BUDGET MATH, ROMNEY-RYAN STYLE
Romney and Ryan have been deliberately vague on their actual budget plans. But we do know that the outline they’ve given is more-or-less impossible. At that point, the details don’t much matter. By contrast, the Obama administration has put out a number of budget proposals that, while occasionally optimistic, are at least within the realm of plausibility.
On the revenue side, Romney wants to cut tax rates without reducing revenue. He plans to do some of that by eliminating deductions—but there simply aren’t enough deductions to make the math work. He covers the deficit by claiming that economic growth will cover the rest. The problem is that there is zero evidence that his tax plan would increase growth enough to make up the lost revenue.1 So either Romney will benefit from magical and unexpected economic growth or his tax plan will add to the deficit.
On the spending side, Romney wants to increase military spending by around $2.1 Trillion over ten years. Annualized, this is about $210 billion. He wants to make up for this by cutting unnamed things. Thus far, he’s named the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. If he cuts all of its funding, that’s going to save $444.1 million a year. (The portion that goes to the National Programming Service which, yes, is responsible for Big Bird, is only $26 million.) So Romney’s proposed cut would save about 0.5% of his increased spending.
It’s concievable that you would agree with Romney that it’s time to nudge Big Bird out of the nest and hope he can fly. Even if you cut the entire Corporation for Public Broadcasting, you’ll need to identify 199 similarly dramatic cuts just to make up for the increased military spending.
If you want to balance the budget, you’re going to have to cut a lot more. If you want to balance the budget after Romney’s tax cuts for the richest, it gets even uglier.
It might be that Romney and Ryan don’t really care about reducing the budget. But if they’re actually going to cut enough to make up for both their revenue cuts and their wasteful military spending, they’re going to cut a lot deeper than they’ve let on. Or, to put it differently, killing Big Bird was the cut Romney wasn’t afraid to tell you about.
I’m aware that I’m contradicting an article of faith for some of the more dogmatic libertarians. If anybody else disagrees on and is inclined to challenge this statement, feel free to check out recent economic literature on supply-side economics and let me know if you think the overwhelming consensus of economists is wrong. ↩