Mitt Romney's Fake Policy Plans

We still don't know how he would cut government.


After last night's Super Tuesday victories, Mitt Romney's longstanding lead in the GOP primary looks increasingly solid. His policy plans, however, are as flimsy as ever. Indeed, exploring his economic policy proposals is rather like touring a Hollywood backlot. Like a street façade on a movie set, Romney's economic plans are designed to project an outward appearance of functionality. But when you look behind their cleverly made-up fronts, there's nothing to see. Romney's policy offerings on taxes, spending, and entitlements consistently lack crucial structural details; his campaign seems intent on emulating the outward appearance of policy proposals without providing anything that's actually workable.

Take Romney's proposed overhaul of the tax code. Vague on details and short on substance, it's more like a press release than anything resembling an actual plan to rewrite the country's massive, complex tax code. The few details it does reveal tend to focus on the goodies Romney would like to offer and less on their price. Romney proposes an across the board tax cut along with cuts to the corporate rate and various other reductions, including a repeal of the alternative minimum tax. Combined, the Manhattan Institute's Josh Barro estimates that Romney's proposals would reduce federal tax revenues by up to $5 trillion over the next decade.

In keeping with his vow to balance the federal budget, Romney also promises to make these cuts in a way that's revenue neutral. How? He's yet to say. The plan indicates that Romney would rely on dynamic tax effects while closing tax loopholes and reducing spending in order to offset the lost revenue. Which loopholes would he snip? Which spending would he cut? Anyone wondering about these questions might as well ask a magic eight ball, which would at least provide an answer.

Indeed, Romney has actually employed the plan's murkiness as a way of responding to outside groups that have tried to tally its economic effects and found it wanting. "I think it's interesting for the groups to try and score it because it can't be scored because those kind of details have to be worked out with Congress and we have a wide array of options," Romney said on CNBC earlier today.

Romney's tax plan is not the only part of his policy platform missing crucial details. The candidate has also promised to balance the budget while capping federal spending at roughly 20 percent of the economy by 2016. "Achieving this goal," his campaign website says, "will require spending cuts of approximately $500 billion." Romney would have voters believe that he has laid out exactly which cuts he would like to make: "I favor deep cuts in federal spending," he wrote in a recent op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, "and I've previously outlined exactly where I would cut." Except that he hasn't.

Romney's "cut the spending" campaign web page does identify some savings. But many of the figures his campaign cites are, to put it kindly, aspirational. He takes credit for $100 billion in cuts from "empower[ing] states to innovate." Block granting Medicaid as part of this would save some money—about $28 billion a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office—but there's no indication as to where the other $72 billion would come from. He also suggests he'll cut $60 billion through endlessly convenient reductions in "waste and fraud," which may as well be a proposal to save money through the acquisition and planting of magic budget beans.  

Even if we take Romney at his word, all of the cuts he lists add up to about $320 billion. Where will the rest come from? It's telling that his plan focuses on small-bore spending cuts to Amtrak and Planned Parenthood, which would reduce federal expenditures by less than $2 billion annually. Moreover, making Romney's tax plan revenue neutral would require even more budget slashing beyond the basic budget balancing. If he is not willing to identify additional cuts now, is there any reason to believe he'll do so later?

Romney's tentpole entitlement reform is similarly evasive. He's promised to cap Medicare spending through a modified voucher system known as premium support, but won't say how large the vouchers will be, or how fast they'll be allowed to grow. Given that the primary budgetary benefit from premium support is to restrain the growth of Medicare spending, the plan is effectively useless without this figure. This is Medicare reform with its spine removed.

Romney has taken to framing his campaign in part around the goals of "less debt" and "smaller government." These are central themes to his candidacy, and yet Romney's actual proposals remain mysterious at best, unworkable at worst. The former governor has not only refused to say how he would cut federal spending, he's explicitly ruled out two of the biggest expenditure categories: defense spending and Medicare, where he's declared that he'll reverse cuts made by President Obama. We don't know how Romney will cut spending. But we know how he won't.

Peter Suderman is an associate editor at Reason magazine.

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  1. He’s running for President, right? Last I checked, Congress controls spending.

    I assume a President Romney would sign a budget with significant spending cuts. (I doubt he would fight very hard for those cuts, if Republicans don’t take control Congress).

    1. I doubt he would fight very hard for those cuts, if Republicans don’t take control Congress

      you think republicans are going to cut spending?


      1. I think there are some Republicans who definitely would cut spending. I’m also pretty sure they won’t constitute a majority of the GOP in office, even in the best case scenario. However, it may be possible that a decent minority of new GOP members will be of that mindset and might help push some cuts through. If the stars align.

        Even then, we’ll do no more than slow the expansion of government. We’re still in big trouble.

      2. You are right. I doubt he will fight for slower growth of government.

        1. Democrats: “Don’t cut spending!!!”

          Republicans: “Cut spending!!! Unless it’s something we like”

      3. If he only held spending at current levels rather than doubling it up like Obama’s budget suggests it would be tantamount to spending cuts. But clearly he wants to do more.

    2. you guys havent read his plan, and last i check the president proposes the budget

    3. He fought pretty hard when he was governor of MA with an 80 – 85% Democrat legislature and didn’t hesitate to use the veto pen.

    4. The Republican controlled House could have forced Obama to balance the budget last year or this year, as they’ve the Power of the Purse. But they voted once to raise the debt ceiling twice. The fact is, the Republican party is dominated by big spending RINOs in the mold of Bush. They don’t want to cut the spending because it affects the amount of campaign cash they get.

      Thus, Romney won’t get any bill to cut government spending. At best would be something like the Ryan plan that doesn’t balance the budget for almost 40 years. That means government will increase, and freedom will decrease.

      With Republicans defending our economic liberty like that, expect to lose it.

  2. Which loopholes would he snip? Which spending would he cut?
    wow…ever read the Constitution? POTUS does not have the power to unilaterally do away with any loopholes or cut any significant spending, not even King BHO I. Spending originates in Congress; the president sets the tone for what he will and will not sign in the way of tax and spending proposals. Jesus.

    The incumbent is clear as to his intentions; perhaps Peter finds those preferable. Ricky from PA wants to clamp down on private behavior; is that positive? All I hear is nits over why Romney’s bad. Then who? A Paul win would certainly be a game-changer but it’s not happening.

    What IS happening is a slide toward Europe that will only be exacerbated when Obama no longer fears re-election. At this point, four muskrats and a carnival barker would be an improvement.

    1. Great irony, as muskrats were brought to Europe for fur and food, but have become pests. European socialism in reverse.

    2. The president does have a lot of input in the budget process. I think that the question of what he woudl propose cutting, at least, is a legitimate question that he ought to answer more specifically. Or not. I guess being a dishonest, lying scumbag doesn’t usually hurt presidential candidates (or presidents) much.

  3. His plan for cutting government is to talk about cutting government.

    1. +100

      for bullseye accuracy.

    2. The Era of Big Government is over!

      1. The Era of Expanding Government is just beginning!

        1. My children. I feel your pain. I hear your pleas. I was going to increase government spending 10% next year. Now, I’m cutting back government by only increasing spending by 9%! A ten percent reduction in the size of government!

          The Era of Big Government is over! Again! But really this time!

        2. obama destroyed the democrats. sorry but you guys are pretty fractured yourself

  4. This place is starting to sound just like Free Republic. Someone told me that once, I think.

    1. It is my world. You just live in it.

    2. I bet a freeper who spent a few days here would be putting up tedious posts about how this place sounds just like Daily Kos.

      1. There is not doubt. The drugs and the cop hating would drive any self respecting freeper mad.

        1. The devil-weed makes you crazy!

          1. You potheads just want your dope.

    3. This place is starting to sound just like Free Republic. Someone told me that once, I think.

      I wouldn’t know anything about that…

    4. Is Jim Bob going to ban everyone who says they will vote for the Republican nominee in November? I wouldn’t put it past him.

  5. Yeah, yeah, Congress has to pass the law, but that doesn’t mean the President can’t set the agenda.

    But, as Romney knows well, he’s not trying to get a majority of Congress here, he’s trying to get a majority of voters.

    And voters hate specifics. Hates ’em, they do. They love platitudes. So, if you want to win with voters, you give them what they want.


    1. *ding*

      It’s much like Obama says he’s going to go through the budget “line by line”. It made for some good campaign speechifying, but we’re still waiting for those cuts. I guess Obama thought the budget was just swell. (and now swelling).

    2. Randolph Churchill made a brilliant speech critiquing the Gladstone govt by turning a minor Gladstone personal act into a metaphor for how the PM governed. This comment about platitudes reminded me of it, where it might now conclude:

      “…platitudes is all this government delivers: un-nourishing, indigestable platitudes.”

      And oh how the American public gobbles that up.

    3. that doesn’t mean the President can’t set the agenda.
      Exactly. Reagan was not big on specifics either, and no, I am not equating the two. Just saying that the only folks consumed by specifics are the pundits who love to bitch about the proposals of others but never run office to try out their own ideas. Anyway, how many more of Obama’s specifics need be seen before their result becomes obvious.

    4. Which is weird, since most members of the public won’t see a platitude in their lifetimes, except maybe in a zoo. I mean, the only reason platitudes are famous is because they’re a mammal that gives birth to their young through eggs. That said, I can see why Republicans like them more than specifics. From this whole contraception debate, I’ve gathered that it’s the Democrats who hate eggs.

  6. I work with a bank (one of the leading banks in Africa). Here in this bank exists a dormant account for the past 8years which belongs to an American national who is now late, by name Mr. Christian Eich the account owner an engineer who ran Carmaker BMW’s Museum, his wife and two children and his wife’s parents were also among the victims in a plane crash of Alaska airlines flight number AF4590 which crashed on 31st July, 2000.

    When I discovered that there had been no deposits or withdrawals from this account for this long period, I decided to carry out a system investigation and discovered that none of the family members or relations of the late person is aware of this account. Now I want an account overseas where the bank will transfer this fund.

    Thereafter, I will destroy all related documents to this account.

    1. Does the offer include providing some secret climate documents?

    2. Interesting twist on the usual. I don’t recall a spammer outright asking for a confederate in stealing an account from its rightful owners.

    3. Patricia > Abdel > MNG > White Indian

  7. This is turning into a real nightmare. I’m not sure if I can handle an Obama second term where he feels like he has a mandate to do whatever he wants. But then again President Romney will be such a failure that it might discredit free-market ideaology and conservatism since that’s what Romney will market himself as.

    1. We are doomed. I am not sure which would be worst. If Obama loses the left is going to go full on batshit insane. At some point they are going to get violent.

      1. Whats the downside? OWS has shown us that hippies vastly overestimate their toughness.

        1. they may burn down a starbucks and a walmart, but that would be about the extent of it

    2. It’s crap – all the way down.

    3. failure based on what? He managed to run a profitable business, a deficit in MA was left a surplus, and the Salt Lake games turned out okay. With Obama, the outcome is clear. I am willing to go with the devil I don’t know as opposed to the one I do this time. Anyway, might be nice to have someone in office who has actually dealt with credits and debits involving HIS OWN MONEY.

      1. Because he has no plan at all. Read the fucking article. Budgets are not like inventing a new search engine or I-Pad. His “plan” involves bigger deficits.

        1. WTF is Obama’s plan? You demented little retard.

        2. he doesn’t have a plan that suits Suderman, not exactly a threshold. And you won’t for him, anyway, but you WILL support a plan that we know is shit. Shrewd.

      2. Failure because he won’t cut a damn thing or, because he needs to prove his manliness to his retarded neo-con base, won’t stop attacking other countries and certainly won’t cut our bloated military budget.

        I was hoping that if Paul did well enough in delegates that he could at least get Mitt to adopt an anti-Fed party line, but no, the GOP is too damned stupid to even get that right.

        I don’t think Mitt will be nearly as corrupt or arrogant as Obama, but he’s so vapid, so utterly without conviction that he will follow along with whatever party is in control of Congress and that is recipe for disaster.

        1. The best you can hope for is the crisis will drive him to do the right thing because there is no other choice.

        2. Mitt’s conviction so far has been about turning profits, the opposite of Obama’s. Who knows what he’ll cut? Did you think Obama would escalate the same debt he pledged to cut in half? To exacerbate the toxic tone he pledged to calm? You are speculating, the opposite of serious.

    4. Conservatism has been long discredited. The Bushpigs just nailed it down for all to see.

      Another “libertarian” exposed. Like I said yesterday there are only two real LPers here.

      1. Because nothing says libertarian like mindlessly sucking Obama’s cock as he expands the drug war, kills American citizens, pisses on the Constitution and launches one illegal war after another.

        Just go back in the hole you crawled out of.

        1. Fuck you, Glenn Beck. Go suck off one of your priest/abusers. And eat a fucking wafer afterward to redeem yourself.

          1. It is all true and you know it. And I am not a catholic you little fucking weirdo. Sounds like you are really disappointed you missed out on getting ass fucked as a child. NTTAWWT

        2. He kinda has a point there, shrike. You claim to be a Hayekian classical liberal / libertarian, and yet you heartily endorse the Democratic Party. Why?

          1. maybe because he’s not really a libertarian, but rather, a wholly predictable liberal.

          2. I do not wholly endorse the Dems and do not claim to be LP either.

            Like Adam Smith I support progressive taxation. Like Hayek I support some regulations.

            Mostly I support balanced budgets (see Clinton). The $1.3 trillion deficit Bush left is on its way back down (CBO).

            1. How many times do you we have to rub your nose in that little pile of shit before you stop leaving it on the floor Shrike? Bush didn’t leave a 1.3 trillion deficit. Obama was President for most of 2009 and a good chunk of the deficit was due to the Obama stimulus.

              1. Wrong. Reason, Cato, Politifact, and the CBO back me up.

                1. Did Bush not leave office in January of 09? They don’t back you up. Obama owns the 09 deficit and all that has come afterward. Stop repeating that same fucking lie. We are never going to let you get away with it. And everyone on here knows it is a lie.

            2. Subtract the 800 billion dollar Obama stimulus from the ’09 budget year and you’re left with about 700 billion you can chalk up to Bush. Obama followed that up with, 1.4 trillion, then 1.6 trillion, then 1.3 trillion dollar deficits, racking up as much public debt in 3 years as Bush did in 8. But if we pass his piece of shit tax bill, next year’s deficit MIGHT be only 950 billion – still over double the largest record annual deficit in history up until 2009. Yep, Obama sure is shrinking that deficit all right.

      2. Since Bush discredited conservatism, what has Obama done for liberalism?

        And what does any of that have to do with the libertarianism that is orthogonal to both?

        1. Hey, that’s right, we haven’t been discredited. Our turn!


        2. The liberal excuse is that Bush left Obama with a mess and the evil facist rethuglicans won’t let him fix it.

          Of course they will ignore the corruption within our DoJ (never thought there would be an AG more despicable than Ashcroft, but Holder has pulled it off) and the rampant cronyism in how the Obama administration doles out Federal aid because cronyism is okay with them so long as it is nominally for programs they agree with.

      3. If George W. Bush was a libertarian then Nancy Pelosi is a beauty queen. You’re entitled to your own absurd opinion, but you don’t get to classify people based on what you wish they were.

        1. LOL

  8. Romney has been promising to roll back the modest cuts from last summer’s budget deal.

    Not that he can be believed.

    1. Better to listen to trustworthy sources like media matters. Nothing says seriousness than getting your money from a former Nazi collaborator.

    2. there were no “CUTS” in the budget deal, at least in the sense that most of the world defines the term. There are paper agreements to slow the rate of increase, bullshit of the usual sort since one Congress cannot the actions of the next and the one after that.

  9. It is important to remember that a sensible tax reform plan already exists; it’s called the bi-partisan Bowles-Simpson proposal and it does outline specific scenarios for reforming the tax code to increase tax fairness and promote economic growth

    1. Another “sensible tax reform plan exists”……right here at this bi sexual dating site called Engage America!!! Meet hundreds of legislators, all eager to engage in satisfying relationships (where they f*ck you in the a$$ without lubrication).

      1. +100/ I hear they like it rough.

    2. It failed to “pass” in its own committee though.

      14 votes would have forced a full Congressional vote then a sig or veto.

    3. The Simpson-Bowles plan freezes spending at the highest level in history, then finger fucks the tax code to make it work. It’s a serious proposal for maintaining a seriously dysfunctional status quo. Personally, that’s not my idea of an ideal solution.

  10. Anyone film fans out there who enjoy weekly recommendations look no further….…..only-child

  11. That’s why you need to elect him so you can find out what is in his plan. /sarcasm

  12. We don’t know how he would cut government because he won’t cut it, he will make it grander, more expensive, more like the Tsars than the Founding Fathers … more like the Democrats than the Republicans usually manage to reach. He’s the ‘moderate’. What’s a moderate? A man (or woman) who is either too ignorant or too chicken-s&^t to stand up on his or her hind legs and say, “No, we ain’t gonna do that because it’s wrong!”

  13. Mitt Romney’s Fake

    There I took 2 words out of the head line and it tells 100% of Romney.

    1. i havent seen anything fake about him

  14. I understand that Romney eliminated more than 6 departments, while Gov of Mass. If that’s a model that worked for him then, I suspect that’s the first place he’ll turn. He has said he’d freeze salaries and hiring at Fed Offices.
    I know its not THE Solution but its a start. That action alone may provide enough confidence to private equity holders to get back in the game and start investing, particularly the overseas folks.

  15. the president proposes the budget, congress approves of it. he already said which sections hed cut

  16. Only a fool (journalist?) has all the answers (change we can believe in?) before he’s got an inside look at the problems. Experienced businessmen understand that.

    When Reagan was elected President, he jumped in and made radical tax cuts, but then had to retreat, raising taxes 11 times & hiking the debt limit 17 times during his administration. Perhaps a more careful analysis would have charted a smoother course.

    Romney’s been roundly criticized for downsizing & streamlining businesses while he was at Bain Capital. But imagine if he takes that approach to government. Give him the opportunity to to analyze the various parts of government and then let him come up with a plan.

    Saying things like he will reduce gas prices to $2.50/gallon like Newt is just imaginative fluff–the kind of stuff Dems promise us–like a chicken in every pot.

  17. It’s perfectly clear that Romney will increase spending on defense, securing the border, and cutting taxes, after all, those are the clearest and easiest things he’s promised to do. He will pay for it by spending more on popular liberal programs so he can get reelected. He’ll be just like Bush in every way, but worse. We’ll probably be pining for the Obama deficits, just like we’re nostalgic for the Bush deficits. Romney’s only concrete plans (action items) will increase the budget and cut revenue.

  18. Peter, are you daft? OF COURSE Romney’s proposals are not specific.

    Why do you think Obama doesn’t cut anything, except in lyric prose? LOOK WHAT THEY DID TO RYAN. Any cut in any specific program is instantly MSMorphed into “suffering.”

    Everything you say … I LOVE about Romney’s “plan.”

    Fight bullshit with bullshit!
    GET ELECTED. That’s what matters.

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