Yesterday Mitt Romney claimed that it was “ completely absurd” of the Obama campaign to argue that he favors cutbacks in cops, firefighters and teachers. “The federal government doesn’t pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen,” Romney said, adding that they were paid by states and localities.

What’s getting lost in the back and forth here is that Romney’s actual economic plan would, in fact, cut billions of dollars in federal money that goes to cops, firefighters, and teachers — perhaps more than $10 billion a year, in fact.

This is the conclusion of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which analyzed Romney’s plan through the prism of the debate over public workers at my request.

As Michael McAuliff reported yesterday, despite Romney's claim, the federal government does give billions of dollars to states and localities through programs like Title 1, the COPS program, FEMA and others — which pay for first responders and teachers.

Romney’s plan calls for huge federal spending cuts, though it isn’t specific about which programs would get cut. But a reasonable set of assumptions for analyzing it shows Romney’s plan would cut deeply into those billions.

I asked the CBPP — which is liberal leaning but nonpartisan — to take a look at how Romney’s plan would impact federal money to teachers and first responders. Romney has called for a cap of federal spending at 20 percent of GDP while increasing defense spending to 4 percent of GDP. CBPP has concluded that this would, of necessity, require cuts of at least 29 percent in non-defense spending other than Social Security in 2016, and deeper cuts in later years.

How would that impact cops, firefighters, and teachers?

It isn’t easy to calculate this, for two reasons. First, Romney’s plan doesn’t specify cuts. And second, of all the federal cash that does go to programs that pay first responders and teachers, you can’t be certain how much goes directly into their pockets.

But CBPP analyst Richard Kogan took a stab at trying to figure it out. Kogan estimates a total of around $40 billion per year goes to the aforementioned federal programs funding those jobs.

If you apply that 29 percent cut the Romney plan necessitates evenly across the board, Kogan calculates, that comes to nearly $12 billion in cuts to those programs.

How many jobs are we talking about? Unknown.

Again, this is a rough calculation — one that’s necessitated by the fact that Romney’s plan doesn’t specify cuts. But the simple fact is that Romney’s plans would almost certainly cut deeply in those areas. If it didn’t, it would have to cut even more deeply elsewhere, such as Medicare, veterans benefits or the FBI.

All of which is to say that this isn’t just an academic disagreement or a matter of political positioning or rhetoric. It is a real world contrast. A reasonable analysis suggests that Romney’s plan really would cut very deeply into federal money funding jobs of cops, firefighters, and teachers. Obama’s plan would add billions for those jobs.


UPDATE: The DNC responds:

“It comes as no surprise to us that Mitt Romney’s economic plan cuts vital resources for states and cities to pay police officers, firefighters and teachers. That’s exactly what his record shows he would do ... While President Obama has a proposal on the table which would build on 27 consecutive months of private sector job growth and spur additional hiring by keeping cops and firefighters on the street and teachers in the classroom, Mitt Romney is promising to eliminate middle class jobs, not create them. ”