The challenge of making ridiculous numbers add up

Mitt Romney has an interesting budget challenge. He wants to eliminate a large deficit entirely, but he also wants to increase defense spending and cut taxes on the wealthy by trillions of dollars. It’s the sort of plan that would make balancing the budget sort of tricky, in much the same way putting out a fire with lighter fluid would be difficult.

But don’t worry, the former Massachusetts governor’s platform now includes a spending-cut plan. In the latest in a voluminous series of op-eds, which previewed a speech he delivered this afternoon, Romney explained:

The federal government should stop doing things we don’t need or can’t afford. For example:

* Repeal ObamaCare, which would save $95 billion in 2016.

* Eliminate subsidies for the unprofitable Amtrak, saving $1.6 billion a year.

* Enact deep reductions in the subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Legal Services Corporation.

* Eliminate Title X family planning programs benefiting abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.

* End foreign aid to countries that oppose America’s interests.

That’s not the totality of the plan — Romney also has some thoughts on entitlements that we’ll get to later — but in terms of discretionary spending, this is the gist of his spending-cut agenda.

There are a few key takeaways to keep in mind. The first is that repealing the entirely of the Affordable Care Act would make the deficit much worse, not better. Romney has this precisely backwards, and the fact that he doesn’t understand this is disconcerting.

Second, if Romney thinks he can take a $1.3 trillion deficit, increase spending on the Pentagon, cut taxes on the wealthy, and pay balance the budget by going after foreign aid and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, he’s an even bigger fool than I’d feared.

And third, Planned Parenthood? Seriously? Mitt Romney thinks he can bring the budget closer to balance by increasing military spending, while blocking working-class and low-income women from accessing contraception, family planning services, pap smears, cancer screenings, and tests for sexually-transmitted diseases?

That’s just sad.

For nearly a half-century, Republican support for Planned Parenthood was the norm. Barry Goldwater and George H.W. Bush championed the health organization, and it wasn’t deemed the least bit controversial.

And yet, now we have Mitt Romney — ostensibly one of the sane GOP presidential candidates — vowing to eliminate funding for this preventive health care for women altogether.

Romney was far less offensive when he was a moderate attending Planned Parenthood fundraisers. This latest incarnation appears to have a real problem with women’s rights and interests.