Mitt Romney is making a big push today to cast himself as a budget-slashing fiscal conservative who isn’t afraid to wield a hatchet when it comes to government spending. But what specific cuts would he actually push for? The same ones that House Republicans were demanding earlier this year. And it’s worth remembering exactly what those were.
The GOP budget plan that Romney wants to adopt would make steeper cuts to Head Start, Pell Grants and workforce training than to other programs. Romney would completely eliminate funding for a program backing remedial literacy in low-income schools, as well as federal assistance that helps low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills. Ultimately, as a result of such cuts — combined with the budget reductions passed on Obama’s watch — “157,000 at-risk children up to age 5 could lose education, health, nutrition, and other services under Head Start, while funds for Pell Grants that help students go to college would fall by nearly 25 percent,” according to a CBPP analysis of the House GOP proposal.
And that’s just the beginning. Romney’s first two steps to cut the budget would reduce spending by about 8 to 9.4 percent compared to 2012, though that’s setting aside whatever happens with the debt “supercommittee.” However, that’s outside of the entitlement reforms that he wants to pass, which would block-grant Medicaid and offer a private alternative to Medicare. Romney is also pushing additional budget-cutting measures that would reduce the size of the federal workforce and its salaries. All this would build toward $500 billion in spending cuts per year, which Romney promises to reach in 2016.
Romney, however, is selective when it comes to the specific discretionary spending cuts that he’s campaigning on. Though he’s endorsed the House GOP budget for 2011 upfront, he’s singled out just a few programs for item-line reductions: slashing money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and Title X family planning funding, for instance. Those kinds of cuts wouldn’t save much money, relatively speaking, but they are more appealing to ideological social conservatives who are a key voting block in the primary. But it will be interesting to see whether and when Romney defends the rest of the budget-slashing demands that House Republicans have made this year.