What to expect from a Romney budget

When Mitt Romney sat down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week, he made quite a bit of news. It was in that interview, for example, that Romney announced his opposition to protecting homeowners from foreclosures, and signaled support for Medicare vouchers.

But there was something else Romney said in that same interview that’s worth noting:

“There are four or five major acts that would balance the budget. One would be to bring discretionary accounts back to the 2008 level. Two is to end Obamacare; it’s an extra trillion dollars we simply can’t afford. Three is to return Medicaid to the states — as a block grant — and grow it at one to two percent per years and let states craft their own programs for their own poor. Four is to reduce federal employment by about 10 percent, through attrition. And five is to link government pay with that which exists in the private sector…. Those five steps would balance the budget.”

That’s quite a plan. I don’t know if Romney realizes this or not, but this is a pretty radical approach — which would not balance the budget.

Let’s put aside the fact that Romney wants to increase military spending and hasn’t said how he’d pay for it. Let’s also put aside the fact that Romney wants to cut even more taxes and hasn’t found a way to pay for that, either. If balancing the budget is his priority, Romney’s campaign promises are already poised to make the problem worse, not better.

Let’s also put aside the fact that gutting Medicaid like this would save money, but it would be a disaster for those who rely on the program. We’ll also overlook the reality that returning to 2008 spending levels would require massive cuts to education, medical research, law enforcement, etc., which voters might take issue with.

Ignoring all of this, let’s instead highlight Romney’s belief that he can bring the budget closer to balance by eliminating the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office knows better, and as Brian Beutler noted today, “repealing ObamaCare would consign us to swift, ugly fiscal and health care crises.”

The health care reform law will extend subsidized private health insurance to millions of Americans, paid for with new taxes and Medicare savings. But it also included numerous demonstration projects and reforms intended to reign in the growth of health care costs, and thus Medicare spending. Some of them have great promise — if they can survive.

If Republicans get their way and repeal this and other provisions — and if Congress keeps passing temporary “doc fixes” to prevent payment cuts to doctors who see Medicare patients — then Medicare costs will continue to soar, and eventually overwhelm the federal budget.

In other words, one of Romney’s key ideas on how best to make the deficit smaller would actually make the deficit much bigger.

Anyone who thinks this guy has credibility on these issues just isn’t paying close enough attention.