It seemed that the closer we got to election day, the more and more Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to talk about the deficit. They pointed out, correctly, that Obama and the Democrats have recklessly spent money that America doesn’t have. In many ways, they were on a mission to raise awareness where it needed to be raised. Congress and the White House are bankrupting our country and dangerously driving us into what could easily become a Greece-like debt crisis. Over the last four years, Obama has nearly tripled the national deficit. His administration’s budget is by far the largest in American history. Quite simply, Obama has done the unthinkable: despite promising to cut the deficit, he has made George Bush look fiscally conservative. America’s deficit now exceeds the size of the entire U.S. economy.
Washington’s big business bailouts are an easy target when charging the administration for wasteful spending. The stimulus package is no different. It was laden with pork and earmarks and often created no jobs whatsoever. It’s gotten to the point where a politician can respond to citizen’s complaints about spending millions upon millions to give government officials new computers and golf carts with “that’s a tiny portion of the budget- so it’s not what we should be focused on.” Of course, tiny portions add up. Hundreds of wasteful programs funded by borrowed money contribute millions to our deficit every day.
Of course, big programs are even more disturbing. The Obama administration has spent more on the war on drugs, deportation programs, and the massive and overcrowded prison system than the previous administration. Spending on defense, despite what Mitt Romney would lead you to believe, has continued to rise under Obama. And despite powerful 2008 speeches about the financial burden of war and promises to be out of Afghanistan by 2011, the president has ushered in the largest military budget in American history.
Mitt Romney supposedly offered an alternative. He claimed he would have balanced the budget and stopped borrowing money from China. How would he have done that? Well, as just about every major economist has pointed out, he wouldn’t have.
Romney claimed that he would cut wasteful programs that add to the deficit. He gave some small examples, like funding for public broadcasting, which only covers 0.00014 percent of the budget. The only major example he gave was Obamacare; Romney claimed that the Affordable Care Act would add to the deficit. But the Congressional Budget Office concluded that Obamacare will reduce health care spending by over $124 billion dollars. The CBO also claims that over the next ten years, Obamacare will produce a decline in health care co-pays and deductibles. The Republican repeal that Romney favored, the CBO claims, would increase the deficit, by about $210 billion over 10 years.
Unfortunately for the Republican Party, the worst part about Romney’s so-called “plan” to cut spending was not that his only specific, repealing health insurance reform, would add, not subtract, from the deficit. The worst part is that the platform that Romney outlined for his first term in office would, according to independent analyses, skyrocket the deficit way beyond where it stands today.
Let’s take a look at three of the agendas Romney wanted to implement in office. First, spend billions on funding the construction of the keystone pipeline. Second, add hundreds of billions to the military and defense budgets. And third, repeal Obamacare. This platform would undoubtedly skyrocket the deficit. As Rolling Stone magazine put it, the Romney administration could be defined by two words: greed and debt.
And how did Romney plan on paying for all this? Well, he claimed he would never borrow money from China and would never increase taxes for anybody- not even billionaires. In fact, Romney wanted to dramatically reduce taxes on both corporations and small businesses and proposed an irresponsibly massive “20 percent, across-the-board” tax cut for middle class families.
Nearly every single Republican politician and conservative economist, when pressed on how they believed Romney would pay for his spending, couldn’t provide an answer. Many of them admitted that his plan was mathematically impossible. Even front-page editorials for the Atlantic and The American Conservative claimed Romney was incapable of balancing the budget.
As I’ve made clear, Romney had no chance of getting elected. He had no shot at the Latino vote, the women vote, the black vote, the student vote, or the elderly vote. On foreign policy, immigration, social issues, and the economy, likely voters, as expected, favored Obama. Even if Romney managed to run away with the popular vote, he never had a shot at winning in the Electoral College.
But if Romney did win, he would have to do one of three things: give in and raise taxes to pay for his budget, borrow money from other countries to pay for his budget, or change his mind and decide not to increase government spending so dramatically.
In all three scenarios, Romney would have come out a liar.
It may not be a shock that Romney’s a liar. As all the fact checkers exposed after the presidential debates, both Obama and Romney lied left and right.
But Romney was lying about the deficit. His biggest attack in the days leading up to the election was that Obama was a reckless, big-government spender. The fact of the matter is, the Romney-Ryan platform offered no real alternative. That lie was the Republican’s biggest lie of all.
And that lie may have been what cost Mitt Romney the election.
Commentary and Debate Editor