

    1. It’s a foolproof assertion, as he’ll never have the chance to prove it.

      1. Unless a few more percent of the population turns out to vote for him in the remaining primaries.

        1. What’s he have…3 delegates so far? Maybe 10? He needs to have over a thousand.

          1. Clearly you have not been turning out, as me and my wife have, at mass precinct meetings, and becoming the GOP’s only delegates (as have thousands of others!)

          2. Actually, Paul is second in number of delegates so far. Paul supporters are doing the right thing by getting those spots across the nation. Some people are just too asleep to understand anything except what the media tells them. Brainwashed.

      2. The only place he can prove it is in Congress. Presidents have no vote in the size of the budget. Well, they have one vote and that can be overridden.

        1. Good luck getting a supermajority on anything as contested as a budget. The solution is a President that will veto anything that isn’t balanced. The problem is that the American people are too stupid to see that this is a shortcut to balancing the budget if done right, not “shutting government down”.

    2. My neighbor just met a bisexual man on —datebi*cOMit’s where for men and women looking
      for bisexual and bi-curious individuals to meet in a friendly and comfortable environment.
      It’s a nice place for the people who have the same sexual orientation.

  2. CRFB’s estimates indicate that Ron Paul’s policies would reduce the deficit by about $2.2 trillion by 2021 under an intermediate-debt scenario…

    Did you mean the debt here? Because plenty of current plans would reduce the “deficit” by similar amounts over similar time spans, but that is just a word game that means the deficit would be reduced by $200 billion per year on average. The terminology is so abused these days it’s important to be clear.

    1. Yes. My mistake. Text fixed.

  3. Newt Gingrich’s plans, taken all together, would hike federal debt by about $7 trillion.

    True Conservatism FTW!

    1. Yeah, but think of all the great moon bases our grandchildren’s money could buy.

      1. Well, I certainly don’t want to spend my money on a moon base.

    2. He’s a compassionate conservative.

      That means he’s a big government liberal who opposes abortion.

  4. i luv it when paul stumps these guys.

    paul previously said wealth always migrates upwards w unsound money.

    last nite paul told santorium that immoral conduct gave rise to the pill, not vice versa.
    *frothy said nada*

    1. Best comment was when Paul called out Santorum as a big spender who just went along to get along, which is the problem with DC in a nutshell.

      Got some cheers, too.

  5. Conservatives may squeak about debt and deficits, but their true priorities are abortion, conquest, and gays.

    They say they want to cut spending, just as long as it doesn’t cut the military or affect retirees. Or teh childrenz. Or, well, anything that might result in someone losing their job or their check.

    1. What you fail to realize is that the Sodomists in Iran will be better off after we depose that Regime. The girlie Men of America would do well to support Actions that relieve the Burdens of the divers sexual Deviants in the several less tolerant Lands of that Region; unless they have only Concern about their own Advancement.

      1. Why do only Crackpots capitalize every Noun and Some Verbs when ranting about Their Private Fantasies?

        1. It makes them feel like Founding Fathers, writing in archaic English.

  6. only ron paul can get to the troof behind 9awevven too! and the chem trails!!

  7. The knock on the candidate comparison is that Ron Paul’s plans aren’t realistic.

    What’s not realistic about cutting spending back to FY2007 pre-bailout levels?

    And why do the majority of Republican voters who say that the deficit is their top concern vote for candidates other than Ron Paul, as exit polls have shown in every state?

    1. And why do the majority of Republican voters who say that the deficit is their top concern vote for candidates other than Ron Paul, as exit polls have shown in every state?

      Long answer: Revealed preference v. stated preference.

      Short answer: They are lying.

      1. Short answer: They are lying idiots. FIFY.

      2. Because that sounds a lot better than saying their top priorities are abortion, killing Muslims, and abortion.

        1. I’m totally pro-life. Unless you are Arabic. Or Muslim. Or just don’t like America. Then I will personally make it my goal to kill you as soon as I can.

  8. Great. Now, if we could just get past his 9/11 conspiracy theories, his racist newsletters and his 5 minute explanations of why the U.S. is the cause of all of the problems in the world we could get him elected to dog catcher somewhere.

    1. we could get him elected to dog catcher somewhere.

      If you left this at noting that he hasn’t won a state, you’d have a better argument. However, he is currently elected to Congress, which is more than “losing by 18 points” Santorum can say. Or “permanent Presidential campaign” Romney. Or “resigned the Speakership in disgrace” Gingrich.

      1. “If you left this at noting that he hasn’t won a state, you’d have a better argument. However, he is currently elected to Congress” John Thacker

        Nice catch, it’s even more damning, a postion lower than dog catcher.

    2. Howard Zinn is dead–how could he possibly be running for President?

    3. What an idiot you are, a video where Paul is blowing off a truther is proof that he is a conspiracy theorist? Ha where did you go to school? Cuba?

      1. More like blowing a truther. He’s agreeing and suggesting that he would be more vocal except that he has other things to worry about right now.

        What kind of Paulian are you? Cuba is only an evil, scum-sucking dictatorship because of U.S. foreign policy. Just like Iran, North Korea, etc.

        You’ve got to spend more time reading the newsletters.

    4. Che your comment is dead, still beating a pile of powdery news letter bones that used to be a dead horse I see.

      What Paul 9-11 stuff?

      Racist News Letters Opened up!

      More to follow.


      1. Che & other un-researched Paul detractors, continuing:

        Ron is not against Israel-

        Jews for Ron Paul, by Walter Block

        More coming.


        1. Here ya go-

          Jewish economists say end foreign aid.

          Is Ron anti-Semitic? No.


            1. OK, this will be have to do for now.

              So you like Ron Paul except on foreign policy,

              Jews for Ron Paul, by Walter Block

              There is a lot more, but I am taking up a lot of space.

              You Spooky Dude Homer Simpsons are easy to refute. All you do is post fringe media talking points. Only the badly uniformed or enemies of the US believe your regurgitated bilge water jive.


  9. Well, duh.

  10. if we could just get past his 9/11 conspiracy theories

    I challenge you to provide proof of this.

  11. Why does Ron Paul hate children, old people, and kittens?

    1. To know them is to loathe them.

  12. “I challenge you to provide proof of this.” — Sam Grove…..rQVaiFYmcg

    1. che even you link is dead, that was not much in the way of proving Ron is a ‘truther’ or supports the idea.

      Here is a much better, more accurate video. Ron gets off the Phony Fox moderator’s gotcha ‘birther’ issue & back to the debate.

      Ron did a nice job of staying civil & accurate.

      I’m with Tim O in response to your link & the way you hope we twist it in our minds like you did in yours.


      I give your attempt disingenuous a total fail.

      And another barf for good measure. 🙂


  13. “How is it that Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich would end up increasing the federal debt? It’s pretty simple, really: They would cut taxes, but wouldn’t cut spending to match.”

    So basically, it’s the policies of Bush-Cheney, continued.

    This kind of deficit-reduction discussion — without any context of recession or economic boom — is nutty, but typical these days. But if that’s the way it is now, why aren’t people talking about how Clinton inherited record deficits and left office with surpluses?

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