mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

Romney’s Bad Math: What Specifics, “I’m Running For President For Pete’s Sake”

Speaking at a closed-press fundraiser in Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday night, Mitt Romney offered more details than he ever has to date on what he might do about federal spending and taxes. Luckily, some reporters standing outside overheard him. NBC reports:

“I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go,” Romney said. “Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states.”
Asked about the fate of the Department of Education in a potential Romney administration, the former governor suggested it would also face a dramatic restructuring.
“The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I’m not going to get rid of it entirely,” Romney said, explaining that part of his reasoning behind preserving the agency was to maintain a federal role in pushing back against teachers’ unions. Romney added that he learned in his 1994 campaign for Senate that proposing to eliminate the agency was politically volatile.

Romney expounded on that lesson—that he shouldn’t publicly admit to his plans to leave society’s most vulnerable citizens without any federal support—in a March interview with told The Weekly Standard. “One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education,” said Romney. “So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now.” In other words, Romney believes that if he tells the public what he might actually do in office they will dislike his plans and reject them. This is just as revealing as Romney’s infamous recollection that he told his gardener not to use illegal immigrants on his property because “I’m running for office for Pete’s sake.” Romney doesn’t want to wage an honest contest between his ideas and his opponent’s. His self-described preference is to try to win by telling the American they can have tax cuts without painful sacrifices on spending.

Publicly, Romney has proposed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and to then cut taxes further. He also wants to increase defense spending. In total he would reduce federal tax revenues by $5 billion over the next ten years. The Committee for a Responsible Budget estimated that Romney would add $2.6 trillion to the deficit. He has promised to cut spending as well, but he has avoided mentioning credible specifics.

That’s bad enough. But what is even worse is that what he offers in private doesn’t add up either. It would be one thing if Romney had a secret plan to balance the budget with drastic spending cuts to major federal programs. While it would be dishonorable of him to refuse to discuss that plan while running for president, at least you would know he has a plausible—if totally heartless—plan for governing once elected.

But he doesn’t. Instead the new details he offered were that he might eliminate the mortgage interest deduction on second homes and abolish the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The former idea is a good one, although I’ll believe that President Romney and Congress have the will to stand up to powerful lobbies such as the real estate and construction industries when I see it happen. It would not, however, generate nearly enough revenue to make up for Romney’s massive tax cuts. Perhaps because Romney himself owns three homes he thinks owning a second home is a fairly common middle class practice. In fact, only 6 percent of Americans have a second home. Eliminating the entire mortgage tax deduction would save about $215 billion by 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office, so eliminating it only on second homes would save just a fraction of that. If you want to be generous and assume that a lot of the owners of second homes also have third and fourth homes, and that they take out mortgages to buy those homes, you could guess that Romney’s proposal might save something like 10 percent of that total, or a whopping $21.5 billion in total between now and 2021. By contrast, letting the Bush tax cuts expire only on families making more than $250,000 per year would have saved $40 billion in 2011 alone.

While HUD makes for an appealing target for destruction among rich Republicans because it is the only cabinet department dedicated to addressing poverty, it is not actually a very large agency compared to, say, the Pentagon. Its entire budget for fiscal year 2012 is $47.2 billion dollars. (The Department of Defense budget this year is $645.7 billion.) The vast majority of HUD spending falls into one of two appropriation streams: construction of public housing ($19.2 billion) and Section 8 housing vouchers ($17.2 billion). Romney did not specify whether he would eliminate those programs, or just abolish the department that houses them and redistribute their responsibilities. Assuming Romney doesn’t, or can’t, actually get rid of the federal government’s two main programs to prevent homelessness, he won’t get very much savings by closing HUD and its important, but smaller, programs such as Community Development Block Grants. As I report in a forthcoming feature for Next American City, under President Obama HUD has been dramatically helpful to cities with very small amounts of money through programs such as the Sustainable Communities Initiative. I’ve asked the Romney campaign to clarify whether Romney wants to eliminate all federal housing subsidies and, if so, whether he has any plan to combat the dramatic rise in homelessness and severe poverty that would surely result. Having not received a response, my guess is that his honest answer would be that he has no idea what exactly he proposes to cut. And he certainly hasn’t bothered to come up with an alternative affordable housing agenda.

Republicans are not terribly interested in making serious domestic policy proposals or even dealing with social issues at all. For example, House Republicans have decided that their zeal to keep taxes low on millionaires and even billionaires must be paid for by squeezing food stamp recipients. As Politico’s David Rogers reports, “An average family of four faces an 11 percent cut in monthly benefits after Sept. 1, and even more important is the tighter enforcement of rules demanding that households exhaust most of their savings before qualifying for help.” If they succeed, it will save $3 billion per year.

Republicans, including Romney, are fond of saying that they idolize Ronald Reagan and wish to govern as he did. And they would, with lower taxes, higher deficits, greater inequality and less help for the most needy.

 

By: Ben Adler, The Nation, April16, 2012

April 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Don’t Tell Anybody”: Romney Offers A Peek Behind The Policy Curtain

“I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go,” Romney said. “Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states.”

“I’m going to probably eliminate for high income people the second home mortgage deduction,” he continued, adding that he would also support eliminating deductions for state income and property taxes.

Till now, Romney has been very specific about his intention to be very vague. Back in March, he told the conservative Weekly Standard, “one of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education…So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now.”

Sunday’s comments, however, were “overheard by reporters on a sidewalk below.” Romney thought he was speaking privately to a group of conservative donors. And so they offer, in theory, a look behind the curtain. The only problem is there’s not much there.

Romney’s tax plan — which extends all the Bush tax cuts and then cuts taxes even further — will cost the Treasury trillions of dollars in lost revenue. You can’t make that up by capping a few deductions for high-income taxpayers. And while it sounds very tough to talk about closing agencies, it doesn’t save you much money unless you’re also willing to cut the services they provide.

To make his numbers add up, Romney needs to close the largest and most popular deductions in the tax code and cut huge swaths of government social spending. And as of now, he’s not willing to talk about doing that. Not even in private.

By: Ezra Klein, Wonkblog, The Washington Post, April 16, 2012

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Senate Women “Drew Line In The Sand” On Budget Talks

Female members of the U.S. Senate made clear Friday that they have no intention of “throwing women under the bus” by giving in to Republican demands to approve several policy riders attached to a budget bill designed to keep the federal government operational.

“Since they (Republicans) don’t know how to create jobs, they’ve changed the topic to their radical approach to the budget,” said U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland). “And it is radical. They’ve cut $1 billion at the National Institutes of Health, $1 billion dollars from Head Start, $50 million from prenatal care — the changed the topic from jobs since they didn’t know how to do it.

“Then they said, ‘Oh, we are going to fight to bring down the debt and the deficit.’ And that hasn’t worked out because, to their surprise, we had specific, immediate, achievable ways to become a more frugal government. Since they lost that fight, they want to change the topic again so that all we are talking about is a radical, ideological agenda in riders. … Let’s get back to what we should be talking about: How to avoid a shutdown.”

The numerous policy riders attached to the bill, Mikulski said, can be voted on another day, and do not have to be a part of a budget discussion.

Perhaps the most contentious of the riders attached by the GOP is a complete ban of all federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

“This is not about abortion,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York). “Republicans need to wake up. Since the Hyde Amendment of the last 30 years, federal money does not pay for abortions in this country. What they are cutting in this bill is the safety-net for poor, at-risk women for pre-cancer screenings, for prenatal care, for early detection of STDs — for all the types of safety-nets that keep our families safe.

“This is unacceptable and we will draw the line in the Senate.”

The frustration being voiced by the women of the Senate was also present in a prepared statement issued Friday by U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 2nd District.

“As a government shutdown looms, politicians in Washington are still wrapped up in political Russian roulette where the clear loser is Iowans,” Loebsack said. “Instead of shutting down the government in an effort to restrict women’s access to health care, we need to think about our military families who are worried about how they are going to put food on the table, even while their loved ones are defending our nation overseas.

“A government shutdown can still be averted, but the grandstanding and misplaced debates about social policy must be put aside. We must work together toward a compromise that addresses the needs of our constituents, and keeps our economic recovery on track. Time is running short — I call on Congress and the President to put our constituents ahead of politics.”

In a Facebook posting Friday, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland called the situation “an outrage” that “hurts women,” and noted that more than 54,000 women in Iowa and Nebraska would lose access to screenings and preventative health care if the policy rider barring federal money for Planned Parenthood remains intact.

Although the policy rider in connection with Planned Parenthood has been one of the most discussed and contentious items attached to the budget bill, it is far from the only attachment to H.R. 1, the continuing resolution passed by the U.S. House on Feb. 19. Other riders have included a prohibition of funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, limitations on the FDA’s ability to transfer funds, stalling a transfer from the Federal Reserve for the creation of the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and development of a government-sponsored “consumer products complaints database,” prohibits funds for the U.S. Department of Education for regulations on Gainful Employment, stalls funding for several environmental and conservations programs including the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, prohibits funding for the implementation of health care reform provisions, halts funding for capital advances or rental assistance contracts for HUD Housing for the Elderly projects and bars the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

By: Lynda Waddington, The Washington Independent, April 8, 2011

April 9, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Democrats, Economy, Environment, GOP, Government Shut Down, Health Care, Ideology, Planned Parenthood, Politics, Right Wing, Senate, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: