Okay, I can’t resist. Before dashing off to parts unknown for the next week, I must point out three other points in Mitt Romney’s New Hampshire victory harangue that I found irksome. This time they have to do with the military, the downgrading of the nation’s bond rating and the national debt.
‘The national debt’
ROMNEY: He raised the national debt. I will cut, cap, and balance the budget.
Fine. Yes, President Obama raised the national debt — as part of an effort to arrest the slide of the U.S. economy into another Great Depression. And this afternoon he asked Congress to raise the debt limit by another $1.2 trillion.That’s part of the debt-ceiling deal agreed to last August. But let’s remember something. When Obama took office, the estimated $5 trillion surplus that President Bill Clinton left for President George W. Bush in January 2001 had become an $8.8 trillion deficit.
According to a 2004 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “Approximately 31 percent of this stunning $8.8 trillion deterioration is due to the tax cuts enacted over the past three years or assumed in this analysis, making tax cuts slightly more important than spending increases in explaining the shift from surpluses to deficits. Another 30 percent of the deterioration is due to spending legislation, with more than two-thirds of the growth in spending representing increased costs for defense, homeland security, and the war on terrorism.”
A June 2010 CBPP report presented the following handy chart for those suffering from a form of fiscal amnesia that wipes out all memory of the eight high-spending years of the Bush administration.
As for Romney’s promise to cut, cap and balance the budget, cutting the budget and getting a handle on spending is a must. Mitt and I agree on that. It’s the balanced-budget piece that blows everything up. A Post editorial in the middle of the debt-ceiling drama last July made the best argument for why this beloved idea for a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget isn’t the answer.
The constitutional cure, while superficially tempting, would be worse than the underlying disease. A balanced-budget amendment would deprive policymakers of the flexibility they need to address national security and economic emergencies. It would revise the Constitution in a way that would give dangerous power to a congressional minority.
‘Our AAA credit rating’
ROMNEY: He lost our AAA credit rating; I’ll restore it.
Fine. Yes, Obama was president when the nation’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history. But this blanket blame completely ignores the intransigence and willful ignorance of congressional Tea Party Republicans and its willingness to gamble with the full faith and credit of the United States in a showdown over raising the debt ceiling. As I wrote in August, the Standard and Poor’s downgrade should not have come as a surprise to anyone.
The rating agency had been issuing warnings for months. It was concerned about the inability of the White House and Congress to come to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling with a credible debt-reduction plan that would put the nation on a more sound fiscal footing. It even told Washington what it would take to keep what was once thought unthinkable from happening — $4 trillion in cuts over 10 years. So when lawmakers walked the full faith and credit of the United States to the precipice only to raise the debt ceiling through a $2.1 trillion spending-reduction deal with most of the cuts being decided by a bipartisan “super-committee” under threat of across-the-board cuts, S&P had no choice but to act.
Romney was at his house on Lake Winnipesaukee when all this was going down, I suppose.
ROMNEY: He doesn’t see the need for overwhelming American military superiority. I will insist on a military so powerful no one would think of challenging it.
This is total bunk. And I wish candidates for president would stop painting their opponents, especially the sitting president, as not willing to do anything and everything possible to protect this nation. No doubt Romney was taking Obama to task for the strategic defense review he unveiled at the Pentagon on Jan. 6.
“As commander in chief, I am determined that we meet the challenges of this moment responsibly and that we emerge even stronger in a manner that preserves American global leadership, maintains our military superiority and keeps faith with our troops, military families and veterans,” Obama said. “The United States of America is the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known. And in no small measure, that’s because we’ve built the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history -- and as commander in chief, I’m going to keep it that way.”
Questions remain about where the cuts will come from. And there is concern that the entire plan itself is based on shaky assumptions, as The Post warned in an editorial last week. But as The Post’s Scott Wilson reported Sunday, “The document — and the process that created it — also sends an unmistakable message to Congress as the threat of automatic budget cuts looms: Obama and the military leadership agree on the size, scope and mission of the armed forces in a new age of austerity.” As long as the generals are on Obama’s side, Romney’s irksome rhetoric on this point rings hollow.