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Post Partisan
Posted at 10:42 PM ET, 06/03/2011

Romney’s shifting target: $300 billion here, $300 billion there

Mitt Romney said in the speech announcing his presidential candidacy that he plans to cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP or less. That can’t make sense, given that the conservative icon he invoked, Ronald Reagan, ran the government at 22 percent of GDP when America’s population was much younger and we weren’t about to double the number of people on Social Security and Medicare as the baby boomers retired.

So, as a card-carrying member of the Wonk Police, I first planned to make a citizen’s arrest of Mitt because his 20 percent is a fantasy — unless, of course, he’s got a secret plan to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits roughly in half.

But it turns out he has another secret plan.  In a Washington Post op-ed in November, Romney said 18 percent of GDP should be the feds’ spending target.  Hmm.  In a $15 trillion economy, that means Mitt has apparently now decided he’s okay with Uncle Sam spending $300 billion a year more than he thought made sense six months ago.

Maybe nobody else notices or cares about such things,but in a different world, this would be a big deal.  “Romney Calls for Additional $300 Billion in Annual Spending,” headlines would blare.  Since the 2012 election is supposed to be a battle over the size and shape of government, conservatives should presumably be upset about Mitt’s new spending target (even if both are fantasies with no chance of actually being realized).

That no one but me will say a peep about this proves either that I’m a fiscal fetishist who needs to get out more or that no one really takes what presidential candidates say seriously.  Maybe it’s both.   

By  |  10:42 PM ET, 06/03/2011

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