The Romney Budget: Elect Me And Then I’ll Tell You What I Stand For

In 1968, Richard Nixon ran on a platform that included a “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam. Does Mitt Romney expect us to believe he has a secret plan to balance the budget?

One way to avoid being called out as a flip-flopper is to avoid taking a stand at all.

For example, Romney says he’ll rein in government spending. Nothing wrong with that. Everybody is in favor with doing more with less. The tough part is actually telling people what they’ll have to give up in order to balance the budget. The trade-offs necessary to balance the budget require clear priorities, good judgement and political courage.

However, Romney wants the benefit of having a conservative approach to the deficit without actually having to commit to cutting any government program in particular. In an interview with the Weekly Standard, Romney declined specify these budget cuts “because it wouldn’t be politically expedient to do so.”

One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education.

In fact, Romney’s “budget” is not a “budget” since it lacks sufficient details to make sense of. The Committe for a Responsible Federal Budget said that Romney’s plan would cause a $2.6 trillion deficit if it is not paid for. On CNBC, Mitt Romney responded to criticism that the numbers in his budget didn’t add up by admitting

I think it’s interesting for the groups to try and score it because it can’t be scored. Frankly, it can’t be scored.

It can’t be scored as a budget because it is not a budget.

According to Brian Beutler, “Romney’s been intentionally vague about the politically challenging parts of his plan.”

As Ezra Klein says:

Let’s be clear on this: A tax plan that can’t be scored because it doesn’t include sufficient details is not a plan. It’s a gesture towards a plan, or a statement of intended direction, or perhaps an unusually wonky daydream. But it’s not a plan.

So at this point, Romney doesn’t have a plan to reform the tax system. He has a statement about what he would like a reformed tax system to include: lower rates for everyone. But that’s cake-and-ice-cream stuff. All the hard questions — which tax breaks to close, for instance — remain unanswered, and it doesn’t appear that he plans to answer them anytime soon.

If you want to be President, you have to come up with a budget.
Similarly, it is hard to understand where Romney stands on Medicare. In the very same memo released last Monday, the Romney campaign “simultaneously called out the White House for not reducing Medicare spending then attacked them for doing exactly that in the very same paragraph.”

The Specter of Romney’s Flip-flops

Former Senator Arlen Specter knows something about being flexible in order to get elected. He was a Democrat until 1965, when he registered as a Republican in order to be elected District Attorney of Philadelphia. Then in 2009, facing a difficult Republican primary in his battle to be reelected to the Senate, he switched back to the Democratic party. Accordingly, The Hill‘s Alexander Bolton asked former Senator Specter if he would support Mitt Romney in the general election. Specter replied

I’m going to wait to see which Romney it is.

Romney’s campaign seems based on the premise that voters have no more memory than an Etch-A-Sketch. You can pander to whatever group you happen to be appealing to and not suffer any consequences later on.

Lately, Romney has said the Obama campaign is “on a mission to drive up the price of gasoline and all energy so that they can finally get their solar and their wind to be more price-competitive.” According to this is no quite true of President Obama. However, according to Alec MacGillis, Romney is quite familiar with this concept since this was his plan when he was Governor of Massachusetts in 2006:

Romney went so far as to make high gas prices out to be a welcome reality for the foreseeable future, one that people needed to learn to live with. When lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, a fellow Republican, called for suspending the state’s 23.5 cent gas tax during a price spike in May 2006, Romney rejected the idea, saying it would only further drive up gasoline consumption. “I don’t think that now is the time, and I’m not sure there will be the right time, for us to encourage the use of more gasoline,” Romney said, according to the Quincy Patriot Ledger’s report at the time. “I’m very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay.”

Romney Campaign Compares Voters To “Etch A Sketch”

Eric Rehrnstrom, Romney campaign advisor was asked  whether Romney’s prolonged fight with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would force him to “tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election.” In a moment of unusual candor Rehrnstrom shared his feeling that voter’s are “almost like an Etch-A-Sketch,” and that they could just shake things up and start from a clean slate.

Everyone has suspected all along that Romney was trying to say the right things to appease the base and pander to whatever crowd he happened to be speaking to.

  • Michigan: “I love this state. I seems right here. The trees are the right height…”
  • Mississippi: “Morning, y’all… I got started this morning right with a biscuit and some cheesy grits.”

But it is surprising to see the campaign come out and brazenly share their plans to pivot into more moderate policies once they nail down the Republican nomination.

Just two days ago, we wrote about Mitt Romney’s evolution on healthcare. He now claims to be against “Obamacare”, but health reform was the signature achievement of the Romney administration in Massachusetts, and we presented three video clips where Romney advocated that Obama adopt a national insurance mandate similar to one he enacted in Massachusetts. Such a mandate is of course anathema in the Republican party and Romney is paying lip-service to the tea party by disavowing it.

Will this derail the Romney Express? It seems that when you think the coast is clear, Romney and his campaign make a gaffe which reverses the tide. Here are some examples from The Silver Foot In His Mouth: How Romney’s Gaffes Keep The Primary Going by Evan McMorris Santoro:

This latest gaffe made political hay for Democrats and Republicans alike. One satirist created a website with a picture of an Etch-A-Sketch giving examples of Romney’s flip-flops.

Press release by the makers of Etch-A-Sketch follows the jump.
Nicole Gresh, spokeswoman for Ohio Arts, manufacturer of Etch-A-Sketch:

Happy to see Etch A Sketch, an American classic toy, is DRAWING attention with political candidates as a cultural icon and important piece of our society. A profound toy, highly recognized and loved by all, is now SHAKING up the national debate. Nothing is as quintessentially American as Etch A Sketch and a good old fashion political debate.

We are pleased with the added attention being drawn to Etch A Sketch which is truly one of the most recognizable, iconic and fun toys ever developed. As one of the most classic toys of all time, Etch A Sketch has always sold particularly well with today’s consumer. It is too early to tell, but we are hopeful to see if there is an uptake in sales given this recent exposure.

The Ohio Art Company has been in the toy business for more than 100 years and Etch A Sketch for over five decades. Our company values bringing smiles to kids faces and providing hours of fun playtime for young kids.